Cabrera helps Yankees discover their depth going into playoffs


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NEW YORK — Oswaldo Cabrera got his MLB cap on August 27 and he took to the third base for the Yankees that day. In the 13 games he has played so far, the newbie had the roles of shortstop, right fielder, second baseman, and third baseman. Cabrera has a home run to his name and an outstanding fielding that robbed Toronto of a home run. The versatility of Cabrera indicates the depth that the Yankees have discovered just before going into the playoffs. With 15 of the regular players out on the injured list, the depth has come to their rescue. These backup players have performed when given pinstripes, and this includes their most famous win over Tampa in a doubleheader. Their performance received backing from manager Boone, who vowed more opportunities for them. Players like Cabrera are also trying to better their performance with every game. He makes calls to his brother Leobaldo after each game seeking his analysis of his performance. Leobaldo, plays outfield for the Wind Surge, which is the Class AA team of the Minnesota Twins. According to the Yankee, his brother looks at his videos and advice him on what strategy he should adopt on the field. “Flyball coming this way, you have to run this way, you know?” said Cabrera explaining how his brother supported him. Cabrera’s solid fundamentals in the outfield earned high praise from his manager. Injuries to Anthony Rizzo and DJ LeMahieu left the Yankees wanting at the first base last week. Now they are now working with Cabrera as a possible option. The Yankees dominated the first half of this season. At one point, it seemed that New York could rewrite baseball history while the rest of the league was worried about making the playoffs. But things changed after July and an August slump was there. Their lead in the American League East now stands at only six games after Tuesday’s 7-6, 10-inning win in Boston and Toronto’s split doubleheader with Tampa Bay. It was 15 ½ games in July. The injury-riddled team has a weak lineup. It is so feeble that players like Cabrera, who is learning on the job, are helping them hang on to a first-round bye. As much as this Yankees season has been defined by Aaron Judge‘s historic chase for the home-run record, the injuries have resulted in New York fans expressing their worst fear. Despite a hot start and increased consistency early on, aches and pains in their already old lineup have brought into the fore concerns just in time for the October push. Rizzo is on a rehab assignment and hasn’t played since late August when he needed an epidural to treat back pain. LeMahieu was supposed to miss a few days because of a sore toe, but he ended up on the injured list late last week because the toe is making it hard for him to swing the bat. Giancarlo Stanton is “back” from the Achilles’ injury. But he wasn’t really back until he hit home runs on Saturday and Sunday against Tampa Bay. So, at a crucial time in a crucial season for a team that wants to win again in October, the Yankees needed players like Josh Donaldson, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Aaron Hicks to carry them. These were the same players they needed to just help out early in the season. Donaldson has had both good and bad times. Kiner-Falefa has had a few big hits, but he is not offensively anywhere near as good as LeMahieu. Hicks’ troubles persist forcing the Yankees to depend on new players, including Cabrera, Andujar, and Estevan Florial. The demands of a 162-game season take a toll on every team. The Yankees are not the only team to lose players they built their team around to injury and bring the ones they have in their depth. The Rays looked like they were going to have their first bad season in a long time until recently when injuries to Wander Franco and others made them look weaker than they should have. The Chicago White Sox are very good, but they have been hurt so much — again — that they might not even be able to win in October. The San Diego Padres were hoping to ride on Fernando Tatis and Juan Soto. But the Dominican is out on PED suspension while Soto is far from his expected performance. Cross-town rivals the Mets have to call up prospect Mark Vientos after losing Starling Marte and Starling Marte to injury. This came at a time when they were tied with the Braves atop the NL East. Thus, having a good depth is as important as Opening Day stars if a team is out to win the regular season and continues till October without a slide. Considering the financial strength of the Yankees, they should be able to build more depth than most teams. They should have built more of it since veterans they relied on often have a higher chance of getting in bad shape. With the present depth, it looks like they have a plan that way. For example, Matt Carpenter got a second chance and he hit .305 with 15 home runs in 47 games. Their injury planning and depth allowed the Yankees to go after outfielder Harrison Bader, who used to play for the St. Louis Cardinals and was a great defender. If he had been healthy, Bader probably would have eaten up all the innings Boone threw to Cabrera. But Bader hasn’t played for the Yankees since they bought him at the trade deadline. He had to sit watching his team slide while healing his plantar fasciitis.
“It’s been weird coming to a clubhouse and not being able to play and perform; I’ve learned from a lot of players in the past to let your game speak for itself,” told Bader, who is a home-town boy. He added, “Being in this atmosphere, to not really have a voice — what I can do to help the team win, that is my voice — so the fact that I can’t play has taken my voice away which has been tough. But at the same time, it’s important to keep the big picture in perspective. My time to play is close.”
A hopeful Bader is already on his rehab assignment and wants to be back in the lineup soon. Like Cabrera, he took an unexpected path to a surprising role in the Yankees’ season. He has as much power to change the Yankees’ season as anyone the front office planned to be there all along. Last week, Cabrera hit a walk-off home run that won the game for the Yankees. The 23-year-old hit his first home run in the big leagues on Sunday, which saw a big win over the Rays. However, he may not be in the playoffs if injured stars return to the lineup. Bader is more likely to play, but he hasn’t shown that he can perform for the Yankees. The 162-game season springs up many surprising faces and a team discovers its depth as late September approaches. Should Cabrera get a playoff chance? Do the Yankees have a good depth? Who are the best backup players in New York?

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