Why you'll see Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera back at first base a little more often

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Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch penciled Miguel Cabrera into Monday's starting lineup as the team's first baseman for the second time since June 22.

As the All-Star break approached, the Tigers pulled Cabrera away from his semi-regular duties at first base. His right calf flared up, and Hinch didn't want to roll the dice near the halfway point of the season.

The second half is underway, so the situation has changed.

"Physically, he's fine doing it," Hinch said Monday, before Cabrera took the field against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. "Now it cuts into some playing time for guys, which is what I'm curious about. ... He's going to play first two or three times this week. I just gave him his schedule for the rest of this homestand and the first of the road trip. The goal is for him to play once a series at first base.

"Some of that is driven by his healthy. I think he's completely healthy. But a lot of it is how to work in the middle infield now that we're trying to spread the playing time out."

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Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) runs towards the first base against Kansas City Royals during fifth inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.
Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) runs towards the first base against Kansas City Royals during fifth inning at Comerica Park in Detroit on Wednesday, May 12, 2021.

Here are the infield options: Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario, Harold Castro, Isaac Paredes, Jonathan Schoop and Zack Short. Everyone besides Cabrera can play more than one position. When Cabrera plays first base, Hinch is forced to slide Schoop from first base to second base.

Schoop to second base cuts down on playing time for Paredes, a 22-year-old the Tigers are trying to learn more about for the future. Because Candelario is a mainstay at third base, Hinch is left to pick between Short, Paredes and Castro to handle shortstop.

"It is a puzzle to put together when I do put Miggy at first base," Hinch said.

Cabrera has played 30 of 72 games at first this season.

One advantage of Cabrera playing first base revolves around Eric Haase, who has spent time at catcher, left field and designated hitter this season. He has 13 home runs in 46 games and continues to push for a spot in the everyday lineup. When Hinch wants Cabrera to play first, Haase can slide to DH.

But that decision brings about those tough infield choices.

'Monitoring' Toledo for pitching

For now, the starting rotation is Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Wily Peralta and Tyler Alexander. Manning isn't on the active roster, but is slated to return from Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday to start against the Rangers and "make some starts moving forward," Hinch said.

"What we do with Tyler is going to be the key," Hinch said.

If Alexander, scheduled to start Thursday's game, is effective, the Tigers have the door open for him to stick in the rotation, at least until one of their injured starters — Spencer Turnbull, Matthew Boyd and Jose Urena — returns.

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Detroit Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter talks with starting pitcher Jose Urena during the second inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Detroit.
Detroit Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter talks with starting pitcher Jose Urena during the second inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Saturday, June 12, 2021, in Detroit.

If Alexander needs to return to the bullpen, the Tigers seem to believe they have enough options in Triple A to get them through the injuries. In Toledo, Hinch is keeping tabs on 30-year-old right-hander Drew Hutchison and 27-year-old righty Ricardo Pinto through conversations with Mud Hens manager Tom Prince.

Through 13 starts, Hutchison has a 3.84 ERA, 31 walks and 69 strikeouts over 68 innings. Meanwhile, Pinto owns a 2.18 ERA, 15 walks and 25 strikeouts across 33 innings in six starts. Pinto was promoted to Triple A on June 10, following a 3.18 ERA, seven walks and 25 strikeouts over 28⅓ innings for Double-A Erie.

"We might need a spot start between now and the end of this long stretch of games, if we want to give extra rest to our starters," Hinch said. "If not, then we'll keep them on their regular turn and play it out."

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers ready to use Miguel Cabrera at first base again