ST. LOUIS — When June began, Melky Cabrera stuck out as one of the main reasons for the White Sox collective early-season malaise. The outfielder, who signed a three-year, $42 million contract in December, had a .241 batting average and .557 OPS as he failed to succeed in the table-setting role the organization envisioned he’d aptly fill ahead of Jose Abreu.
While the White Sox haven’t improved in the month of June — they entered Tuesday’s game against St. Louis with a 9-16 record this month — Cabrera has. In 99 plate appearances, the 30-year-old has a .286/.333/.396 slash line, good for a .729 OPS that’s much closer to his career .754 mark entering the 2015 season.
The power isn’t consistently there yet, though Cabrera did homer off Tigers ace David Price on Sunday. But he’s finally hitting again, and he said it’s the product of sticking to his approach even as his numbers plummeted in the season’s first two months.
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“I’ve been doing the same stuff since the beginning of the season,” Cabrera said through a translator. “Just the hits are dropping in right now.”
Cabrera came to the White Sox as a .286 career hitter with a .339 on-base percentage built over 10 years with the Yankees, Braves, Royals, Giants and Blue Jays. With nearly 5,000 plate appearances to his name, he didn’t panic over 215 bad ones to begin his tenure with the White Sox.
Manager Robin Ventura praised Cabrera’s level-headed approach to those struggles and said he’s seen the switch-hitter recently find a better rhythm from both sides of the plate.
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“You always look at it as a guy who is a .300 hitter is eventually going to find himself getting closer to that,” Ventura said. “He had struggles, and you could see it was bothering him, but his professionalism comes through that. He was playing good defense, going out there every day, he was not asking to be out of the lineup because he knows he’s not swinging well. He eventually knew he’d find it.”
The concerning thing for the White Sox is despite June rebounds from Cabrera and Adam Eaton — who entered Tuesday with a .290/.371/.484 slash line this month — the wins haven’t come. Instead, this has been the team’s worst month of the year, coming on the heels of a 15-15 May. The lineup is averaging barely over three runs per game and went nine games between scoring four or more runs at one point.
One good month from Cabrera hasn’t erased April and May, though — he’s still been worth -1.0 WAR, the third-worst total in baseball behind teammate Alexei Ramirez and Phillies second baseman Chase Utley. Nearing the halfway point of the season, the White Sox need Cabrera to build off his solid June as well as get better production from other under-performing members of the lineup.
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But as the White Sox wait to see if they can pull themselves out of a tailspin that’s left them well under .500 heading into July, Cabrera will keep doing what he’s always done and expects his success to continue with that plan.
“When you are a veteran player, you understand better that in a long season you’re going to have ups and downs, and you’re going to have to try to keep in the middle and keep your consistency in the season,” Cabrera said. “I think that’s the key.”