LAKELAND, Fla. -- Some might say Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera is heroic, generous or at the very least team-oriented for giving up first base at a moment's notice and moving to third so the team could sign top free agent Prince Fielder. Not Cabrera, who doesn't see it that way.
"I never had a position, so what's the difference?'' Cabrera said, applying sound logic.
Cabrera actually came to Detroit as a third baseman but was soon switched to first base, where Carlos Guillen was struggling with the nuances of that position. Now Cabrera is going back to third. No matter what happens here -- and he's off to a slow start, with an error here Sunday -- he's the third baseman.
"I feel good [about it],'' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He's my third baseman, I like writing his name into the lineup every day. It is what it is.''
What it appears to be is an interesting little imperfection for us to write about on an otherwise superior Tigers team. And it probably is pretty small in the scheme of things. Cabrera has excellent hands and a true arm.
The only issue is his movement, which is undeniably limited. Cabrera was slow going to his left to try to field a grounder by the Braves' David Ross on Sunday, and he wound up booting the ball -- appearing to strain to bend over.
Cabrera joked before the game that he is 330 pounds; he actually is about average for him, somewhere in the high 200s. The Tigers do not seem at all displeased by his shape, round but reasonable.
Cabrera may seem young, but he works hard and he has veteran infielder Rafael Belliard here to work on his technique with him.
"I need to work on it every day. I need to work hard,'' Cabrera said.
The main thing, Belliard said, is to be ready. The ball gets to a third baseman faster than anywhere else on the diamond. Belliard pointed out Cabrera played shortstop at one point, but conceded that was a long time ago. It's even been a couple years for third base. It's a good thing they have all spring.
"We're not asking him to win a Gold Glove,'' Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said.
Even if he can't come close to major-league average even after a long spring of grounders, he's not coming out of games for defense late in games.
"He's a star. I'm not taking my star out,'' Leyland said. "I think that would send the wrong message to Miguel Cabrera, and I'm not doing it.''
More than anyone, Leyland understands the psyche of his players and the importance of it vs. an inning or two of slightly improved defense. That's the right call.
Dombrowski pointed out that Cabrera volunteered to play third base in interleague games last year, and he would have played third in National League cities had they made the World Series. Cabrera has a ways to go to become proficient again. But at least he is willing. That's maybe half the battle.