Returning to third base, Cabrera slims down
Avila: Slugger sheds 20-25 pounds for move to hot corner
DETROIT -- Time will tell whether Miguel Cabrera can make the move back to third base, as the Tigers have planned. As the reigning American League batting champion prepares for his big test at the hot corner in Spring Training, his effort is unquestioned.
Cabrera wrapped up the heart of his offseason workouts on Friday, and is expected to be an early arrival to Spring Training next week, well ahead of the first scheduled workout for position players Feb. 23. When he gets to Lakeland, Fla., there will be a little less of him to go around.
Cabrera's Tigers teammate, Alex Avila, told ESPN's Baseball Tonight on Friday that Cabrera has lost 20-25 pounds in his offseason workouts. That would put Cabrera in the range of 250-255 pounds heading into camp. Another source echoed that math.
Cabrera estimated his weight last Spring Training at about 270 pounds. However, his weight fluctuates over the course of the season.
Avila has been working out with Cabrera this winter, just as he did last offseason. They share the same personal trainer, Radhi Muhammad, and also work out with former Tiger and current free agent Magglio Ordonez. Marlins All-Star Hanley Ramirez, who's transitioning to third base like Cabrera, has been working out with them, as well.
The question surrounding Cabrera ever since the Tigers announced his move to third base has been whether he could find a weight where he could feel comfortable at the plate and still possess strength he likes behind his swing. Every indication since then has suggested that Cabrera has been working hard to make this move work.
The weight loss, however, hasn't been sudden. Cabrera was working out on his agility and range -- and, yes, his weight -- early this offseason, long before a position change became a realistic possibility. Once the Tigers realized Victor Martinez would miss the season and they began pursuing free agent Prince Fielder, Cabrera was already lighter than last season.
Muhammad has been enthusiastic about Cabrera's work. On Friday, he tweeted a photo of Cabrera and Ordonez on the final day of their workouts together.
"Last day," Muhammad said. "Working hard!!!"
Muhammad told MLB.com later that Cabrera will spend next week continuing his running and conditioning program until he arrives at Lakeland.
Cabrera will still be large for a third baseman, even if he loses a few more pounds over the course of camp. Joe Sheehan wrote a piece for SI.com two weeks ago in which he looked through previous seasons to find players who have manned third base at 245 pounds or more. The recent examples he listed were limited to Giants star Pablo Sandoval, Reds All-Star Scott Rolen and current Phillies player Jim Thome, who arrived in the big leagues as a third baseman in Cleveland during the mid-90s before shifting to first.
The important number for the Tigers, however, isn't what's comfortable for historic standards, but what's comfortable for Cabrera as he approaches his 29th birthday on April 18. He was always a rangy first baseman over his three-plus seasons there as a Tiger, but he has long considered himself a third baseman at heart.
Cabrera will need a strong, quick first step to make the plays he's expected to make at third. Reducing his weight, balancing that weight, and focusing on lower-body strength will be key for him in that.