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Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera aims for 500th home run, 3,000th hit this season

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Baseball Writer

DETROIT — These last few seasons have been difficult for Miguel Cabrera.

Now, the Detroit slugger has a chance to remind baseball fans just how much he’s accomplished in his career.

Specifically, Cabrera has an opportunity to reach two major milestones in 2021. He is 13 home runs shy of 500 and 134 hits short of 3,000. And yes, he’s aware that he’s closing in.

“I hope so. We can do both,” he said with a laugh. “I hope I can get to 500, 3,000 this year. It’s one of my goals this year. Mentally, I feel good. I feel mentally strong. I’m trying to go day by day and trying to play hard.”

It’s been a while since Cabrera resembled the player who was the American League MVP in 2012 and 2013. The last time he was really impressive with the bat was in 2016, when he hit .316 with 38 home runs. From 2017-19, he played just 304 games as an assortment of injuries limited his availability.

In the meantime, the Tigers entered a major rebuild, trading away many of their top players. Cabrera is still on the team, which says a lot about his declining production and huge contract. He turns 38 in April.

But nobody should forget what a spectacular hitter he’s been through much of his career. Only a half-dozen players have reached both 500 homers and 3,000 hits: Hank Aaron, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Willie Mays, Rafael Palmeiro and Eddie Murray.

Cabrera certainly has a chance to reach both this year. He did manage to play in 57 of his team’s 58 games in the shortened 2020 season, and he hit 10 homers. In 2019, he had 139 hits in 136 games.

“I want to be healthy, and I want to do my best, and I want to do whatever I can to help the team to win games,” Cabrera said Friday.

Cabrera didn’t play in the field last year, but new manager AJ Hinch said he’s open to playing Cabrera some at first base again.