D. Cabrera takes control in debut

The Baltimore Sun

VIERA, Fla. -- Maybe Daniel Cabrera is more focused or more serious. Maybe he has better control of his 6-foot-9 body. Maybe he has more confidence in his changeup.

Then again, maybe it was simply a strong initial spring outing with absolutely no hidden meaning and no insight into what the 2008 season might become for the talented but frustratingly inconsistent right-hander.

Cabrera, whose tantalizing ability is often negated by lack of control and breaks in concentration, stormed through the Washington Nationals lineup yesterday in three incredibly efficient innings as the Orioles won, 4-1.

He allowed just two hits and struck out one as no Nationals runner reached second base. But what was most impressive is that Cabrera threw only 27 pitches. And 19 were strikes.

"I do what I always try to do: just throw strikes and try to get people out," said Cabrera, who lost 18 games last season.

He threw a first-pitch ball to five of the 10 hitters he faced but never went to a three-ball count. In the first inning, he retired the side on seven pitches and never threw more than five pitches to any batter.

Manager Dave Trembley believes new pitching coach Rick Kranitz's help with refining Cabrera's mechanics, as well as his willingness to accept instruction, gets the credit for yesterday's performance.

"I think that goes hand-in-hand," Trembley said. "[Cabrera] has been willing to listen and make some adjustments. It started with him asking to go to winter ball. He has a real good idea what he's got to do, and Kranitz is right there with him all the way."

Cabrera said he mixed in his changeup - a pitch he has experimented with in the past - "two or three" times yesterday. His one strikeout came on a nasty, cutting fastball that befuddled young Nationals first baseman Josh Whitesell.

"He needs to go with this and build on it," Trembley said of Cabrera.

Rough start for Wieters

Top prospect Matt Wieters made his first start as an Oriole - and it didn't go particularly well for the club's 2007 first-round draft pick.

Wieters, batting seventh as the designated hitter, struck out all three times he was at the plate. He faced 11 pitches, striking out twice as a left-handed hitter and once from the right side.

"I don't think I was nervous. It was just more of getting a feel for the strike zone and what a guy's got," Wieters said. "You see a guy one time and he is out of the game, so you have to just file away in the memory book what each guy has and then get him next time."

Trembley said Wieters would play again today, this time as a catcher for four innings. During the game, Trembley said he told Wieters to not dwell on the at-bats.

"He's a rookie. Come on, what do you expect? He's not Babe Ruth," Trembley said. "It's his first time here. ... Let's remember Rome wasn't built in a day, so let's be patient with him."

Getting healthy

Two Orioles who haven't played this spring are expected to make their debut today. Trembley said outfielder Jay Payton (bronchitis) and pitcher George Sherrill (right hamstring) would play when the Nationals go to Fort Lauderdale. Outfielder Tike Redman was shelved with flu-like symptoms.


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