One of the biggest story lines this spring is Miguel Cabrera and his new svelte form, eliciting the ubiquitous “best shape of his life” clichés from every corner of the internet. Could this be the year that he slims down and recaptures his previous role as an offensive force for the Tigers?
Most likely not, though if Miggy can keep his weight under control and otherwise stay healthy, he could prove to be a solid contributor for Detroit’s 2020 squad. Now that he has arrived in Lakeland and is back on the baseball grind, let us take a look at his spring training so far.
The biggest change coming into camp was Cabrera’s approach to fitness, in large part due to adjustments made in his diet. With his 37th birthday looming ahead in April, the future Hall of Famer seems to be aware that he needs to do whatever he can to prolong his battle against Father Time.
According to Jason Beck with MLB.com, he has been working on his food intake, quoted in saying, “I try to eat more vegetables, try to eat more healthy stuff.” Cabrera added, “I’m the same weight I’d been in 2015, ‘16, so I don’t know. But last year I think I was heavy. I think I cut a lot of weight from last year to this year.”
Chris McCosky with the Detroit News noted that Cabrera has been doing more than just tinkering with his diet this past offseason, but also engaged in a “total-body workout system devised by trainer Adam Boily, who owns the System8 gym in Fort Lauderdale.” This program focuses on eight systems of the human body: digestive, endocrine, nervous, skeletal, muscle, cardiovascular, integumentary (hair, skin, nails) and respiratory.
Jeff Seidel with the Detroit Free Press commented on how Cabrera slimmed down both in his face and his midsection, again owing his new slender form to cutting down on carbohydrate-rich foods and focusing on fresh vegetables. In Seidel’s report, he quoted manager Ron Gardenhire’s take on the work his aging slugger has put in.
“He put forth the effort. We talked about it before the season ended last year. He told us that’s what he was going to do. He was going to get himself into really good shape and lose weight, because he wants to play first base. Whether that happens or not, I want him to play all season. We’ll talk about it. That will be conversations that we will see as we go.”
From the sounds of it, Cabrera still yearns to play first base on defense, but if he wants to make it through a 162-game season healthy, that is not likely going to be an option. However, his enthusiasm and willingness to perform drills as if he expected to contribute with his glove is rather encouraging for a guy who was too heavy to field the position a year ago.
One quote included in all of the articles published by the media stands out from the rest when searching for Cabrera’s incentive for making his recent changes.
“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 and to not feel like something is bothering me. But I want to go out there and feel natural and not think about anything. Just react.”
One thing for sure is that Cabrera appears to be motivated, which is a welcomed sign in an otherwise bleak outlook for the 2020 season. While Cabrera has continued to hit the ball hard despite his precipitous statistical decline, his weight loss will likely help alleviate one of his biggest issues: his knees. Without those two critical joints that allow him to drive the ball with authority, he will continue to remain a diminished version of his former self.
Speaking of driving the ball, Cabrera has already had some swings in the batting cage this spring, and so far things are looking good.
According to Seidel, Cabrera has been able to do things in the batting cage this spring that he has not been able to do in quite a while, most notably his ability to spray line drives to every part of the field — not just with accuracy, but also with power. Seidel credits this improvement to the reduced stress on Cabrera’s knees, allowing him to rediscover the aforementioned power in his swing.
Will this be the year that Miguel Cabrera’s best-shape-of-his-life narrative come to fruition? Tigers fans will find out soon enough, as the spring training season officially kicks off on Friday in the traditional opening exhibition game against Lakeland local Southeastern University.