Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera will start at first base on Opening Day

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch has announced Miguel Cabrera, entering his 19th campaign in the majors, as his Opening Day first baseman. The Tigers begin the season Thursday against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park.

The memorable day of baseball will also be Cabrera’s first regular-season contest at first base since June 18, 2019. The 37-year-old spent 2020 as the Tigers’ full-time designated hitter, because of a chronic right knee problem, and is eager to return to his old position.

“I think he gives us the best chance to win at first base,” Hinch said Tuesday.

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This spring, Cabrera played six of his 16 games at first base — the other 10 he was the designated hitter. That rate would equate to roughly 60 games at first base in the regular season.

Hinch has previously committed to penciling Cabrera in at first base once or twice per week. Cabrera said in late February: “I feel like I did back when I was in 2014. I feel more like when I was healthy.”

He went 9-for-40 (.225) with one double, two home runs, eight RBIs, one walk and 11 strikeouts in camp.

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Cabrera’s primary focus, Hinch said, was “overcompensating” in an attempt to drive the ball to the right side of the field — the opposite way where he stands in the batter’s box. He wanted to make sure he didn’t get into bad habits of only pulling the ball to left field

On Monday, Cabrera hit an opposite-field three-run homer against New York Yankees reliever Chad Green. The ball traveled 354 feet at a speed of 104.8 mph off the bat.

“He knows that he can dial it up when the season starts if he’s going to hunt fastballs in,” Hinch said. “What you can’t do is pull the ball for three or four weeks and then expect to track balls deep in the zone as the season gets closer. I like where he’s at.”

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Last season, Cabrera hit .250, the lowest season batting average of his career. But he paced the team in home runs (10) and RBIs (35) across 57 games. He hit .282 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs across 136 games in 2019.

Cabrera has played 1,151 career games at first base.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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