Galarraga bullish on Cabrera at first
Mentor views slugger as future defensive star at new position
MIAMI -- Adjusting to first base is still a work in progress, but the transition is going pretty smoothly for Miguel Cabrera.
At the World Baseball Classic, Cabrera is handling first for Venezuela, and he's working closely with former big league first baseman Andres Galarraga.
A third baseman early in his career, Cabrera appeared in 143 games at first base for the Tigers in 2008.
Galarraga says Cabrera's hands are very good, and he is concentrating on his footwork around the base.
"Right now, he has a new position at first base and I'm trying to help him," said Galarraga, a coach on the Venezuelan staff. "He's looking really good. He has great hands. I'm just trying to help him [with his feet] around the base, and catching throws.
"Soon, he's going to start moving his legs a little quicker to get to the base earlier. That will get him ready for the bad throws."
Galarraga, who retired after 19 big league seasons in 2004, feels Cabrera can be an elite defensive player -- so much so that he sees a Gold Glove in Cabrera's future.
"I think he's going to be a Gold Glove [winner] soon," Galarraga said. "He can be that good."
Cabrera has never been known for his glove. He broke in with the Marlins in 2003 playing left field, and he moved to third base in 2006. As his body got bigger, his range in the field shrank. He committed 23 errors for Florida in 2007 and had a .941 fielding percentage.
With the Tigers in 2008, he appeared in 14 games at third base and made five errors before he was moved to first base.
After making the switch in Detroit, he made progress in the field. He committed nine errors and had a fielding percentage of .992.
Cabrera's clout has always been at the plate, where he is one of the most feared hitters in the game.
Cabrera has a string of five straight seasons with at least 112 RBIs, and he has 650 in his career to go along with 175 homers. His career batting average is .309.
Galarraga, one of the most popular players ever to come out of Venezuela, says Cabrera has the potential to become the greatest player his country has ever produced.
"Offensively, he's going to break a lot of records, no doubt," Galarraga said. "He's been getting 100 RBIs for years, and he gets 30-35 homers. That's what is expected of him every year.
"He started really early. Miguel put up some numbers early in his career. It all depends on injuries. If he takes care of his body, and he stays strong all year round, if he does that, he's going to be the main man."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.