The Cardinals’ need to protect him from the Rule 5 draft and wish to improve their lefthanded options in the bullpen merged this winter in an experiment with prospect Genesis Cabrera.
The 22-year-old lefthander, who was acquired in July from the Rays in the trade that sent Tommy Pham to Tampa Bay, has been working out of the bullpen with Licey in the Dominican League this winter.
Through his first 10 appearances, Cabrera had struck out seven, walked two and allowed five hits in seven innings. But for the Cardinals, performance is secondary to practice.
In conjunction with the Licey coaching staff, Cabrera is getting used to the rhythm of relief—when to work out, when to warm up, how often to be ready and how to know when his arm is tired or his stuff spotty.
The Cardinals intend to add Cabrera, who signed with the Rays out of the Dominican Republic in 2013, to the 40-man roster in November. That makes their interest in seeing him work as a reliever twofold.
First, it gives him a route to the majors in 2019.
Second, his turn as a reliever in Triple-A Pacific Coast League playoffs intrigued the organization. Cabrera’s velocity climbed in the Memphis bullpen and he utilized his best stuff while minimizing some of his erratic control.
Cabrera pitched 1.1 scoreless innings and tiptoed around three walks in the Triple-A national championship game. On the way to Memphis’ second consecutive PCL title, he struck out three in 3.2 innings versus Fresno, all in relief.
The promotion to the Triple-A bullpen came after Cabrera had worked as a Double-A starter for both the Rays and Cardinals. He logged a career high 140.1 innings on the season and recorded a 4.17 ERA and 1.32 WHIP with 148 strikeouts and 71 walks.
Described by some scouts as “Carlos Martinez from the left side,” Cabrera has the same build and similar wiry athleticism as the Cardinals’ starter. He does not have the same horsepower or power sinker, though he does touch 98 mph with his fastball and sat near 97 as a reliever.
The Cardinals have been candid about their search for a lefthanded reliever this offseason. Cabrera, with his power fastball and breaking ball, probably will enter 2019 as the organization’s lone power lefty at the higher levels. That has appeal if Cabrera’s winter work has effect.
• Lefthander Rick Ankiel will attempt to make a comeback as a reliever with the Cardinals in 2019 after five years away from the game and 14 years since his last pitching appearance. However, his return will be delayed a few months by offseason surgery to reattach his elbow ligament. The Cardinals are waiting with a minor league contract when Ankiel is ready to pitch.
Ankiel ranked as the top pitching prospect in the game 20 years ago and finished second in National League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2000. But a bout of extreme wildness and then Tommy John surgery forced him to reinvent himself as a slugging outfielder.
• Longtime coach, manager and mentor Steve Turco will receive Minor League Baseball’s Mike Coolbaugh Award in December. Turco piloted the Cardinals’ Gulf Coast League affiliate to a title in 2017 and has been a constant in player development for decades. He is being honored for his “outstanding work ethic, knowledge of the game, and skill in mentoring young players.”