Detroit Tigers: Miguel Cabrera ready for a bounce-back season

Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Plagued by knee pain the last three years, a markedly slimmer and fitter Miguel Cabrera might just have one more big year in store for the Detroit Tigers.

Now eight years removed from his Triple Crown campaign of 2012, Detroit Tigers designated hitter/first baseman Miguel Cabrera is operating under a theory entering the 2020 season that less is more.

As in, less Cabrera might equal more production.

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Cabrera has dealt with pain in his right knee the last three seasons and has been a shell of his former self over that period, so the soon-to-be 37-year-old with the two MVP trophies made some significant changes to his training regimen over the offseason.

The hope was that Cabrera could be closer to the hitter that slashed .316/.393/.563 with 38 home runs in 2016, earning his 11th All-Star appearance, and less like the guy who played just 304 games over the last three years with a .270/.345/.404 slash line and 31 home runs.

Cabrera won the last of his four career batting titles in 2015, hitting .338, but increasing problems with his knee led him to play more games at the DH spot than in the field in 2019, the first time in his career that had been the case.

Limited to 38 games in 2018 due to a ruptured biceps tendon, Cabrera played in 136 games last season and hit .282/.346/.398 — the worst slugging percentage of his 17-year career — with 12 home runs, 41 run scored and 59 RBI.

Chris McCosky of The Detroit News reported Tuesday Cabrera altered his training routine this offseason and added a platoon of professionals to help him learn new ways to train and maintain his body.

"“I had a lot of people around to help. A good group of people and they worked with me. I just asked them how can I get my knee healthy and get my body right? It was difficult, but I had good people around me and we had good communication.”"

According to Adam Boily, who owns a gym in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Cabrera reached out to him about how to get back to playing and feeling like he did in years past, with a big focus on nutrition/ Nutritionist Scott Getman got Cabrera to buy into a plant-based diet designed to reduce inflammation in his joints, particularly the balky right knee.

After Cabrera took off some weight, Boily built an exercise program designed to get his swing mechanics back to what they had been before he compensated for the inflammation in his knee over the last three years.

"“I don’t want to change my swing anymore. I want to be natural. The last three years I changed my swing a lot to feel comfortable at home plate, so I don’t feel like something is bothering me. I want to go out there and feel natural. Don’t think about anything and just react.”"

The early results this spring have been solid, with three hits in his first six spring training at-bats, including a home run, with four RBI and a walk. He’s struck out once. Cabrera’s homer came Tuesday when he crunched a three-run bomb off New York Mets right-hander Ryley Gilliam in the fifth inning to give Detroit a 4-0 lead in their 9-6 victory.

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Grapefruit League records are meaningless, but it still has to be encouraging for the Detroit Tigers to have three victories in their first four games on the heels of a 47-114 season in 2019 that was the third-worst record of the 21st century and the second-worst in franchise history, topped (bottomed?) only by the 43-119 nightmare of 2003.

Detroit hasn’t finished with a winning record since its was 86-75 in 2016 and hasn’t gone to the postseason since 2014 and it’s not likely either of those streaks will end this season.\n

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But a healthy Cabrera — who enters this season 185 hits shy of the 3,000 mark for his career and 23 home runs away from 500 — could go a long way toward making the Detroit Tigers a more competitive bunch in 2020.