Amid the latest revelations of an alcohol-fueled evening that lead to his arrest on DUI and resisting charges last month, Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera made a statement today. Not from behind a podium, as he did when he reported to camp a week late, but with his bat – and for the first time this spring.
Cabrera drove in a run with a double in the first inning of today’s Grapefruit League game against the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, Florida. That drive came against Cardinals starter Lance Lynn. Two innings later, batting against reliever Joe Kelly, Cabrera went the other way again, this time clearing the right field wall for his first round-tripper of the spring.
Much has been made about the slow start that Cabrera had gotten off to in camp this year. Jon Paul Morosi devoted a piece to it the other day at FoxSports.com. But many of the balls Cabrera has hit this spring have been hit with authority, only to go up against a howling Florida wind and wind up in the gloves of outfielders on the warning tracks. There was a feeling that Cabrera simply wasn’t clicking yet. Today, it came together for him.
He still has to play his way into baseball shape, according to Jim Leyland, and Cabrera agrees. But it’s a very good sign that he is not only driving the ball, but doing so the opposite way, which has been a hallmark of his success as a hitter over his already accomplished, but still young career. Opening Day is still three weeks away and ordinarily there is no need to fret about the performances of a hitter with Cabrera’s track record. But the turmoil surrounding his arrival at camp this year has cast a cloud of doubt around his broad shoulders.
Leyland is on record in stating his belief that Cabrera will have the best season of his career in 2011. It was a meaningless game in early March, but if today’s performance means anything at all, it might mean that Cabrera is mentally strong enough to put his off-the-field issues out of his mind, at least while he’s between the white lines.