08/04/2003 5:33 PM ET
Cabrera named Rookie of the Month
Outfielder follows Willis' June award
MIAMI -- Left-hander Dontrelle Willis isn't the only prized rookie making a name for himself on the national scene.
By Joe Frisaro / MLB.com
On Monday, left fielder Miguel Cabrera was honored as the National League Rookie of the Month.
The 20-year-old from Venezuela solidified an outfield spot by batting .318 (27-for-85) in July with five home runs, eight doubles, one triple and 21 RBIs.
Cabrera becomes the second Marlin in as many months to win monthly rookie honors. Willis was the National League Rookie of the Month in June.
Like Willis, Cabrera opened the season at Double-A Carolina. For the Mudcats, he was tearing up the Southern League with a .365 average. The Marlins brought him up and made him their starting left fielder because Todd Hollandsworth was struggling.
Making Cabrera's success more startling is the fact he is playing a position he hadn't since his childhood in Maracay, Venezuela.
Formerly a shortstop, Cabrera was switched to third base a few seasons ago in the minor leagues. The 6-foot-2, 185-pounder is still growing, and he has been athletic enough to perform in the outfield without looking lost.
The Marlins brought him up on June 20, and in his first Major League game, he had a storybook finish. His lone hit in five at-bats was a two-run walk-off home run to beat Tampa Bay, 3-1, in 11 innings.
Predictably, Cabrera still has his struggles as he is gaining on-the-job training. In June, his average was .158 with one home run and six RBIs.
But his performance has picked up since. Currently he is batting .258 with six home runs and 28 RBIs. His slugging percentage is .500.
Regarded by the organization as a future All-Star, Cabrera is taking on a big burden in the Marlins' quest to win the Wild Card race.
A week prior to the no-waiver trade deadline, the Marlins front office asked itself if too much is being expected from the rookie.
General manager Larry Beinfest made trade inquires for a veteran left fielder, with the team almost pulling the trigger on a trade with the Padres that would have brought in veteran Rondell White.
After consulting with manager Jack McKeon, owner Jeffrey Loria and others in the front office, the Marlins decided to stick with Cabrera.
Cabrera didn't disappoint in the Marlins' homestand, where the team went 7-2. The rookie hit .333 with 11 RBIs in the nine games.
"We felt we were close and could have consummated a deal for an everyday outfielder," Beinfest said after the trade deadline passed last Thursday. "Jack was 100 percent behind the Cabrera decision. I think Miguel Cabrera is just a very confident player. He needs to be confident because he's in a highly competitive situation as a rookie. You better be confident and be sure about what you're doing. I think when you talk about a kid like Willis and a kid like Cabrera, they are mature beyond their years and at the Major League level."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.