After Garrett's setback, Cabrera steps up in return

April 16th, 2024

MIAMI -- Hours after the Marlins announced left-hander sustained a setback in his rehab assignment, No. 3 prospect Max Meyer was optioned to Triple-A Jacksonville and slugger Jake Burger was headed to the injured list, the club needed others to step up.

Right-hander was up to the task, striking out 10 batters in his season debut, but the bullpen was unable to hold another late lead in Monday night’s 4-3 loss to the Giants at loanDepot park. At 3-14, Miami is off to the worst 17-game start in franchise history. It also marked the sixth blown-lead defeat of the season.

Cabrera, who had been sidelined by a right shoulder impingement, allowed just one run on five hits -- all singles -- over six innings, joining Meyer as the only Marlins pitchers to complete that many frames in 2024. Cabrera was originally scheduled to make a fourth rehab start for Jacksonville on Wednesday, but he was activated for the series opener because southpaw A.J. Puk had the flu.

“I was very excited, a lot of excitement, because that's where I want to be,” Cabrera said via interpreter Luis Dorante Jr. “I want to be able to help the team in any way I can, and that's my mentality just being up here. Give everything I've got and be able to help the team.”

This version of Cabrera will be needed moving forward. Considered a strength going into the season, Marlins starters have a bottom-10 ERA (4.46) in the Majors with just two other quality starts -- both from Meyer, who was optioned as the corresponding roster move for Cabrera.

Though Meyer impressed during Spring Training, he had initially been optioned on March 12 as he continued to build up coming back from August 2022 Tommy John surgery. He was part of the Opening Day rotation mainly out of necessity with Cabrera, Garrett and Eury Pérez sidelined with injuries.

Garrett, who had been sidelined with a left shoulder impingement to start the season after general soreness delayed his spring workload at the beginning of camp, experienced a "dead arm" during his bullpen session on Monday morning in Jacksonville, Fla. He will undergo testing, which could prevent him from being on track for a return this week.

“I don't know the extent of it right now,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “I just know that he came out of the bullpen with some dead arm, and I don't think he's probably going to make the anticipated start right now. But again, I don't want to set that in stone. He could come tomorrow and feel great. I don't know what that looks like just yet."

An inability to throw strikes has prevented Cabrera from reaching his high ceiling early on in his big league career -- he recorded the highest BB/9 rate (5.96) among National League pitchers with at least 90 innings last season -- but his command was there on Monday. Cabrera threw a first-pitch strike to all but three of the 22 batters he faced. His lone walk to Jung Hoo Lee to open the fourth came around to score.

During his 91-pitch outing, Cabrera utilized his entire arsenal: changeup (36.3%, two Ks), curveball (26.4%, three Ks), four-seamer (20.9%, two Ks) and slider (16.5%, three Ks).

"He was throwing the ball really well,” Giants manager Bob Melvin said. “We come into the series and know that he’s not part of it, and then all of a sudden he’s part of it. It certainly gets your attention. It wasn’t the greatest matchup to have in the first game, but we got him out of the game and did some damage a little bit later. He’s a pretty good pitcher."

With Garrett’s status in limbo and the team already without ace Sandy Alcantara and Pérez because of Tommy John surgery, Cabrera offered a glimmer of light.

“If we get that out of Cabbie, we're going to win a lot more games,” Schumaker said. “Tough that we don't get the win after such a great outing by Cabbie. Against a good lineup [of] righties, lefties up and down the lineup, he was as good as I've ever seen him, honestly. And you didn't know what you're going to get because it's his first time out of a rehab assignment, and he was excellent.

“We need guys to step up and provide some innings, and he provided six innings. If we get our starters to go six innings and do that, we'll be OK.”