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Cabs tearing it up in the Winter League playoffs


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Add a Triple Crown to Miguel Cabrera's growing list of achievements, as the Marlins' 21-year-old phenom is tearing up the Venezuelan Winter League.


In 16 round-robin playoff games for the Aragua Tigers, Cabrera led the league with a .448 average and set playoff records with nine home runs and 32 RBIs. He is the first player in Venezuela to win the postseason Triple Crown.


The way the playoffs are set up in Venezuela, the top two teams in round-robin play advance to a best-of-seven series. Beginning on Friday, the Tigers take on Caracas Leones, with the winner advancing to the Caribbean Series.


Cabrera isn't just hammering out impressive statistics against slouches. A few days ago, in an 11-10 win over Leones, the All-Star left fielder belted a grand slam off Anaheim closer Francisco Rodriguez.


In that game, Cabrera had two home runs, including a three-run shot, and seven RBIs. That Leones team also has Phillies slugger Bobby Abreu and Phillies infielder Tomas Perez.


"He's just being Cabrera," said Jim Fleming, the Marlins' vice president of player development and scouting.


While in Venezuela, Cabrera told friends he is hopeful the Marlins are able to sign free agent slugger Carlos Delgado. If that happens, Cabrera likely would bat either third, in front of Delgado, or fifth, directly behind him. With the threat of another power hitter, Cabrera's statistics would likely improve.


"The key with Miguel is people have got to just let him play," Fleming said. "He's a lot like a guy like Vladimir Guerrero. We had Vlady when he was coming up with the Expos. People wanted to classify him too fast. We just wanted to let him play. It takes a few years before you get a feel of what kind of player a guy will be. With Miguel, it's becoming clear that this guy is going to hit, whether it is in Venezuela or the Major Leagues."


Playing mostly left field, Cabrera is batting cleanup for the Tigers, where he has established himself as the team's top player.


Also on the Tigers is minor league pitching prospect Yorman Bazardo, who will get a chance to make the Marlins in Spring Training. Bazardo, projected to open in Double-A Carolina, was equally impressive in the postseason. In six games, he has an 0.90 ERA in 10 innings.


Used primarily in long relief and setup, Bazardo pitched in 22 regular season Winter League games, throwing 39 innings with a 3.23 ERA. The concern with Bazardo now is overuse. All the innings could wear down the lanky right-hander before Spring Training.


Observing Bazardo is new Marlins bullpen coach Luis Dorante, who managed the Pastora team that was recently eliminated in the Venezuelan League. Dorante formerly managed Bazardo at Class A Jupiter.



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