Pick it, Miggy: Cabrera shines on defense

David Brown
Big League Stew

Miguel Cabrera hit two home runs for the Detroit Tigers on Saturday, though he needed video review from the umpires before they confirmed the second blast. Whatever. Miguel Cabrera is supposed to hit home runs, after all. That's what everyone expected even before the Tigers signed Prince Fielder and they started going back to back.

Besides, the best Cabrera replay of the day against the Boston Red Sox was a diving catch to his left on a line drive by Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the fifth inning. Fans at Comerica Park let out a big "whoa!" and gave Cabrera an equally large ovation.

Watch the play here

That makes two very good plays in as many games at third base for Cabrera, who also made a stumbling, tumbling, yet slightly athletic grab of a pop-up on opening day. Big ovation for that one as well. The last time anyone was paying attention to him on defense, Cabrera was taking a bad-hop off his face and bleeding his own blood everywhere during spring training. It could have happened to anybody, but it was a symbolic moment for anyone worried about him playing third.

But, as the Associated Press quotes Cabrera, he was proud of his play against Boston:

"That was a nice play. Did you see that?" Cabrera said. "Everybody was surprised."

Well, kind of, yeah.

During the Tigers' disastrous 2008 season, Cabrera's first in Detroit, he led the league in home runs and total bases. But it took manager Jim Leyland less than three weeks to take Cabrera off third base and move him over to first. He was too out of shape and not athletic enough (those are different things) to hack it over there.

Most fans know what happened this past offseason, when the Tigers signed Fielder and Leyland announced that Cabrera would be his third baseman again. But if Cabrera couldn't handle it at 25 years old, how is he supposed to do it when he's about to turn 29?

Well, he worked hard in the offseason to drop pounds and reawaken some of his ability at third. It's been a long time, but Cabrera came up through the Florida Marlins system as a shortstop, though he never played there (and wasn't going to) in the majors. The point is: There's an athlete in there, somewhere.

There's still plenty of reason to be skeptical about Cabrera playing well at third for a full season. He's also made an error already. But so far (small sample size) so good. Fielder, who has been appreciative of Cabrera making the move, got a kick out of the fans' reaction to Cabrera's "D." As the Detroit Free Press quoted him:

"It was awesome -- I love it," Fielder said of that ovation for Cabrera. "Every time he makes a good play, they should do that. At least I am."

The regular season is here!
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