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Cabrera rides fast track to big leagues

The 2009 version of the Tri-City Dust Devils does not exist just yet and, in fact, won't begin materializing until about a week or so after the First Year Player Draft on Tuesday, June 9.

But that doesn't mean we can't do some tracking of former Dust Devils players, many of whom have advanced their careers well past the tumblin' tumbleweeds of Tri-Cities.

But all of them have had their share of memorable moments in the blue and gold Dust Devils uniforms.

I'll touch on a few of them here and catch up with more of them later this season. Keep checking in for updates.

There's one development so far that was a nice surprise.

I remember seeing a lot of great things from Everth Cabrera when he was here in 2006. He was a switch hitter with good bat control who didn't strike out very much. Great base stealer, too. But what really set him apart was his slick fielding.

Cabrera had a good season at second base here, teaming with shortstop Helder Velazquez for the top middle-infield duo in the league. Cabrera was hitting .300 for the Dust Devils with a .432 on-base percentage and 12 stolen bases before suffering a season-ending ankle sprain.

Manager Freddie Ocasio said at the time that as far as fielding was concerned, Cabrera was major-league ready. But like any young player, he needed a bit more seasoning in the minors to develop his all-around game before hitting the big time.

But oh, how life can throw you a curve now and again.

In Cabrera's case, it was the chance of a lifetime. He was picked in the Rule 5 draft this season by the San Diego Padres, which meant that if they didn't keep him on the major league roster, the Rockies could buy him back at a minimal cost.

But San Diego knew a good thing when they saw it, opting to give the 5-foot-10 Nicaraguan infielder every chance to make the club.

Everybody knew Cabrera would get his shot sooner or later, but nobody imagined it might be this soon. It didn't take long for Cabrera to make a good impression on the Padres' brass, and manager Bud Black kept him on the 25-man roster.

Not only that, Cabrera started four of the team's first seven games at shortstop, hitting .308 (4-for-13) with three runs scored. But the injury bug struck again. This time it was a broken left hand, which required surgery to repair.

The good news is that Cabrera began a rehabilitation assignment last Tuesday in Class A Lake Elsinore. And it looks like he's ready to play. In his latest game, he went 2-for-3 with a stolen base.

Expect him back in the Padres lineup sometime in mid-June. In fact, he should be playing for them when San Diego visits Safeco Field in Seattle from June 23-25.

One problem. That's when the Dust Devils begin their opening homestand against Vancouver at Gesa Stadium.

Sorry, Everth. We'll have to catch you down the road. I'm sure we'll get many more chances to see you in action.

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