- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

A FIRST FOR CABRERA

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Marquis Grissom taught him how to bunt. Devon White and Grissom showed him how to slide. Randy St. Claire spent extra time with him during pitchers’ batting practice. So did Class AAA Syracuse manager Tim Foli.

The process to get Daniel Cabrera ready to swing a bat - or heaven forbid, run the bases once he got a hit - has been, to say the least, intensive. Government projects have required fewer workers.

But when the 6-foot-9 right-hander punched a single to right in the third inning of the Washington Nationals‘ loss to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, all those man-hours were validated.

”It’s been a team effort,” manager Manny Acta said. “So far, whoever’s teaching him how to hit is a hit.”

There are a couple of problems with teaching Cabrera to hit. First, his size makes almost everything he does on a baseball field cumbersome. Second, he has only 14 major league at-bats in five seasons with the Orioles - all strikeouts.

”I’m starting good over here,” Cabrera said. “I’m 1-for-1 now.”

It wasn’t all smooth; Lastings Milledge nearly passed Cabrera at third before both scored in the third inning. But Cabrera got on base and made it around in one piece. That’s enough for one day.

”We really had almost everybody in camp working with him,” Acta said.

BRAVES 6, NATIONALS 2

The Nationals took a 2-0 lead in the third inning when Ryan Zimmerman drove Cabrera and Milledge in with a double. They were tied with the Braves after four innings when Cabrera was out of the game. But their bullpen again got in trouble.

Josh Towers gave up three runs on five hits in 1 2/3 innings, though only one of the runs was earned. Steven Shell got tagged with a run in the seventh.

Milledge led the Nationals with two hits, but Washington only managed six in the game.

- Ben Goessling

TEMPERATURE CHECK

Daniel Cabrera [UP]

Got his big hit, and control has been better this spring

Josh Willingham [DOWN]

Went 0-for-2 on Thursday and is hitting .111 for spring

Teeny-bopper anthem singers [DOWN]

This isn’t your “American Idol” audition - just sing the song

QUOTABLE

”It’s something he needs to get better at because this is the National League. He’s going to be on the bases a couple of times, I’m assuming, this year.”

- Nationals manager Manny Acta on Daniel Cabrera’s somewhat uncoordinated trip around the bases in the third inning Thursday

FRIDAY’S WEATHER

Washington: Snow showers, 46 degrees

Viera: Partly cloudy, 80 degrees

THREE-DAY SCHEDULE

Friday: vs. Astros in Kissimmee, 7 p.m.

Saturday: vs. Mets in Port St. Lucie, 1 p.m.

Sunday: vs. Tigers in Viera, 1 p.m.

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