The cat was out of the bag on Sunday, when Melky Cabrera’s name showed up prior to the Cleveland Indians’ matchup with the Houston Astros in the sixth spot on the lineup card, playing right field.
The Indians formally announced prior to their game Sunday night that the 33-year-old veteran outfielder was purchased from Triple-A Columbus. Right-handed reliever Evan Marshall was optioned to Columbus, while fellow right-hander Alexi Ogando was designated for assignment at Triple-A to make room on the 40-man roster for the addition of Cabrera.
Cabrera was facing an opt-out in his contract in the near future, but his arrival may be even quicker than some had expected. He signed with the Indians on a minor league deal at the end of April and had only reported to the Columbus Clippers for what would equate to his own personal spring training on May 7.
The switch-hitter’s return to the minors was met with some initial rust, as he struck out twice in his first game in the lineup. He singled in his second game, but with an 0-for-4 on May 9 in the third of four games with the Toledo Mud Hens, he was 1-for-12 to start the season.
Cabrera’s bat perked up from there. He singled in the series finale with Toledo, then put up a three-hit game on May 11 in Indianapolis against the Indians, hitting a single and two doubles. He would go 5-for-13 in the series against Indy with three doubles and a run batted in to wrap up appearances in seven straight games. The Clippers had an off-day on Monday and Cabrera worked in the first two games of their home series against Gwinnett, hitting a double and driving in a pair in the opener before a three-single game on Wednesday with another RBI. He took his first game off since his return on Thursday, but he recorded another single on Friday to extend his hitting streak to seven straight while also stealing his first base of the year.
With ten Triple-A games under his belt, he had a .286/.286/.381 slash with four doubles and four RBI.
Sunday’s game will mark the start of Cabrera’s 14th season in the Majors. He has spent time with the New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Royals, San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays, and Chicago White Sox.
He split last season between the White Sox and the Royals. He hit .295 with 17 doubles, 13 homers, and 56 RBI in 98 games for Chicago before he was traded back to Kansas City, where he had played in 2011. He appeared in 58 games for the Royals, hitting .269 with 13 doubles, four homers, and 29 RBI.
Cabrera’s long career has sent him all over the country. He spent five seasons in the Majors with the Yankees from 2005 to 2009, but was dealt to the Braves for the 2010 season. He signed with the Royals and put up the best full season of his career at that point, hitting .305 with 44 doubles, 18 homers, and 87 RBI in 2011 before he was traded to the Giants. He was off to an incredible start in 2012 in San Francisco, winning the All-Star Game MVP in his only career trip to the Midsummer Classic, but his hot season came to a halt when he was suspended 50 games for use of testosterone. He spent 2013 and 2014 with the Blue Jays and was with the White Sox from 2015 until midway through last season, when he was dealt to the Royals in their last ditch efforts for a postseason run.
In 1,676 career games, Cabrera owns a .286/.335/.418 slash at the plate with 344 doubles, 44 triples, and 131 homers.
Cabrera’s debut with the Indians could help resolve question marks in the outfield that have existed since the end of last season. Lonnie Chisenhall, Tyler Naquin, and Bradley Zimmer are all on the disabled list. Rajai Davis and Brandon Guyer have produced mixed results, Greg Allen is still an unproven commodity at the big league level, and Michael Brantley’s strong start to the season still has not won over all onlookers, who fear the injury bug would return to bite the left fielder again.
Marshall, a 28-year-old right-hander, joined the Indians on May 3 when his contract was purchased from Columbus. He had appeared in four games for the Tribe, posting no record in two and two-thirds innings of work with a 6.75 ERA and a 2.25 WHIP. Two of his three walks and both runs allowed this season came in his last outing on May 14 against Detroit.
He was signed by the Indians at the end of November to a minor league deal with a spring training invite. He will rejoin the Clippers in Columbus in time for their series with Toledo this week.
Ogando, 34, also joined the Indians on a minor league deal with a non-roster spring training invitation in December. He reported to the Clippers to start the year and was working in the rotation there, but his contract was purchased by the Indians on May 4. He was optioned on May 8 after making just one relief appearance against the New York Yankees the same evening of his call-up. He worked an inning and took the loss, allowing two runs on two hits with three walks and a strikeout. He walked three in the eighth inning, including two with two outs, and forced in the go-ahead run with a free pass. The Indians would tie the game in a wild ninth before the Yankees walked off with a 7-6 win.
With Columbus, he has posted a 2-0 record in six starts with a 3.55 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP over 25 1/3 innings of work. The Indians will have seven days to trade, release, or place Ogando on waivers with the hopes of returning him to Columbus.
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