Cabrera: 'Learn, move on' from rough start

September 8th, 2021

MIAMI -- A recurring theme of the 2021 season has been the lessons learned for the Marlins’ young starting pitching after each outing.

Tuesday night’s 9-4 defeat to the Mets at loanDepot park was no different for rookie right-hander , who struggled with his command and was chased early in his third Major League start.

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In a rematch of last Tuesday's nightcap of a doubleheader at Citi Field, Cabrera surrendered a two-run homer to Pete Alonso in the first -- the only hit he allowed in 2 1/3 innings. After a perfect second, Cabrera couldn't find the strike zone, primarily with his secondary pitches, in New York’s two-run third. Carlos Carrasco struck out, but Cabrera walked three consecutive batters (two on full counts) and hit two straight batters.

“I didn't feel bad physically, but I did feel like some of my tempo and some of my balance was completely off going to some of those pitches,” Cabrera said via an interpreter. “It's something that you've got to try to find the positive and the negative, learn from it and move on.”

Following two mound visits, manager Don Mattingly pulled Cabrera with 27 pitches in the frame. MLB Pipeline's No. 30 overall prospect had issued at least four walks just five times previously in his professional career (80 outings). According to MLB Pipeline's scouting report, Cabrera had learned that he doesn't need to overthrow to generate premium stuff, though he will still lapse on occasion.

Here's a look at Cabrera's BB/9 rate over the years:

2016: 1.9
2017: 2.0
2018: 3.8
2019: 2.8 (High-A), 3.0 (Double-A)
2021: 0.0 (Low-A rehab), 1.0 (Double-A), 1.2 (Triple-A)

Throwing strikes hadn't been too much of an issue for the 23-year-old in his first two Major League starts. In his debut, Cabrera was through five scoreless innings on just 49 pitches (34 strikes). His three combined walks came afterward in the sixth and seventh as he began to tire. He did not issue a free pass last week in New York, when he threw 53 pitches (37 strikes) in four frames.

“Obviously [we were] trying to let him get out of it, give him a chance, because he can throw the ball on the ground,” Mattingly said. “He's got an out, and he's got a chance to get out of it right there. I wanted to give him that chance, but when he hits another guy there after three walks, it's like, ‘OK, not going to let him just keep struggling out there like that.’ Again, I want to let him try to work through it, but I'm not going to let him get buried out there.”

All season, Mattingly has made comparisons to the growing pains rookie Trevor Rogers had to experience during his first taste of the big leagues in 2020. In two of his seven starts, Rogers couldn’t halt a big inning. Through 21 starts of an All-Star campaign in ‘21, Rogers has been able to correct that. Contests like Tuesday’s series opener could serve the same purpose for Cabrera, who said he will analyze the mistakes he made and try to fix them in time for his next outing -- tentatively scheduled for Sunday in Atlanta.

“You're going to learn from every start,” Mattingly said. “He'll go in tomorrow or the day after and look at the start, what was going on, if something was happening mechanically, if he was trying to do too much. Again, these are all things for him to experience and learn from.”

After all, there were some positives to take away from the outing despite the overall result. Cabrera collected his first Major League hit in the second, driving in Eddy Alvarez with a double. He pulled back on a bunt attempt and swung away, and the ball stayed just fair down the left-field line.

Cabrera also recorded 11 whiffs -- five more than his last time out -- for a new career high. His average four-seam velocity showed a 0.2 mph increase (97 mph), and he matched a career high at 98.8 mph.

“I really, really want to go and do it,” Cabrera said. “It's something that comes to my head every time I have an outing like this or similar. I do want to go out there and prove myself and enjoy what I can do. But I know someday, things will start coming together. Could be happening in the next week, could be happening the next month.”