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Miguel Cabrera Article

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Muckdog
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A good read on Miguel... :thumbup

A winning stance

By Juan C. Rodriguez
Staff Writer
Posted June 24 2003

It wasn't so much what he saw. It was what he heard.

Marlins hitting coach Bill Robinson's eyes told him the ball wasn't leaving the park. His ears told him it was.

When Miguel Cabrera ripped his 11th-inning, walk-off homer in his major league debut Friday, Robinson was sure the ball was over the center fielder's head. That's all his eyes would confirm.

"It sounds like the big boys," said Robinson, referring to what the ear captures when the ball comes off Cabrera's bat. "Some of the smaller guys and guys without bat speed, you get a thud. His ball has a ringing, shotgun sound to it. That's impressive. His style and his makeup, the way he loads and uses his hands. He has all the physical abilities to be a pretty good hitter and he can hit the ball to all fields.

"The kid is ahead of his time."

Miles ahead. Fresh from Double-A Carolina, Cabrera played his first major league game at 20 years, 63 days, becoming the second-youngest Marlin ever to make his debut. Reliever Felix Heredia eclipsed him by 11 days.

Though he has logged just 10 at-bats entering tonight's series opener against the Mets at Shea Stadium, the Marlins already feel justified in promoting him. Cabrera, who has incorporated a more open batting stance since spring training, is developed beyond his years as a hitter.

"I like his approach," manager Jack McKeon said. "No fear, no lack of confidence. He looked like a guy who'd been up here for two or three years."

The Marlins will likely devote more time to helping Cabrera adapt to his new position in left field than working on his swing. Though Cabrera will see superior pitching in the majors, he's well-equipped to handle it.

His .365 batting average for the Mudcats was second among Southern League hitters. Cabrera also was pacing the circuit with 59 RBI, 29 doubles, 42 extra-base hits and a .609 slugging percentage.

The power numbers will likely increase as Cabrera continues maturing physically, but his strength is hitting the ball to all fields. He'll chase a breaking ball out of the zone, but nowhere near as often as most professionals his age.

"He hits everything the other way and adjusts from there," Double-A manager Tracy Woodson said. "He's got a plan every time he goes up there."

Cabrera is going up there with an open, Andres Galarraga-like batting stance. No one suggested he change it. Cabrera started experimenting before the Double-A season and this stance stuck.

"You have to invent something to get hits," Cabrera said.

Robinson also noticed the difference and how Cabrera is farther from the plate. Unless Cabrera starts missing the outside strike, Robinson doesn't see a need to tinker.

"The one thing I did mention is if you're going to open up that much, let's stay a little more balanced," he said. "He's over on his toes and falling into the ball a little more. ... From reports that I've gotten and from what he's telling me, there are pitches he's just learning how to hit."

In his first two at-bats against the Devil Rays on Friday, Cabrera fell behind before working the count full. He struck out on a high fastball in the first after fouling off three 3-2 offerings. In the sixth, he flew out to right.

Bench coach Doug Davis, who was the Marlins' minor league field coordinator until last month, likes Cabrera's approach with two strikes, the way he limits his strikeouts and takes his walks. Another benefit is that his swing doesn't have a lot of moving parts, which enables him to adjust easier to breaking balls.

"He hits the ball as well to right field as he does to left," Davis said. "He uses those gaps and is able to stay back, stay patient and get a pitch he can do something with regardless of whether it's the first pitch of the at-bat or the sixth.

"You say all that and you're thinking, `Well, you're probably talking about a guy who's 25 to 30 years old,' and he's 20," Davis said.

Chief among the reasons for his early development is Cabrera's participation in winter ball. He has played for the Aragua Tigers in his native Venezuela the past two offseasons. Working with and against many Triple-A and major league players while still a teenager served to accelerate his progress.

"I know the Venezuelan winter league got cut short, but the numbers he had there were tremendous," said Davis, who followed Cabrera as he hit .329 with four homers and 24 RBI in 38 games last offseason.

"To do that in that type of situation speaks as to how good he really is. He came to spring training in as good a shape as he's ever been in and he was ready to make an impact wherever he was going to go."
 

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