Slimmer Miggy's focus on diet over swing tweak

February 17th, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- sat on a dugout bench on the back fields at Tigertown on Monday morning, talking with a group of young players from Minor League mini-camp. New Tiger C.J. Cron, having just taken a nasty mix of fastballs and sliders from Matthew Boyd in live batting practice, looked back and motioned.

“No chance,” Cron asked with a smile.

Cabrera smiled back and shook his head. In another year, he’d be in the box and joking with the pitcher, his voice easily heard on the neighboring diamonds. This is the older, potentially wiser Cabrera.

He’s trying to get his swing in order, having revamped it near midseason last year to take pressure off his ailing right knee. He has worked this offseason to try to get his body in order, take weight off the knees and get back in form.

“I don't want to change my swing anymore,” he said earlier Monday. “I want to be natural. The last three years I've been changing my swing a lot to feel comfortable at home plate, to not feel like something's bothering me. I want to go out there and feel natural. I don't want to think about anything, just react.”

With his 37th birthday looming in April, Cabrera is saving his swings for the unbeaten Father Time, trying to fight his way back in the count. After an ill-fated search for his lost power led to bulk and injuries last year, he shifted his focus this offseason. At the encouragement of the Tigers and the recommendation of a nutritionist, he said he has tweaked his diet to try to cut back on carbohydrates.

“I try to eat more vegetables, try to eat more healthy stuff,” Cabrera said.

Cabrera did not give a number for his weight, but said he’s lighter than last year.

“I'm the same weight I'd been in 2015, '16, so I don't know,” he said. “But last year I think I was heavy. I think I cut a lot of weight from last year to this year.”

For what it’s worth, Cabrera was listed at 240 pounds in the annual Tigers media guides from 2015 through 2017. That number changed to 249 in 2018 and 2019. Those published numbers obviously aren’t updated each year.

“When I hugged him, I actually reached around him,” manager Ron Gardenhire, trying to strike a light note on the matter.

More important than a number is a look at feel, how Cabrera moves and whether the weight leads to more issues with his knees and his back. To some extent, the damage is done. He is in his back half of his thirties, after all. But he can fight off further damage and find a comfort level that allows him to play his game and stay in the lineup.

“You’ve always gotta have a goal. My goal was to get in shape and try to get ready for the season, try to come back 100 percent,” Cabrera said.

Clearly, he also wants his swing back. As he took swings in regular batting practice Monday, his weight shifted from his right knee to his left. He dealt with it last year, batting .282 with a .767 OPS after he started making adjustments in early June, but he’d like to get back to his more familiar swing and push off his back leg. If he can swing that way, he’ll live with the production he gets out of it.

“Last year, I was not happy with my numbers and the way we played and all the losses we had,” Cabrera said. “That's another reason: Try to compete and try to come here and win more games.”