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Asdrúbal ready to show Kieboom the ropes

@jessicacamerato
April 27, 2020

Carter Kieboom’s adjustment to third base has been a major storyline when it comes to the Nationals’ future. Within that learning curve is another transition -- Asdrúbal Cabrera becoming a veteran mentor on the hot corner. Cabrera, 34, and Kieboom, 22, worked simultaneously during Spring Training. They were paired together

Carter Kieboom’s adjustment to third base has been a major storyline when it comes to the Nationals’ future. Within that learning curve is another transition -- Asdrúbal Cabrera becoming a veteran mentor on the hot corner.

Cabrera, 34, and Kieboom, 22, worked simultaneously during Spring Training. They were paired together for defensive drills, and Cabrera often would give pointers and answer questions during pauses in the on-field work. Kieboom has never made a regular-season appearance at third in the big leagues, and Cabrera has played only 165 of his 1,078 career games there. Yet Cabrera has been around enough leaders over his past 13 seasons to be well-positioned to guide the youngster.

“The game is not about one player,” Cabrera said. “It’s about a team.”

Cabrera spent parts of his first eight Major League seasons (2007-14) with the Indians, beginning at age 21. For more than two years, he was teammates with five-time All-Star Victor Martinez. Even though Cabrera primarily played shortstop and second base with Cleveland and Martinez was a catcher, first baseman and designated hitter, Martinez offered him advice that transcended positions.

“He was the one who taught me the first couple years about the rules in the big leagues, how to play the game,” Cabrera said. “He told me to play the games right and people are going to respect you more. I really appreciated that.”

Washington traded for Cabrera in July 2014, and from there he played the following season in Tampa Bay. In ‘16, Cabrera began two-plus seasons with the Mets, where he became teammates with right-hander Bartolo Colon. Cabrera observed how the Cy Young Award winner and four-time All-Star carried himself, and he took to Colon’s approach.

“He’s a guy that liked to compete,” Cabrera said. “He was relaxed all the time. No matter how he was doing on the mound, he was the same guy all the time in the clubhouse. I love to be like that. I like to win, no matter how. I try to be the same guy all the time.”

It was with the Mets that Cabrera began playing third base. He had played one game at the position in 2007 with the Indians, and he didn’t do it again until ‘17 with New York. That year, he made 44 appearances at the hot corner, followed by 22 in ‘18 with the Phillies. Last season, he made all of his defensive appearances with the Rangers at third base (93 games), before he rejoined the Nationals as a free agent in August. Cabrera split his time with 31 games at second, five at third and three at first with Washington.

“I told [Kieboom] the first day we took ground balls, ‘I’m not playing a lot at third base before,’” Cabrera said. “Last year was my first year at third. But I had really good teachers, [like] Adrián Beltré. The little things he taught me, I told him.”

Cabrera has a .965 fielding percentage over 1,283 2/3 innings at third base. That’s plenty of firsthand experience to share with Kieboom, especially when mixed with the years of wisdom Cabrera has accumulated from his own veteran leaders.

“The first day we were out there taking ground balls, he was very open and very honest with me,” Kieboom said. “He said, ‘If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask me.’ He told me that’s how he learned when he made his entrance into the big leagues and big league camp. He said he had veteran guys around who helped him out and gave him some insight on things maybe I don’t even think about.

“He’s been a tremendous help so far, and I appreciate what he does. … It’s nice to see there are guys like that in this game that are willing to help and make this game a lot better.”

The Nationals have given Kieboom the opportunity to earn the starting third-base job this season. If their 2019 No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, isn’t ready for that role when baseball resumes, Cabrera could get the nod in the lineup. Whether he is leading from the field, dugout or clubhouse, Cabrera is embracing his new relationship with Kieboom.

“If you want to win,” Cabrera said, “you have to work together.”

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.