Miguel Cabrera, one of the last playing connections to the Tigers' four consecutive division titles and 2012 World Series berth, said he believes the Tigers are on the right track to contend again before his tenure in Detroit ends.
“That's our goal, to be a contending team, to be a team that can be in the playoffs. I think we're in a good place to do that,” Cabrera said. “We have to have a lot of patience, because we have a lot of young talent. They're learning how to play in the big leagues, but I believe they can get better ... and hopefully next year we can be a better team, and hopefully next year we can compete to be in the playoffs.
“From what I see every day, what I see how they play in the field, I think we're really close to go to the next step, trying to go out there and win games.”
Cabrera, who has not done a video conference with reporters this season, answered questions submitted by reporters in a pre-recorded video interview released Saturday. The 37-year-old addressed a number of topics, including his late-season tear, his approaching career milestones, his health and -- surprisingly -- his continued adjustment to designated hitter and desire to play first base again on occasion.
“I would say thank God, because he gave me an opportunity to do what I love, to play baseball,” Cabrera said. “I never played to [have] accomplishments, like I want to make 3,000 hits, I want to have 500 runs. My goal was always to be in the field and play 100 percent. I miss a lot playing first base. I hope they can give me more time next year to play first and be in the field.
“I'm learning how to be a DH right now. It's a little hard for me to go and hit and go and sit and think about what I'm going to do in the next at-bat. In the past, I'd forget about hitting and go out and play defense. It was like a different game to me. Right now I'm learning how to be a DH, but at the same time, I want to spend a little more time at first base next year, and hopefully, I can do that.”
Other highlights from the nearly 10-minute interview:
On the impact of the COVID-19 shutdown after a strong Spring Training
“It was really difficult to train in the quarantine. It was different training in the house, trying to get in shape to get ready for a short season. I think this offseason, I'm not going to have time off because we got a lot of time off this year already. I think I'm going to take one week off to travel to Miami and prepare for next season.”
How difficult has this year been for you, from the shutdown to protocols? Is this game still fun for you?
“We try to make it fun. We try to enjoy this game because it's really different right now with no fans. It's really difficult because we go from home [to] stadium, stadium [to] home, hotel [to] home, and we're not able to do anything. But at the same time, we have to be thankful, say thank you, because we're able to do this right now in the middle of this pandemic. I know I say every day, thank God because he gave me an opportunity to play baseball right now. Hopefully we can do the same next year, but with fans in the stands. Hopefully next year can be totally different.”
Has your knee bothered you this season?
“Always. It's something I'm going to have for the rest of my career, but it's something I can't use as an excuse: Oh my knee, my back, or something like that. I try to block that, forget about my injury to my knee, go out there and play my best baseball -- or my best hitting, because I only hit right now.”
What has been behind the late-season tear?
“I think I feel more confident at home plate. Like I say, I'm learning how to be a DH, learning how I can stay in the game. When I play this position, I try to feel more comfortable. I’m thinking about what I can do to be focused and relaxed at home plate.”
On manager Ron Gardenhire’s sudden retirement
“We were sad when we found out he was retiring. I didn't expect he was going to retire. I thought he was going to be our manager for years to come. But it was his decision. It was a family decision, a health decision. I always want the best for Gardy because he gave us a lot of confidence to play baseball. He's a great man.”
On what he’d like from the Tigers’ next manager
“I want to see a manager who gives confidence to us to go and play baseball. I want to see a manager push us to be our best selves in the field, to bring a lot of confidence, and that's it.”
On his nomination for MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award
“Awesome. It's something I want to do every year, help people, because it's something born in me. It's something nobody has to tell me, ‘You have to do this.’ I want to do it, even if I wasn’t nominated for Roberto Clemente, I always want to do this every year, help people and try to be connected with people.”
How much longer do you think you’ll play?
“I've got three more years on my contract. I'm trying to play that. I don't know what's going to happen after my contract is over, but I focus right now on what I have [left] to play on my contract, this and three more years, and we'll see what happens.”