"I didn't trust my fastball," Cabrera said. "I wanted to be too fine."
In turn, he struggled. Big time. The right-hander put up a 5.19 ERA in 51 appearances.
This year, it's been an entirely different tale. Cabrera has been the club's most dominating pitcher, striking out 15 over 10 2/3 scoreless innings. On Wednesday, the 25-year-old picked up the win after punching out five hitters in two scoreless innings.
So, what's behind this immense turnaround?
"The only thing I've been doing is trusting my stuff," Cabrera said. "I get confidence, and I attack the hitters. That's it."
This newfound trust in his stuff didn't come magically, however. For Cabrera, the key to his strong spring was a strong winter.
Cabrera took part in winter ball in Puerto Rico this past offseason to fine-tune his delivery, and rediscover command of his fastball.
"When I pitched in winter ball, I didn't try to show anybody anything," he said. "I just wanted to work on my stuff. I started attacking hitters, and trusting my stuff."
And, well, it's worked. Cabrera is now consistently using his fastball to get ahead in the count before mixing in sliders and splitters to finish the opposition off.
"Hopefully, it keeps up," Cabrera said.
Sosa sets record in C-Town: Sammy Sosa just missed out on a shot at history Wednesday night at The Jake when his sixth-inning double nailed the top of the left-field wall, but he got a second chance on Thursday.
The 38-year-old right fielder became the first player to homer in 44 Major League ballparks when he hit a solo shot in the sixth inning, setting a Major League record for most ballparks with a home run.That breaks the record that he shared with Ken Griffey Jr. and Fred McGriff. Sosa has hit a home run in every active ballpark except Washington's RFK Stadium and the new Busch Stadium.
Dandy defense: The Indians defense has taken quite a bit of heat in the season's early going. The club's .975 fielding percentage, after all, is second worst in baseball.
But in a far more telling category, Cleveland isn't half bad. In fact, Cleveland's defense finds itself in the game's upper half, according to a defensive efficiency statistic developed by Baseball Prospectus.
The Tribe converts 70.8 percent of balls put into play into outs, a ratio that ranks them 14th in baseball. After finishing 25th last season, perhaps the addition of Josh Barfield at second base, and David Dellucci and Trot Nixon in the outfield, is paying off.
"That doesn't really surprise me at all," said Casey Blake, who's found a home on the hot corner with Andy Marte on the disabled list. "That was something that was addressed in the offseason. I think we've been pretty solid."
Of course, the pitchers have a hand in this, too. One culprit is the Tribe's closer. Just 59 percent of balls put into play off Joe Borowski are turned into outs.
But then again, ace C.C Sabathia's 64.1 percentage is right behind Borowski, so read what you will into these numbers.
Tribe tidbits: David Dellucci was held out of the lineup for a fifth straight game with a left calf injury on Thursday. ... The Tribe's 21 homers are the fifth most in the AL entering Thursday's action. ... The club's clutch hitting has picked recently. Cleveland was 20-of-60 with runners in scoring position over its last six games.
Down on the farm: Triple-A Buffalo (10-5), Double-A Akron (9-6) and Class A Lake County (8-10) were all rained out on Wednesday. Class A Kinston (9-7) fell, 6-3, to Lynchburg. Ryan Edell was knocked around for four runs in four innings of work.
On deck: The Indians continue their eight-game homestand on Friday night at Jacobs Field as they open up a weekend set with the Orioles. Jake Westbrook (0-2, 9.15 ERA) will be opposed by O's right-hander Steve Trachsel (1-1, 4.37 ERA).
David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less