Tigers' Cabrera taking positive steps

Tigers' Cabrera taking positive steps

DETROIT -- Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera said Thursday he has undergone counseling to deal with his alcohol issues that became front-page headlines near the end of the 2009 season, and that he hasn't had a drink since the end of last season.

Cabrera, who was taken into police custody but not charged following an incident with his wife in suburban Detroit last October that left him with scratches and bruises on his face, arrived at the Tigers' annual winter caravan "excited" about moving on and said he hopes this can end up being a positive for his life.

"Right now I feel like it's going to be a new season, a new life for me," Cabrera told reporters at Comerica Park. "I'm going to be a better dad, a better husband, a better player and better with the fans, too. And with the media, too."

The last time many Detroit writers saw Cabrera, he was inconsolable in the visiting clubhouse at the Metrodome after the Tigers lost their American League playoff game to the Twins, making them the first team in modern history to not win its division after leading by three games with four games to play. It was during that final weekend that Cabrera's incident happened, and he put a lot of responsibility on himself.

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, who had picked up Cabrera from the police station after that incident, met with Cabrera and his agent, Diego Bentz, once the season ended and told him that he needed to take steps. From there, Cabrera began meeting with a doctor in Miami, where he has spent most of the offseason.

"When you have problems, you can't hide," Cabrera said. "When you know you don't do right, you need to do something and ask for help."

Dombrowski, who had been reluctant to talk about Cabrera's steps this offseason so as not to violate Cabrera's privacy, went into more detail after Cabrera opened up.

Cabrera was not housed in a facility. He went back and forth from his home to the doctor for individual counseling in an outpatient program. At the beginning, Dombrowski said, he was meeting three to four days per week for about 2 1/2 hours each.

The first meeting, Cabrera said, was "not normal for me." After that, however, he was better able to open up.

The discussions were wide-ranging, dealing with more than alcohol.

"He not only had issues to deal with his alcoholism," Dombrowski said. "He had family issues."

Cabrera's incident last October came after a night of heavy drinking at a nearby bar. He came home around 5 a.m., then got into an argument with his wife while she tried to pull his cell phone out of his hands.

Soon after the police report on that incident was released, another incident came to light in which Cabrera apparently got into an argument with patrons at a nearby restaurant.

The program has continued, Cabrera indicated, for the past three months. Dombrowski added that they've set up a schedule that will continue the program through Spring Training and the regular season.

The meetings have apparently helped Cabrera open up. He talked with reporters in front of television cameras and microphones for almost a half hour Thursday morning in a session separate from the Tigers' scheduled media luncheon with players.

"It helped me," he said. "I have better communication with my family, with my wife. I feel great with my kid, with my daughter."

Cabrera's message throughout the interview seemed to be one of a young man trying to make a positive out of what has been an embarrassing fall and winter for him.

"I'm still young," said Cabrera, who will turn 27 on April 18. "I'm still learning a lot from baseball and from life. So right now, I'm going to take the right steps for my life. Right now I feel comfortable with what I'm going to do. That's why I feel excited. I feel positive for that."

The Tigers, too, feel comfortable that Cabrera is making changes in his life.

"I think it's a tremendous step," Dombrowski said. "He seems much different. They told us that you would see a difference in him, and he does seem different."

Said teammate Brandon Inge: "I'm proud of him, actually. It's huge. It actually gave me a little chills. That shows a lot of character. A lot of guys would just shrug it off and say, 'I don't care what anyone thinks.' For him to say that he did something wrong, that shows a lot of character."

Cabrera seemed particularly conscious about his image and the hit it has taken. When asked about the possibility that fans might be slower to forgive him than his teammates have been, Cabrera indicated he hopes to show his changes on the field.

"I'm trying to do something for the fans in Detroit and for the team," he said. "I'm excited."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.