Melky Cabrera is doing more for the White Sox than powering a lineup that’s pushed the White Sox to eight wins in their last 10 games.
The 30-year-old outfielder, who signed a three-year, $42 million deal in December, has begun to fill the leadership void in the White Sox clubhouse. Cabrera’s pushed the various hand gestures — like stirring the drink — that White Sox players use after getting big hits.
“He’s a great player, but he’s a better teammate,” first baseman Jose Abreu said through a translator. “He’s always happy. He’s always trying to find a way to keep the atmosphere loose and to keep everybody happy. His influence has been huge for us. That kind of personality is something that you need in a team, and I hope he can continue doing that, because that’s very important for us.
“… He is the leader, because of his performance, because of his personality, because of how he is. That’s the key for him and he’s a huge, huge influence for us.”
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Over his last 47 games entering Sunday, Cabrera is hitting .358 with a .980 OPS. He has six home runs, 18 doubles, two triples and 35 RBIs, and it’s no coincidence the White Sox are 25-22 during his resurgence.
The White Sox have scored 70 runs over their last 10 games, with Cabrera driving in 15 (21 percent of the total) and posting a 1.486 OPS. His on-fire stretch has upped his season slash line from an awful .226/.263/.258 to respectable .285/.325/.403.
It’s unfair to expect him to keep hitting at a level that would make Barry Bonds look weak, but manager Robin Ventura anticipates Cabrera will continue to be a big part of the White Sox August and September playoff push both as a hitter and a clubhouse voice.
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“At first, it’s tough to be that (leader) when you feel like you’re not pulling your weight at times,” Ventura said. “And he was good with it either way. He’s been a great teammate all year. Now, it’s just easier for guys to let it go and get the same feeling from him when he’s doing well. They react to him the same way. It’s been a nice little run for him the same way, not only on the field and hitting, but what he does inside the clubhouse as well.”
With so many new players at the start of the season, it took a little while for this group to jell. Playing better — especially on defense — has helped, but Cabrera’s helped bring his teammates together as well.
“It’s team-wide, it’s not limited to just a couple guys, or just limited to guys who speak Spanish,” Ventura said. “It’s all the way around. I think everybody seems to be gravitating towards that. And he’s able to handle it, deal with it, and be able to really keep the focus on the game and having fun.”