It appeared, at first, that the Red Sox had called up Marcus McBeth and Billy Traber ahead of Fernando Cabrera because they needed an expendable pitcher or two to eat some innings while they juggled their bullpen. The reason to wait on calling up Pawtucket closer Fernando Cabrera, it seemed, was so that he'd be the last one up and thus the pitcher who wouldn't have to be designated for assignment.
Both McBeth and Traber have cleared waivers and have returned to Pawtucket. It's no lock the Red Sox will be so fortunate with Cabrera.
The righthander from Puerto Rico has a 1.69 ERA in 48 innings pitched with Triple-A Pawtucket. Opponents hit .152 off him in April, .150 off him in May and .184 off him in June. He then scuffled in July, his walk ratio skyrocketing, before regaining his stuff in August and holding opponents to a .167 batting average before his call-up.
But this isn't the first time Cabrera has dominated at a minor-league level. He had a 2.97 ERA in 109 innings with Double-A Akron in 2003 and a 1.23 ERA with Triple-A Buffalo in 2005. It was then that he earned his first extended duty in the major leagues -- and he had a 1.47 ERA in 30 2/3 innings for the Cleveland Indians. He fell upon hard times in 2006, though, recording a 5.19 ERA in 60 2/3 major-league innings, and since has bounced from Cleveland to Baltimore to Boston.
He had a 4.50 ERA in four innings with the Red Sox this month. (He allowed two earned runs against Texas on Saturday but otherwise pitched three scoreless innings.)
Will it come back to bite the Red Sox if they release him? It's exceptionally dangerous to look at one-game samples, but let's take a look at his most successful major-league outing last year and his most successful major-league outing this year:
(The horizontal-vertical charts tend to measure how consistently a pitcher throws his pitches. A slider should move pretty much the same way every time a pitcher throws it; if it doesn't, he's not going to be able to make it hit the spot he wants to hit.)
Aug. 20, 2008 (with Baltimore)
3 IP, 3 H, 3 K: 46 pitches
Aug. 13, 2009 (with Boston)
1 IP, 3 K: 15 pitches
Cabrera -- and, again, this is based on a small sample size -- didn't throw his slider or his fastball with the same consistency last week as he did a year ago at this time. He also, in the selected outing from a year ago, kept the ball in the strike zone or down, a nice combination for a fastball-slider pitcher:
He didn't get a chance to show much in his short stint with the Red Sox. It could be an indication that his command was lacking -- but it also could be a small-sample-size blip.
If he clears waivers, he still seems like the type of pitcher the Red Sox would love to see against in September.