Cabrera provides a stronger body of evidence

Times Staff Writer

NASHVILLE -- Concerns about Miguel Cabrera’s work ethic and weight have raised questions about whether the Angels should send four top young players, including second baseman Howie Kendrick and catcher Jeff Mathis, to Florida in a deal for the third baseman.

But Cabrera, one of the hottest commodities on the trading floor of baseball’s winter meetings, is making a significant effort to address those issues, having recently begun a rigorous winter workout and nutritional program in Davie, Fla.

“He looks good,” said Angels catcher Mike Napoli, who has been training with Cabrera for the last three weeks. “He’s starting to slim down, and he’s getting real strong.”


Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen, whose team is also pursuing the slugger, saw Cabrera in Miami on Sunday and said the 24-year-old “has lost about 15 pounds, maybe a little bit more. If you see Miguel Cabrera now, you will be surprised.”

Cabrera, who has averaged 31 home runs and 115 runs batted in for four seasons, has been working with Sean O’Brien, founder of an athletic development company called Perfect Competition. Napoli began working with O’Brien last winter and lost 15 pounds while gaining strength.

The 6-foot-4 Cabrera, listed at 185 pounds when he was called up in 2003, played 2007 at about 255 and made a league-high 23 errors, prompting some to suggest he be moved to first base.

O’Brien didn’t say how much weight Cabrera has lost, “but he’s changing his body composition,” the trainer said. “He’s leaner. He’s combining weight loss with an increase in muscle mass.”

Guillen, a former Marlins third base coach who has been a mentor to Cabrera, noticed the difference.

“I told the Marlins he’s going to be in the best shape you’ve ever seen him in,” said Guillen, who criticized Cabrera last June, saying people would start calling him “a fat boy” from Venezuela.

“Whoever gets this guy is going to have a heck of a ballplayer with a different mentality. He’s a big man and he has to take care of himself. . . . He has the power and talent to be one of the best players ever.”

Before O’Brien tailored a program for him, Cabrera underwent a biomedical assessment and was evaluated by a massage therapist, physical therapist, chiropractor and nutritionist.

“Miguel is obviously a great athlete, but he needed to explore all of the new ways to train the body,” O’Brien said. “He’s never done anything to this extent.”

Napoli said workouts last about three or four hours a day and include aerobic exercises and weight training for virtually every area of the body.

As Cabrera’s stock improves, the Angels’ chances of acquiring the star appear to be dimming.

The Marlins, according to a source, have not backed off their demands for Kendrick, Mathis and pitchers Ervin Santana and Nick Adenhart, and unless they lower the price, negotiations are not expected to heat up again.

The Angels also continue to talk with Baltimore about Tejada but have found the Orioles’ asking price -- they’re believed to be seeking an established pitcher such as Jered Weaver and a top prospect -- too high.

The Angels remain interested in Minnesota ace Johan Santana, and new General Manager Tony Reagins is believed to have spoken with Twins GM Bill Smith Monday night, but they do not appear to be aggressively pursuing the star left-hander.

“We like the pitching staff we have now,” Reagins said earlier Monday.

Angels fans hoping for a return of popular shortstop David Eckstein, don’t get your hopes up. Reagins said he is “not pursuing any [major league] free agents at this point.”

Not a one? “We’re happy with what we have now,” Reagins said. “We don’t see a fit or a need in that area.”

Reagins and Manager Mike Scioscia arrived at the Opryland Hotel late Monday afternoon after spending a long weekend in the Dominican Republic with owner Arte Moreno.

On the way back, Reagins and Scioscia stopped in Miami to meet Vladimir Guerrero but did not discuss a contract extension for the right fielder, who is entering the final year of a five-year, $70-million deal that includes a $15-million option for 2009.

“When we think the timing is appropriate and his representatives want to sit down, we’re open to it,” Reagins said. “But that process hasn’t begun.”

Before meeting reporters for his first winter meetings news briefing Monday, Reagins left his suite in the sprawling, 2,000-room, five-lobby Opryland Hotel and said he’d be back in five minutes. Thirty-five minutes later, with some cellphone guidance from assistant GM Ken Forsch, Reagins finally found his room.

“Two guys who work here couldn’t even find it,” he said. “This place is unbelievable.”