By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera has plenty of reason to miss hard-hitting cleanup man Prince Fielder, who batted behind him in 2012 and 2013 and kept pitchers from simply walking Cabrera in consecutive MVP seasons.
What Cabrera will miss most, however, seems to have little to do with baseball and more to do with friendship. Before Fielder got traded to the Texas Rangers this offseason, he occupied the locker beside Cabrera’s locker. For all Fielder did for Cabrera on the diamond, it seems Cabrera might miss Fielder most in the clubhouse.
“It affects me a little bit because he’s one of my really good friends,” Cabrera told Harold Reynolds, a former major league second baseman, of MLB Network. “Knowing that he’s behind me, every day you see his face, we go out there and try to play every day, I’m going to miss him a lot.”
Cabrera did not appear too concerned about how Fielder’s absence will affect his ability to be productive for the Tigers.
“We’ll see what’s going to happen,” he said. “I think that pitchers, they’ve got a lot of pride inside them, so hopefully they can go after me.”
Between the loss of Fielder, the addition of faster players, a youthful new manager in Brad Ausmus, and renewed emphasis on base running and defense, the Tigers look quite different in 2014 than they did in 2013. Cabrera said he hopes the changes will put pressure on opposing pitchers and force them into mistakes.
As part of the shuffling in the infield (which is now in flux yet again as shortstop Jose Iglesias is reportedly out indefinitely with stress fractures in both shins), Cabrera will be moving from third base to first base, where he played before taking over the hot corner in 2012 to make room for Fielder at first. The switch back is one he seems happy to make.
“I like back to first,” he said with a smile. “I don’t want to hear any more about, ‘Ah, he’s no good defensive third base,’ stuff.”
Regarding his health, Cabrera also seems content. Though he played 148 of 162 games in 2013, abdominal issues rendered Cabrera hardly able to move for much of the later part of the season. The injuries reduced Cabrera’s power and made him downright abysmal on the base paths and hard to watch at third base. Now, it appears all that is behind him.
“I’m going to be ready for the season,” Cabrera said.
The Tigers open the 2014 schedule at Comerica Park on March 31.