February 5th, 2010

Big Cat to become Miggy's mentor?

bigcat.jpgLooks like the Tigers will be getting another slugger into camp after all. But this one won’t be swinging; he’ll be mentoring.

A report out of Venezuela quotes former Major League All-Star Andres Galarraga saying he has been offered a job by the Tigers to come to Spring Training in an instructional role. Among his duties reportedly would be to serve as a mentor to Miguel Cabrera.

Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski replied Saturday that he wasn’t prepared to discuss Galarraga’s role at this time. (Update: It appears they’re still talking and haven’t finalized it yet, which would explain the hesitation to comment. Still, it sounds like he’s coming.)

If it happens, It would be an interesting match of one of Venezuela’s most revered players and the young star whose talent has drawn comparisons with Galarraga ever since he was a teenager.

Galarraga talked Friday during the Caribbean Series, which matches up the winter ball champions from Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Puerto Rico. This year, it’s being held on Margarita Island in Venezuela.

When Cabrera talked about his battle with alcoholism a few weeks ago, the Tigers talked about having someone with him in Spring Training as part of his counseling program. This sounds quite a bit bigger than that.

Galarraga probably should’ve received a lot more Hall of Fame consideration than he did this year. He was one-and-done when he failed to draw votes from five percent of the total ballots, an amazing fate for someone who hit 399 home runs, put up 1,425 RBIs and was regarded among the best at his position for more than a decade. Magglio Ordonez speaks of him like a national hero, the greatest player to come out of his country. Whenever Ordonez has been compared to him, it’s humbling for him.

Galarraga didn’t find a full-time role until catching on with Montreal at age 26 in 1987, eight years after he signed with the Expos as an amateur free agent, and around the same time Dave Dombrowski was in Montreal’s front office. Cabrera is 26 now, turns 27 in April, and has driven in at least 100 runs on all six of his full big-league seasons. He has  four years with at least a .320 batting average and .940 OPS.

But obviously, Cabrera has some challenges to overcome and some growing up to do.