Healthy Cabrera heads back to first

Despite his injury woes, Miguel Cabrera batted a respectable .262 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 11 postseason games in 2013.

Rick Osentoski/Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT — If the Tigers were in the playoffs right now, Miguel Cabrera would be ready to go.

That should assure fans who might worry that Cabrera will still be affected by the injury that required "core muscle" surgery this past Oct. 29.

"Two weeks ago, I was feeling more strong," Cabrera said Thursday before the Tigers started their Winter Caravan. "I was able to run more comfortable. I’m not going to run hard anyway."

Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said Cabrera has been fully cleared to do everything.

"They told me he’s done all the drills, done everything that he could," Dombrowski said. "He went through all the stuff here.

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"He came in early to work with Javair (Gillett, strength and conditioning coordinator), a day early just to work. He’s doing great."

Cabrera didn’t want to discuss the injury when the Tigers were in the playoffs but it was clear how much he was affected.

"I was with pain, but like I said, I don’t put any excuse on the table to say I don’t do this because I was hurt," Cabrera said. "It was my choice to go out there and play and try to help my team win games."

Cabrera batted a respectable .262 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 11 postseason games — similar numbers to the 2012 postseason, when he hit .265 with two home runs and eight RBIs in 13 games.

But Cabrera was on the verge of historic numbers when he got hurt before the All-Star break.

At the time, he was hitting .365 with 30 home runs and 95 RBIs, which would be a career year for most players.

In retrospect, given his injuries, it’s unfathomable that Cabrera managed to hit .316 with 14 home runs and 42 RBIs after the break.

Torii Hunter knew exactly what Cabrera was dealing with because he had to have the same surgery in 2009.

"I know he was in pain ’cause I’ve been through it and played an extra month or two with that pain, so I can’t believe he was hitting balls hard," Hunter said. "I knew he couldn’t run, but those balls he hit, those singles. We were saying he hadn’t had an extra-base hit, one extra-base hit in September.

"He would have had 30 if he could run. He drove all those balls to the outfield, in the gaps, and he only got a single out of it."

If we had him healthy in the postseason, oh, my God!

Torii Hunter on teammate Miguel Cabrera

Tigers vice president and assistant general manager Al Avila was impressed that Cabrera managed to do as well as he did.

"I was very surprised he was able to play that way with what he had," Avila said. "He was definitely playing hurt and in some pain for a good part of the year, I would say with a superhuman effort.

"I don’t think too many guys could do what he did."

But Cabrera doesn’t think about what could have been.

"I tried to play with what I have at that point of the season," Cabrera said. "I don’t think, ‘If I was healthy, what I could do?’ because you never know what’s going to happen."

Cabrera doesn’t think about it, but Hunter does.

"I thought that the whole offseason," Hunter said. "If we had him healthy in the postseason, oh, my God!"

The Tigers now have a healthy Cabrera who is shifting back to first base because of the trade of Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers.

"I was happy at third, happy at first," Cabrera said. "It doesn’t matter where they put me, I want to play baseball.

"I want to win some games and want to play every day. That’s what I want."

Although Fielder’s presence helped Cabrera win back-to-back MVP awards, Dombrowski thinks Victor Martinez can provide similar protection in the lineup.

"Even as well as Prince hit at times, they still pitched around Miguel at times," Dombrowski said. "But I think Victor is a threat behind him. He’s a good hitter."

Defensively, Avila believes moving back to first is the best thing for both Cabrera and the Tigers.

"We believe he is a real good defensive first baseman," Avila said. "As a matter of fact, if he puts his mind to it, he could even be a Gold Glover."