Tigers' clubhouse 'a little quieter' without Miggy

February 15th, 2024

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The sound of hip-hop music reverberated through the Tigers’ Spring Training clubhouse as players filed in to get ready for their work on Thursday morning. And yet, through the beats, the relative quiet was hard to miss.

The familiar chatter from the center of the clubhouse, from Miguel Cabrera’s locker, was missing. There was no shortage of conversations, from a circle of pitchers at one end of the clubhouse to a gaggle of recent Triple-A Toledo teammates at the other. But that loud voice, that trademark laugh that would get heads to turn across the room to see what was going on, was nowhere to be heard.

“It’s a little quieter,” Spencer Torkelson said.

Kerry Carpenter, who was within earshot of Miggy for most of camp last year, noticed the difference.

“I miss him already,” he said. “It’s weird not seeing him over there.”

In fairness, Tigers camp just officially started for pitchers and catchers. The full squad won’t officially be together until next week. But with most Tigers position players already here, it’s fair to judge the vibe of a clubhouse that just lost its most identifiable member.

For the first time since 2007, the Tigers will have a season without Cabrera. But the general difference goes back longer than that. Before Cabrera, there was Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Pudge Rodriguez. The Tigers have had a veteran star as the center of attention and leadership since 2003, until now.

The Tigers spent the last several years rebuilding around Cabrera. Torkelson, Carpenter and Riley Greene spent their first couple seasons in the big leagues in the background of Cabrera’s chase of 500 home runs, 3,000 hits and a comfortable spot on offensive leaderboards among the greatest hitters of all time.

With Cabrera now retired, it’s the kids’ team now. They believe they’re ready to lead it.

“I mean, that’s Miguel Cabrera, arguably one of the best hitters of all time. I don’t know if you can replace a guy like that,” said Tarik Skubal, who won AL Pitcher of the Month honors last September and could front Detroit’s rotation with Eduardo Rodriguez gone. “But I do like the culture that we have. I like the guys that we have coming back. I loved our team last year; I thought it was a ton of fun. And we’re all kind of rowing the boat in the same direction, which is what you want. I’m excited to get back with these guys.

“Yeah, we’re young, but we kind of all came up through the Minor Leagues together, so it feels like we have a little more experience than what the date of birth is.”

Skubal, Casey Mize, Matt Manning, Alex Faedo, Joey Wentz and Jake Rogers came up through the Tigers’ farm system together. Torkelson, Greene and Carpenter all arrived in 2022. Colt Keith could be part of the next group with Parker Meadows and Justyn-Henry Malloy, all teammates at Triple-A Toledo last summer.

Those waves of prospects, and the time they spent together, builds a cohesiveness that goes beyond any central leader. That’s one advantage of building a roster primarily through the system.

“We’ve got a great group,” Greene said. “Miggy’s gone, which stinks because Miggy was a big part of the team. But we’ve still got pretty much the same group. I feel like our team chemistry really took a jump last season, and it’s just going to get better and better.

“Team chemistry, it’s hard to find, and once you have it, you want to keep building off of that. I feel like with a lot of winning teams, they have that team chemistry, and we’ve got it.”

Cabrera set a tone of having fun but competing relentlessly, often leading by example. Torkelson wants to carry it forward.

“I think we behave the same way we did last year, show up to the yard every single day, get better, trust your process and lead by example, not be a vocal, rah-rah guy,” he said. “We’re going to come in, we’re going to get our work in, we’re going to get better and we’re going to win. That’s going to be the identity of this team.”

That said, Torkelson is looking forward to seeing Cabrera in his new role as a Tigers special assistant. He’s expected to pay a visit sometime this spring.

“I’m definitely missing him. But he’s definitely going to make an appearance or 10 during the spring.”