Cabrera makes return to Cleveland special with homer
Shortstop also singles in Rays' victory over Indians
CLEVELAND -- Asdrubal Cabrera's first emotion of the day was anxiety. For his son, at least, it was excitement.
Asdrubal was returning to Cleveland for the first time since being traded on July 31 of last year, anxious to play against his old friends. Eight-year-old Meyer was excited to play with his old friends.
Cabrera made it a special return with a solo home run in the second inning of the Rays' 4-1 win over the Indians on Friday.
Before the game, Cabrera's son spent his time playing in the clubhouse with the children of Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn, like he used to when his father played for the Indians. Asdrubal spent his time wondering what the reception might be like when he walked out on the field.
"It's kind of weird," Cabrera said. "All your friends are on the other side, but as soon as they call 'play ball' you've got to forget about it and do your job and try to win. I played here eight seasons, but that's baseball. It's a business. I feel good now."
Cabrera's career in Cleveland had its ups and downs. In 2011, he was one of the best offensive shortstops in baseball, slugging 25 home runs and stealing 17 bases. By the end of his tenure, his production had declined.
"At times, he struggled as a player, more than he wanted to," Indians manager Terry Francona said before Friday's game. "But he always wanted to play every day and he fought through a lot of frustration and genuinely cared about winning. I always admired that a lot about him. When he didn't play well, he owned it."
The reception by the home crowd in Cleveland was mostly positive, though the cheers quickly stopped when Cabrera hit a 1-0 pitch off Carlos Carrasco into the seats in right field in his first at-bat to give the Rays a 2-1 lead.
The anxiety quickly disappeared, too.
"That was kind of special," Cabrera said. "Earlier, in my first inning on defense, I was a little nervous, but as soon as I hit the home run everything felt better."
Cabrera picked up another hit in the seventh inning, and Rays manager Kevin Cash praised him for his game and his role as a veteran presence on a young team that has used a Major League-high 44 players this season, including 16 rookies.
"I wouldn't want to speak for him, but I would imagine tonight meant a lot for him," Cash said. "I hope it did because it meant a lot for all of us in the dugout because we support him so much. We knew that this was a special place for him and a big series. He wanted to come and have a big showing and he definitely did that tonight."