Martinez is out but Cabrera sees 'no panic'
DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera and his teammates aren't that concerned about who will bat behind him; they're more worried about Victor Martinez.
Cabrera and the Tigers got a chance to discuss the recent bad news before they left Comerica Park and headed out to various stops on their Winter Caravan.
"I don't focus on that, who's gonna hit behind me, who's gonna be in front of me," Cabrera said. "First thing we've got to focus on is Victor get healthy this year and hopefully he can play the last month, the last two months and he can help us to go to the playoffs."
Although the Tigers won't know whether he has a chance to return for the end of the season or possible playoffs until after Martinez undergoes surgery to repair his torn left ACL, the Tigers are confident they can hold down the fort without him.
"There's no panic at all," Cabrera said. "We still got a good team. He's a big part of our team. He inject a lot of energy in our team. We're gonna miss him. We're gonna miss him for a couple months but he's gonna be there with us. We're gonna keep in touch, we're gonna have a lot of communication because we need that, he needs that and we need that, too."
While president and general manager Dave Dombrowski fields phone calls from agents of free agents and from general managers looking to deal, manager Jim Leyland gets peppered with the lineup questions he never had to deal with last year.
Brennan Boesch or Alex Avila could get the call to bat behind Cabrera if the Tigers do not sign someone outside the organization. Boesch hit behind Cabrera two seasons ago when Cabrera finished second to Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton in the American League MVP race.
"I'll do whatever Skipper wants, obviously, but that spot is definitely a different spot to hit in with Miguel being the hitter that he is," Boesch said. "I think it's almost an honor to be put there so if my name is called, I'll be up for the challenge and I'll embrace that. It would be great. Skipper, he changes a lot of lineups, he does some different things. I don't really get caught up where I'm gonna hit.
"I just feel bad for Victor. He's an amazing teammate. I really enjoyed playing with him and having his son around, too, was fun. My heart goes out to him but as far as our team and our organization, we'll be just fine."
Boesch had a very strong beginning to his rookie season, batting .342 with 12 home runs and 49 RBIs before the All-Star break but just .163 with two home runs and 18 RBIs after the break.
Last season Boesch had a strong start, batting .306 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI before the All-Star break but then suffered a torn thumb ligament that he tried to play through but eventually required surgery.
Boesch said he was cleared to do everything, including swinging the bat, at the beginning of December. He said he doesn't even think about the thumb anymore. All he's thinking about is starting the season.
"Every year this time is fun," Boesch said. "But more than ever this year, I'm more excited because I wasn't able to participate in the playoffs. I haven't played baseball in longer than I've gone since I can remember. Before the offseason it was September since I'd hit, faced live pitching. I'm itching to go. I know everyone else here is too, but I think have some little extra in me to try to get back out there."
Pat Caputo of the Oakland Press suggested that the Tigers should have Alex Avila hit behind Cabrera, an idea that Avila is open to.
"Hitting behind Miguel is definitely an important job because of how dangerous a hitter he is," Avila said. "I think as a competitor and as a baseball player, you welcome any challenge. I think that would be fun if Skip put me back there. I'm sure he's already been playing around with lineups and stuff like that, whether it's any one of us he's going to put there or thinking if they're going to sign somebody to bring in. If he puts me back there, I would definitely welcome it and try and do the best I could."
Although Avila did get to play in the playoffs, he was far from 100 percent as he had to contend with tendinitis in both of his knees. After hitting .295 with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs in the regular season, he only hit .073 with one home run and two RBIs.
"Right after the season, right after we got done, I took a few weeks of not doing anything, which felt really nice," Avila said. "Just a couple weeks of basically lounging around on the couch all day, my body felt pretty good, my knees got a lot better and then I spent the whole month of November rehabbing, just getting my knees back to strength and the rest of my body. I feel great now. I've been going through my offseason workouts, hitting, throwing and I feel great."
Like Leyland, Cabrera and Boesch, Avila still believes the Tigers can contend as they are. But he won't be surprised if the Tigers are not the same team by the time the regular season begins.
"I wouldn't put it past Dave or anybody to try to get another hitter," Avila said. "It'd probably be a good thing. But at the same time, some of the positive things to look at is we'll have Brennan healthy, Delmon (Young) for a full year and our pitching staff will be better this year than it was last year with having Doug (Fister) in there for a full season. So there's still a lot of really good things going into the season that may be able to offset not having Victor in the lineup. If we add somebody, that would be great, too."