By Ben Verlander
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
Miguel Cabrera was traded to the Detroit Tigers prior to the 2008 season and has been The Man on that team ever since.
He has won two MVP Awards, seven Silver Sluggers and four batting titles. He’s an 11-time All-Star and even has a Triple Crown to his name.
Now, the sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer is closing in on 3,000 career hits.
All that said, the time had come for Miggy to hand over first base to the future of the Detroit Tigers.
The future is Spencer Torkelson.
In 2020, the Tigers selected Torkelson first overall in the draft out of Arizona State University. Less than two years later, Torkelson was named the starting first baseman for Detroit, with the blessing of Cabrera.
This week on “Flippin’ Bats,” I sat down with Torkelson to discuss that moment and how important it was to have Cabrera be part of it.
Watch “Flippin’ Bats with Ben Verlanderon Youtube, or subscribe on podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts.
Toward the end of spring training, Tigers manager AJ Hinch called Torkelson into his office. Despite his fantastic spring from him, Torkelson said he was a bit nervous.
“Last spring training, it was AJ telling me I was going back to the minors,” he said. “So there was a little panic, but I knew I did well in spring. I felt like I really belonged on the team. So I had some good, positive vibes going into the meeting.”
He got into the office and was greeted by Hinch, Tigers GM Al Avila and Cabrera, who was sitting in the corner.
After joking around for a minute or two, they gave him the news.
“Spencer, you’re the starting first baseman on Opening Day,” Hinch said.
Torkelson put his head down and let the emotions hit him.
The first hug? Miguel Cabrera.
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It was one of several moments with Cabrera that stood out to Torkelson in his first two weeks in the majors. In Kansas City last week, he blasted his second homer of the year. When Torkelson reached home, Cabrera, who was on base, was waiting for him with so much joy.
“I was excited,” Torkelson said. “He was as excited if not more excited for me.”
He talks to Miggy often about how pitchers are attacking him at the plate and what he can expect.
“I always ask him, because he will see a pitcher before me since he’s ahead of me in the order, what his approach is.
“Just to hear him talk about hitting — he keeps it simple, and it seems that’s what the great hitters do.”
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It’s clear how much Cabrera’s blessing meant to Torkelson, and it’s also clear just how much Miggy supports Torkelson taking over at first base.
There has been a passing of the torch in Detroit, a passing of the torch from an all-time great to a rookie phenom.
The future of the Tigers is Spencer Torkelson. But franchise icon Miguel Cabrera is still along for the ride.
It’s pretty special for everyone involved.
Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the “Flippin’ Batspodcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization.Follow him on Twitter @Verly32.
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