Looking to grab single-game tickets to a Tigers game this season and wondering if Miguel Cabrera will play? It’s difficult to predict very far out, but manager A.J. Hinch said Sunday he’ll go series by series with a plan for the future Hall of Famer’s playing time and try to give advance notice when possible. It might not be as clear-cut as the stretch run last season, when Hinch had a fairly regular schedule of playing a hobbled Cabrera once during a three-game series to ease the wear and tear.
This much we know: As long as Cabrera is healthy, he’ll be in the starting lineup in Thursday’s home opener against the Red Sox. He played all three games of the Tigers’ season-opening series against Tampa Bay last weekend and supposedly felt good. Most of Cabrera’s starts will be based on matchups against opposing starting pitchers, particularly left-handers.
But with Cabrera’s 40th birthday coming up on April 18, and his knees and back becoming chronic issues in recent years, Hinch wants to plan out days off for him to give him the best chance of making it through his final season healthy.
At the same time, Hinch understands fans might want the best chance possible to see Cabrera at the plate for what might be one last time for them. That could include fans traveling to Detroit or on the road, some of them maybe planning a summer trip.
“It’s not easy. I’ll be very cognizant of all of that,” Hinch said Sunday. “No. 1 priority is to Miguel and making sure he understands where his starts are going to be and where he’s going to be coming off of the bench. Secondarily, I’d love to be open about where he fits in each particular series, whether it’s teams honoring him, whether it’s fans coming out to see him, a lot of interested parties, as they should be. So we’ll do the best we can, obviously factoring in health as well if things come up throughout the season.
“We’ll be as transparent as we can, but it’s not always going to be perfect. I realize some fans will be disappointed if they come to a game and he’s not starting. It doesn’t mean he won’t get into it. It’s a tough balance.”
When Miggy isn’t starting, he’s still a candidate to come up to bat later in the game as a pinch-hitter, particularly with the way the Tigers play matchups. Cabrera’s days out of the designated hitter slot against right-handed starters will often be opportunities to start a left-handed hitter, such as Kerry Carpenter. In those situations, Hinch can turn to Cabrera if the opponent goes to a lefty out of the bullpen.
Cabrera, for his part, has already said he doesn’t want to be a special case. He wants to help this team compete.
“This is my third year with him,” Hinch said, “and we’ve talked a lot about it over the last couple of years. And then going into this season, I let him know exactly what I thought the plan was going to be initially, with room for change.
“We’ll see where it goes as the season progresses, but I’m not going to surprise him with anything. I’m going to tell him upfront exactly what the plan is. And he’s on board with doing whatever it takes. What he’s told me is to do whatever we have to do to give us the best chance to win, whether he’s hitting in the middle of the order like he has for nearly 20 years or whether he’s hitting in the latter third. Miggy will do whatever.”
There are some specific dates Miggy fans can look out for. On Monday, the Tigers announced their ¡Gracias, Miggy! Campaign, with key dates throughout the season designated to remember and celebrate Cabrera’s greatest moments, culminating in Miggy Celebration Weekend Sept. 29-Oct. 1 and a pregame ceremony on Sept. 30.
Comerica Park will feature a mini-museum chronicling his career along with photo opportunities throughout the season. Each homestand will feature a sweepstakes in which fans can enter into a random drawing for a Miggy-themed prize, such as autographed memorabilia, Cabrera Collection merchandise and tickets to the final weekend. Each Tigers win during a homestand will prompt a random drawing.
Miggy-themed giveaways this season include a T-shirt on April 29, a Miggy Milestones bobblehead on June 10 and a print-all-over T-shirt on Sept. 30, all for the first 15,000 fans through the gates. All fans entering the ballpark on Oct. 1 will receive a commemorative item for Cabrera’s final regular-season game.