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Youthful Cabrera a standout

Outfielder joins Lowell, Benitez and Pavano in Houston

By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com



HOUSTON -- You know you belong when Randy Johnson and Jim Thome go out of their way to congratulate you.

With his youthful looks and wide smile, 21-year-old Miguel Cabrera takes all the accolades in stride.


Appreciative, Cabrera responds to the compliments from the likes of Thome and Johnson with an almost bashful, "Thank you."


In his first full Major League season, Cabrera is on another big stage. Already a World Series hero, the Marlins' right fielder on Tuesday night makes his All-Star debut.


The ever-confident right fielder is one of four Marlins (a franchise most) in the 75th Midsummer Classic at Minute Maid Park.


Joining Cabrera are third baseman Mike Lowell, closer Armando Benitez and right-handed starter Carl Pavano.


Lowell is back for the third straight season, Benitez returns for a second year and Pavano makes his All-Star debut.


Among stars, Cabrera is a standout as the youngest player in the game.


The 30-year-old Lowell, the only Marlin ever to make three All-Star appearances, is awed by Cabrera's instant impact.


"At 21, I was getting two hits with an aluminum bat against the University of Miami," Lowell said. "That was the highlight of my year, and trying to get drafted. He's in another stratosphere, physically, mentally. I think his physical tools have helped his mental preparation, because when you are 19 and you're just as strong as big leaguers, it makes you think you belong a lot more.


"Then, you see how he carries himself. He's played a lot. The Latin guys, they play so much baseball more than the guys do in the States, they mature baseball-wise a lot quicker. I think situations don't faze him. I also think it's a maturity process and you go into a foreign country and you're learning everything like how to live in a different system and how to pay bills, I think baseball becomes the easy part."


The Venezuelan-born Cabrera enters the break with a .295 average, plus 20 home runs, 59 RBIs and 59 runs scored.


With so much raw ability and the knack for rising to the occasion, Cabrera was dealt a big compliment by the fact he was voted onto the team by the players.


As part of the voting process, the fans pick the starting eight regulars, and the players, managers and coaches vote on eight backups and eight pitchers.


"What Cabrera is doing is unbelievable," said Benitez, who has been pretty impressive himself with 30 saves in 32 chances. "I hope he continues like this, and doesn't get too excited and try to do too much. He's a great kid."


Little fazes Cabrera.


He's hit cleanup in the World Series, and homered off Roger Clemens in Game 4.


There is something Cabrera hasn't done that he would eventually like to get a shot at: participating in the Century 21 All-Star Home Run Derby.


"Give me a chance, I go," Cabrera said. "If you give me the opportunity, I'll go. You never say no."


Like Cabrera, Lowell also was the choice of his peers. Both Marlins' position players will likely see action for a few innings. Pavano, who is rested, probably would see an inning of relief, perhaps as early as following up Clemens, who isn't expected to go more than two innings. It's unlikely Benitez will pitch, because the right-hander collected a two-inning save on Saturday against the Mets, followed up by a one-inning save on Sunday.


On Saturday, Benitez phoned the dugout from the bullpen, saying he wanted to work the eighth and ninth innings. Would he call down again?


"That's different," Benitez said. "Maybe? You never know. But I don't think so. We have a lot of good pitchers here."


With the Marlins 1 1/2 games behind the Phillies in the National League East, the coaching staff is concerned about preserving Benitez. At most, he would go one inning or maybe less.


Pavano last pitched on Wednesday, and he is available Tuesday. The Marlins have slated the right-hander to pitch on Saturday at Pittsburgh, giving him plenty of time to work a couple of innings.


"It's sinking in," Pavano said. "It being my first All-Star Game, I'm pretty much going to stay level-headed. I'm not going to get too excited. I can't wait to get out there and pitch and see the Home Run Derby, but I'm taking it in stride. It's going to be a lot of fun. I know that."



Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Mando: "Yo, Jack, put me in...those guys over at Admin's site are screaming for me to come in so the pen doesn't f*** the game up..."


Jack: "Makes sense...But it goes against my better judgment...I got a box of cubans in my office I wanna get to, so yeah, pitch 2 innings and make it quick..I'll never get to smoke them if I go the pen...Maybe I can bring in Perisho..Naw, never mind..Get in there Armando.."

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