Oswaldo Cabrera is fast becoming an essential asset for Yankees

Noah K. Murray/AP Photo
Michael Bennington
Friday October 14, 2022

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Oswaldo Cabrera spent the first 553 games of his professional career as an infielder. On July 8, he made his first start in the outfield while on a rehab assignment with Low-A Tampa. Only about three months after his MiLB exploits, he is in the American League Division Series at Yankee Stadium. The team has assigned him the position in the left field and he did excellent in Game 1.

The Yankees have been thrilled with almost everything the 23-year-old rookie has done since making his big-league debut on August 17, but Cabrera has been surprised by how easy the adjustment has been to the outfield.

The rookie told on Wednesday after a practice session:

“Yeah, honestly I’m surprised by that. But at the same time, it’s the work that we were putting in on it. I never thought that I was going to make plays like that, but we were working for it.”

Cabrera was asked about a play that happened in the fourth inning of Game 1. Will Brennan, the DH for the Guardians, hit a fly ball down the left-field line. Cabrera chased it down and caught it while jumping into the wall in foul territory. During the process, he dropped his hat in the stands. Seconds later, a fan gave it back to him, but the positioning card that had been inside it was missing. Cabrera gave the fan a high five to thank him.

It was a key play in an inning with eight pitches that helped Gerrit Cole get back on track after a hard first three innings.

“He just keeps on being so impressive,” said a grateful Cole.

Cabrera earned his manager’s trust on multiple fronts despite playing only 44 regular-season games. He has emerged as an essential asset for the team by hitting well .293 with six home runs in his final 22 games before going 0-for-3 in Game 1. However, there is much more to the reason why he occupies the fifth place in the ALDS roster of the MLB’s most important team. He played well when put in the right field. Cabrera repeated the same performance when he was put in the right field, shortstop position, or in any of the bases.

Cabrera has shone out everywhere he has played, amassing 13 Defensive Runs Saved and fitting in with the Yankees’ better all-around defense. Despite the larger platform, this trend remained on Tuesday.

According to manager Aaron Boone:

“He’s very mature. He’s a very confident baseball player. He works really hard. He processes information really well. You’ve seen that, I think offensively, too. I feel like he’s made really good adjustments as these couple months have unfolded. He’s just a really good player, and he plays the game with a lot of confidence, with a little bit of a swagger to him, and just he’s a really good worker, too. He gets after it and he’s not afraid.”

Cabrera trained in the outfield over the offseason, in case the Yankees ever needed him there. He also did some pregame work in the corner spots while he was in the minors. Before starting a game in right field for Tampa while coming back from a shoulder injury, he asked coaches, members of his team, or brother Leobaldo, who is an outfielder for the Twins, for advice.

Nonetheless, he had only played three games in right field and one in left field before landing in The Bronx, where demands emerged immediately in right field (with Aaron Judge filling in as center fielder until Harrison Bader returned) and then left field (when Andrew Benintendi was on the injured list following a wrist injury and Aaron Hicks failed to perform).

As a consequence, Cabrera has become an important asset on the Yankees roster as they pursue their championship quest in October.

“Everyone in the clubhouse, especially the older guys, give me confidence,” Cabrera said. “They made me feel like I was part of the team from the first day I was here. You know, that made me so happy and gave me so much confidence on the field.

How do you rate Oswaldo Cabrera?

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