Melky's role with Yanks not the same
With outfield rotation set, Cabrera will be coming off bench
SEATTLE -- Melky Cabrera's official welcome-back gift to the Yankees' clubhouse came in the form of a swift slap to the stomach, delivered courtesy of Derek Jeter.
After more than two weeks at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, it was a price Cabrera was more than willing to pay. The 24-year-old Cabrera rejoined the Yankees in Seattle on Friday, recalled from the Minors as Bobby Abreu cautiously proceeds with a jammed left wrist.
With Abreu a game-time decision, taking batting practice and inserted in the lineup after injuring himself on a slide Wednesday evening, Cabrera's role with the Yankees will be as a reserve outfielder. It is a far cry from April, when he was the club's Opening Day center fielder and had high hopes for a breakout season.
"I went and worked on my defense and hitting," Cabrera said. "It's OK. I played every day. I'm very happy to come back."
Cabrera had batted .242 with eight home runs and 36 RBIs with New York before being optioned to Triple-A on Aug. 15, as the Yankees shuffled their roster, hoping to make a push for the postseason.
Those playoff hopes are still breathing, and Cabrera said he worked every day to make it back, batting .333 (19-for-57) in 15 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after being told to focus on his offense, particularly pitch selection and baserunning.
"There's no doubt, there's no bigger wake-up call than a demotion," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "He got there quick and played hard and was working on all the aspects that we were talking about. He certainly applied what we talked about, from what I was told."
Cabrera would have been recalled eventually, Cashman said, but the Yankees wanted to continue to give him a chance to play every day. He had appeared in both of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's playoff games, going 1-for-8 before boarding a cross-country flight late Thursday to join the Yankees on the West Coast.
Girardi said that Cabrera's defense actually improved this season at the big league level, and that the offense was the primary concern. Manager Joe Girardi believes Cabrera is more than a .242 hitter, and has the ability to steal 20-25 bases in a Major League season.
But he'll be asked to come off the bench through September, with the Yankees grinding forth by using their outfield of Xavier Nady, Johnny Damon and Abreu.
"Doing it down there and doing it here are two different places," Girardi said. "The thing is patience at the plate and better baserunning. That's what we wanted to see. Let's see if he gets an opportunity to show us."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.