'The dream': Cabrera 'impressive' in debut

August 26th, 2021

MIAMI -- The first time dreamt of being a big leaguer was a decade ago, when he began playing baseball in Santiago, Dominican Republic. That dream became a reality on Wednesday night at loanDepot park.

The Marlins' right-hander recorded a quality start in his highly anticipated debut, and knocked the walk-off RBI single in the 10th inning of the 4-3 comeback win over the Nationals. It snapped Miami’s season-high-tying eight-game skid.

“I woke up this morning with a lot of confidence,” Cabrera said via an interpreter. “I had in my mind just like, 'You're here. Let's see what's going to happen now. God willing, everything will come out correctly.' And that's what happened. But I've got to be honest. Last night I was thinking a lot about the dream.”

The flamethrowing Cabrera cruised through six innings at just 57 pitches (38 strikes) after setting the tone with a 97.7 mph four-seamer to open his MLB career, then capping a perfect first on eight pitches -- all strikes. He didn’t permit a hit until Luis García’s leadoff single in the third, and he recorded his first strikeout on an 83.4 mph curveball that froze Riley Adams. On a day filled with many memories, Cabrera said he will remember that moment years from now.

More often than not, Cabrera utilized the defense behind him. made a leaping catch against the left-center-field wall to end the third and Cabrera induced three double plays, including ones to finish off the fifth and sixth.

But Cabrera showed signs of losing his command, walking three of the final eight batters he faced. He surrendered back-to-back homers to Josh Bell and Yadiel Hernandez -- on a pair of elevated changeups -- that quickly erased a 2-0 Marlins lead. Alfaro told manager Don Mattingly, who brought out the hook following Carter Kieboom’s free pass, that the pitch was flattening out a bit -- a clear sign of fatigue.

Wednesday was a showcase of top 100 prospects: Cabrera (No. 30 overall) dueled with Josiah Gray (No. 54), who struck out seven and allowed two runs in six frames.

“It was cool,” Gray said. “Obviously I know a little about Edward Cabrera just from playing MLB The Show, and he has a really good card in The Show. But I know he’s one of their top pitching guys, along with all the other guys they have, so I was really excited for the matchup and I thought he went out and threw the ball as well as he could, and it was really impressive to watch him.”

Regardless of the way it ended, what stood out most to Mattingly and Alfaro was Cabrera’s composure on the mound -- well beyond his 23 years. He attacked the zone and didn’t seem fazed by the bigger stage.

This is a pitcher who has had hype surrounding him for a while. Before the game, pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. admitted being nervous on his behalf. After succeeding in the Minors, it was time for the next test: seeing how Cabrera would fare at the highest level.

“I think he's one of the guys who is not afraid of anything,” Alfaro said. “He doesn't care who steps in the box. He goes out to compete, to go out to make his pitches.”

Cabrera’s outing -- the first of perhaps a handful more before season’s end -- offered plenty of promise. The last time there was this much excitement for a highly touted prospect in Miami’s now third-ranked system, took the mound on Aug. 22, 2020, in a 5-3 win in Washington. That came in the thick of a postseason chase, while Wednesday marked a matchup of rebuilding clubs looking to see what pieces can be relied upon moving forward.

The Marlins hope Cabrera and Sánchez -- both of whom hail from the Dominican Republic, have matching baseball tattoos and consider each other brothers -- will front the Marlins' rotation and lead them to perennial contention. Sánchez entered 2021 as the organization's top prospect and was considered a strong candidate for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. But he never pitched this season, undergoing shoulder surgery in July. Cabrera arrived at Spring Training with an inflamed nerve in his right biceps, and he didn’t appear in a game until June. Had it not been for minor shoulder soreness, he likely would have reached The Show in 2020, just like Sánchez.

“I think the guys feel it too when the young guys come up, like Sixto when he came up, it was the same feeling,” Mattingly said. “They know this guy, so this is not some guy we've never seen. They've been in Spring Training with him, they see his stuff, they know it's real. When you see that as a player coming up, it's exciting for you, and I think everyone understands that the start of a career, and that first outing, and that first game you play. So they all understand that, and I think it's exciting for everyone.”