Enter Dumas and Talavera, two of Cabrera's close friends from his hometown of Nandaime, Nicaragua. Dumas fed Cabrera pitches from the left side and Talavera did so right-handed. They didn't give him much of a break, likely about as long as it took to cross from one side of the box to the other.
"When the season was done last year, I was thinking about my swing from the right side," Cabrera said Saturday. "I did a lot of workouts; every single day, [hitting] righty and lefty, righty and lefty. [It was] a lot of swings."
All the work Cabrera put in during the winter paid off in a big way Saturday when he was selected to play for the NL in the All-Star Game on July 16 at Citi Field.
Cabrera's selection was announced Saturday during the MLB All-Star Selection Show presented by Taco Bell. He's the first Padres position player picked for the game since Adrian Gonzalez was in 2010.
Cabrera, 26, is also the first Padres shortstop pegged to play in the All-Star Game since Tony Fernandez in 1992.
Last week, Padres manager Bud Black said he was planning on having a conversation with NL manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants. His intent was to recommend Cabrera, who is hitting 201 points higher against left-handed pitchers (.396) than he did a year ago.
"He's a dynamic player who has come into his own," Black said on Friday of Cabrera, who was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list that day after missing 17 games with a strained left hamstring.
Cabrera, the former Rule 5 selection from the Rockies in December 2008, has shown spurts of being steady, dependable and even an electric player in each of his first five seasons in the big leagues, offering a speed component and the ability to make difficult plays look easy at a premium position.
But, until this season, he's also been prone to being streaky. His right-handed swing wasn't good and, occasionally, he made lazy errors.
Not this season, as Cabrera took a .300 batting average and a .376 on-base percentage into Saturday's game against the Nationals. According to FanGraphs, his WAR (3.5) ranks the highest among all regular Major League shortstops. He leads the NL with 31 steals despite missing over two weeks.
"He's been good and, for him, I think it solidifies that he's capable of doing that. It's only a third of the season, but it's there. He's been focused and has kept the careless mistakes to a minimum," said third-base coach Glenn Hoffman, who works with the team's infielders.
The only thing that slowed Cabrera was the hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list. When that injury occurred last month, Cabrera was, among other things, concerned that it could take him out of the running for a spot on the All-Star team.
"I was thinking about that … that I lost that chance," he said. "When I got hurt, I felt so sad that day. I thought about the situation and everything. But I made it."
He's on pace to become just the fifth middle infielder in franchise history to hit .300 or better in the first half, according to STATS Inc. Cabrera said that he has every intention of getting better -- All-Star Game nod or otherwise.
"I want to keep doing what I'm doing. I don't want to stop here. I want to keep doing my thing and keep working hard," Cabrera said. "I want to play in the big leagues for a long time. But I don't want to just play 10 years. I want to be special."
From Saturday to Thursday, be sure to return to MLB.com and cast your 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote Sponsored by freecreditscore.com for the final player for each League's All-Star roster.
The voting doesn't end there. The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday, July 16. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.