Day 10: Why Miguel Cabrera gets it

I am not going to go on my blog and complain about spring training. It was 86 degrees and sunny today in Lakeland, while it was maybe half that temperature back home.

That said, listening to Miguel Cabrera talk about Venezuelan food after his Wednesday workout, around lunchtime, was killing me.

“This thing, arepa, it’s like bread, but they make it with corn,” Cabrera told reporters when asked about his favorite food. “We put everything [in it]: Cheese, steak, everything. It’s so good, so I’ve got to stop.”

It makes me hungry just writing it. It has to make him hungry describing it.

Yet when another reporter asked him if he missed it, Cabrera was fine.

“No. Right now, no,” he said, pointing to his head.

Miguel Cabrera gets it. If he wants to make this move to third base work, if he wants to move better — and especially important, if he wants to remain a durable, productive player well into his 30s — he can’t eat like he used to.

“It’s hard to stop that,” he said. You eat all your life like that, and you’ve got to change.”

He’s serious about this. He has someone helping him out with that.

“It’s kind of helped me a little bit,” he said of his new diet. “You know, you’ve got to sacrifice, you’ve got to do it, and you’ve got to work hard to get better. That’s what I want, to get better every day and try to do my best.”

Cabrera didn’t get into too many specifics a couple weeks ago when he talked about his workout program and his weight and his move to third base, but that was then. As he moves around third base, as he moves around Tigers spring training, as he works out separately in the early morning, he’s in a very happy place. He’s a loud presence in team workouts, in a constructive way, encouraging guys, recognizing nice plays, teasing hitters who had to face Justin Verlander Wednesday morning.

When I wrote about Cabrera’s move to third base a few weeks ago, I wrote that it would be a challenge, but that his enthusiasm about the move and determination to make it work were the strongest points in his favor. I think his enthusiasm is more than even I expected.

“I’m happy,” he said, “because I’ve got Prince hitting behind me. We have a very good team. We’ve got a chance to win more games. I’m happy because I see Verlander, he’s more strong.

“I see a lot of things around me. I see these guys work hard [like] Peralta. I think when you’re around great guys like that who want to win, you enjoy it more. And like I said, I like to play third. They gave me a chance to play third again, so I don’t want to miss the opportunity. I want to do much better over there. I want to be in the best shape I can be to move around at third base.”

Just as encouraging for the Tigers, and especially for Cabrera’s agents, is the fact that he’s doing this while looking towards the second half of his career. He didn’t mention anyone by name, but he has seen injuries hamper players in their mid-30s. Carlos Guillen, one of Cabrera’s mentors, is a non-roster invite in Mariners camp. Magglio Ordonez, with whom Cabrera worked out the past two offseasons, might well be done despite his great shape.

Cabrera wasn’t around when Dmitri Young was a Tiger, but Young was in Venezuela this year trying to revive his career. Weight, among other things, took a toll on Young’s legs.

“Everybody talks about the knees,” said Cabrera, whose Tigers contract runs through 2015. “When you [get to] 30-something, you start to have problems with your knees, with your hamstrings, obliques, back. So you’ve got to see other players at 37, 36. They play for a long career and they don’t have injuries, and you have to look to them. They’re in good shape. So why don’t you do it? Why don’t you follow the right step? When you get to that age, if you’re lucky, if you have a chance to play to 37, 38, you’re still in your best shape.”

If Cabrera someday ends up in the Hall of Fame — look at the similar batters list on Cabrera’s baseball-reference page, and you see that path — this might be the defining point that gets him there. If this Tigers infield works, even to a respectable level, this might be a pretty important point to a Tigers championship season.

Actual workout note of the day: Justin Verlander continues to approach his spring training workouts with game-like intensity, and his second session against live hitters Wednesday was no different. He had a game-like tempo, he shook off signs once in a while so he could work on particular pitches, and (like most pitchers in camp) he declined to use the batting practice screen.

Hitters are catching up to pitchers, but not really to Verlander. So imagine Verlander’s surprise when 20-year-old Avisail Garcia smacked a comebacker that skirted Verlander’s feet along the ground on its way to center field. It was close enough that Verlander paused a few seconds and breathed a visible sign of relief, and an audible exclamation.

“That wasn’t a little grounder,” Verlander confirmed. “That was hit hard.”

How close?

“Really close,” Verlander answered.

Actual workout note of the day, part 2: What breaks up a boring spring training workout better than sliding drills? No much, I say. Maybe sliding drills that involve Cabrera, Fielder and Delmon Young. Pictures below.

Non-workout note of the day: Leyland has a lengthy note of caution for reporters Wednesday not to jump to conclusions about the fifth starter. A lot of the candidates will get an inning on Friday against Florida Southern, followed by a piggyback start Wednesday against the Braves, but a different guy will get the start each time.

“I can promise you, the minute I find out about the starters, we’ll have a press conference and you’ll know it,” Leyland said. “I’ll announce it. You won’t have to worry about.”

Quote of the day: “Gold or old?” — Jim Leyland, when informed that former Red Sox manager turned ESPN analyst Terry Francona called him the gold standard of managers on television.

7 Comments

He’s lost weight since he’s been in camp. I can tell from the pictures. If I was him, I’d hire a nutritionist or personal chef to prepare his meals. Maybe pigout on his favorites 1 day a week. Also, I’d be pumping myself full of B vitamins and protein for stress and energy. B vitamins are great for stress reduction and energy.

He actually does have someone helping him out with nutrition and diet, I was told. I forgot to mention that part in here.

Going to be great year!

I love the energy from the whole team.

I like sliding drills. Looks like Prince is ready to pop up and slam the 2ndbaseman if he hasn’t gotten out of the way. They also look like linebackers without pads.
You know, it seems like the entire winter went by quicker than these last 10 days have. I still have a week to wait.

An arepa:

http://simplementeveneciuela.blogspot.com/2010/10/la-arepa-el-pan-nuestro-de-cada-dia-iv.html

It s not really bread. Bread made with corn or mayze could be used by the Red Wings

Seems like there are lots of restaurants and mobile trucks selling these arepas in the bigger cities. Seems there are many versions of it both in the Dominican and Venezelua. It’s nice to hear Miggy speak openly about his diet and what kind of food he likes, just being a little more personable. Don’t be shy, big fella, we love hearing from you.

This is a really good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.

Brief but very precise information… Many thanks for
sharing this one. A must read post!

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