He's been as good a No. 2 hitter as there is in the game, batting .305 and slugging .402 entering Tuesday's game with a career-high 192 hits, stealing 20 bases and giving himself up to advance runners. He's a leading candidate for a Gold Glove -- which would be his second -- having committed just 11 errors through 153 games. And, just as important as all the numbers, he is the glue holding together the American League West champions.
Recite all of that, and you still will not get Orlando Cabrera to label this a great season. Not just yet.
"It's been a good year -- but there's a lot more baseball to play," he said, anticipating with great relish a return to the postseason and a shot at a World Series championship ring to match the one he earned with the Red Sox in 2004.
While every other regular has gone down over the course of the season, Cabrera has been the one constant, remarkable in his endurance and stamina. He has devised his own workout program over the years, lifting weights at home, or at the hotel fitness center on the road. He wakes up in the morning and does exercises near his bed, getting his body in tune.
"I've been lucky, man," he said, grinning. "I wasn't lucky in the beginning."
His second season in the bigs, 1999 in Montreal, ended prematurely when he blew out his left ankle running to first base at notorious Olympic Stadium in August. The following season was interrupted for a month stretch when he separated his right shoulder on Tampa Bay's new turf pursuing a ground ball in mid-July.
"Two years in a row ... I hated that, not playing," Cabrera said. "After that, I've played almost every day."
He played full 162-game schedules in 2001 and 2003 for Les Expos. An elbow strain put him on the disabled list in July 2005, costing him two months. That's the only time since 2001 he played fewer than 153 games.
He'll turn 33 on Nov. 2. He hopes to make his birthday party a continuation of a larger celebration following the Fall Classic. Maybe by then he'll admit that this has been a great season, by his or any standards.
Big bats sit again:
Showing that he attaches a higher priority to good health than home-field advantage, manager Mike Scioscia gave Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson a second straight day of rest on Tuesday. Guerrero is second to Cabrera in games played with 148, while Anderson had been in the lineup 47 of the previous 48 games, 40 in left field.
"They need to recharge," Scioscia said. "Garret will be out there [Wednesday in the matinee series finale]. We'll see with Vlad."
Guerrero, who has been nursing tendinitis in his right triceps since Sept. 6, tested his arm throwing on Tuesday and was shagging flies in the outfield during batting practice, making soft throws. The Angels' MVP candidate wants to get back in right field before the American League Division Series opens on Oct. 3 or Oct. 4. The Angels finish with three games in Oakland over the weekend.
"Vlad prefers playing in the field to DHing," Scioscia said. "But he prefers DHing to not playing."
Echoes of 2002:
As the Wild Card entry, the Angels didn't have home-field advantage in their first two playoff series during their championship run in '02, beating the Yankees in four games in the ALDS and the Twins in five in the ALCS.
They clinched their postseason berth that year on Sept. 26, behind John Lackey in Texas -- three days later than the current division champs.
"In '02, we had four days [at season's end], and this year we have seven," Scioscia said. "It's important to take advantage of it."
Clinching the 2004 AL West title on the second-to-last day of the regular season, the Angels had home-field advantage against eventual champion Boston, but it didn't help. They were swept.
"There were some guys on fumes then," Scioscia recalled. "I don't think there's any area that doesn't benefit from recharging. It's definitely going to benefit a guy like Kelvim [Escobar] now. He can have a couple of power bullpens and go out and pitch on the weekend."
They've made no rotation announcements, but the Angels have lined up their rotation, it appears, to have Lackey, Escobar, Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders start in the ALDS, in that order.
Matthews making progress:
Gary Matthews Jr. said he's getting more comfortable, having played three games in a row after missing 10 games with a sprained ankle. Hitless in eight at-bats, he had two walks in Monday night's 8-7 loss and ran well in the outfield.
"He's drawing some walks, and his at-bats are getting better," Scioscia said.
On Sept. 25 in Angels history: The 1979 club managed by Jim Fregosi wrapped up the first Western Division title in franchise history when Frank Tanana went the distance for a 4-1 win over Kansas City at Anaheim Stadium.
In 1964, Dean Chance became the franchise's first 20-game winner, shutting out the Twins. He would go on to be the youngest Cy Young Award winner at 23.
Saunders (8-4, 4.05) gets the call against Rangers right-hander Luis Mendoza (1-0, 1.93) in the final game of the season between the two clubs.