Leyland swears Cabrera is no distraction

Tigers manager Jim Leyland, after initially declining to answer questions Friday morning about Miguel Cabrera, emphatically told reporters that Cabrera’s latest troubles would have no bearing on the club this season.

Cabrera, the Tigers’ first baseman, cleanup hitter and perennial MVP candidate, was arrested late Wednesday on suspicion of drunken driving in Fort Pierce, Fla. The Tigers’ first full workout began Saturday without Cabrera; Leyland said he has “no information” on when the player will report.

Leyland told reporters at the outset of his morning news conference not to ask about Cabrera, deferring comment to Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, who spoke on Thursday. But Leyland, while speaking in measured tones, grew expansive when asked how Cabrera’s situation might disrupt the team.

“Look, once and for all, it’s not going to affect the team at all. All these people are going to get dramatic about this (expletive), it’s not going to affect this team one bit. Trust me. That’s all reading material. Everybody gets all upset, gets real dramatic …

“You think Magglio Ordonez and those guys are going to go about their business any different? Nobody’s going to do anything any different. They’re going to bust their ass.

“And I know for a fact, without getting into this situation, I know for a fact that Miguel Cabrera is in the best shape of his life. He’s stronger than he’s ever been. He’s quicker than he’s ever been. It has no affect. It might make some dramatic reading material. Everybody’s predicting all this stuff. It’s not going to do (expletive) along those lines, believe me. Nothing.

Leyland then was asked if he saw Cabrera this offseason.

“That’s the end of the conversation about Miguel Cabrera,” Leyland said. “I made that statement. If you want to believe me, believe me. If you don’t, don’t believe me. That’s up to you guys.

“I’m not going to get into (anything) about Miguel Cabrera today other than the fact that all this speculating, all this disruption that’s going to happen, it’s not going to do (expletive). It is not going to be a disruption for our team. Trust me.”

But if Cabrera is disrupted, given his importance to the Tigers …

“I’m not going to talk about it,” Leyland continued. “(Detroit GM) Dave (Dombrowski) will speak to that. I’m the field manager. I manage the players on the field. Our clubhouse will be great. And our team has a helluva chance to be an outstanding team. That’s going to have no bearing on it one way or the other, trust me.

“Don’t get trapped into that thing. It’s going to have no bearing. He’s going to be welcomed here with open arms by his teammates. And they’re going to want to see him hit that son of a bitch over the right-center field fence with two men on. He’s going to do that. Don’t get all excited about what this is going to do the clubhouse and the chemistry, all that (expletive). It doesn’t have a (expletive) thing to do with anything.”

And if Cabrera does not produce in his normal fashion? How fragile would that make the team?

“You’ll have to talk to Miguel Cabrera, but I’ll tell you what I think,” Leyland said. “I think Miguel Cabrera is probably going to have the biggest year of his life.”