What Detroit Tigers' C.J. Cron has learned from Miguel Cabrera: He's 'unbelievable'

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

Growing up, C.J. Cron watched Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera from afar.

He then competed against him from 2014-19 as a member of the Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays and Twins. This year, he's teammates with the 11-time All-Star and two-time American League MVP.

"He's a really good, really good leader for the young guys," Cron, 30, said Tuesday on a video conference call.

That's been a frequent refrain for Cabrera's teammates over the years, despite his recent injuries and the Tigers' struggles. Even Cron, entering his seventh MLB season and seven years younger than Cabrera, is soaking up as much as he can.

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Miguel Cabrera, left, talks to first baseman C.J. Cron during Detroit Tigers spring training at TigerTown in Lakeland, Fla., Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.

"It's hard to do what a guy of that caliber does," Cron said. "This is going to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and for me to try to do exactly what he does, I don't know if I'm skilled enough to do that."

Cron may not have Cabrera's natural skills. But his addition to the lineup should give the Tigers an extra dose of right-handed power during the upcoming 60-game season.

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In 140 games for the Rays in 2018, Cron had 30 home runs and 74 RBIs with a .253 batting average. He had another 17 homers and 54 RBIs for the Twins at last season's All-Star break before a nagging thumb injury that required surgery cut his second half to 47 games.

Detroit Tigers C.J. Cron during training camp at Comerica Park in Detroit, Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

Cron's power made an appearance spring training with the Tigers this year, as he posted a slash line of .346/.452/.731 (with one double, three homers and five RBIs) in 12 games.

He made it a point to watch how opposing pitchers handle Cabrera, healthier after dealing with an injured knee last season, especially in hitter-friendly counts this spring. The former AL Triple Crown winner hit .345 with three home runs and seven RBIs.

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"Whether they try to throw the off-speed in an advantage count or if they like to challenge," Cron said. "Just things like that. I can do all of that from the on-deck circle. He's been great. Watching him go about his business has been awesome."

Since joining the Tigers on a one-year, $6.1 million contract in December, Cron has taken a page out of Cabrera's book, aiming to help younger players enjoy every moment, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I remember when I was young," he said. "You're always on your toes. You don't want to mess around too much. You don't want to do anything the wrong way.

"And I think having older guys just being around and making the clubhouse loose goes a long way." 

Cron has the attitude of a veteran leader willing to learn, yet always prepared to teach.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

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Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold