Tigers Notes: Cabrera will play at third to keep Martinez in lineup

Miguel Cabrera will play third base with Victor Martinez taking his usual first base spot for some of the three-game series beginning Monday with the Diamondbacks in Arizona, Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning.

Cabrera played third base in 2012 and 2013 to accommodate first baseman Prince Fielder.

Rick Osentoski

DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera will play third base with Victor Martinez taking his usual first base spot for some of the three-game series beginning Monday with the Diamondbacks in Arizona, Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning.

Martinez starting Sunday at first base against the Cleveland Indians is a good indication the side-back injury that caused him to miss 11 starts before the All-Star break is no longer a problem.

Martinez will continue at first in Arizona because the designated hitter won't be in use for the series at a National League ballpark, and Ausmus wants to keep Martinez's productive bat in the lineup as much as possible.

"Don't be shocked if Miggy is at third base for a game or two in Arizona," Ausmus said.

Martinez has started two games at catcher and 12 at first base, but Ausmus is shying away from using him at catcher at this point. It's the most physically demanding position Martinez could play, and Bryan Holaday has proven to be a high-quality backup for starter Alex Avila.

"Catching," Ausmus said, "uh, that's more unlikely (for Martinez)."

Martinez has started three straight games at DH without restrictions in his lower right side.

"He said he felt fine," Ausmus said. "And he took some hellacious swings."

Though, Martinez is 2-for-12 with four strikeouts since returning and was hitless in the Saturday doubleheader.

"His timing is a little off," Ausmus said. "It's not quite what it was."

Martinez is Detroit's cleanup hitter, and the All-Star pick is one of the game's most feared batters. He's batting .322 with 21 homers and 55 RBI, and struck out only 23 times before this series with Cleveland. The Indians are going for a sweep of the Tigers in Sunday's game, which begins at 1 p.m. on FOX Sports Detroit with Tigers Live at noon.

Cabrera played both games in the Saturday doubleheader at first base, and has only missed one game. Ausmus likes to occasionally spell him with a designated hitter shift after a night game, and that was the case on Sunday.

"It's good to get him off his feet," Ausmus said.

Cabrera has been taking some grounders at third to get ready for a return to his former position.

When asked if he was looking forward to a few games at the hot corner, Cabrera shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

Was the temporary move to third a matter of doing what's best for the team?

"Yeah," Cabrera said.

He went 0-for-8 in two starts at third this season in games at Los Angeles against the Dodgers and at San Diego against the Padres in early April.

Cabrera played third base in 2012 and 2013 to accommodate first baseman Prince Fielder, who was traded in November to acquire All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Texas Rangers. Cabrera also played primarily third base for the Florida Marlins in 2006 and 2007.

Cabrera leads the majors with 75 RBI and tops the American League with 36 doubles. He's also batting .313 with 14 homers, and is 6-for-12 in the current Cleveland series.

Don't be shocked if Miggy is at third base for a game or two in Arizona.

Brad Ausmus

NATHAN UPDATE:

Joe Nathan didn't address reporters after giving up three runs in the ninth inning and taking the loss Saturday night. While dressing prior to Sunday's batting practice, Nathan noticed three reporters gathered behind him. He politely said, "I don't have anything for you guys. I've got to work out."

JOBA'S ANKLE:

Ausmus said an ankle problem reliever Joba Chamberlain is pitching with isn't a major concern.

"I do not expect it to be an issue," Ausmus said. "It flares up at times."

TIGERS HOME WOES:

Detroit's 28-16 road record is easily the best in baseball, but they are a woeful 25-25 at Comerica Park after going 51-30 in Detroit in 2013.

"I don't really have a concrete reason," said Ausmus, adding that the Milwaukee Brewers (25-24 home, 29-20 road) and Dodgers (25-24 home, 29-21 road) are experiencing similar splits.

Ausmus added, "Consequently, we have played better and pitched better on the road. But there's nothing really you can do. Maybe we could wear our gray uniforms at home."