A's Donaldson credits study of Cabrera for MVP-caliber season
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OAKLAND – Josh Donaldson talks of how proud he is to be mentioned in the same Most Valuable Player discussion as Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera.

It’s no wonder. Donaldson, the A’s third baseman who enjoyed a breakout 2013 season, spent time last offseason watching video of the Tigers’ three-time defending batting champ.

“He’s probably the best hitter in baseball,” Donaldson said Thursday. “I want to watch him and see what he’s doing. We don’t really hit the same. But I just wanted to look at more of his approach. He does a really good job of keeping the barrel in the zone, never really trying to do too much.”

Cabrera followed up last year’s Triple Crown campaign with another incredible season, hitting .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBI. At 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, he is an imposing presence in the batter’s box and a threat to go deep at any time.

Donaldson, who hit .301 with 24 homers and 93 RBI, is smaller and a better athlete and defender at third. He made a name for himself in his first full major league season, and his overall contributions to the A’s second division title in a row thrust him into the MVP discussion. Cabrera and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout are the favorites.

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Cabrera expressed delight Thursday when told Donaldson has tried to learn from him.

“That’s great,” Cabrera said. “He’s a great player. I think he’s one of the reasons the Oakland A’s are in the playoffs. He can change the game not only with his bat, but with his glove too.”

Donaldson said there’s plenty to learn from Cabrera’s mental approach, but there’s one noticeable part of his year at the plate that is also Cabrera-like.

“The big thing is, I’ve been going to right field,” Donaldson said. “I think that’s what’s allowed me to excel this year.”

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A’s manager Bob Melvin said Donaldson’s willingness to study Cabrera is indicative of Donaldson’s approach to the game.

“I think anytime you try to study the attributes of the best, certainly it’s not going to hurt you,” Melvin said. “(Cabrera) hits the ball both ways and uses power to all fields. So if there’s anybody that you’re going to take a look at and try to get yourself better, that’s probably about as good as you can get.”

Cabrera was not his usual self in September as he was hindered by a groin injury. He hit just one homer and had seven RBI in 21 games during the month. Tigers manager Jim Leyland acknowledged Cabrera still is bothered by the injury.

“He’s playable, he’s not 100 percent,” Leyland said. “He’s handicapped a little bit obviously, although I think he is (feeling) better. He’s still not going to be running at full speed and it will probably be a situation where in the eighth inning and after, I would (pinch) run for him.”