Candid Cabrera: Tigers star not content hitting singles; 'I want to find my power back'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit – Every night it seems, Miguel Cabrera is knocking some Hall-of-Famer down a peg on the all-time hits and RBI list.

He passed Roberto Alomar in RBIs on Tuesday and now he’s got Sammy Sosa and Gary Sheffield in his sights. On the hits list, he’s passed Lou Gehrig and Tony Perez this week – Chipper Jones, you are next.

Miguel Cabrera

There will be a day when these daily milestones will mean something to him. But not right now.

“I mean, the way my season is going, I am more worried about that right now,” he said. “I am working to make my adjustments, to get better at-bats and to produce more.”

It’s not like Cabrera is scuffling. He’s hitting .297 with a .364 on-base average and leading the Tigers with 18 RBIs. But he’s hit just one home run in 184 plate appearances and he’s slugging a career-low .364.

And talking in front of his locker before the game Wednesday, it clearly is bothering him that the power hasn’t come back 11 months after surgery to repair a torn bicep.

“I told myself that I thought I was ready for the season,” he said. “But when the season came, everything was too fast. I have to do a lot of adjusting this season to try to get back to my normal position at home plate and try to produce.”

For the record, manager Ron Gardenhire says almost on a daily basis that he has a long list of things he worries about, but Cabrera isn’t one of them.

“All I know is, he’s barreling the ball right now and that’s all we can ask,” he said. “Whether it’s going out of the park or not, he’s getting his hits.”

Miguel Cabrera

Gardenhire, though, understands that the expectations on a former Triple Crown winner and future Hall-of-Famer are different, especially one who is on the books for $184 million through 2023.

“I can’t speak for the fans or anybody else, I can only speak for myself,” Gardenhire said. “If he’s hitting .300, I’m OK with it. If the ball goes out of the park, I’m OK with it. We just need him in our lineup. If he’s hitting line drives and if he’s driving in the runs he’s supposed to, we’ll all be just fine.”

Cabrera, though, very forthrightly, said he would not be content hitting .300 with reduced power.

“No, I want to find my power back,” he said. “I feel like I can produce more. Right now I am taking my hits, taking the ball where they pitch me. But I am trying to find that right spot at home plate and be freer.

“Your average will go back and forth. You can’t control average. I want to hit for more power because when you do that you produce and you help your team score more runs. Also, when you hit for power you put more pressure on the other team.”

Cabrera is 36. He was asked if he was worried that his power outage was a function of age.

“I don’t need to worry,” he said. “I need to go out there and work and see what happens.”

He’s battled through an assortment of injuries the last few years, as well, including core surgery three years ago. He only slightly conceded the injuries could be a factor.

“In one moment I would say no, the injuries aren’t the reason,” Cabrera said. “But I talk to a lot of guys who had the same injury and they say it’s going to take some time. And I say, ‘I don’t have too much time. I’ve got to produce.’ People aren’t going to understand that.

“It’s not time for excuses. I am not an excuse guy. If this is the way it is, then it’s the way it is. Am I worried, no. Am I working hard, yes. I am working hard to get back to my normal position.”

Cabrera has been making adjustments to his stance and where he holds his hands. He said he’s been too anxious at the plate, starting his swing too soon which causes his front shoulder to fly open and his head ends up looking out toward left field.

“That’s not the way I hit,” he said. “The way I hit is to stay inside the ball and I am trying to get my station in the right position.”

He has the fourth best hard-hit rate (50.8 percent) in the American League, according to Fangraphs. But his fly ball percentage (29.8) is the second lowest of his career. Most of his hard-hit balls are on the ground.

“I feel I am getting close,” Cabrera said. “It’s funny because last week I went 0-for-4 but I hit three fly balls. So, I was like excited I hit the ball in the air. I am trying to find the right spot to hit the ball with more power.”

Getting the ball on the barrel and in the air will be the indicator Cabrera is looking for.

“When I hit fly balls, it doesn’t matter if they don’t go out,” he said. “If I can hit fly balls, line drives consistently, and I feel my extension and everything working together, sooner or later the power will come back.”

Cabrera is 34 home runs short of 500 for his career. Like Tiger Woods chasing Jack Nicklaus' record for wins in majors, it must seem so close yet so very far right now.

"I don't try to think about it, but with the internet, they tell you everything," Cabrera said. I don't want to put pressure on myself, I don't want to do that. I just want to go out and play my game."

Admittedly, though, 500 home runs is a milestone he will celebrate.

"More for my family and for the city of Detroit," he said. "Like I say in the past, Detroit has been so great for me. I appreciate the way they've treated me here. I always try to do everything I can do to get better and win more games for them."

Marlins at Tigers

First pitch: 1:10 p.m., Thursday

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM

Scouting report

RHP Trevor Richards (1-5, 4.44), Marlins: He has a five-pitch mix, but relies mostly on a four-seam fastball (90-91 mph), change-up and cutter. A pitch-to-contact guy, his 5.47 FIP (fielding independent pitching) suggests he’s had some rough luck. Opponents are hitting just .181 with a 35 percent whiff rate against his change-up.  

LHP Matthew Boyd (4-4, 3.41), Tigers: The home run ball has bit him this month. He’s yielded five home runs in his last three starts (16.1 innings), after giving up just two in his first seven starts (44.1 innings). Three of the five have been against his four-seam fastball.

Twitter @cmccosky