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Kapler encouraged by Cabrera's SS defense

Veteran flashes skills after getting start in Arizona opener
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHOENIX -- One of the more interesting aspects of the Asdrubal Cabrera acquisition is that while the Phillies needed offensive help at shortstop, Cabrera is not known for his defense and had not played there regularly since 2016.

But Cabrera started at shortstop for the fourth time in the Phillies' past five games on Monday night in their series opener against the D-backs at Chase Field. He turned a nice inning-ending double play in the second, and after knocking down a Jon Jay ground ball in the third, he used his glove to scoop the ball to Cesar Hernandez at second base for the second out.

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PHOENIX -- One of the more interesting aspects of the Asdrubal Cabrera acquisition is that while the Phillies needed offensive help at shortstop, Cabrera is not known for his defense and had not played there regularly since 2016.

But Cabrera started at shortstop for the fourth time in the Phillies' past five games on Monday night in their series opener against the D-backs at Chase Field. He turned a nice inning-ending double play in the second, and after knocking down a Jon Jay ground ball in the third, he used his glove to scoop the ball to Cesar Hernandez at second base for the second out.

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Video: PHI@ARI: Arrieta induces DP to escape trouble in 2nd

Cabrera's last two starts have come with Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta on the mound. That is noteworthy because Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said recently that he planned to use his best defender (i.e. Scott Kingery) when his two ground-ball pitchers were on the mound. Arrieta (52.6 percent) and Nola (52.4 percent) have two of the six-highest ground-ball rates in baseball, according to Statcast™.

So what changed?

"What we saw from Asdrubal gave us a lot of confidence that he can make all the plays necessary to be good behind those guys," Kapler said. "Scott might have more range, but Asdrubal is going to catch the ball. And then he's also going to provide us with a nice, deep lineup. We know we're going to have to score some runs against this team. To really look at this fairly, Asdrubal gives us our best chance to score runs. And that's why he's in our lineup. And he's playing a good shortstop. [In] 2016, he was a pretty good shortstop. Not that long ago. He's 32. Probably fairly motivated right now."

Cabrera downplayed extra motivation, whether because he is a free agent following the season or because he has heard the knocks against his defense. But he said he thinks he is readjusting to the position well.

"I'm working hard every day and trying to get better," Cabrera said.

Injury update
Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (nerve issue in right fingers) struck out two in two scoreless innings in a rehab start Saturday with Class A Advanced Clearwater. He is scheduled to pitch three innings Wednesday in Clearwater.

"The curveball is sharp. It has a lot of vertical action," Kapler said. "He came off [the mound] feeling really encouraged."

It is too early to say if Eickhoff could possibly contribute to the team later this season, even as an extra arm in the bullpen. At this point the chances of him rejoining the rotation are slim, unless there would be an injury.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Philadelphia Phillies, Asdrubal Cabrera