LAKELAND, Fla. -- Miguel Cabrera settled into his usual corner locker in the Tigers' clubhouse Friday morning, next to manager Jim Leyland's office, and exchanged hugs. He took his spot at first base for infield ground balls, joked around with fellow Venezuelan Carlos Guillen and shook hands with Don Kelly. His usual chirps and shouts made it sound as loose as a mid-June batting practice.
In other words, he was home. This place, this setting, is one place where he feels comfortable.
"I'm excited, man," he said Friday morning. "These guys, I appreciate a lot what they do for me. I feel comfortable with these guys. I love these guys. They've always been good to me. Right now, I do what I think is good for them. Right now, I prepare to play every day hard and be ready to win games."
2010 Spring Training - Major League Baseball
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Spring Training Info
Though Cabrera arrived at Spring Training late Thursday afternoon to deliver his news conference and take some swings in the batting cages, this was really his first day of Spring Training. It was his first day around his teammates, most of which had not talked to him since TigerFest last month, well before his arrest last week. It was the first day he took part in team workouts.
"I'm so glad he's back," Brandon Inge said. "I'm glad for two reasons. One, we need him. Two, I think it's good for him."
He was essentially a spectator when the Tigers took the field Friday afternoon for their exhibition game against Florida Southern College, but it shouldn't be long until he gets into game action. It might be early next week.
"I really believe that position players were here probably three or four days and were ready to play," said Leyland, who makes that call.
"If the same would hold true for him, I'm not sure, but I would think so. He asked somebody else if he could play today, and obviously he's not going to play today, but he's been working out and he's in very good shape. We'll just play that by ear."
Until then, though, that will be the only difference between what he does and what the rest of the team does.
"He'll be getting ready like everybody else," Leyland said, "just doing his workouts and going through the process of getting ready for [Opening Day] March 31 like everybody else."
His offseason training should give him a head start. His personal trainer, Radhi Muhammad, said last week that Cabrera did virtually the same program that Magglio Ordonez did -- a combination of lifting, sprints and agility drills.
"This year, it was different," Cabrera said. "This year it was more complete, like weights, running, that stuff."
Cabrera estimated his weight is around 270 pounds. That's a slight drop from his weight at the end of last offseason. His body fat percentage also dropped, according to Muhammad, so more of that weight is comprised of muscle.
It was a training upgrade coming off a year in which he set career highs with 38 home runs, a .622 slugging percentage and 1.042 OPS. Asked why he would embark on that kind of change after his best season, he showed no signs of complacency.
"You have to," Cabrera said, "because every year you have to prove more. Baseball is about that: Prove every year, get better every year."
Cabrera didn't argue with Leyland's assertion that he could have his biggest season this year.
"One thing's for sure: Our team got a whole lot better this morning," Leyland said.