LAKELAND, Fla. - Detroit Tigers hitters have been arriving at camp ahead of schedule all week long, but it took until Friday for the team's biggest hitter to show up and shoot life into the first full squad workout.
Reigning American League MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera beat everyone to the park, showing up at 6:30 a.m. and getting to work.
"We got the big man here, it's time to get the ball rolling now," centerfielder Austin Jackson said.
"When I saw him, I said 'now it's time to get it going.'"
Jackson greeted Cabrera with a hug as they took the field together shortly before Jim Leyland addressed the organization.
"It's exciting. As a baseball player, you want to get here early, I want to get better every year," Cabrera said.
The Tigers third baseman said he worked on strengthening his legs in the offseason, and honed in on getting a better first jump on defense.
Cabrera said returning home to Venezuela in the offseason was special, and although there was no specific parade or celebration for his accomplishments, he couldn't go anywhere without being congratulated.
Anibal Sanchez spent time with Cabrera during the winter, and was blown away by his teammate's work ethic.
"People who follow Miguel say, 'Wow, it's amazing to see what he did,' but it's more amazing to see him everyday, working out. He's amazing."
As usual, Cabrera was insistent on turning the page on 2012, and focusing only on 2013.
"Personal numbers, I don't look that way. I look at the team to win more games."
His teammates weren't as humble when speaking about their star.
"He's one of the best hitters, if not the best, in the league. There's no doubt about it. If you ask anybody, they believe what he did last year," Victor Martinez said.
Justin Verlander urged Cabrera put on the golden crown he earned last season for a photo opportunity in the clubhouse. Verlander sent the picture of himself, Martinez, and Prince Fielder surrounding their hitting "king."
"Oh yeah, they wanted to take a picture. I didn't want to do it, but they asked me to. I do what my teammates ask me," Cabrera said with a smile.
He's asking one thing of himself, and it's seemingly an impossible task. He wants to improve after a Triple Crown season.
Don't put it past him.
Brad Galli is a Sports Reporter for WXYZ Detroit. Follow Brad on Twitter @BradGalli .
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