Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tigers' Cabrera 'Comfortable' in His Recovery

The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. -- One word, "serenity," is irresistible when you observe Miguel Cabrera at work during these early days of camp, or more tellingly, hear him speak.

"Serenity" is a word Cabrera would view as accurate.

"I'm comfortable with what I do right now," he said this morning, a few minutes before joining his teammates for a 9:30 workout.

Today's Cabrera is vastly different than the one who could sometimes be uncomfortably aloof during earlier years. He smiles easily now. When he converses, he is engaged with the other party. He listens.

He clearly is at peace six months after his life was beginning to careen dangerously. Immediately after a trouble end to his 2009 season, Cabrera confronted alcohol abuse and a general recklessness that had created even deeper concern for him than it had for the Tigers and their baseball community.

"I don't want to hide what I do," he said of his decision to spend much of the offseason in the company of his doctor as they addressed problems that appear to have involved various layers of physical and psychological challenges. "I want to be a man and say I make a mistake.

"It's a part of life to be a man. I don't try to hide."

Cabrera, of course, had an 0.26 blood-alcohol level when police took him into custody the morning of Oct. 3 following a domestic incident at his Birmingham home. The trouble occurred on the final weekend of the regular season, a critical juncture for a team that missed the playoffs by one game.

Although details were not revealed until Cabrera spoke in January, he decided immediately to consult a doctor with whom he worked rigorously during an offseason that appears to have been transformative.

"I don't think he's different, I think he's matured," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said this morning. "He looks absolutely tremendous."

Cabrera has not had a drink since last October. He says he does not miss it, not at all, and that when he is at dinner or with friends he drinks water, or perhaps apple juice or orange juice.

"I knew what I was doing was bad, and I had to say this is not right for my life, for my work, for my family," he said. "The first thing you've got to think about is yourself.

"When you've got a problem, you need some help. You can't find the problem by yourself. You find the problem and fix it."

Cabrera insisted his difficulties were not a clinical case of alcoholism. He has not required any recent attention from his doctor. He does not go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

"It's not that bad," he said, smiling, as if to reinforce thoughts that everything was under control.

And anyone observing him at Tigertown during spring training's first week would be persuaded to agree.

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