There is always an “err on the side of caution” approach when it comes to taking spring training numbers into regular-season consideration, but Melky Cabrera, who led the majors in both hits and doubles in Dunedin and logged 30 hits in 74 at-bats, just might be an exception to the rule this year.
Tuesday night against the Astros, Cabrera’s bat remained hot as he crushed his fourth home run in four consecutive games, making him the 12th Blue Jay to do so in franchise history and placing him at the half-way mark into the major league record of eight home runs in eight games. The 29-year-old has now hit in every game this season, which included series against AL East rivals the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees. In Toronto’s home opener, Cabrera faced Masahiro Tanaka and welcomed him to MLB by blasting a homer on the third pitch off a starter everyone was talking this offseason.
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Cabrera is presently hitting .314 with five RBI, and although it’s much too early to predict whether he will keep this up for the next five months of the regular season, his numbers have sparked optimism for fans and teammates who were hanging their heads in shame by May last year.
Fans are finally seeing the player we thought we signed last offseason for a two-year, $16 million deal. In 2013, he struggled to navigate the outfield and hit only three home runs in 88 games. Cabrera missed a total of 72 games and was subsequently shut down for good at the beginning of August. Shortly after, it was discovered that Cabrera had a benign tumor growing at the base of his spine; the answer to the leg and back pain he had been experiencing in his first year as a Blue Jay.
The Blue Jays original vision for the switch-hitter was to accompany shortstop Jose Reyes at the top of the order, as both were projected to reach base regularly. It was expected these two would score often after Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind worked their magic to send them around the bases. However, this plan hasn’t materialized as Cabrera missed much of 2013 and Reyes landed on the DL last week for the second time in his Blue Jays career.
Cabrera’s offseason workout partner, Bautista, is also (unsurprisingly) doing damage at the plate, despite his current batting average of .250. The slugger also hit his fourth home run of the season against the Astros in the first inning, and now sits at the top of the home-run leaderboard in the American League alongside Cabrera.