CLEVELAND – It appears the Indians will turn to veteran Orlando Cabrera to play second base for them this season.
A number of media outlets reported Thursday that Cleveland had signed Cabrera to a major league free-agent contract. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti would neither deny nor confirm the reports, but an official announcement is expected today.
All signs pointed to the Indians filling their starting second base spot with 26-year-old Jason Donald, who saw significant playing time there last year after opening day second baseman Luis Valbuena stumbled to start the season.
Donald, acquired from Philadelphia in a trade for Cliff Lee in 2009, batted .253 with four home runs and 24 RBIs in 88 games, also filling in at shortstop (nine of his 12 errors) for an injured Asdrubal Cabrera. He is a candidate to claim the open spot at third base with Jayson Nix and a number of minor leaguers.
Either way, Cabrera, a career .274 hitter in 14 seasons and an above-average defender who has spent the majority of his career at shortstop, is an upgrade at second base.
“We just signed Orlando Cabrera! Can’t wait to meet him!” tweeted Indians relief pitcher Jensen Lewis.
Starting at shortstop last year alongside former Cleveland infielder Brandon Phillips, Cabrera, 36, batted .263 with four home runs and 42 RBIs in 123 games for Central Division-champion Cincinati. He went 1-for-8 in three Division Series games.
Cabrera has limited experience at second base but has won a pair of Gold Glove awards at shortstop, the last coming in 2007 with the Angels.
The Indians don’t appear ready to move Asdrubal Cabrera (.276, 3 HR, 29 RBIs, 97 games) from shortstop, though his range last year was suspect. Cleveland manager Manny Acta asked the 25-year-old Cabrera, considered Cleveland’s best infielder, to come to camp in better shape in 2011, as did former manager Eric Wedge prior to the 2009 season.
If Orlando Cabrera winds up joining the Indians, it will be his eighth team – Expos, Red Sox, White Sox, A’s, Twins, Angels and Reds — and the sixth different club he has played for over the past five seasons.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.