Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera shows up slimmer, which could mean big things this season
LAKELAND, Fla. — Clearly, Miguel Cabrera worked his butt off during the offseason.
And his gut.
As well as the chubbiness around his face.
Cabrera looks as if he had lost about 25 pounds when he showed up at the Detroit Tigers' clubhouse Monday morning. His face was noticeably thinner, and a compression shirt hung loose over a significantly smaller gut.
“When I hugged him, I actually reached around him,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said and laughed. “Sorry.”
Cabrera cut out the carbs, ate more vegetables and got himself into better shape.
“Hola!” he shouted to Niko Goodrum.
When Cabrera is in the clubhouse, and he’s in a good mood, the vibe spreads quickly. Goodrum and Cabrera hugged.
“How you doing?” Goodrum asked.
That’s the big question, right?
Cabrera looks good — and that's a great start — but how is his body?
I have no idea how long Cabrera will keep the weight off, or how long his knees will hold up, or how many games he will play, or if his power will return, but it’s not easy to lose weight, especially when you are inching toward 40 (he turns 37 in April).
The weight loss alone shows his dedication and motivation, and those are significant factors for the Tigers in the long term. They still owe him $124 million in the next four seasons (it could be longer than that if he’s in the top 10 in MVP voting). And it’s imperative for him to keep the weight off, take stress off his knees, stay healthy and keep himself in the lineup.
“He put forth the effort,” Gardenhire said. “We talked about it before the season ended last year. He told us that’s what he was going to do. He was going to get himself into really good shape and lose weight, because he wants to play first base. Whether that happens or not, I want him to play all season. We’ll talk about it. That will be conversations that we will see as we go.”
First base for now
During infield drills Monday, Cabrera played first base and he started getting into it, smiling and joking and yelling some trash talk in Spanish.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I’m trying to get into shape and be ready for the season.”
It is not clear how much he’ll play there this year.
“As the days go on, we’ll see how he holds up,” Gardenhire said.
There is no reason in the world for him to play first base. But I have a feeling they are letting him work there right now just to keep him happy and engaged during this portion of spring training.
“You are talking about one of the better players to ever play the game,” Gardenhire said. “The guy loves baseball and wants to play. He did what he really needed to do. That was to lose weight and get himself to where he can get on the field more and keep himself on the field more. Now, it’s take it day by day with him. But he’s our leader, there’s no doubt about it. When he’s here, everything gets a little louder. The guys look up to him.”
Cabrera said all the right things Monday. About doing anything Gardenhire wants. About playing wherever they want.
But you know he wants to play first. That will never change.
Neither will this: He doesn’t want to mess with his swing anymore.
“The last three years, I have changed my swing a lot,” he said. But he didn’t feel comfortable.
“I want to go out there and feel natural and react,” he said. “I don’t want to think about anything.”
Motivated and disciplined
Last year, Cabrera had a miserable season, with only 12 home runs and 59 RBIs in 136 games — downright mortal numbers for a future Hall of Famer.
“Last year, I was not happy with my numbers and the way we played,” he said. “All the losses we have. I try to come here to compete and win more games.”
Cabrera looked in the mirror after the season and saw an out-of-shape baseball player who couldn’t stay on the field. And he decided to make changes.
“Last year, I think I was heavy,” he said. “I’m the same weight I was in the 2015 and '16 season.”
Interesting note: He hit .338 with 18 home runs in 119 games in 2015 and had 38 home runs in 158 games in 2016.
His motivation is obvious. “I always feel I have to prove something,” he said. “I’m always motivated I can do better. Hopefully, this year, I can do a better job and put up some better numbers. You always have to have a goal. My goal was to get into shape and be ready for this season.”
Clearly, he accomplished that goal. Now, he will try to stay in the lineup and put up numbers again.
And a smaller Miggy is a huge start.
Contact Jeff Seidel: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.