DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Melky Cabrera could be in line for a bounceback season after his 2013 campaign was completely derailed because of a large tumor in his lower back.
Cabrera is healthy this spring and so far hasn't displayed any lingering effects from last year's serious medical condition. The tumor sent waves of pain throughout his back and legs, which negatively impacted not only his power at the plate, but his ability to run and play the field.
The Blue Jays still have to wait and see how Cabrera responds during game situations, but the mobility appears to be back, and manager John Gibbons is at least tentatively slotting him into the No. 2 spot of the lineup.
"He looks fine, but right now is when we'll be able to tell: Get a ball in the gap or a ball down the line, we'll see how he goes after it," Gibbons said as the Blue Jays prepared to start the spring season. "You can do all the drills you want, but until real-time in games, that's when we're going to be able to tell."
Cabrera was expected to be the ideal hitter to slot between leadoff man Jose Reyes and the heart of the Blue Jays' order with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Cabrera's a career .284 hitter with a .337 on-base percentage and an ability to hit the gaps with decent power numbers and a .746 OPS.
Those numbers weren't nearly as impressive last year, as Cabrera struggled to hit the ball with any kind of authority. Pain in the lower half of his body took away all of his power, and even when he hit the ball into the gaps or down the line, there was noticeable difficulty to even reach second base.
The hope is that won't be the case this season, but it will likely be at least a couple of weeks before the Blue Jays know for sure.
"He's a good hitter and he gets a lot of hits," Gibbons said of Cabrera hitting second. "The only real downfall is he does hit a lot of ground balls. But you look at what he's done the last few years, take away last year, and he's been one of the better hitters in baseball. We like guys there that can get a lot of hits.
"He's a switch-hitter, he can manipulate the bat a little bit, he knows how to do those things. Ideally, if he's the player we expect him to be, then he'd be a good guy for that spot. We need him to be good and we need him to be able to move, that's for sure."