Cabrera wasting no time turning heads with Nats

It’s been a whirlwind of changes for Nationals second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera. Not only has the infielder had to get used to playing for a new team, but for the first time in his eight-year career, he’s in a new league.

Oh by the way, he’s learning a new primary position, too.

All in a day’s work.

“It’s hard when you switch leagues and you don’t know the pitching,” Nationals manager Matt Williams said. “It’s especially difficult when you’re switching positions and going to the other side of the infield, learning teammates and (you) have a little bit of pressure on you because they traded for you and you want to do well, but I think he’s handled all of that pretty well.”

Cabrera spent eight years with Cleveland, during which time he posted a career .270 batting average and appeared in back-to-back All Star games for the Indians in 2011 and 2012. In 924 career games, Cabrera has played 729 at shortstop, compared to just 165 at second base. A solid track record as one of the game’s most versatile infielders certainly caught the eye of major league teams in the days leading up to this year’s trade deadline, including the Nationals, who ended up acquiring the 28-year-old for infielder Zach Walters in hopes of boosting their lineup.

It’s an acquisition that has certainly paid off. In 10 games with the Nats, Cabrera boasts a .282 batting average with 11 hits and four RBIs. He hit his first home run with the Nationals in Wednesday’s 3-2 win, giving him a fourth consecutive season with double digit home runs. Not coincidentally, since dealing for Cabrera on July 31, the Nationals have gone 6-4 and hold a 5 1/2 game lead in the National League East over the struggling Braves. The success for both parties doesn’t come as a shock to Williams, however.

“He’s a pro,” Williams said of Cabrera. “He’s been around the block. He knows these situations, been in pennant races and all of those things. That doesn’t overwhelm him at this point and he’s getting to learn a little bit as we go.”

Meanwhile, Stephen Strasburg is looking to right the ship on what has been a forgettable season away from Nationals Park. The right-hander is 1-8 on the road this season and carries a 5.25 ERA in those 12 starts. Compare that to a 7-2 record in Washington, and it’s fair to wonder just how much the Nationals’ ace needs the comforts of home. Still, Williams isn’t too concerned with his pitcher’s drastic split statistics and knows the key for Strasburg - or any pitcher - starts and ends with command.

“A lot has been made of the home/road splits and all of that,” Williams said. “I think you can put a little bit of that to rest tonight if (Strasburg) pitches well. He hasn’t pitched against these guys since opening day and it gets back to fastball command. If he throws it where he wants to then he’s really effective. If he doesn’t, he’s like everybody else. If the ball is out and over the plate and they take a swing at it, they have a good chance to hit it.

“I want to say in my heart of hearts that the Atlanta game was a little bit of an aberration. It’s really hard to hit a homer, but they did and you go with it. He had to wear it a little bit because of our bullpen situation at the time, so I think he’s ready for this one. He has a good bullpen and he’ll be prepared tonight to go out and beat them.”

Williams, of course, is referring to Strasburg’s most recent outing, when he allowed seven earned runs in five innings in a 7-6 loss to the Braves on August 8. And to add even more intrigue to the plot, that rough start was preceded by Strasburg’s best performance of the season, when he pitched seven innings of shutout ball, tallying 10 strikeouts while allowing only one walk. In his last start against New York, Strasburg gave up four earned runs on five hits over six innings in a no decision on opening day.

In other baseball news, Rob Manfred has been officially chosen as the successor to Bud Selig and will become the new commissioner of Major League Baseball next January. Manfred is currently baseball’s chief operating officer and has been in the baseball community since 1987. He will become the sport’s 10th commissioner in history.

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