Miguel CabreraTigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who suffered a scary facial fracture back on March 19 when he took a hard ground ball to the eye, returned to game action on Friday. The results? Promising.

Cabrera, batting third in the lineup and manning his new/old position, went 2-for-3 with two doubles on the day. Both hits came at the expense of Orioles lefty Brian Matusz, who's been generally impressive this spring.

Cabrera's first time up, he went with an 0-2 pitch and sprayed it down the right-field line for a hard two-bagger. In the third, he ripped a double the left-field line. In some circles, this is known as "using the whole field."

Cabrera also made good in the field, when he scooped up a Nolan Reimold roller and stepped on third for the final out of the second frame.

Given the Tigers' cautious handling of Cabrera post-injury and given that the injury was to his "back" eye at the plate, it's not surprising that he's ripping the ball without delay.

It goes without saying that Cabrera is essential to the Tigers' hopes in 2012. He's coming off a season in which he was among the most productive hitters in all of baseball (he paced the majors in batting and OBP and chipped in 48 doubles and 30 homers), and, at age 29 and in improved shape, he's poised for an MVP-caliber campain. Again.

Is he the preseason favorite for AL MVP honors? He might be. No team in baseball enjoys a higher likelihood of reaching the postseason, and voters almost always prefer that the MVP play for a contender (in essense rewarding him for his choice in teammates). Voters also like a story, and Cabrera has at once the redemption narrative working for him and the "good soldier" element (what with his willingness to tackle a more difficult position in the field so as to accommodate Prince Fielder).

Mostly, though, Cabrera's an MVP favorite because he is in what should be his prime seasons and is also one of the two or three best hitters in the game today. And since he's also more than halfway to 500 homers and 3,000 hits before his 30th birthday, he may be a Cooperstown favorite, too.

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