Cabrera sets up roadblock for Twins

Cabrera sets up roadblock for Twins

BALTIMORE -- It wasn't that Daniel Cabrera disobeyed pitching coach Ray Miller's instructions. It's just that Miller would never tell a pitcher to throw a breaking ball on a 2-0 pitch to an aggressive hitter. Miller thought Cabrera would throw a fastball to Jacque Jones with two runners on in the seventh inning. Instead, Cabrera outsmarted Jones and threw a wicked curveball.

A befuddled Jones watched the 88 mph pitch land for a called strike. Cabrera then fired a fastball past Jones for strike two and finished off the right fielder with a changeup in the dirt that had Jones swinging from his shoe tops.

That at-bat was a microcosm of Cabrera's dominance of the Twins on Monday at Camden Yards. On a picturesque night for baseball, 17,310 watched the 6-foot-7 right-hander breeze through the Twins' lineup for a career-high 11 strikeouts in a 3-0 win. On several occasions, Cabrera's fastball reached 100 mph.

After striking out Jones, Cabrera struck out Terry Tiffee and Michael Cuddyer swinging to leave two runners stranded. Cabrera pumped his fist in excitement and walked off the mound invigorated. He completed his night by retiring the side in order in the eighth and preserving a three-run lead.

"I pitched good today, all of my location was working," he said. "It was a good game. [In the seventh] Ray told me to keep the ball down and make good pitches, and that's what happened."

In his past two starts, Cabrera (2-2, 4.50 ERA) has struck out 19 batters in 16 innings with one earned run allowed.

He is pitching like the cornerstone the Orioles felt they had when Spring Training concluded. During those six weeks in Florida, Cabrera pitched with confidence and command. He went after hitters, but also mixed his offspeed pitches to keep them off balance.

But Cabrera could not carry that approach into the regular season. In his first four starts, he compiled a 7.65 ERA with 13 walks in 20 innings. He labored at times and appeared frustrated when he didn't get close pitch calls or batters would get hits on good pitches.

Miller said he believes Cabrera was trying to be too perfect when the season began, partly because of the pressure of being the No. 2 starter. His delivery was out of whack and he kept his broad shoulder down during his windup, which allowed hitters to see his entire release.

The organization decided to skip Cabrera's start two weeks ago to allow him to work on his mechanics. Miller wanted Cabrera to hide the ball behind his shoulder and spin more in his delivery. The results have been encouraging.

Cabrera K-Meter
Minnesota at Baltimore, May 9, 2005
Daniel Cabrera fanned 11 of the 29 batters he faced to increase his season strikeout total to 37, through May 9. A look at his Ks:
KStrikeout victimInn.Count
1Nick Punto (looking)12-2
2Terry Tiffee (swinging)22-2
3Jason Bartlett (swinging)22-2
4Nick Punto (swinging)33-2
5Terry Tiffee (swinging)50-2
6Shannon Stewart (looking)61-2
7Joe Mauer (looking)60-2
8Jacque Jones (swinging)72-2
9Terry Tiffee (swinging)72-2
10Michael Cuddyer (swinging)73-2
11Jason Bartlett (swinging)82-2
Key numbers for Cabrera:
Pitches-strikes: 110-71; Groundouts-flyouts: 10-3;
Season strikeouts-walks: 37-19

"He showed me something tonight," Miller said. "He wanted to be out there. You look around the world and try to find people who throw that hard. When you throw a breaking ball at 88 mph and your fastball is 98 mph, that's a big difference. It's going to fool a lot of guys."

Minnesota's first threat was in the first inning, when Shannon Stewart singled to begin the game and Justin Morneau walked with two out. But Cabrera induced Torii Hunter to bounce into a fielder's choice and the Twins, who had at least 10 hits in the past six games, didn't get a runner to second base until that seventh inning.

"He was dominating," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We didn't have anything for him. When a guy is throwing like that, just gas, you have to cheat to get to it. That's nasty stuff. I'm glad I wasn't hitting."

Meanwhile, the Orioles responded favorably after Sunday's excruciating 10-8 loss to Kansas City. They put together two runs in the third when Melvin Mora knocked in Jay Gibbons, and Miguel Tejada then knocked in Mora with a double to right field for his league-leading 35th RBI.

In the sixth, Tejada crushed a Carlos Silva fastball for his 200th Major League home run and a key insurance run for Cabrera.

Tejada said he didn't realize it was No. 200 until he looked at the videoboard in right-center field.

Long balls at shortstop
Miguel Tejada hit his 200th career home run Monday. Here are the top five home run-hitting shortstops:
1. Cal Ripken345
2. Alex Rodriguez *344
3. Ernie Banks277
4. Vern Stephens213
5. Miguel Tejada *200
* - active

"Yeah, I was surprised," he said with a smile. "But I am more worried about us winning the game. I am just glad it came when we win."

On this night, three runs were plenty for Cabrera to work with. He allowed just three fly balls and retired 13 consecutive batters before the walk to Morneau to begin the seventh inning. After Hunter's single, Miller had a chat with Cabrera to calm him down. But little did he know that the 23-year-old had everything under control.

"No I wouldn't do that," Miller said when asked whether he told Cabrera to use a breaking ball to Jones. "He looked settled in. He did everything we asked and he works so hard. He'll be running every step of this stadium [Tuesday]. That impresses me."

Gary Washburn is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.