Miguel Cabrera hit his 499th home run against the Orioles on Wednesday night. Although he couldn’t cheer, Orioles outfielder Anthony Santander is among his biggest fans. Cabrera didn’t play in Thursday’s game between the Tigers and Orioles, and he will try to get his milestone 500th at home.
Detroit began a six-game homestand on Friday night against the Cleveland Indians. When Cabrera does hit No. 500, he’ll be the 28th player to reach the mark. Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, who hit 343 of his 504 with the Orioles, is next on the list.
“I feel very happy, very excited to see him achieve such a goal,” Santander said through a translator. “He’s one of the best, if not the best hitters of all time, especially because he’s from Venezuela [Santander’s home]. He’s a Venezuelan player, so I’m really proud of him.”
Cabrera has hit 25 home runs against the Orioles, most of any non-American League East opponent. Not only did he hit 499 against the Orioles, but he hit his 496th and 497th on July 29th against Alexander Wells and Adam Plutko.
After that game, Wells acknowledged being starstruck by Cabrera, but he’s one of 345 pitchers to serve up a home run ball. In 2011, there was some thought that former manager Buck Showalter would have walked Cabrera intentionally with the bases loaded, as he once did with Barry Bonds, had the situation arose.
Santander was a Rule 5 draft choice in December 2016. On February 24, 2017, he traveled with the Orioles to Lakeland, Florida to face the Tigers. Santander couldn’t wait.
“Back then, that was the first time I saw him in person, live,” he said. “Previous to that season, 2016, I really had a good offensive season. I was watching videos of him because he’s such a great hitter.”
Santander, 26, has developed a relationship with the 38-year-old.
“I speak with him. We’re from the same home, the same country,” Santander said. “I asked him: ‘How can I improve? What things can I do better?’ He’s always there for all of us. He plays with such joy. He’s very happy playing the game, and he’s always interacting with all of us.”
Santander, who was voted Most Valuable Oriole last season, appreciates Cabrera’s approach.
“I think the most important thing I’ve learned from him is how he stays close and short and direct to the ball and the ability he has to hit home runs to the opposite field,” he said.
Cabrera has hit 143 home runs, including his 499th, to either right or right-center.
“He’s one of those players who has [many] home runs to the opposite field,” Santander said. “If you throw inside, he’s definitely going to be able to pull that as well.”
Santander, who has struggled to get on track this season, appeared to be a proud pupil against the Tigers. He hit three home runs in the two games he played against Cabrera on Tuesday and Wednesday, with two of the home runs landing on Eutaw Street.
“It’s definitely exciting, trying to take advantage of the moment that he’s here,” Santander said. “I’m just trying to do a really good job.”