Everyone knows who Asdrubal Cabrera is replacing at third base this season for the Texas Rangers.
No, it’s not Jurickson Profar.
It’s the guy who retired in November as one of the greatest third baseman in baseball history.
“Adrian Beltre was the best third baseman in the game,” Cabrera said Friday, his first full day at Rangers spring training. “When I was in Seattle, he was there, too. Great guy. He is one of the guys I like to watch play. He was a guy I always watched how he played. He has fun all the time. You want to be that kind of player.”
Cabrera, though, admits that being the rebound third baseman after Beltre’s split with baseball is going to be “kind of hard.” Cabrera has only 52 career starts at third base, as opposed to 2,713 for Beltre, but he has found a comfort zone there and feels driven to be a quality player there.
“The first few games it was tough for me, I want to be honest with you,” said Cabrera, who last month signed a one-year deal worth $3.5 million. “But when I started playing more and more and more, I started to feel pretty confident every pitch.
“You have to be focused because you are pretty close to home plate, but I love to compete no matter where. I always say, if you enjoy the game, you try to do the best no matter what position.”
Cabrera said that five teams pursued him in the off-season, and the Rangers, New York Mets and Washington Nationals were clubs that interested him most and talked to him about playing third base.
The Rangers offered him the most playing time, and also talked to him about moving around the infield.
Cabrera played most of the past three seasons with the Mets as their second baseman before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies last season at the deadline. The Phillies used him mostly at shortstop, the position where he was a two-time All-Star for the Cleveland Indians, but also gave him 15 games at third.
Entering his 13th season, Cabrera understands why clubs wanted him to move to third.
“They think I’m getting old and it’s hard to play shortstop. I was fine with it,” Cabrera said. “I say that if you play short, you can play any position on the infield. Shortstop is the captain on the field. Third base is not easy, but I’m going to do my best to help the team on the field. If you focus all the time on the hitter, you should be fine.”
As far as replacing Beltre, those are shoes no one can fill, and manager Chris Woodward doesn’t want Cabrera to feel any pressure to do so.
“There’s nobody in the world who can fill those shoes,” Woodward said. “If he feels that, I’ll tell him, ‘Just be you. We didn’t sign you to be Adrian Beltre, because no one is.’”
The Rangers will use Cabrera at shortstop and second base when fellow Venezuelans Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor need days off. In that scenario, Cabrera could serve as the third baseman and the utility infielder.
He’s still capable at those positions, but the Rangers believe he will be better at third once he is fully adjusted to the position.
“We talked to him beforehand to get his thoughts on it,” Woodward said. “He’s pretty comfortable. He’s a really good infielder. He’s got good hands. I don’t see any problems.”