In the past, the Marlins organization has been cautious about adding to Edward Cabrera's workload. His previous three starts, in which he surrendered 19 hits and 14 runs over 9 2/3 innings, hadn't inspired much confidence.
But Cabrera took a big leap Sunday by registering his first professional complete game.
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Cabrera tossed a seven-inning four-hitter, striking out five without issuing a walk, as Class A Greensboro blanked Lakewood, 8-0, in the first game of a doubleheader at First National Bank Field. It was his first win in seven starts this season.
For the 11th-ranked Marlins prospect to go the distance, Grasshoppers pitching coach Mark DiFelice said his starter needed to work on his efficiency. On April 28, Cabrera utilized 36 pitches in 1 1/3 innings against Asheville and he threw 73 in 4 1/3 frames during his first start in May vs. Lakewood. Sunday was different.
"His ability to move his fastball around the plate -- on the bottom and the top of the strike zone -- is huge for him," DiFelice said. "He's not as effective when he's able to throw it in just one location, and guys could read and key in on that. Now, being able to go up and down gives him a whole different look."
Cabrera allowed the BlueClaws to advance past first base just once. In the opening inning, he gave up a one-out base hit to Daniel Brito on a line drive to center field. Brito stole second and continued to third on a missed catch by center fielder Thomas Jones, the Marlins No. 25 prospect. But the righty struck out Kevin Markham and retired Quincy Nieporte off a grounder to shortstop.
Along with the command and pinpoint placement of his fastball, Cabrera found success with a breaking ball that had better action in the zone, DiFelice said. That kept the BlueClaws on their toes as he switched back and forth between both and kept control of the tempo and pace of the game, something the Marlins have been stressing to the 20-year-old, the coach added.
It was the most efficient start of the season for Cabrera, who threw 52 of 80 pitches for strikes.
"Especially at a young age, every time when you're on the mound, you want to throw a complete game. When you start, you want to complete it and be the guy at the end," DiFelice said. "This was huge from an experience standpoint to close out a game like this, and it'll build that confidence."
DiFelice was excited to see how going the distance will boost Cabrera's mental game moving forward. Less than two months into his first full season of professional baseball, the coach expects his hurler to go through some rough patches as he hits the late summer. Figuring out a recovery and preparation routine that suits him will be important for Cabrera as he works to string together longer outings moving forward, DiFelice added.
"It all starts with the throwing program and the bullpen work, and it's all about knowing your body," he said. "He needs to put himself where he can take the ball every fifth day, and his prep in between outings needs to be precise and the same way. He needs to know how his body feels, because going into July and August, he's going to feel it and deal with the grind of the season.
"It's important to establish this early, not just for this season, but for the rest of his career."
The Grasshoppers scored three times in the bottom of the first to give Cabrera a lead and Marcos Rivera padded it with a three-run homer in the fifth. Jose Devers led Greensboro with three hits.
Brito accounted for three of Lakewood's four hits.
The Grasshoppers swept the double dip with a 2-0 win in the nightcap. Dustin Beggs and 24th-ranked Colton Hock (5-3) combined to allow two hits over seven frames.