07/12/11 11:30 PM ET
Asdrubal, Perez value All-Star Game experience
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
He is just overjoyed there is room for two Cabreras in the middle of Cleveland's infield, him to the left of second and Orlando Cabrera on the other side. They are not related, but close, even closer than second base is to shortstop.
The elder Cabrera, the second baseman and a Colombian, has had a lot of influence on the Venezuelan youngster he sometimes calls "nephew," goading out of him the defensive flash and offensive power that matured Asdrubal into an All-Star.
So Asdrubal is one up on Tio Cabrera who, despite an influential 15-season career, has never enjoyed All-Star status.
"I'm happy I get to play with him," Asdrubal Cabrera said of one of his mentors. "We have a great relationship. We are friends."
Another of his friends and fellow Indians, reliever Chris Perez, was sitting in front of the adjacent locker shortly before the cork popped on the 82nd All-Star Game in Chase Field.
Both experienced satisfying but uneventful games.
Cabrera, promoted into the starting lineup by Derek Jeter's decision to miss the game for physical and mental healing, was hitless in two at-bats and had only one ball hit to him in the field.
Perez, as he'd been forewarned by AL manager Ron Washington prior to the game, entered to pitch the sixth, and worked his way around a two-out double by Yadier Molina to put up a zero and keep the NL's lead at 4-1, in a game they would win, 5-1.
Cabrera had approached the first pitch "excited, and blessed to get to start."
"Just being here is great. I did my job to get here," said Cabrera, originally a players' choice for a reserve role. "You don't really care whether you start or not, because just being here with all these great players is an honor. But when you do get that chance, you are extra grateful."
Mike Hargrove, the former Indians first baseman, was a fidgety batter known as the Human Rain Delay. The current Indians shortstop is the acrobatic fielder known as the Human Highlight Film.
So Cabrera had been asked whether he felt an obligation to play up to his reputation, and therefore hoped for a difficult chance to tame.
"No. I'll be ready for it, but you can't think about it ahead of time," he said.
Darned if his only chance didn't provide that opportunity, when Carlos Beltran led off the fourth with a grounder in the hole. Cabrera took a couple steps to his right and made a backhanded stop but, before he could launch himself for one of those signature airborne deliveries to first, the ball trickled out of his glove for an infield single.
It didn't help that Matt Kemp followed with a lined single to left and Prince Fielder with a three-run homer over the short fence just to the left of dead-center, wiping out the AL's early 1-0 lead.
The Indians were in first place for 89 of the season's first 101 days, but they pulled into the All-Star break trailing Detroit in the AL Central by a half-game.
Consider the ironic words of Perez in conceding last-call duties to the Tigers' Jose Valverde, Washington's choice to close for the AL: "That's fine. Valverde ... is on a first-place club."
But not having ultimate bragging rights here was just a technicality. Manager Manny Acta's club has been in the fishbowl all year -- since the opening days of the season, the Tribe hasn't been further than a game behind -- and as such had as much at stake as any club in Tuesday's outcome.
Perez couldn't even fathom the possibility of having a chance to perhaps impact the Indians' World Series fortunes.
"Oh, wow ... that is so far down the road, it doesn't make sense to even think about," said the likable reliever, punctuating his words with a smile, as usual.
With the end of the All-Star Game, that road became shorter. The Indians reload for the second half on Thursday, with the first of four in Baltimore. Back-to-back road series against the Orioles and the Twins will offer an immediate test of the Tribe's endurance as a contender.
"That's the main reason we play ball, to try to get to the playoffs," said Cabrera. "We just have to keep working harder."
In reviewing the Indians' All-Star Game presence, that of Acta should not be overlooked. He came here as recognition of his first-half performance, just as the players. In Acta's case, he has manipulated a 93-game loser without headlining newcomers into a contender.