CINCINNATI – Asbrubal Cabrera got right to work upon joining the Phillies late Saturday afternoon. He took ground balls at shortstop, practiced giving and taking feeds with second baseman Cesar Hernandez, then took his round of batting practice.
“It surprised me,” Cabrera said of the trade that sent him from the Mets to the Phillies on Friday. “I hadn’t seen anything on the Phillies. But I’m really happy to be here now and be part of the Phillies.”
Manager Gabe Kapler put Cabrera right in the lineup, batting fifth and playing shortstop. The Phils, who rank 28th in the majors with an OPS of .626 at shortstop, were looking for some more offense out of the position. Cabrera hit .277 with 23 doubles, 18 homers and a .817 OPS in 98 games for the Mets. He should bring some pop to the lineup from both sides of the plate.
Manager Gabe Kapler continues to say he will play Cabrera at second and third, as well. He added that Scott Kingery will still get time at shortstop as well as other positions. Kingery was projected for a super-utility role coming out of spring training. He took balls in the outfield during batting practice Saturday. Kapler said Kingery would likely play shortstop on Sunday. If Cabrera, a switch-hitter, produces offensively, however, it will be difficult to keep him out of the lineup and shortstop will be the most logical spot to use him as long as Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco continue to produce at second and third base, respectively.
Adding Cabrera’s bat comes with a tradeoff. He hasn’t played shortstop this season -- he was the Mets' second baseman -- and hasn’t played there regularly since 2016. His defensive play at the position had declined when he was there.
“He doesn’t have the same range that he once did but we’re also thinking of mitigating risk by putting him at shortstop at the right time,” Kapler said. “Tonight we’ve got a fly ball pitcher (Vince Velasquez) on the mound and we’re very confident he can handle the balls that are in his vicinity.”
Cabrera, 32, was unfazed about playing shortstop for the first time this season. He’d previously played more than 1,000 games there in his big-league career.
“I haven’t played short for a little while but I’m going to come here and work hard and do my best no matter what position they put me at,” he said.
Kingery, who stands to lose some playing time, had a similar attitude.
“I’m just going to show up to the field the same way I have all season and focus on what I can do to help the team,” he said. “If that means switching back and forth or I go back into a utility role, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’m just going to show up and do what I do every day.”
To make room for Cabrera on the roster, the Phillies sent utility man Jesmuel Valentin to Triple A.