Cabrera confident he can make transition to 3rd

February 15th, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Veteran infielder is being asked to become a full-time third baseman for the first time in his career, and the player he is replacing was one of the best ever at the position.

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Third base has long been labeled the hot corner, but it might become especially warm for Cabrera, who agreed to a one-year contract with the Rangers this winter. With Adrian Beltre retired and traded to the Athletics, Cabrera takes over this season as the Rangers' starting third baseman.

"It's going to be kind of hard," Cabrera said. "Adrian Beltre was the best third baseman in the game. He was a guy I always watched how he played. He had fun all the time. You want to be that kind of player."

Cabrera takes over having played just 67 games at third base during his Major League career, almost all of it coming with the Mets and Phillies the past two seasons. Most of his career has been spent as a front-line shortstop, and his 1,078 games there are seventh most among active players. He has also played 334 games at second base.

"The first few games it was tough for me," Cabrera said. "I want to be honest with you. But when I started playing more and more and more, I started to feel pretty confident every pitch. You have to be focused because you are pretty close to home plate, but I love to compete no matter where."

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Cabrera is confident he can handle the job and so are the Rangers. Cabrera, who was a two-time All-Star shortstop with the Indians, is coming off one of his best offensive seasons last year with the Mets and Phillies. He played in a combined 147 games and, as a switch-hitter, hit .262 with 36 doubles, 23 home runs, 75 RBIs and a .458 slugging percentage.

"His offensive capability probably trumped everything," Rangers manager Chris Woodward said.

Woodward, who made a career of being a utility infielder, knows it won't be a completely smooth transition to third and has assigned third-base coach Tony Beasley to work with Cabrera.

Third base has different angles than the middle-infield position and a different view of the hitter. A player's reaction time must be quicker. Woodward said he wants Beasley to make it as tough on Cabrera as possible in workouts, so he'll feel more comfortable in the games.

"We'll sit him down and ask him what his inhibitions and anxieties are about playing the position, so we can address them and help him out as much as we can," Woodward said. "It is a different position than the middle of the field, but I have no problem with Beasley working with him. He'll make him feel comfortable. He is a really good infielder, he has great hands. I don't see any problems."

As far as replacing Beltre…

"You can't fill those shoes," Woodward said. "Nobody in the world can ever fill those shoes. I would never put that anywhere near him. If he feels that, I will be the first to tell him. 'Just be you, we signed you to be you. We didn't sign you to be Adrian Beltre.'"