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Meet the Marlins' left-field version of Dontrelle

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Another great Miguel read! :thumbup


Meet the Marlins' left-field version of Dontrelle Willis




It's easy to mistake the Marlins' latest baby-faced phenom for a new batboy instead of the new left fielder.


The slight build. The impish grin. The fact his clubhouse locker is right next to the one used by the real batboys.


Put a bat in Miguel Cabrera's 20-year-old hands, however, and it's a different story. Twice in his first three major-league games Cabrera delivered the key blow -- belting a walk-off home run to beat the Tampa Bay Devil Rays last Friday, then tripling in one run and scoring another in Sunday's 3-2 win.


If that's impressive, wait until he settles in.


''I still don't feel real, real good at the plate. I still don't feel comfortable,'' says Cabrera, who couldn't find the batting cage Friday, then needed an extra hour to find the ballpark Saturday. ``But as time passes and I get more comfortable at the plate, I'll get better. I'll have more confidence at the plate.''


Cabrera hopes to begin that adjustment tonight when the streaking Marlins, winners of four in a row and nine of their past 13, open a six-game road trip with three games against the Mets in New York. Then the Marlins play three games at Boston, where Cabrera could be sorely tested by Fenway Park's famed Green Monster, the left-field wall that has made life difficult for even the most accomplished outfielders.


Cabrera says his performance at the plate has been hampered by his move to the outfield, a position he hasn't played since Little League.


''I'm concentrating a lot on left field,'' he says.


It's his second position switch since he joined the Marlins as a shortstop four years ago. He was first pushed to third base, spending last summer learning the position at Single A Jupiter. Then, with the Marlins getting little production from their left fielders this season, general manager Admin Beinfest made a call to Double A Carolina -- where Cabrera was batting .365 and leading the Southern League in five offensive categories -- and asked if he would be willing to give the outfield a shot in the majors.


''And his answer was a good one,'' Beinfest says. '`Hey, I'll do whatever I need to do to get to the big leagues.' ''


The Marlins counted versatility among Cabrera strengths when they signed him as a 16-year-old for a $1.8 million bonus, a record for a Venezuelan player.


''When we signed him, we thought that he would wind up at third base,'' said Louie Eljaua, a former Marlins scout who now directs the Boston Red Sox's international scouting department. ``[but]he's a baseball player. He'll play anywhere. He'll be able to handle any position except maybe catcher.''


And Cabrera's contribution goes beyond what he delivers with the bat. Like 21-year-old pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who also started the season at Carolina, Cabrera has infused the Marlins with new enthusiasm and excitement.


''How well they perform creates a great deal of enthusiasm,'' says manager Jack McKeon, who is 72. ``But I think it's great to have some young energy out there, and I think it spurs on the veterans.''


Adds Mike Lowell, who leads the majors with 23 homers: ``I think Dontrelle adds a special energy just because he's a pitcher and it's something so different. He gets the ball all the time. Miguel, he's gotten big hits for us. . . . You get guys that have a different taste.''


The Marlins could get another boost when they return home next week. If Josh Beckett's second rehabilitation start goes well Thursday, the 23-year-old right-hander could return to the rotation July 1 against the Braves at Pro Player Stadium.


''Things might be looking up,'' says McKeon, who can get the team to .500 for the first time since May 1 with a win tonight.


The Marlins were 16-22 when McKeon replaced Jeff Torborg as manager in early May.


''When we started out, I told the guys my goal was to pick up a game a week,'' McKeon says. ``Try to win every series if you can. That was our goal. We just peck away like that, pretty soon we're back to .500 and we'll surprise a few people. . . .


``We're playing with some spirit now. Everybody's helping each other in the dugout, rooting for one another It's coming together as a team.''

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