As sophomore left fielder Daniel Cabrera tried to regain strength in his right hand a couple weeks ago, he shoved it into deep buckets of rice.
Cabrera squeezed his submerged hand in the grains. The slight resistance improved the muscles in his fingers, wrist and hand.
Cabrera injured his hand last December and aggravated it in late March, forcing him out of LSU’s lineup for almost two weeks. Cabrera needed a procedure to help fix the painful issue. His hand weakened.
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The injury affected Cabrera’s swing. His right hand felt weaker than his left, and his right hand stayed on the bat longer.
With the buckets of rice and other forearm exercises, Cabrera has regained the strength in his hand. He refreshed his approach at the plate, too, breaking out of a strikeout-laden slump that followed the hand injury.
Entering Thursday night’s game against Auburn, Cabrera had two doubles, three home runs and six RBIs over LSU’s previous five games.
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“He has one of the nicest swings I've ever seen,” senior right fielder Antoine Duplantis said. "When he's hitting balls to all parts of the field like he's doing right now, that's when he's at his best.
“Hopefully this is that time for him when he's going to start taking off.”
Before the beginning of the season, coach Paul Mainieri said Cabrera needed to be the team’s “MVP” for LSU to have success. Cabrera batted well at first, but his hand injury took him out of a rhythm.
Cabrera came back in mid-April. He struck out a lot when he returned as he lost his approach. His confidence waned. His batting average dipped as low as .292. Mainieri dropped him to seventh in the lineup.
Cabrera looked at videos of his past swings. He simplified his approach in the batter’s box. He focused on hitting the ball the other way.
Maybe, finally, this LSU baseball team has developed its sense of urgency muscles.
“He got more aggressive,” Mainieri said, “the bat speed came back and all of a sudden he hit some balls hard.”
During LSU’s series-opening game against Arkansas, Cabrera hit two home runs for his second multi-homer game of the year. He hit another one on Tuesday against UNO. It landed in the left-field seats, his team-high 12th homer of the season.
Cabrera hasn't struck out in the past six games, and he has pushed his batting average above .300, giving LSU's batting order a needed jolt. Mainieri moved him up to fourth in the lineup.
“We're going to need Daniel Cabrera to be outstanding for us to have any hope of making a really good run in the postseason,” Mainieri said. “It's encouraging to me to see the way he's swinging the bat lately.”