CLEVELAND -- Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera got a taste of the October stage as a rookie back in 2007, helping Cleveland make a push all the way to the American League Championship Series. He could not have known at the time that it would be six years before he'd experience the postseason again.
Cabrera arrived at Progressive Field on Wednesday as Cleveland's last remaining player from that '07 playoff roster. He smiled when asked about finally being back in the postseason again -- this time as a member of the AL's top Wild Card team.
"This is really nice," Cabrera said. "I'm enjoying all these moments."
After 2007, the Indians endured five consecutive years without a winning record. Last year, when Cleveland felt it had a team on the rise, it stumbled to 94 losses. The front office brought in a new manager in Terry Francona and overhauled the roster, leading to a one-year turnaround that resulted in 92 wins and the right to host Wednesday's Wild Card Game against the Rays.
The game is the first postseason contest in Cleveland since Game 5 of that 2007 ALCS, against the Red Sox.
"I've been waiting six years," Cabrera said. "We're here now. All I want to think about now is winning."
Is he surprised the Indians are back in the playoffs?
"No, I'm not. I really believed in my team," he said. "First day of Spring Training, I believed in my team. I know you guys didn't believe in Cleveland, but I did. I believed."
Over 136 games, the switch-hitting Cabrera hit .242 with 14 home runs, 35 doubles, 64 RBIs and 66 runs. Though it was a down year statistically for the two-time All-Star, Francona was nonetheless impressed with his play on the field and his leadership in the clubhouse.
"It's more behind the scenes," Francona said of Cabrera's impact. "He's very levelheaded. His clock for the game is very good. I think he desperately wanted to win more than people realized. Sometimes he tried to do too much. I thought he played banged up a lot this year, and that hurt his numbers. He's a good player. I became very fond of him."