His 12 home runs averaged farther than any of the other seven competitors, but he didn't have enough of them to beat out eventual champion David Ortiz and runner-up Hanley Ramirez. Cabrera finished fourth, eliminated in the semifinals.
He came in wanting to win, but came out happy that he at least entertained.
"It was fun, you know," he said afterward. "It was a good show. I had fun out there. You know, I did what I meant, hit like BP home runs and put up a good show and try to have fun."
It wasn't a victorious outing for Cabrera, a .304 career hitter at Angel Stadium with five home runs in 16 regular-season games. But it was true to his homer-to-all-fields approach.
"My game plan is go deep," he said Monday morning before the Derby. "Left field, right field, center field, everywhere."
He hit up to his word, sprayed home runs all over the field and showing the opposite-field power that teammate Justin Verlander called unmatched in the game today.
After pulling his first two homers of the competition to left field, including one off the top of the fence and out, Cabrera launched a shot to straightaway center that landed almost halfway up the tarp. His next pitch from Tigers bullpen catcher Scott Pickens landed midway up the left-field seats, an estimated 469-foot drive.
Cabrera hit two drives off the rocks in left-center field -- one of them a 476-foot shot around the waterfall in the opening round, the other a 474-foot drive in the second round. He also deposited a ball into the tunnel just to the left of the rocks, 449 feet out.
His longest shot, however, was his opposite-field drive in the second round, one of three he hit to right field. He barely missed the "Hit It Here" sign on the tarp in right-center, landing one section to the right, but his 485-foot shot still had the crowd in awe.
"I hit a couple in right, which is what I wanted," Cabrera said. "I got like two or three lazy fly balls. It was good. It was like my [regular] swing right there. I don't mess around with my swing too much. That's the big thing. Get your swing right, put on a good swing."
After waiting for the rest of the eight-man field to take their opening cuts, Cabrera hit seven home runs. That advanced him out of the opening round, but dropped him well behind first-round leader Corey Hart with 13, Ramirez with nine and Ortiz with eight.
Once Ortiz led off the second round with 13 homers, Cabrera was in trouble, because first-round totals carry over to the second. He needed six in the semifinals to give himself a chance, and ended up with five. Ramirez's 12-homer outburst made it moot.
The wait to hit in the opening round, he said, made no difference.
"It was tougher in the second round, because you get cold," he said. "Like Hart, he got 13 home runs in the first round and he didn't get anything in the second because he got cold and he didn't have rhythm. But out there, it was OK [for me], because I was like normal."
Still, he could take some pride on distance. His 12 homers averaged 450 feet, topping the field. The 485-foot opposite-field launch was the second-longest homer hit in the Derby, pulled or otherwise, trailing only Matt Holliday's 497-foot drive in the opening round.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.