Brief start caps Cabrera's up-and-down year

MLB Pipeline's No. 29 prospect limited to three innings due to blister

October 1st, 2021

NEW YORK -- With an eye on the future, Marlins rookie right-hander ’s final start of the season came to a premature end when he was removed after three innings due to a blister on his right middle finger. Miami went on to lose to New York, 12-3, on Thursday night at Citi Field in the club’s 2021 road finale.

According to manager Don Mattingly, it’s something Cabrera has dealt with the past two times on the mound, though this was in a different spot on the same finger. The Marlins didn’t want to jeopardize winter plans for Cabrera, who will pitch back home in the Dominican Republic.

“You start ripping that thing up and now you're delaying that by X amount of time and then you've got to build up that kind of thing,” Mattingly said. “So we had to do it. Guys don't like coming out of games, but sometimes you just have to protect them.”

Cabrera struck out the side in the first and matched the second-fastest velocity (98.9 mph) of his young career on a four-seamer. Pete Alonso, however, sent a changeup below the zone over the left-field wall for a leadoff homer in the second. The Mets added a run in the third on Michael Conforto’s RBI single, but Cabrera bounced back in his next matchup with Alonso, striking him out on a changeup to end the frame.

It was an anticlimactic finish to the season for MLB Pipeline's No. 29 prospect. The Marlins hoped Cabrera would be part of their starting-pitching depth to open 2021, but he arrived to Spring Training with arm discomfort -- something the organization was aware of -- and was diagnosed with an inflamed nerve in his right biceps. That pushed back his timeline. Last season, he had a minor arm issue that prevented him from making his MLB debut.

Cabrera began a two-start rehab assignment on June 6, about a month after the Minor League schedule started, with Low-A Jupiter. He followed that with a 2.77 ERA across five starts at Double-A Pensacola, the MiLB level he finished at in 2019, before receiving a promotion to Triple-A Jacksonville. There, Cabrera posted a 3.68 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings over six starts.

With three innings of two-run ball in the series finale, Cabrera’s first seven Major League starts went as follows: 26 1/3 IP, 24 H, 20 R, 17 ER, 19 BB, 28 K, 5.81 ERA, 1.63 WHIP.

“I think the difference pretty much I saw at the big league level with my pitches was that I was missing a lot of my location,” Cabrera said via an interpreter. “Strike zone is smaller here, and it's something that you can notice. But I need to continue working on my location and making sure that my pitches are landing exactly where I want to. It will be a working process for next year.”

The 23-year-old made quite the impression in his debut, cruising through six innings at just 57 pitches before being chased in a three-run seventh. He never pitched into the fifth in a start after that. On a positive note, Cabrera had begun to accumulate strikeouts more in line with his Minor League rate (13.5 K/9) in 2021, with 19 over his final 10 frames compared to nine across his first 16 1/3 innings.

Cabrera wasn’t deterred by the results. In fact, he preached more about the process and the ability to turn the page from rough outings. Mattingly believes the greatest lesson for the young hurler was learning what it takes to pitch in The Show.

“Until you get here, you don't know it,” Mattingly said. “Now you know it. You see it, you know it, and you just know you have to make better quality pitches. I don't think anybody doubts his stuff, and I don't think he doubts his stuff, but it's like anything: You get here, you know what it is, and you come to a conclusion that, ‘If I make pitches, if I get the ball where I want to, if I get my stuff where it needs to be, I'm going to have success.’”