|Tigers' Miguel Cabrera in company with the likes of Albert Pujols, Vladimir Guerrero|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 18 February 2008 13:09|
Cabrera - who arrived Monday morning in Tigertown - averaged 32 homers and 115 RBIs while hitting .318 the previous four seasons in Florida.
Only Albert Pujols and Vladimir Guerrero have had similar production at the plate since 2004.
Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Jimmie Foxx are only players in baseball history who hit like Cabrera has before the age of 25.
Dontrelle Willis, acquired with Cabrera as part of a blockbuster trade in December, has often said matter-of-factly that Cabrera will be in the Hall of Fame.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland, not known for spouting hyperbole, echoed the a similar sentiment after saying he wanted to help the third baseman become a complete player.
``Hopefully someday when he goes to Cooperstown,'' Leyland said, ``people won't just say he was one helluva hitter.''
Cabrera sounded ready to polish his game in the field after making 23 errors last year and 17 the previous season as an everyday third baseman. He was primarily an outfielder during his first two full years in the majors.
The four-time All-Star wants to make fewer throwing errors, particularly on slow-rolling grounders, and might've took a step toward that goal by shedding some pounds in the offseason.
``No belly,'' Cabrera joked. ``I feel good now.''
Cabrera, listed as 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, was criticized for his conditioning last season. Don't expect Leyland to do the same.
``He knows where he needs to be and where he feels his best,'' Leyland said. ``Some guys are big guys. They're big guys for a reason. I don't want to turn him into Twiggy.''
Cabrera was in awe when he first walked into the Tigers' clubhouse, finding his locker between those of Edgar Renteria and Gary Sheffield and not far from those of friends and fellow Venezuelans Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez.
``It's like a dream come true,'' Cabrera said. ``It's like my first day in the big leagues.''
The cash-strapped Marlins sent Cabrera and Willis, the last players left from their 2003 championship team, to Detroit during the winter meetings in exchange for six prospects.
They simply couldn't afford to pay Cabrera $20-plus million over the next two seasons, or possibly $20 million annually when he becomes a free agent after the 2009 season.
Cabrera was paid $472,000 two years ago, $7.4 million last season and is due to make $11.3 million this year with the Tigers, who avoided arbitration with him and hope to sign the young superstar to a long-term deal.
Cabrera insisted he didn't know how negotiations were going with the Tigers, saying he just wanted to focus on the season.
He plans to lean on Ordonez, the reigning AL batting champion, for advice on adjusting to hitting in a new league.
Hall of Famer Al Kaline doesn't expect that to be a problem.
``I've seen him swing and he's got an unbelievable stroke,'' said Kaline, who works in Detroit's front office. ``It's so effortless the way he gets through the zone so easily.''
Two years ago, Cabrera hit a Marlins-record .339 while joining Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg as the only players to hit 25 homers and 50 doubles in a season before turning 24.
He followed that up with career highs in homers (34) and RBIs (119) last season, continuing a stunning path to stardom since jumping to the majors from Double-A at the age of 20.
Tigers pitcher Nate Robertson saw it coming. He pitched against Cabrera several years ago in a simulated game when both were Marlins prospects.
``He hit a line drive off my backside that I'll never forget,'' Robertson said. ``In the showers, everybody was laughing at me for getting a welt put on me like that by a 17-year-old kid. He was a man-child.''