Tigers pregame notes: Watching Miguel Cabrera play hurt ‘kind of breaks your heart’; Alex Avila good to go after Game 5 collision
|10.19.13 at 6:39 pm ET|
Jim Leyland, baseball lifer and eight-year Tigers manager, knows what fans want to see in October: the best the sport has to offer.
But unfortunately for his team, its two most feared sluggers — Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder — haven’t been able to give that to the public. Fielder is mired in a postseason slump that dates back to last October, and Cabrera has been noticeably injured for at least the last couple of months.
“It’s really a shame, to be honest with you, for the whole baseball world because they’re not getting a chance to see him at his best,” Leyland said of Cabrera. “This time of year, people are turning on the TV, they love to see these guys. Obviously I think he’s the best player in the league. To not be able to see him at his best because of a physical ailment, it hurts a little bit, but that’s just the way it is. You have to live with those things.”
Cabrera has had a minor impact, hitting .263 with a .317 on-base clip while hitting two long balls and driving in seven this postseason. It’s a far cry from his 2012 Triple Crown season, as well as his 2013 regular season when he led the league in batting (.348), on-base percentage (.442) and slugging (.636).
“He can’t do some of the things that he normally can do,” Leyland said. “We’re not trying to hide anything. I think that’s pretty obvious to the naked eye when you watch him.
“It kind of breaks your heart, to be honest with you, to see him out there the way he has to be out there and the way he is right now because you know he’s hurting,” Leyland added later. “Everybody is conscientious these days about people earning their money. You talk about somebody who is earning their money, this guy feels like he owes it to the Detroit Tigers and our fans to be out there”
Fielder, however, isn’t hurt. He’s slumping, very much so and at the worst time. The 5-foot-11, 275-pound first baseman is hitting .243 through 10 games this month, and while that isn’t far from Cabrera’s mark, it hasn’t had nearly the same impact.
He has exactly one extra-base hit — a double in Game 2, pre-David Ortiz grand slam — and last drove in a postseason run 17 games ago. Fielder has also walked twice and struck out six times in this year’s edition. All together, it makes for a .243/.317/.270 slash line.
“We don’t have much time right now. Time is not on anybody’s side right now that is struggling,” Leyland said. “But Prince Fielder is not the only guy in the National League playoffs or the American League playoffs that’s struggled. … He’s a high-profile guy, so that sticks out a little more.”
At the same time, Leyland knows Fielder, who put up 25-homer, 100-RBI campaigns in each of his first two seasons with Detroit, can snap out of it with any given swing.
“It can happen anytime,” Leyland said. “Anytime he’s in the batter’s box, I feel like something big can happen. So far it hasn’t happened.”
OTHER TIGERS NOTES
– Catcher Alex Avila, who had a home-plate collision with David Ross in Game 5 and later took a foul tip off his mask, is in the Tigers’ Game 6 lineup after exiting Thursday’s contest with a patella strain of his left knee.
Leyland told Detroit media that the knee is the only concern, so the team isn’t worried about another concussion. Avila missed about half of August with a concussion.
“The one thing you don’t want to happen is start the game and take him out in the second or third inning,” Leyland said. “That’s one thing I try to guard against as a manager. If you can’t go, that’s fine. But if you can go, you want to be [in there] for the entire game, if possible.”
– Game 4 starter Doug Fister is available Saturday, but if he enters the game in any fashion, it would represent an outcome that is far from ideal for Detroit.
“If we need long relief tonight, we’re in trouble,” Leyland said. “Because we’ve got a Cy Young candidate [Max Scherzer] pitching for us, a guy that’s great all year for us, and if you have to take him out in the third or fourth inning, we’re probably in a little bit of trouble.”
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