Even before Marwin Gonzalez arrived in Yankees camp this spring, Oswaldo Cabrera was a fan.
The young infielder admired how his fellow Venezuelan had not only made it in the big leagues, but had been successful for so many years. When the Yankees signed Gonzalez this spring, Cabrera wanted to learn as much as he could from him.
Gonzalez had some very good advice for him.
“I told him to play as many positions as he can because that’s the way baseball is going now,” Gonzalez said. “And he was willing to do that. Not many young players want to do that. It’s always been that young players learn their position and they don’t like being asked to play another.
“I told him to ask to play more,” Gonzalez said.
Cabrera has asked to be given a chance wherever the Yankees need him and it’s been good for him and the team. The 23 year old is an excellent infielder but has just made his first two career starts in left field. It allows the Yankees to keep his bat in the lineup and Wednesday night when everyone in the packed ballpark was waiting for Aaron Judge to hit his 61st home run of the season and tie the 61 year old Yankee and American League record set by Roger Maris, it was Cabrera that lit the place on fire. His first-inning grand slam set the tone in the Yankees’ blowout of the Pirates on a night Judge did not homer.
“He really has,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of providing a spark to the Bombers. “He’s gotten some clutch hits for us. He’s hit the ball out of the ballpark a few times now. And I don’t think we can say enough about how well he’s transitioned to the outfield. I mean, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a really talented infielder that’s playing in the corner right now in the outfield, and really just handling it with a maturity and a confidence that’s been great to see.”
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Cabrera has put himself in a good position by adding versatility to his game. Ben Zobrist showed the value of having a utility player who isn’t just a sub and Gonzalez amplified it, especially the role he played on the 2019 World Series champion Astros.
“It gives the manager so many more options when they are making out their lineup,” Gonzalez said. “I think you see it a lot more now than when I started and I think you will see more players start doing it when they are younger.”
Cabrera started in the minor leagues moving around the infield and he started pushing to play the outfield this season.
“I was asking for the team the last few years, asking a couple coaches like ‘what do you think if I kind of move back to the outfield other places,’ Just this year, they started thinking more about it,” Cabrera said. “I don’t know why, but I was just getting ready like every day, every practice, even when I’m not playing. they’re just gonna shag in the outfield trying to do something in the outfield. Because when they made me back there, I wanted to be ready to play back there.”
Cabrera is holding his own offensively. In 30 games, he’s hitting .231/.294/.389 with a .683 OPS with 15 RBI and three homers. He’s given Boone some flexibility in his lineup, especially with moving to left field with Andrew Benintendi on the injured list.
And he’s glad he’s got Gonzalez to help him make the adjustment.
“He was someone who I was following before he was with the Yankees. He is that type of guy like he can play whatever position and he wants to be great at every one,” Cabrera said. “And for that reason when he came to the Yankees I was so happy in that moment and still now.. I’m just asking a lot of questions, like ‘what can you do in this situation?’ ‘What is better for you in this position? What are you trying to do before to get ready for the game?’ And he always has time for me.”