‘Right now, milestones don’t matter’: Miguel Cabrera’s focus on righting Tigers’ ship

Detroit News

Houston — It was the morning after, but there was no discernable change in Miguel Cabrera’s mood as he sat somberly at his locker Sunday.

“The focus right now is on winning games,” he said. “We’ve been losing too many games. Right now, milestones don’t matter.”

Cabrera drove in the Tigers only two runs in the 3-2 loss Saturday night with his 600th career double. That double put him in a most exclusive club, joining Hank Aaron and Albert Pujols as the only players in Major League history with at least 3,000 hits, 500 homers and 600 doubles.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s there,” he said of the achievement. “But I need to have focus on winning games. It doesn’t matter what I do last night, we got another loss. It’s tough to think about milestones right now.”

What other reaction would you expect from Cabrera? After all, when he addressed the team last month after collecting his 3,000th hit, all he talked about was how much more fun the game is, how lively the Comerica Park crowds are, when you win.

“He hates losing,” manager AJ Hinch said. “I mean, if he’s willing to go and talk about the team at the height of his personal accomplishments, it tells me everything I need to know about Miguel Cabrera. He wants to win today’s game. He wants to have better results. He wants to go home happy. And I believe him.”

The Tigers took a four-game losing streak into the finale Sunday against the Astros. They’d lost 11 of the last 13, averaging 2.2 runs during the skid.

“Everybody is on the same page,” Cabrera said. “We’re trying to win, trying to play better. That’s the bottom line right now. We need to get some hits with two outs, hit with men in scoring position and score more runs. That’s it.”

Eventually, Cabrera will be able to reflect on what’s happened these first two months, where he’s placed himself among the greats of the game and the fact that he’s reached the same lofty pinnacle as the player of his generation he respects as much or more than anyone else – Pujols.

Just not when his team is 10 games under .500.

“I know he will enjoy this over time,” Hinch said. “He will look back and love the fact he hit a double to join a very exclusive group. But when he shows up at the ballpark, all he really cares about is winning.”

More: Tigers rookie Torkelson confident, staying the course through rough patch

Rotation roulette

With the Tigers in a stretch of playing 30 games in 28 days, Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter are looking for ways to elongate the starting rotation, a task made especially difficult with injuries to Matt Manning (shoulder), Casey Mize (elbow) and Tyler Alexander (elbow).

The Tigers are pushing Beau Brieske and Eduardo Rodriguez back one day and will likely bring up a pitcher from Toledo to make a spot start on Wednesday. It’s not exactly the same as going to a six-man rotation, but it’s close.

“If you are giving guys extra days, it’s the same as using a six-man rotation,” Hinch said. “We’re doing it with personnel and not off-days. We’re trying to slide guys in and also line up for when Manning can come back. There’s lots of moving parts.”

Here’s what’s in place right now: Michael Pineda will start Monday against Oakland. For the doubleheader Tuesday, Tarik Skubal will start one game and the Tigers will add a 27th man to the roster for the second game (most likely right-hander Alex Faedo).

On Wednesday, the Tigers, who have an open spot on the 40-man roster, could call up veterans Chase Anderson or Nivaldo Rodriguez, or they could use lefty Joey Wentz.

Brieske would pitch Thursday and Rodriguez on Friday against the Orioles.

Manning, who made his first rehab start Sunday, is expected to make two and possibly three starts for Toledo before being activated.

Around the horn

Hinch said before the game that outfielder Victor Reyes would begin a rehab assignment Tuesday. He is expected to start for the Toledo Mud Hens in Louisville. He’s been out since April 23 with a left quad strain.

… Outfielder Austin Meadows, who hasn’t played since Thursday night, was still under the weather Sunday, though Hinch was hopeful he might be available to pinch-hit. “He’s just not feeling well,” Hinch said. “It’s been kind of growing. Just a general malaise, little bit of sinuses, breathing’s not good. Just sick.”

On deck: Athletics

► Series: Five games at Comerica Park, Detroit

First pitch: Monday — 7:10 p.m.; Tuesday (2) — 1:10 p.m., straight doubleheader; Wednesday — 7:10 p.m.; Thursday — 1:10 p.m.

TV/radio: All games on BSD/97.1 FM

Probables: Monday — RHP Paul Blackburn (3-0, 2.22) vs. RHP Michael Pineda (1-1, 3.77); Tuesday — Game 1: RHP Frankie Montas (2-2, 3.44) vs. Tarik Skubal (1-2, 3.04), Game 2: TBA vs. RHP Alex Faedo, tentative (0-0, 3.60); Wednesday — LHP Zach Logue (1-1, 2.84) vs. TBD; Thursday — RHP James Kaprielian (0-2, 5.87) vs. RHP Beau Brieske (0-2, 4.20).

Blackburn, Athletics: A strike-thrower with a six-pitch arsenal. He’s struck out 23 and walked three in 24 innings. He throws his secondary pitches (change-up, curve and cutter) off a 91-92 mph sinker, getting a 50% whiff rate with his curveball.

Pineda, Tigers: Left-handed hitters have done most of the damage against Big Mike so far this season, hitting .333 with a .546 slugging percentage. Part of the reason for that is he hasn’t yet had a good feel for his change-up. But he’s kept the Tigers in the hunt in all three of his starts.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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