Home News Regained confidence is key to Oswaldo Cabrera’s scorching start for Yankees

Regained confidence is key to Oswaldo Cabrera’s scorching start for Yankees

HOUSTON — With microphones and cameras pointed at him in the Yankees’ clubhouse, Oswaldo Cabrera couldn’t help but laugh when a reporter joked that Juan Soto has had trouble keeping up with him on offense.

The superstar Soto is a batting champ, three-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger. Cabrera started the 2-day-old season with a .226 career average after batting .211 through multiple demotions last year.

While hardly similar in offensive profiles, the two 25-year-olds have carried the Yankees’ lineup through two season-opening wins over the Astros.

“He’s great,” Soto said after Cabrera notched a career-high four hits in the Yankees’ 7-1 win over the Astros on Friday. “I’m more than happy for him. That’s a guy who’s been grinding throughout the minor leagues, and to see him coming up to the league and do what he’s been doing — we all know it’s early. But I’m more than excited to keep seeing. He’s been doing that since spring training, so it’s pretty cool.”

Cabrera’s night included a double in the fifth, a game-tying single in the seventh and a two-run single in the eighth. On Opening Day, he contributed two hits, featuring a game-tying solo homer.

Not bad for a guy who only found himself in the lineup due to DJ LeMahieu’s injured foot.

“I’m so happy for it,” said Cabrera, who’s been manning third base. “We’ve been working during spring training to have good at-bats, and I feel good for the couple games.”

Cabrera’s scorching start follows a strong end to spring training. He started exhibition play off on a poor note, but he’s tweaked some things in the batter’s box, trading a leg kick in for a toe tap.

The switch, and an improved approach, has benefited Cabrera, especially with two strikes and against pitches other than fastballs.

“That’s something that stood out to me in the first few weeks of spring and even last year. Some of the at-bats where he’d have good at-bats and he’d get to 3-2, he’d chase or something and not finish off the at-bat. I feel like that’s been a big area of improvement. He’s staying relaxed,” Aaron Boone said. “He’s not chasing, and that’s so critical. You gotta win those at-bats. And he’s done a good job with that.”

The manager added that Cabrera’s quality of contact has also improved.

“He’s worked hard on controlling the flight of the ball,” Boone continued. “You hear me talk a lot about not putting your pitch on the net. Like you have a good swing and you’re on it, it seems like, but you foul it off. He’s doing a better job when he gets his pitch of putting it on a line. And that’s critical in the big leagues.

“You get a pitch to handle, you gotta make your money there.”

Last year, all this praise was hard to come by for Cabrera.

The uber-versatile utilityman won the Yankees’ left field job out of spring training, but his struggles at the plate and inexperience at the position proved detrimental. The Yankees sent him down multiple times, only to quickly recall him on account of injuries.

Unsettled and unsuccessful, the consistently bubbly ballplayer got down on himself.

“When you’re not doing the things in the way that you want, obviously you think too much,” Cabrera said. “I think that was happening last year with me.”

Fresh off a down season, Cabrera returned home to play in the Venezuelan Winter League over the offseason. There, he focused on finding himself. That work continued over the offseason as he spent time with fellow countryman Gleyber Torres and new hitting coaches James Rowson and Pat Roessler.

“Just trying to get that confidence back,” Cabrera said. “I think that was a key.”

The first two days of the season have given Cabrera lots of reasons to stay positive. Those around him, meanwhile, are taking pleasure in his early contributions.

“It’s been awesome,” Boone said. “He’s delivered in these first two games. He’s been right in the middle of everything. It’s so good to see him swinging the bat like this and contributing offensively like this because then he becomes so valuable. So happy for him. I know how hard he works. You guys know what an awesome kid he is. So it’s great to see him getting some fruits, reaping some benefits from a lot of the hard work he’s put in the last few weeks.”


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