SEIDEL: After Triple Crown, Tigers’ Cabrera trying for an encore

Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera became the first player to hit for the Triple Crown in 45 years with a monster 2012 season. (Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press/MCT)


MCT Columnist

It was early Friday, several hours before the Detroit Tigers’ first official practice of spring training, and there was Miguel Cabrera, working out on his own, running, taking extra batting practice and lifting weights.

On a cool, grey, wet morning, Cabrera completed a workout before he even started the real workout.

Just like last year.

“We are going to do a lot of the same stuff — the same program we did last year,” Cabrera said.

Of course, there is no reason to change anything, not when you are the reigning American League MVP. Not after you won the Triple Crown. Not after you put together one of the greatest seasons in Tigers’ history. Not after leading the Tigers into the World Series.

There’s no resting on his laurels.

Shoot, the Tigers third baseman isn’t even resting on his pillow for long. He is getting up early, focusing on the upcoming season, determined to improve and work his butt off. Literally.

Once again, Cabrera showed up at training camp in great shape.

“I’m excited to see all my teammates, excited to start working out, to get your mind and body set up for the season,” he said.

He was in a buoyant, happy, smiling, talkative mood on Friday morning, joking with teammates and greeting old friends. He hugged Al Kaline by his locker.

“Good to see you,” Kaline said.

“Good to see you,” Cabrera said, smiling.

It was an amazing scene — one of the greatest Tigers of all time hugging one of the greatest Tigers of current time.

But that’s the joy of spring training — it’s the past colliding with the present, while everybody dreams of the future.

In many ways, this was a quiet, subdued start for the Tigers. It was too wet to go on the fields, so most of the work was done indoors. Instead of wowing Tigers fans with massive home runs on the back fields, the players hit in indoor batting cages, out of sight.

Tom Brookens, who will coach third base, went over his signs. The pitchers worked on throwing pitch-outs — a little part of the game that is a big focus this year because small details mean everything.

And Cabrera even took grounders in a batting cage.

“It worked out really good,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We made the best out of a rainy day.”

While fans are excited and filled with anticipation, this team has a relaxed, comfortable vibe.

There are few questions surrounding this team.

The lineup is basically set — except for left field, the team’s fifth starter and the closer — but most of the players know their roles.

And many experts are predicting the Tigers will have another great season — starting with winning the Central Division.

“I love being a target,” Leyland said. “That means you have a good team.

“Do I like this team? Very much. We have a good team. We are supposed to have a very good team. How many wins is that? I don’t know.”

Yes, the Tigers have a good team, filled with potential, loaded with superstars.

Which brings us back to Cabrera.

He could probably just show up and be very good without much work or extra effort.

But he is determined to get even better. He is an MVP winner who is driven to reach a new level, if that’s even possible.

Specifically, he is focusing on his legs, trying to get quicker.

“My first step,” Cabrera said. “Side to side.”

And he figures a little more quickness and agility will help him field slow grounders.

“My goal is to be consistent,” Cabrera said, “try to go out there and play hard every day, try to help my team win, try to push myself to get better every day.”

And that happens every day, early in the morning, when he works out before the work begins.

Just like last year.


Posted by Tribune News Services

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