Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera reported to spring training Monday for the first time this season and he managed to catch Tigers manager Brad Ausmus off guard.
“I was a little surprised to see him,” Ausmus said. “We were waiting on the special treadmill. But it is good to see him.”
The biggest surprise may not have been that Cabrera reported to camp earlier than most expected, but rather his impressive shape. In fact, he looks to be in better physical form than he did at the end of last season. This is also something that Ausmus picked up on immediately.
“He stayed in shape the whole time, because I had talked to him and he sent me a picture. I could tell that he wasn’t sitting on the couch eating Cheetos.” Ausmus said.
Though Cabrera is not allowed to run or take infield practice yet, he has been cleared to hit and throw a baseball. According to him, that is all he needs to be successful.
“I don’t run so you don’t have to worry. I don’t steal bases. If they’re asleep, I’ll go.” Cabrera said.
One of the biggest questions of spring training remains whether or not the Tigers first baseman will be ready for Opening Day. There is no doubt Cabrera wants to be ready when the season begins, but he also knows he has to be smart about how he goes about getting prepared. Rather than making any guarantees about Opening Day, Cabrera left all of his options open.
“I want to be ready for Opening Day. You don’t know what’s going to happen. I think it’s too early to say. Let’s wait and see.” Cabrera said.
That being said, he knows that the most difficult part of his rehab process is in the rear view mirror as he gets closer and closer to 100% everyday.
“I think the hard part is over. I was three months unable to walk, unable to do anything. I think that time is over.” said Cabrera.
Towards the end of last season, Cabrera had to tweak his swing a bit to compensate for his injuries. This may have messed with his mechanics to some extent, but he does not seem to be worried at all about getting his old swing back.
“When you feel comfortable, when everything’s going right with your body, you don’t worry about how good your mechanics are right now. I think your swing’s going to come naturally if you practice every day.” Cabrera said.
Another concern would be the number of plate appearances that he will be able to get in spring training, especially considering that he is currently only cleared to hit and throw. This is also something that Cabrera shows very little concern about. He seems very confident that he will get the work in that he needs to be ready when the time is right.
“Everybody says you need 80 to 100 at-bats to get ready but normally I would say 50 or 60,” he said. “It depends on how you are feeling. It doesn’t matter how many swings you take or how many at-bats you get in spring training. When you step in the box in April it’s a different feeling. It’s different because you are going to play a whole game and not four or five innings.”
The Tigers superstar is obviously excited and eager about getting on the field with his teammates, but he also understands that will not happen until he is 100% physically. There is no way the Tigers are going to rush him back just for the sake of having him play Opening Day. Ausmus and Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski know just how important it is to have Cabrera for the long hall this season and will do what it necessary to make that happen, even if it means pushing his return back a while.