LAKELAND, Fla. — If Gleyber Torres has the bounce-back season many expect him to have — and his performance in spring training suggests he just might — among the reasons why could be the mentorship of a countryman and sure-fire Hall of Famer.
Torres, coming off a mostly miserable 2020 season in which he hit .243 with three homers, 16 RBIs and a .724 OPS in 42 games and committed a team-high nine errors at shortstop, said he’s received "tips" from Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, who is revered in his native Venezuela.
"Man, he’s one of the best guys from our country and also in the league. He’s also one of the best hitters in MLB [history]. First, to me, I feel honored to know Miggy," Torres said Friday morning, practically beaming. "I have a really good relationship with him. Every opportunity we have, I just try to have a conversation with him, try to learn, try to ask what he would do in each situation, and he always gives me really good tips to get better and better. It’s really important to us and to me to know Miguel really well."
Torres, whose vastly improved physique has stood out to opposing team scouts almost as much as his hot start at the plate and his increased range at shortstop, did not make the trip here as he stayed in Tampa to go through a full workout.
"To have the opportunity to even have conversations with him, it’s an honor for me," said Torres, 24. "Any time I talk to him, I ask him little details to help me in my career. And as I know him more and more, he keeps helping."
The advice from the 37-year-old Cabrera, a career .318 hitter who is 13 homers away from 500 and 134 hits short of 3,000, is not of the technical variety. Every hitter gets enough of that in the analytics era.
"Basically, he always tells the younger guys, ‘See the ball, hit the ball,’ " Torres said with a smile. "That’s the first tip. And the second one, he always told me to try to hit to rightfield like he does. He hits really well to the opposite field. I feel like I really hit well, too. So I just try to always remind myself I try to hit to the opposite field. That approach has helped me a lot to be focused and to be always on time."
Torres is off to a 6-for-15 start with two homers and a 1.337 OPS in seven exhibition games. He was criticized in the offseason by general manager Brian Cashman for the condition he reported in early last July for Spring Training II.
"He wasn’t in the best shape to start the second spring training [on July 4]," Cashman said in December. "On his return from the shutdown, we spent a little bit . . . first half of the season playing catch-up, maybe in the first 40 or 45 games of the season playing catch-up. Once we got him back on line and in shape, we saw, toward the last 20 games, including the playoffs, the Gleyber Torres we’re used to seeing."
After hitting .278 with 38 homers, 90 RBIs and an .871 OPS in 144 games in 2019, Torres started 2020 in a 5-for-42 slide but hit .298 with an .873 OPS in his final 30 games.
That stretch included a stint on the injured list with grade 1 strains of the left quadriceps and hamstring, which cost him 13 games from late August into early September.
Torres hit .360 with a 1.147 OPS in his first nine games after coming off the IL and then went 10-for-23 with seven walks, two homers and five RBIs in seven postseason games.
He hasn’t specifically copped to being out of shape in 2020, but he clearly made conditioning an offseason priority.
"It’s really important to me to be in really good shape," he said. "I mean, this year we'll play 162 games. And personally, I just want to play all the games, be healthy all year. That is how I can help my team. So far, I feel really good. I prepare myself every day, and mentally I feel like 200% right now."