Miggy sees healthy future on the horizon
Tigers slugger halfway through rehab, expects full Spring Training
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera earned a second consecutive American League Most Valuable Player Award in part for his ability to play through injuries in 2013. He does not expect to have to do the same in 2014.
As he talked with reporters Thursday evening on a conference call, he sounded confident he should be ready to work out at full strength when Spring Training opens in February.
"I'm doing rehab right now," Cabrera said, just over two weeks since he had surgery to repair core muscles damaged by a groin tear.
"I'm doing great. I'm right where I want to be. I feel much better this week. I want to be ready for Spring Training and the first day [of workouts], I'm going to be ready to do anything."
That was the expectation when Cabrera had the surgery at the end of October. In fact, he's right on schedule.
Cabrera is nearing the midway point of the six- to eight-week rehabilitation portion of his recovery. Unless there's a setback, Cabrera should have enough time before Spring Training to have close to a normal offseason workout program leading up to camp.
He's confident enough that he's already talking about ways he can improve as a hitter to build on the season that built off of his 2012 Triple Crown season.
"Every day I try to get better as a hitter, I try to get more consistent," he said. "I try to always learn something every day to get more comfortable at home plate. I think you have to work hard every day, and that's my goal."
Past history shows that surgeries like Cabrera's shouldn't have a major impact. As a local example, former Tiger Magglio Ordonez had sports hernia surgery early in his first season in Detroit in 2005, came back for that season's second half and struggled with lower-body strength. But he then enjoyed back-to-back standout seasons in 2006 and 2007.
Ordonez was 31 years old when he had his surgery. Cabrera will turn 31 in April. The body frames are different, but the bigger Cabrera has had a much better track record of durability than Ordonez, whose injury history began with a catastrophic knee injury in a freak outfield collision in 2004.
So far, Cabrera has had no such major injuries. His only freak injury was a sprained ankle while scrambling back to first base on a pickoff attempt in Cleveland during the final week of the 2010 season. In fact, his durability has been an underrated strength; this year and 2010 are the only seasons in the last 10 that he didn't play at least 157 games.
This was also the first season in which injuries seemed to accumulate on him. Now that he's 30, that shouldn't be a surprise.
Before the groin injury, there was the abdominal injury that bothered him from late July through August. Before that, back soreness and a hip flexor injury bothered him for most of July and kept him out of consideration for the Home Run Derby at the All-Star festivities.
"The last month, it was tough because I had two injuries," Cabrera said. "It was tough to perform at the level I did [for] five months before. Everything went right in the situation and we went to the playoffs. That was our concern. We were focused on that. I never think like I want to win the MVP."
None of those injuries resulted solely from plays on defense. More often, it was baserunning that seemed to tweak or aggravate injuries for Cabrera as the season's second half wore on. As explained late in the year regarding the groin injury, side-to-side movements -- such as those often required at third base -- didn't bother Cabrera so much as accelerating or charging straight ahead.
Cabrera spent virtually all season at third base. His lone start at designated hitter came Sept. 19, a home game that everyday DH Victor Martinez started at catcher. Martinez is now entering the final year of his contract, leaving the Tigers to decide long term what to do with their DH slot.
Cabrera, who loves playing third base, has two years left on his contract, at which point he'll be 32. Prince Fielder, whose arrival prompted the Tigers to move Cabrera to third, has seven years left on his deal. Put the situations together, and what happens with DH and the corner-infield alignment will likely be the next big issue for the Tigers to address in the next year or two.
But that's down the road. The immediate concern for next year, getting Cabrera healthy, seems to be going well.
"It's very nice to have this in my house," Cabrera said of another MVP trophy. "Hopefully next year, we'll have a chance to go to the playoffs and play for a World Series."