Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cabrera Looks to Start Strong vs. Rays

Baltimore (6-4) at Tampa Bay (5-5), Saturday, 7:10 p.m. ET

ST. PETERSBURG -- In pitching, the margin for error is so minute, the need for consistency so strong, that one-tenth of an inch can be the difference between giving up a home run or sending a batter on his heels back toward the bench.

Daniel Cabrera knows this rule well. In fact, it is this fine, tightrope of a line the 26-year-old has teetered on since his arrival in Baltimore in 1999.

Few in the game command his arsenal: a blistering fastball in the high 90s, coupled with an array of equally filthy secondary pitches.

But as brilliant as Cabrera is, he has continued to tease the Orioles, who have had four different pitching coaches try to harness the 6-foot-9 269-pound right-hander.

Cabrera shows flashes of greatness but is still at the mercy of his control. In 2007, he finished 9-18 and led the American League in losses, walks (108) and earned runs allowed (126). A pitcher with his size and speed should be capable of producing ace-like numbers; but Cabrera has never had an ERA below 4.50.

To his credit, the one team Cabrera has been steadily potent against has been the Rays. He boasts a 6-0 record and has held Tampa Bay batters to a .211 average.

Saturday night will be Cabrera's first appearance of the season at Tropicana Field, where he's gone 3-0 in five previous starts.

As has become the norm, Cabrera enters the game on the heels of new adjustments and Baltimore is confident it has turned the corner with the young pitcher. Cabrera is coming off a spring in which he focused on maintaining his delivery and increasingly incorporated his changeup, moves the Orioles hope will parlay into more precise pitching.

"I don't think Daniel has ever been a problem being coachable," Manager Dave Trembley said. "I think Daniel, like everybody else, wants an opportunity to succeed. That's what [pitching coach Rick Kranitz] is trying to do, just give him just one more thing."

Trembley said Cabrera may come into Saturday's game with more than minor mechanical tweaks, but played coy when asked what those exact changes may be.

"Why would I want to tell the Rays that? It would be like me telling them who is available and who is not available in the bullpen," he said. "But yes, we have been working on something to add to his repertoire."

That's a scary thought for the Rays, who entered the series losing four of the past five games, and have traditionally been one of Cabrera's favorite targets.

"I think we are getting a whole new Cabrera than what we've seen the last two years," Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "He's had some success against us, but we've just got to be patient ... so we'll see what we get."

Pitching matchup
BAL: RHP Daniel Cabrera (0-0, 9.00 ERA)
Cabrera is 3-0 at Tropicana Field and has a 2.76 ERA at the Rays' home field. The right-hander is slated to pitch in his second game against Tampa Bay this season.

TB: RHP Jason Hammel (0-1, 6.00 ERA)
Hammel is winless (0-3) against the Orioles with a 8.83 ERA.


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