News Column

Cabrera Stars, but Team Venezuela Falls in Exhibition to Marlins

March 6, 2013

Tom D'Angelo

Miguel Cabrera had plenty of practice clearing the left-field wall at Roger Dean Stadium during his five years with the Marlins.

Cabrera returned on Tuesday night with Team Venezuelan for an exhibition against his old team and looked as though he never left.

Cabrera drove in four runs with two doubles and a mammoth home run that disappeared into the night as it sailed past the Marlins' offices beyond the left-field wall.

The Marlins, though, rallied in the ninth inning as Bryan Petersen's two-run triple gave Miami a 6-5 victory.

Cabrera showed why he is the anchor to arguably the best lineup in the World Baseball Classic. Venezuela begins play in the WBC in Puerto Rico on Thursday against the Dominican Republic.

"He's the best player in baseball right now," Venezuela manager Luis Sojo said. "This guy is a great hitter. He wants to be here, and he wants to show everybody that Venezuela is ready to win the WBC."

Cabrera, who helped spark the Marlins to the 2003 World Series before being traded to Detroit in one of owner Jeffrey Loria's fire sales, is one of four former Marlins who faced their old team in the exhibition. One current Marlin, pitcher Henderson Alvarez, also plays for the Venezuelan team.

Carlos Zambrano, who pitched for the Marlins last season, tossed two scoreless innings. He was followed by Alvarez, who was acquired by the Marlins from Toronto during the offseason and is expected to win a spot in the rotation. Alvarez pitched one perfect inning against his teammates.

Venezuela's Game 1 starter in the WBC is Anibal Sanchez, who was traded by the Marlins to Detroit in July along with Omar Infante. Infante is coming off the Venezuela bench and doubled and walked in his two plate appearances Tuesday.

Sojo believes he has the right mixture of pitching and hitting to allow Venezuela to exceed its showing in the Classic in 2009, when it was eliminated by South Korea in the semifinal.

"This group of guys they want to win ... there's nothing else," Sojo said. "I would say it's a great team. But on paper it doesn't mean anything. You've got to perform on the field. We've got the guys who know how to play the game."

Venezuela will be in a pool along with Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Spain. The top two teams will advance to Miami.

Cabrera, San Francisco's Pablo Sandoval and Colorado's Carlos Gonzalez anchor the offense. The three combined for 78 home runs and 287 RBIs last year. Cabrera hit .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBIs while becoming the first player to win a Triple Crown in 45 years.

Venezuela's starting lineup features seven All-Stars.

Cabrera's home run in the seventh inning came off Marlins minor leaguer Jordan Smith and broke a 3-3 tie.

"He's one of the biggest guys in the lineup," Sandoval said. "He's one of the best hitters in the big leagues."

Zambrano, 31, is using the WBC as his personal showcase. He remains unsigned after going 7-10 with a 4.49 ERA in his lone season in Miami. He started 20 games for the Marlins last season before being demoted to the bullpen.

Zambrano said he has had offers but nothing that appeals to him. "This is a good moment, the WBC, to prove something," he said.

Sojo believes that right offer will come soon.

"He looks so good right now. He's in good shape," Sojo said. "He's very professional. There's no doubt in my mind he's going to get a contract after the classic."

As for the new-look Marlins, Zambrano said, "It's a different team. I wish them good luck." QUICK HITS

Left-hander Wade LeBlanc had his first rough outing of the spring, giving up three runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks in 2 1/3 innings.

Right fielder Chris Coghlan was 4-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored.

Prospect Jose Fernandez pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings, walking one and striking out one.

Source: (c)2013 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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