When Asdrúbal Cabrera was picked up by the Nationals in early August 2019, he figured he’d finish out the season in D.C. and then probably call it a career.
“I told my family: Probably this is going to be my last three months,” the veteran infielder said today during a Zoom session with reporters. “I’m just going to try to have fun here and see what happens. And we made it to the World Series, and we won the World Series.
“I’m never going to forget that year.”
Neither will Nationals fans, who tonight will have an opportunity to thank Cabrera for his contributions when the now-Diamondbacks third baseman returns to South Capitol Street as a visitor.
The Nats plan to play a video tribute to Cabrera, who despite getting picked up midseason after being released by the Rangers wound up the team’s starting second baseman and a key contributor throughout its late October run. In 38 regular season games in Washington, he hit .323 with six homers, 40 RBIs and a .969 OPS. He then hit .286 with a double and three RBIs during the World Series.
Cabrera seemed a perfect fit on that Nationals team, just one more well-respected veteran in a clubhouse full of them, all of them seeking their first championship rings. That made the World Series run all the more special for him, knowing everyone was in the same boat chasing the same goal.
“Absolutely, and even more because earlier that year, Texas gave me my release, and I thought that was it for me,” he said. “And as soon as the Nationals called me, it was really good for me.”
Initially signed to come off the bench and play multiple positions, Cabrera saw time at multiple positions before settling in at second base. And when he returned in 2020, he wound up regularly starting at third base.
“He was unbelievable,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I asked him to do things he probably didn’t even know he could do. Play first base. He played a lot of third. He DH’d last year when he was here. But, hey, I’ll never forget him nor the guys that were here in ‘19. We won the World Series with Asdrúbal, and he was a big part of the reason why we won. His everyday approach, the way he handled himself in the clubhouse, he’s a guy that you want around. And I was so proud of him coming over here and helping us do the things we did. I’ll never forget those guys.”
Despite legitimate hopes on his part for a return in 2021, Cabrera said the Nationals never called him over the winter. He wound up signing with the Diamondbacks, and he’s off to a hot start in the desert, with two homers and nine RBIs to begin the season. Tonight, he’ll bat cleanup against left-hander Patrick Corbin, perhaps one of Arizona’s toughest hitters in this matchup.
“I told him I was going to walk him,” Martinez said with a laugh. “He told me he’s going to bunt.”
Now 35, Cabrera doesn’t know how much more career he has left in him. But he said he’s been reinvigorated ever since he came to Washington in August 2019. And no matter where the rest of his life takes him, he’ll always have a special place for D.C. in his heart.
“It feels really good to be back in Washington,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of good memories here. I won the World Series with them in 2019. I left really good friends over there. It’s always good when you come back home.”
Some more pregame notes ...
* Jonathan Lucroy has cleared waivers and was outrighted to the alternate training site, but the veteran catcher elected to become a free agent and will now attempt to catch on with another club.
Lucroy, who wound up starting four of the Nationals’ first six games after signing with them when both Yan Gomes and Alex Avila landed on the COVID-19-related injury list, was designated for assignment once the full roster was back in place. The Nats offered him a chance to remain in the organization, but he’ll first see if he can get a big league job elsewhere. Or perhaps even an international job.
“He wants to take a look around,” Martinez said. “I talked to him, and he mentioned there’s a possibility of playing in the Olympics. So he might want to go do that. But the door’s always open. If he wants to come, I had a conversation with (general manager Mike Rizzo) about him, and we told him: ‘We’d love to have you back. I hope for your future that you do get a big league job. But if not, we’d love to have you back here. Because you never know what’s going to happen here, especially in that position.’ “
Lucroy did wind up accruing enough big league service time to reach the 10-year mark, an important milestone for players that now makes him eligible for lifetime benefits.
* Jon Lester is scheduled to throw in a simulated game in Fredericksburg today, after which the Nationals will determine how much more time the veteran lefty needs to get his arm built up before he’s activated off the COVID-19-related IL. With Erick Fedde named Saturday’s starter against the Diamondbacks, it doesn’t appear the organization intends to rush Lester back.
* Will Harris threw what Martinez described as a “light” 20-pitch bullpen session in Fredericksburg yesterday and reported that “everything felt well.” Harris is on the 10-day IL with inflammation in his right hand, the source of which has still not been publicly identified.