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Cabrera starts first career game at third base

Mets showcasing infielder's versatility for possible trade
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Asdrubal Cabrera occupied a rare area of the Citi Field infield while taking pregame grounders Saturday before the Mets' 6-5, walk-off win over the A's, fielding balls at third base, where he later made his first career start at the position.

The instance marked the second time Cabrera had warmed up at third, but that did not concern Mets manager Terry Collins. Cabrera's good hands, combined with his defensive acumen, allow him to seamlessly translate to other infield spots from his natural position of shortstop.

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NEW YORK -- Asdrubal Cabrera occupied a rare area of the Citi Field infield while taking pregame grounders Saturday before the Mets' 6-5, walk-off win over the A's, fielding balls at third base, where he later made his first career start at the position.

The instance marked the second time Cabrera had warmed up at third, but that did not concern Mets manager Terry Collins. Cabrera's good hands, combined with his defensive acumen, allow him to seamlessly translate to other infield spots from his natural position of shortstop.

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"He's a middle infielder who's going to play third base," Collins said. "[He's] got great hands, great arm, he'll be fine."

And fine he was. Although he fielded only two grounders, Cabrera said he felt comfortable throughout the game.

"I got lucky that I got just ground balls," Cabrera said with a smile. "But I feel fine there.

"I think the more I play there, I'm going to feel better."

His toughest test arrived in the form of a 108.1-mph scorcher off the bat of Ryon Healy in the eighth, which would up being a single to left.

This is not the first time Cabrera has moved positions this season. After coming off the disabled list in June, Cabrera asked to be traded (and later walked back the comments) when he was moved to second base and Jose Reyes took over shortstop full time.

But the Mets indeed may try and trade Cabrera, who has a club option for next season, either at the upcoming non-waiver Trade Deadline or after Aug. 1. Cabrera and the Mets figure it can't hurt to demonstrate to the rest of the league that he can be a versatile infielder, with Collins even comparing a potential future role to what fellow switch-hitter Ben Zobrist does for the Cubs. The switch did not affect Cabrera's ability at the plate, as he went 2-for-5 with a double.

"I'm going to do my job in any position," Cabrera said.

The Mets erased a five-run deficit Saturday night, capped off by Wilmer Flores' walk-off home run. The impact of Cabrera's versatility was immediately felt, since Flores started at second with Cabrera at third.

Video: OAK@NYM: Flores hammers a walk-off solo home run

Even though Cabrera is a potential trade candidate and his future with the team is uncertain, he claims his focus remains on simply winning ballgames.

"We never put our heads down," Cabrera said of the win. "We're always going to fight every at-bat, every pitch. That's how you come back.

"There's two months left. There's nothing done yet. We gotta keep playing good baseball."

The infield shuffling also comes in anticipation of Neil Walker's return to second base. Walker began his rehab assignment with Triple-A Las Vegas on Saturday and hopes to rejoin the team at some point next week. When either Reyes or Walker require nights off, Cabrera can easily slide over to short or second, Collins said.

"The one thing I think he's going to be moving forward is a guy that can play any of those spots," Collins said.

Collins also confirmed that Reyes is the primary shortstop moving forward.

Cabrera last started a game at third as a 19-year-old in 2005 when he was with the Class-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the Mariners' system. The last time he manned third was for 1 1/3 innings of a game on Aug. 8, 2007 with the Indians -- his Major League debut.

"That was a long time ago," Cabrera cracked.

Chris Bumbaca is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.

New York Mets, Asdrubal Cabrera