The hulking right-hander has no problem rearing back and throwing the ball past people, but he's not always able to field his position or keep runners from getting good leads on him. Those twin problems played a big role in his season debut, a strongly pitched game that nevertheless ended in a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
Minnesota stole five bases -- the team's highest single-game total in five seasons -- and got a few unassuming hits in key spots. The tying run scored on a bouncer back through the box that Cabrera couldn't come up with, and the game-winning run came on a broken-bat swing that sent a dying flare to short left field.
"The only thing I think is, that's part of the game," Cabrera said of the innocent nature of the game-changing plays. "That will be happening today and maybe in the next start or whatever, but that's part of the game."
Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo was pleased with the way Cabrera pitched, but cognizant of the way the little things impacted the big picture. Perlozzo brushed off a question about the stolen bases to point out where the game went awry, and in his opinion, it happened on two hits where Cabrera did his job and couldn't follow through.
"If we catch a little dribbler back at the mound, we save a run," he said. "A guy gets a shattered bat that's in about 30 pieces, and they picked up another run. That was the night for us.
"A couple little things didn't go our way, and in a one-run game, you're going to get beat."
The Orioles (0-2) jumped out to a lead in the third inning when they hammered Minnesota starter Boof Bonser for two extra-base hits. Melvin Mora started the rally with a solo homer, and Nick Markakis followed with a double off the baggie in right field. Markakis scored on a single, but the O's didn't get another hit until the eighth.
The Twins, meanwhile, pushed runners to the corners with no outs in the fourth. Cleanup hitter Michael Cuddyer drilled a grounder up the middle, but Miguel Tejada dove with his glove extended and started a highlight reel double play. One run scored on the play, but Cabrera was able to escape the rally with his lead intact.
"That was good. That changed the game right there," he said. "We had nobody out, and we got a ground-ball double play that made me more comfortable."
Minnesota (2-0) tied the game in its next at-bat, and speed played a key role in the rally. Center fielder Torii Hunter drew a leadoff walk, stole second base easily and advanced to third on a harmless ground ball. Hunter scored on a two-out single by leadoff hitter Luis Castillo, a ball that ticked off Cabrera's glove and fell in for a hit.
"I think the key to that inning was when he walked Torii Hunter," Perlozzo said. "He went strike one and strike two, then he came back and put him on. That's what turned the inning into what it did. It's one of those things. He was throwing off to the side, and he had the ball -- or actually was on track with it -- [but] it just kicked off his glove."
"That's the way they come at you," added designated hitter Kevin Millar. "This team's tough here, and you've got to make those little plays when you can. He pitched a great game, and it was just one of those comebackers. If he had to do it over again, he would've had that ball. But he threw a great game. Both sides pitched well.
"Both bullpens pitched well. It was a good baseball game. We just didn't come up with the big hit at the right time."
Baltimore may not have hit much in the later innings, but it pushed runners to third base in both the seventh and eighth. Center fielder Corey Patterson got stranded there in the seventh, and the Orioles left two men in scoring position in the eighth. The latter rally ended on a harmless fly ball from Millar against reliever Jesse Crain.
Cabrera didn't walk a batter until the fifth inning but wound up walking four in total, and two of those baserunners eventually scored. He walked Rondell White on four pitches to start the seventh, and after a strikeout, pinch-runner Jason Tyner stole second. A few pitches later, Jason Bartlett pushed Tyner home with a sawed-off single.
"That was a good pitch," Cabrera said of the game-winning hit. "I asked [the catcher] for a fastball in, a two-seamer, and I threw it. He broke the bat and got a base hit, but that's a good pitch."
"I thought he did pretty well," Perlozzo said of Cabrera's overall effort. "Actually, I thought he kicked it into gear in the fourth inning. I thought he was pitching pretty good for the first three or so, but once they got the one run, I thought I saw a little kick-in gear there. And I thought he carried that through to the end."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.