Verlander and Cabrera, who were teammates for nine and a half years with the Tigers, have a deep admiration and friendship that dates back to their time in Detroit, where both won American League Most Valuable Player Awards in consecutive years. Verlander was happy for Cabrera reaching 3,000 hits and texted him congratulations late Saturday.
“He seems very happy, which makes me happy,” Verlander said. “He’s a great guy.”
Verlander, 39, played for the Tigers from 2005 until he was traded to the Astros late in the ‘17 season. Cabrera, 39, was traded to the Tigers from the Marlins prior to the ‘08 season. Together, they became a force. Verlander was named the AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner in ’11, and Cabrera won the AL MVP Award the next two seasons, ‘12 and ’13.
Verlander won the pitching Triple Crown in the AL in 2011, leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts, and Cabrera won the batting Triple Crown in the AL in ‘12, leading the league in hits, homers and RBIs. Simultaneously, they were two of the best in baseball at their positions.
“It’s pretty special when you get to be a teammate of somebody, and you know you’re witnessing one of the best to ever do it while they’re playing,” Verlander said. “Some of the stuff he was able to do when I was there was so incredible to watch, and one of my favorite things and anecdotes is — and it never failed, and I always enjoyed watching this — when a new player came to the team when Miggy was in his heyday and after a couple of weeks, inevitably, they would always say the same thing: ‘I knew he was really good, but he’s way better than I thought.’ It was like when I came here watching Jose [Altuve].”
Verlander, who was limited to just one start in 2020 and missed the entire ’21 season because of an injury that required Tommy John surgery, wants to pitch until he’s 45 years old and is still competing at a high level. Even though Cabrera’s career could be coming to an end sooner rather than later, Verlander wasn’t surprised to learn Cabrera was hitting .319 entering Sunday.
“That’s just Miggy for you,” Verlander said. “I think the last couple of years have been hard on him. The [Tigers haven’t] been very good. He thrives on pressure in big situations, and it’s no coincidence to me he was creeping up on .300, and here he is hitting [.319] in a year. Big spots — he always had a way to rise to the challenge. This year seems no different. It’s like, ‘Hey, you’re this many hits away from 3,000.’ A lot of guys go the other direction, and [it] takes them a while. He just accelerated through them just like he did in big spots in big games.”
With that, Verlander’s phoned buzzed. Verlander smiled and said he owed Cabrera a phone call.
“Just being his teammate was a lot of fun,” Verlander said. “I appreciated watching him.”