Here’s what had Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera laughing after Opening Day win
Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera said he enjoyed the return of fans to Comerica Park for Opening Day on Thursday, April 1, 2021.
Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
The Tigers (7-14) activated Cabrera from the injured list Sunday morning, following Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals. Despite Matthew Boyd’s dominant eight innings, the bats accounted for one run, three hits, zero walks and 11 strikeouts.
Detroit has lost eight of its past nine games, mainly a byproduct of its lackluster offense. Cabrera, 38, played in his first game since April 10, when he sustained a mild left biceps strain that landed him on the 10-day injured list.
Cabrera started at first base and hit third in the batting order. He struggled though, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the 4-0 loss to the Royals.
“I do like presence, and I do like stability,” manager AJ Hinch said before Sunday’s game. “I think there are other things, subtle things, that are not just the four at-bats that Miggy gets that he brings. It might be something on the bench. There are conversations that are had, little tips here and there, baseball talk, the game planning that we go through.
“There’s a lot of stuff that Miggy brings that doesn’t get recorded in a box score, so hopefully, that ticks up with his reemergence into our lineup.”
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During the past nine games, the Tigers are 51-for-273 (.186) with 12 walks and 89 strikeouts, with nine doubles, two triples and six home runs. The biggest problem is the inability to consistency advance runners through quality at-bats.
The Tigers have driven in 35 runs on 24 home runs this season, accounting for 53% of their 66 runs scored, which means the team relies too much on the long ball and gets buried by strikeouts.
“Obviously, we need a lot of guys to get warm and swing the bat a little bit,” Hinch said. “They’ve done it before, and they’re going to do it again. This is not a team that can’t hit. It’s a team that hasn’t been hitting.”
The Tigers went 4-9 without Cabrera in the lineup. Another missing component to the offense is outfielder Nomar Mazara. He was placed on the 10-day injured list April 15 with a left abdominal strain and is currently rehabbing in Lakeland, Florida, home of the team’s spring training facility.
The timetable for Mazara’s return is unclear, but Tigers GM Al Avila said the 25-year-old is expected to return around May 9, after a rehab stint with Triple-A Toledo when the minor leagues open in the first week of May.
The Tigers travel to play the Chicago White Sox (Tuesday-Thursday), New York Yankees (Friday-Sunday) and Boston Red Sox (May 4-6) before returning to Comerica Park.
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Without Cabrera and Mazara, the lineup is forced to function differently, and pressure is put on players not typically in the three, four, five and six spots in the batting order.
“Again, no excuses,” Hinch said. “We’ve got to put up good at-bats and try to create offense. But having Nomar out of that five slot, six slot, having Miggy out of the middle of the order, just his presence alone, changes things. Now, it just doesn’t snap our fingers and all of a sudden we’re better because you add a name or two, but it will make a difference.”
Through seven games, Cabrera — chasing 3,000 hits and 500 home runs — is 3-for-24 (.125) with one home run, three RBIs, three walks and four strikeouts. Mazara has played 12 games, hitting 9-for-38 (.237) with two homers, five RBIs, two walks and seven strikeouts.
Cabrera received a schedule from Hinch covering the next couple of weeks, including the plan for his usage at first base and designated hitter, as well as “a couple scheduled off days for him” during the team’s upcoming road trip.
Short stay, quick return?
To make room for Cabrera on the 26-man roster, the Tigers sent infielder Zack Short to the alternate training site in Toledo. The Triple-A season begins May 4, and the organization will surely keep a close watch on his performance.
“I told him in his meeting yesterday that it’s not his last time up here,” Hinch said. “I want to get him up here as soon as possible when the roster kind of makes sense. I think he’s got a lot to learn and a lot to get better at, but he’s also got a lot to give this team whenever we need him.”
Short, 25, made his MLB debut in Game 1 of Wednesday’s doubleheader with the Pittsburgh Pirates, going 0-for-1 with two walks. He picked up his first big-league hit — a single to left field — in the sixth inning Friday against the Royals.
During Short’s two games, he went 1-for-5 with two walks and three strikeouts. He played third base in his debut and second base in his second game. He can also play shortstop, making him a versatile infielder.
“He’s a fundamentally sound player,” Hinch said. “He’s got a little edge to him. He was really proud of his first hit, but he also wasn’t going to let that be the storyline with the loss that we had. The athleticism, the spark, the bounce in his step, he’s a pretty intriguing guy that can fit on a lot of major league teams, and a lot of styles of major league teams, as well.”
Before joining the active roster, the Tigers added Short to the taxi squad from April 12-18 during the 10-game road trip. He traveled with the club for games against the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics, after slugger Renato Nunez transitioned from taxi squad to the roster in Cabrera’s absence. (Since then, Nunez has been designated for assignment. Hinch said the team expects to learn if he cleared waivers soon.)
“Getting him some work in major league stadiums, around our major league coaches, the routine of the major-league team, took a little bit of the nerves away from him when he finally got the opportunity,” Hinch said. “It also made us very comfortable, given how his work is.”
The Tigers acquired Short at the 2020 trade deadline from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin. He is the No. 24 prospect in the team’s farm system, according to MLB Pipeline.
After first career hit, Detroit Tigers’ Zack Short shares his early MLB experience
Detroit Tigers Infielder Zack Short talks after collecting his first MLB hit Friday, April 23, 2021, against the Kansas City Royals.
Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press