Miguel Cabrera ‘all in’ on plan to move him down Detroit Tigers batting order

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — For the past 13 years, Miguel Cabrera has hit either third or fourth in the Detroit Tigers lineup.

Not anymore.

Cabrera has hit No. 5 for three consecutive spring training games. The presence of shortstop Javier Baez, who signed a six-year, $140 million contract in the offseason, has pushed him down in the batting order.

“I talked to him a while back about putting our lineup together, and that he could hit fifth or sixth, depending on the situation,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “He’s all in on whatever we need to do to win the games. When you add players, specifically Baez, to the middle of the order, somebody’s going to move. And Miggy is very well aware of that.”

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In his 19-year MLB career, Cabrera has made starts in eight of the nine spots in the batting order: first (1), second (4), third (1,424), fourth (942), fifth (113), sixth (8), seventh (57) and eighth (15).

The last time Cabrera started below the cleanup spot was Aug. 12, 2008, when former Tigers manager Jim Leyland put hit him No. 5 behind Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordoñez.

The streak will end in 2022.

“We had a good conversation about it, and then we haven’t talked about it since,” Hinch said. “I told him I was going to do it in the spring to see, that I’d like to take a look at the structure and see where it fits.

“He’s all in, and I love that about him.”

Six roster moves, and then some

The Tigers made six roster moves Saturday morning, involving three players on the 40-man roster and three non-roster invitees.

Left-handed reliever Miguel Del Pozo, infielder Kody Clemens and infielder Zack Short were optioned to Triple-A Toledo, meaning they will open 2022 season with the Mud Hens.

For now, these three players remain on the 40-man roster.

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“Our depth has gotten better,” Hinch said. “When you add major-league pieces via trade and free agency, it starts to shrink the holes that you have on the roster and the opportunities you have.

“There are everyday position players last year that are fighting to make this team, when you think of guys like Willi (Castro) and some of the outfield guys with Derek (Hill), Victor (Reyes) and Daz (Cameron), guys that have played a little bit. I think it means we’re getting better because we have less holes to fill.”

As for the roster moves with non-40-man players, right-handed reliever Drew Carlton, infielder Josh Lester and outfielder Jacob Robson were reassigned to minor-league camp.

The Tigers also informed infielder Ryan Kreidler — the No. 7 prospect in the organization, according to MLB Pipeline — and utility player Jack Lopez that they will start the season in Triple-A Toledo.

“It’s important to be straight up and real with the players,” Hinch said.

Kreidler and Lopez, however, are staying in MLB spring training until the Triple-A season begins April 5 at Fifth Third Field in Toledo. Neither player is on the 40-man roster, but Kreidler is a top candidate to be added to the 40-man roster at some point this season for his MLB debut.

To learn about his situation, Kreidler met with Hinch, general manager Al Avila and assistant general manager Sam Menzin.

“I understand the business of this game,” Kreidler said. “Not being on the 40-man is a disadvantage, but I completely understand where the front office is coming from. They want to win, and I respect that. Whenever the time is right and they need me, I’ll be ready to go.”

Hinch said Kreidler will play three infield positions — shortstop, second base and third base — in Toledo. He might learn the outfield, too, but that idea remains an open discussion within the organization.

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Kreidler hit .304 with seven home runs, 24 walks and 39 strikeouts in 41 games for the Mud Hens last season. Adding his 88 games in Double-A Erie, the 24-year-old totaled a .270 batting average and 22 homers in the minors in 2021.

“I don’t want to force anything,” Kreidler said. “What made Toledo a good experience for me was it felt like an opportunity. … It was obviously a next step. We took it lightly and used it as an opportunity to play, go out there and communicate and have fun. I ended up playing really good baseball.

“I’m going to take that with me, try to keep it light and let the game come (to me). I’m not trying to force anything.”

The Tigers are expected to make additional cuts Monday.

Pitching updates

Right-hander Casey Mize will make his third spring training start Tuesday — an off-day for MLB camps — in the Tigers’ Triple-A game against the New York Yankees in Tampa. He is scheduled to pitch four innings.

Tucker Barnhart will catch Mize.

Chase Anderson, another right-hander in big-league camp, is also scheduled to pitch Tuesday during the Triple-A squad against the Yankees. While Mize is guaranteed to make the Opening Day roster, Anderson is competing for one of the final bullpen jobs.

Right-handed reliever Alex Lange, also locked in for Opening Day, pitched Saturday in minor-league camp on the TigerTown backfields. He was originally scheduled to pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies at Joker Marchant Stadium, but the Tigers wanted righty reliever Will Vest to toss two innings in the game.

Vest is in the mix for one of the final bullpen roles, though righties Rony Garcia and Jason Foley are the frontrunners.

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

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