How Wilson Ramos’ friendship with Miguel Cabrera guided him to Detroit Tigers

Detroit Free Press

Evan Petzold
 
| Detroit Free Press

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It was 2006 when Miguel Cabrera and Wilson Ramos — now teammates for the Detroit Tigers — met in Venezuela. They were playing for Tigres de Aragua in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Cabrera was 23; Ramos was 18.

“I know Miggy from a long time ago,” Ramos said Monday. “More than 10 years ago.”

Last week, Ramos signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Tigers. While discussions between his agent, Gustavo Marcano, and general manager Al Avila were ongoing, the 33-year-old catcher was working out at Team Sosa Baseball facility in Hialeah, Florida.

By his side was Cabrera, who turns 38 years old in April.

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EXPECTATIONS: How Wilson Ramos plans to connect with Tigers’ young arms — and young catchers

Cabrera hasn’t played winter ball since 2008; Ramos quit after 2012. A lot has changed since they became friends 15 years ago. But their relationship helped bring Ramos to Detroit for the next chapter in his baseball career.

“To play with Miggy in the same lineup, that makes me excited,” Ramos said. “That was one of the reasons I decided to sign with them. … We got to support each other. That’s why I’m happy to sign with the Tigers because I feel really good working out with him. That relationship helped me make that decision.”

RAMOS NOODLING: What the Tigers’ signing of catcher Wilson Ramos means for 2021

At the Team Sosa Baseball facility, Ramos has posted more than 70 workout photos and videos on his Instagram since Nov. 16. Most of them include Cabrera, or at least have the 18-year MLB veteran training in the background. 

On Thursday, they did one-arm dumbbell bench presses next to each other. One week before that, they completed weighted sled pull exercises together. And, of course, they take turns using the batting cages.

[ Tigers manager AJ Hinch wants Miguel Cabrera to play first base in 2021 ]

Cabrera and Ramos are often side-by-side for group photos at the gym, some of which include J.D. Martinez, Pablo Sandoval, Eduardo Rodriguez, Victor Mesa Jr. and Alcides Escobar, to name a few. 

This winter, Cabrera is preparing his body to play first base. If he is healthy enough, new manager AJ Hinch wants to grant his previous requests.

“He looks good,” Ramos said. “He looks in good shape. We have been working since the beginning of November, so that’s three months we’ve been working out really hard. I saw Miggy with good strength, good power.”

Last season, Cabrera hit .250 — just better than the lowest clip of his career — but paced the Tigers in home runs (10) and RBIs (35). The former two-time American League MVP played in 57 of the team’s 58 games, only asking for a break in the season finale.

[ Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera trains at first base after spending 2020 as full-time DH ]

Ramos, meanwhile, had a rough season with the New York Mets, posting a .239 batting average with five homers and 15 RBIs during his 45 games. The 11-year veteran was much better in 2019, hitting .288 with 14 home runs and 73 RBIs across 141 games. 

As Cabrera focused on his overall game, with an emphasis on first base, Ramos lost weight. He went from roughly 275 pounds last year to 245 this month, leading up to spring training.

The Tigers’ first full-team workout is scheduled for Feb. 22 in Lakeland, Florida. Ramos can’t wait for the Grapefruit League to begin, just to get a taste of playing with his friend again.

Then, it’s Opening Day on April 1 at Comerica Park. And Ramos — with five seasons with at least 15 homers on his résumé — will surely be near Cabrera in the starting lineup.

“He supports me every day during the working hour,” Ramos said.

[ Detroit Tigers spring training: AJ Hinch breaks down position battles, closer, prospects ]

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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