Ten games back with the Columbus Clippers proved to be too few for former member of the organization Melky Cabrera. The Indians signed the 33-year-old outfielder to a minor league contract for the second time this season, bringing back the experienced veteran as an insurance policy for their banged up outfield.
Cabrera was unsigned this past offseason despite a strong season offensively last year with the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals. He appeared in 156 games, putting up a combined .285/.324/.423 slash at the plate with 30 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, and 85 RBI in his split stay.
The Indians added him on a free agent contract on May 1, sending him first to Goodyear, Arizona, to prep for the season. He logged ten games of work for the Clippers to get into game action, marking his return to the Ohio capital after playing for the club when a New York Yankees affiliate in 2005 and 2006. After hitting in seven straight games and eight of his first ten for the Clippers this year (.286/.286/.381 with four doubles and four RBI), his contract was purchased from Columbus by the Indians on May 20, ahead of an opt-out date in his contract while the parent club was dealing with a wide range of outfield injuries to the 25-man roster.
In his first two weeks back in the Majors, he saw extensive work in right field for the Tribe. After missing the first 44 games of the year, the switch-hitter jumped into action on May 20 and recorded his first hit (a double) and an RBI in his second game on May 22 against the Chicago Cubs. He notched hits in six of his first eleven games with the club, but was hitting just .179 at the end of May and was often lifted late in games for defensive replacements. He did come through with some big hits, however, as he totaled eight RBI in his eleven-game sample size.
As June rolled around, the Indians’ wounded began to wrap up rehab assignments. Bradley Zimmer was activated from the disabled list on June 1, shifting the outfield around and sending Cabrera back to the bench. He went a week between starts on June 1 and June 9, with one pinch-hit appearance in between. By that latter date, Lonnie Chisenhall had been activated (June 5) and Zimmer had been optioned to Columbus to make room. Cabrera got a little more work during the early June road trip to Detroit and Chicago, matching a season-high with two hits and three RBI on June 10 against Detroit. He played in games against his former White Sox club on June 11 and June 13, but with Brandon Guyer returning from the 10-day DL on June 14 and Tyler Naquin due to return the next day, Cabrera was designated for assignment.
After clearing waivers, Cabrera was sent outright to Columbus, but opted to forgo the assignment and elected to become a free agent. Nearly three weeks later and still unsigned, the Indians brought him back, just two days after Chisenhall was lost to his second DL trip this season, this time with a left calf strain that is expected to see him sidelined for another lengthy absence.
In 17 total games for the Indians, Cabrera slashed .207/.242/.293 with five doubles, four sacrifice flies, and eleven RBI.
The Indians have Michael Brantley manning left field and have used Rajai Davis and Greg Allen in center field (the latter was called up when Chisenhall was placed back on the DL). Naquin has paired with Guyer to handle right field primarily, although the injury bug has still pestered Guyer so far in July after fouling a pitch off of his leg on July 3.
Cabrera will see time in Columbus at designated hitter as well as in the outfield with Triple-A All-Stars Brandon Barnes and Francisco Mejia and minor league veterans Todd Hankins (who is expected to be activated from the seven-day disabled list on Thursday), Mike Papi, and Dorssys Paulino. Zimmer has been out of action there with a right shoulder injury sustained during batting practice shortly after being optioned.
Cabrera joined the pro game in 2001 when he signed with the New York Yankees. He made his MLB debut in 2005 with the Yankees before he was traded following the 2009 season to the Atlanta Braves. He spent 2011 with the Royals and was an All-Star in 2012 for the San Francisco Giants before playing for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013 and 2014. He signed with the White Sox following his time in Toronto and remained there until his deadline trade back to Kansas City last year.
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