Notes: Sox reunite with Cabrera

Notes: Sox reunite with Cabrera

BOSTON -- There have been countless players over the last century who didn't make the same impression in three years with the Red Sox that Orlando Cabrera did in just three memorable months.

The shortstop who played a significant role in the Red Sox snapping their 86-year championship drought is back in town with his new team -- the Angels -- this weekend.

Seconds before his first at-bat Friday night, a replay of Cabrera's walk-off homer for the Sox last September against the Orioles was played on the scoreboard in center field. As Cabrera walked to the plate, the sellout crowd at Fenway Park gave him a standing ovation. Cabrera waved his helmet, then tapped the helmet against his heart. As almost a symbolic changing of the guard, Cabrera capped that at-bat by hitting a crisp grounder up the middle, only to be thrown out by Edgar Renteria, his replacement at shortstop.

The emotion hit Cabrera even before he made his way back to the historic yard on Yawkey Way.

"It was a really weird feeling when I was on the plane and the guy said we were almost landing and I saw the city. I got a weird feeling in my stomach," Cabrera said. "I didn't know it was going to be like that. I've got really good memories here; things I'm never going to forget."

Nobody knew quite what to make of Cabrera on that crazy night of July 31, when he was acquired in a four-way trade that saw icon Nomar Garciaparra get shipped to the Cubs. But a funny thing happened a few weeks after Cabrera's arrival: The Red Sox took off, embarking on an electrifying run of baseball that will never be forgotten in these parts. During his brief but memorable run in Boston, Cabrera's defense cemented the infield and his energy sent a positive vibe all across the clubhouse.

A lot of people couldn't help but associate Cabrera's arrival as a big reason for the turnaround of the '04 Sox. But he's too humble to claim that he was the difference-maker.

"I think I was lucky. Everybody picked up their game, and all of a sudden, we started winning," Cabrera said. "I was just playing the same way I play everywhere. I don't think I did anything different."

Of course, if things had worked out differently, Cabrera -- who signed with the Angels as a free agent -- might have still been in a Boston uniform Friday night. But Cabrera harbored no bitterness and has nothing but respect for new Sox shortstop Renteria, his fellow Colombian countryman. In fact, Cabrera's father (Jolbert Cabrera, Sr.) is the scout who signed Renteria to his first contract.

"I guess they were looking for somebody else. Renteria was the best (shortstop) in the National League," Cabrera said. "They were looking for more offense and I think they're going to get more offense from that guy. He's a great player. You can't get anybody better."

What Cabrera misses most about Boston is the camaraderie he built with his teammates.

"I miss them. That was my team. I really miss them a lot," Cabrera said. "That was the hard part to let go. It's a business, you have to move on. I couldn't have landed in a better place. Anaheim has a great team, we're in first place. As long as it stays that way, I'm going to be happy."

What type of reaction did he get from fans in and around the ballpark?

"The word 'love' -- that's what everybody keeps telling me -- that they love me and everything, which is nice, especially from this town. Because they're tough, they know about baseball," said Cabrera. "I appreciate that. I love them back."

In early May, Red Sox chairman Tom Werner -- who has a home in Southern California -- made a special trip to Edison Field to present Cabrera with his World Series ring.

"I was smiling the whole day," Cabrera said. "Sometimes I take it for batting practice. I'm really proud of it. It was an amazing run. It was good that Tom came out and gave it to me."

After all, the ring will last a lot longer than three months.

Schilling checks in: Ace Curt Schilling is keeping in touch with manager Terry Francona via phone while he rehabs his ankle at the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz.

"He called last night to give his two cents on Ortiz's home run. He liked it. He wanted to know why [Matt] Clement came out of the game," quipped Francona.

The manager spoke with Schilling again prior to Friday's game.

"He said he had a pretty long day, which is good," Francona said. "I know he threw yesterday and he's going to wait to see how he feels this afternoon to maybe go throw, or wait till tomorrow. He can do it between morning and afternoon sessions or he can do it in the afternoon. He's got a catcher there who is at his availability."

Shoppach likely for Saturday: Francona did consider starting Kelly Shoppach behind the plate Friday night, considering things went so smoothly when the rookie caught David Wells five days ago. However, Francona thought it would be more beneficial for Jason Varitek to get Saturday off, since it is a day game after a night game. Bronson Arroyo will pitch Saturday's game for the Sox.

Damon loses beard: Sox center fielder Johnny Damon scratched up his face earlier this week by running into the railing in front of the Boston bullpen while trying to make a catch. The battle scars are now more noticeable, thanks to Damon shaving his beard off before Thursday's game.

"Well, I wanted to show off the scars," quipped Damon.

In truth, the cuts are easier to treat sans the beard, which is why he will go without his caveman look for a little while.

After Thursday's game had already started, Damon -- who wasn't in the lineup -- decided he might as well shave his mustache as well, so he went into the clubhouse to do so.

While Damon went with the beard for nearly all of last season (only a charity-driven shave left him cleanshaven for a short stretch), he has shaved the beard and then grown it back several times since Spring Training.

As for his health, Damon says he's doing OK, despite the cuts and the four stitches that had to be placed above his right eye.

"The stitches come out in a couple of days," said Damon. "This thing might stay with me for a month or so. I have to take good care of it. A lot of sunscreen. Sunscreen is good."

Renteria's bunt: In the aftermath of Thursday's emotional win, Renteria's bunt single with two outs in the ninth seemed to be as much a focal point as the latest walk-off home run by David Ortiz.

Francona had no inkling that Renteria was going to lay one down.

"I was surprised," said Francona. "I think everybody in the whole ballpark was thinking, 'Hit this ball off the wall, let's get this game tied'. Hits are hits. Getting on base is getting on base. That was a good play."

Youkilis will stick to corners: Though Francona inserted Kevin Youkilis at second base in the late stages of Monday's blowout loss, he indicated it won't be a regular thing.

"I'm not sure that's fair to him," Francona said. "He's still learning first base. I'm just not sure that's fair. In an emergency, we could certainly do it. It was one of those games where, he's been taking grounders every day, let's throw him out there for a couple of innings."

On deck: Arroyo, who was shelled in his last start against the Orioles, will try to rebound on Saturday. He'll be opposed by Bartolo Colon.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.