Returning to a ballpark that was his Spring Training home for the first five years of his career, Cabrera put on a show in Team Venezuela's exhibition against the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night. Cabrera wowed the Roger Dean Stadium crowd with a mammoth home run, two doubles and four RBIs. Cabrera was pulled in the seventh after four at-bats, and Venezuela couldn't hold on to a late lead.
Still, Cabrera served notice in the 6-5 defeat that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the World Baseball Classic.
"For the team, it means a lot," said Pablo Sandoval, a pretty dangerous hitter himself. "He's one of the biggest guys on the team, in the lineup. He's one of the best hitters in the big leagues."
Cabrera came up just a few feet short of having two homers. His first double, a two-run shot in the top of the first, bounced off the center-field wall. Cabrera added a leadoff double in the third, and in the seventh, with two out and one on and a tie score, he obliterated a first-pitch offering from Jordan Smith, sending the ball practically into orbit down the left-field line for a 5-3 lead.
The right-handed slugger has been a factor in the Classic in past years, but he has never completely taken one over. In two previous trips to the event, he's cranked four homers in 51 at-bats, but with a fairly pedestrian .255 batting average and .345 slugging percentage. Then again, Cabrera's never come into one off of a year like he enjoyed in 2012.
This is, simply, the best hitter on the planet at this point in time, and he bats in the heart of an order that is almost certainly the tournament's best. He has Elvis Andrus and Asdrubal Cabrera in front of him. Cabrera has Sandoval and Carlos Gonzalez behind him.
Venezuela's lineup is ridiculously deep, but it centers on the reigning American League Most Valuable Player, the man who won baseball's first Triple Crown in 45 years. He has the potential to put even this deep, dangerous lineup on his back and carry it deep into a tournament that Venezuela has yet to win.
"He's the best player in baseball right now," said Venezuela manager Luis Sojo. "It's very good that we have him on this side. This guy is a great hitter. He wants to be here. He wants to show everybody that Venezuela is ready to win the WBC."