MIAMI Melky Cabrera prefers to use a translator in formalinterviews, and Emmanuel Burriss happened to be the bilingual teammate within aSpanish-English dictionarys length of him after Thursday nights victory.
So after Cabrera turned in another three-hit game, I proceeded to ask a fairlyinnocuous icebreaker: Have you felt really comfortable at the plateall year?
Oh, no, no, dont answer that! Burriss said. Let me. Iwill, I will. Ill answer it.
Burriss looked me in the eye.
Burriss was only slightly placated when Iagreed to tap Cabreras wooden locker.
You dont ask that! he said.
The answer is yes, of course. Yes to all of it. Yes toCabrera being the savior for a Giants offense that has dead production zones atthree or four infield positions every night. Yes to the trade with the KansasCity Royals looking so lopsided, Dayton Moore might never take another callfrom Brian Sabean. And yes to Cabrera returning to Kansas City to represent theGiants in the All-Star Game.
The Giants didnt have a four-RBI game from anyone allseason. Cabrera and Angel Pagan each drove in four in Thursdays 14-7 victory.
Cabrera leads the majors with 67 hits and 22 multi-hitgames. Hes on a pace for 241 hits, which would be the most by National Leagueplayer since Bill Terry for the 1930 New York Giants. (Terry, a Hall of Famer, had 254 hits that season.)
And then you think of that miraculous throw from left fieldin Milwaukee. And then you notice how Cabrera made an instant read to score thetying run from second base on Pagans jam-shot single in the fourthinning.
I just knew off the bat it was hit good and in the rightspot, Cabrera said, fielding a question that Burriss allowed him to answer. Ididnt need to hesitate at all.
Cabrera is hitting .361, and the most impressive part isthat his average isnt the most impressive part. Its amazing what happens whenyou mix talent, intelligence, instincts, focus and dedication.
Melkys just unbelievable, said Ryan Vogelsong, who justmight join Cabrera in Kansas City in July. Hes done nothing but impresseverybody in this locker room from the day he got here.
Still, there are 117 games on the schedule. Theres a reasonthe words on pace dont mean a lot in May. But the early returns, at least,would favor the notion that Cabreras 201-hit campaign for the Royals last yearwas no flash in the cooking implement of your choice.
Yes, its possible to sustain this pace. Ive seen it oncebefore, when I covered the Anaheim Angels in 2000. Darin Erstad hit .355 thatseason and finished with 240 hits, and the most marvelous part about it waswatching his daily routine. He took countless swings off a tee and in the cage.He stuck to a rigorous schedule. He never rested after a two-hit game, or athree-hit game, or a four-hit game. He was out there the very next day, doingeverything possible to stay sharp. And then hed spit out more hits with thatflat-bat swing of his.
Thats how teammates describe the relentless way Cabreragoes about his business, both in the cage and in the weight room.
Know this: The man travels with his personal medicine ball.
Every day I work hard and make sure I prepare myself totake good at-bats, Cabrera said. Its all about preparation, doing whatever Ican.
His routine does not include being overly chatty. ButCabrera offers peeks to his personality.
When asked what he thought of Sergio Romo copying hischinstrap beard, Cabrera didnt wait for the translation.
He looks better, he said, smiling.
The Giants didnt just score 14 runs against Anibal Sanchezand Co. They also looked smart doing it.
How about the discipline that Buster Posey showed in thesixth inning? He worked a count to 3-2, and when he got a breaking ball, hedidnt lunge at it. That's something he wasn't doing earlier this month, when the strikeouts were piling up in uncharacteristic fashion.
And how about Angel Pagan? Hes proving to be quite anasset as the No.5 hitter. When Posey walked to load the bases, Paganstiebreaking double drove in two runs.
You could argue the two most important moments in the game came with the bases loaded: Pagan's double in the sixth, and Vogelsong's getting Giancarlo Stanton to pop out in the fifth.
One more small thing I noticed, even if I forgot when it happened: With a hit-and-run on, Joaquin Arias found a way to foul off a pitch that was a footoutside. It didnt make a major difference in Thursdays outcome, but those arethe little things that add up over the long haul.
The Giants set season highs with 15 hits and four stolenbases. So the early returns on Marlins Park are favorable, no matter what an art critic would say about the home run fountain in center field.
Check out Romos before-and-after barbershop photos. Heposted them to his Twitter page.
I also happened to go for a haircut today near Little Havana. Theplace was called Manny Sosas. Sadly, the barber didnt look anything likeManny Mota or Sammy Sosa.
Tomorrow for lunch: Versailles, and arroz con pollo. With plaintains and then Cafe Cubano, of course.