Leyland: Miggy 'playable,' if not 100-percent healthy
Third baseman's been slowed by groin, abdominable injuries of late
OAKLAND -- This much is simple: Miguel Cabrera will be in the Tigers' lineup when the American League Division Series opens Friday night at O.co Coliseum. And the slugging third baseman, who was bothered by groin and abdominal injuries for much of the second half of the season, won't be 100 percent.
Beyond that, all Jim Leyland can do is wait and watch and see how it all unfolds, just like everybody else.
"There is nothing to sort out, I don't think," the Detroit manager said. "He's playable. The medical people feel that he's not going to do anything to endanger his future, and he wants to play. He's handicapped a little bit, obviously, although I think he is better. Probably the last few days have helped him out a little bit. He's still not going to be running at full speed and probably in the eighth inning and after, we would run for him. Probably not before."
Even Cabrera can't be sure how well he'll be able to perform once the game begins (9:30 p.m. ET on TBS). All he could say was that the five days he's had off since he last played have helped.
"I feel much better the last couple days," he said before Thursday's workout. "I think it's not going to be an issue anymore. I mean, you know, you've got to do what it takes to get out there on the field and perform.
"After the season, we can let it rest."
The Tigers have other star hitters. Prince Fielder. Torii Hunter. Victor Martinez. Martinez missed last season with an injury and Hunter is in his first year with Detroit.
"Certainly [that] makes us deeper. It doesn't guarantee one thing, but it does make us a little bit deeper," Leyland said. "These playoffs are always amazing to me, because you go into the playoffs talking about a number one pitcher for both teams or a [Brandon] Moss or a Cabrera, whoever you want to talk about. And several times in postseason, playoffs or be it the World Series, there is some little guy that's ended up being the MVP that nobody talked about in the first press conference. So you never know."
Still, Cabrera is one of the elite hitters in the game. He won the Triple Crown and the AL MVP last year. Even with his injuries this season, he led the league in hitting (.348) and was second in both home runs (44) and RBIs (137). It stands to reason that the more productive he can be, the better Detroit's chances are.
"He's one of the best hitters right now in baseball, in both leagues. Everybody knows how important he is for the team," noted A's Game 1 starter Bartolo Colon.
In his last 25 games, though, Cabrera batted .284 with just one homer and seven RBIs in 81 at-bats. While it's understood that he'll he hobbled, the question is how much the injury altered his approach at the plate.
"That's a great question," Leyland said. "Because, I think it's over now. But I think for awhile, it was tough for Miguel to use his lower half to hit, and most good hitters use the lower half, and he uses it as good as anybody. I think it did hinder him for a while. The last few games we played, that doesn't seem to be there anymore and he seems to be fine from that aspect. That's the one thing that I watched in Miami [during the final series of the regular season], and he drove the ball really well. So I think he's over that part of it now. He is getting better, but he's nowhere near 100 percent."
The Tigers were swept by the Giants in last year's World Series. Cabrera was called out on strikes to end it. That doesn't add any incentive this postseason, he said.
"It was a good pitch," he said. "[Sergio Romo ] threw me six, seven sliders in a row, that fastball up and away. That's part of the game.
"Somebody is going to lose, somebody is going to win. It was part of the game. We were not able to turn around the Series. I think it's a new year, and you never know what's going to happen."
Cabrera is right. You never know what's going to happen. But it seems pretty certain that the healthier and more productive he is, the better the Tigers' chances will be.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.