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Notes: Cabrera compared with the greats

Notes: Cabrera compared with the greats

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NEW YORK -- They meet this weekend for three games, reigning three-time American League Gold Glove shortstop Derek Jeter of the Yankees and the Angels' Orlando Cabrera, whose credentials as a candidate to end Jeter's run are impeccable.

Those who watch Cabrera on a regular basis have a hard believing that Jeter -- or anyone else -- can match the consistent level of excellence displayed by the man from Colombia with one Gold Glove in his possession, from 2001 with Montreal.

Coming into Friday night's series opener at Yankee Stadium, Cabrera had committed one error in 200 total chances for a Major League-best .995 fielding percentage among shortstops. He's participated in 38 double plays in 47 games.

Jeter had eight errors in 207 chances (.961), and had a hand in 37 double plays in 43 games.

Range factor -- an imprecise science clouded by many variables, mainly the constitution of a pitching staff -- favors Jeter, 4.74 to 4.47.

Among those who marvel at Cabrera's excellence are Angels first-base and infield coach Alfredo Griffin and front-office advisor Preston Gomez, a former Major League manager. Griffin played shortstop for 20 years in the Majors, claiming a Gold Glove in 1985, and Gomez has observed elite shortstops for more than six decades.

"He studies the game, knows the game," Griffin said of Cabrera. "He knows what the pitchers are going to throw, which allows him to position himself and anticipate. Plus, he has great hands. He never bobbles a ball -- unless it's a very bad hop.

"I was more aggressive, quicker side to side. It took me a while to have the intelligence to become a shortstop. I'd take sure hands and intelligence over range every time. And Orlando has the smartest glove."

Gomez reaches back to two of the greats from the 1960s, Luis Aparicio and Maury Wills, for shortstops who brought the level of intelligence to the position that Cabrera does.

"From the neck up, this son of a gun is as good as any of them," said Gomez, who is traveling with the club. "I just told him that the one thing you can't teach is instincts; he has that ability to understand the game, know where to be. Maury Wills was like that, and Aparicio was very smart.

"Orlando thinks like a manager. He's always studying the game, thinking about situations. Watch him in the dugout during a game, and he's always talking to somebody, a teammate, sharing some insight. He doesn't make mistakes. He's not as fast as some guys, but he's a great baserunner. Wills was like that; Aparicio, too."

For those who appreciate shortstops, compliments come no higher than being linked with Wills and Aparicio.

Willits sits again: Leadoff man Reggie Willits was given another day to rest the tight right hamstring he tweaked stealing second base on Wednesday night in Detroit.

"If I'm not in there tomorrow," Willits said, referring to Saturday's Yankee Stadium matinee, "it's not because of the leg. Between yesterday and today, it's 100 times better. With a night game and then a day game [on Saturday], you have maybe 12 hours to recover, so it's a good decision to give it one extra day."

Reviewing video of the play, Willits called it a "fluke deal. I slid into second, the ball got away, I jumped up quick and kind of fired off the leg. That's when I did it."

Willits is hitting .342 with a .422 on-base percentage, and he's 11-for-11 in steals. He's been the primary replacement in left for Garret Anderson, who continues to make progress in his recovery from a tear in his right hip flexor.

Roenicke ready: With manager Mike Scioscia missing the final two games of the series to attend son Matt's graduation from Crespi High School in Encino, Calif., bench coach Ron Roenicke is ready to assume the reins.

Roenicke has served as a coach for Scioscia for the full eight years of his run in Anaheim, the past two as bench coach. A switch-hitting outfielder who grew up in the Dodgers system with Scioscia, Roenicke aspires to a managerial career and welcomes the challenge.

"I did it for three games last year, and they were at home," Roenicke said. "There are things I'd do a little different than he does, a little different style, but it's basically the same. We're aggressive, especially with our team. We can't sit back and try to outslug you."

Modest Kendrick: Second baseman Howie Kendrick said that he was excited about the opportunity to play again at Yankee Stadium "with all of its history. You think about Babe Ruth and all the legends who have played here, it's a great opportunity to play in the same ballpark as them."

Kendrick, who took pictures in Monument Park beyond the center-field wall when the Angels had a four-game series in Yankee Stadium last August, said that he didn't remember much about the games "except I got a few hits."

A few hits, indeed. He batted .583, going 7-for-12 in The House That Ruth Built, with two RBIs. The Angels split the four games.

Up next: Kelvim Escobar (5-2, 2.82 ERA) faces Chien-Ming Wang (3-3, 4.28 ERA) on Saturday at Yankee Stadium at 10:05 a.m. PT.

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

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