ATLANTA -- Miguel Cabrera has the enthusiasm of a kid playing baseball, but the body of a 36-year-old who has played through many injuries over 16 years. The contrast between the two has again put the Tigers slugger in a bind, with his aching right knee again knocking him out of action.
Cabrera is set to undergo an MRI exam on the knee Saturday after leaving Friday’s 8-2 win over the Braves with soreness. He isn’t overly concerned about it, but he’s clearly frustrated.
“It’s hard, because I want to be in the field,” said Cabrera, who has played first base most of the past week. “I want to be over there and trying to play defense and help the team win.”
He likes to play defense, likes to be involved in that aspect of the game, rather than biding time between at-bats as a designated hitter. Cabrera had a bounce in his step the last few games playing first base after spending Monday’s game at Baltimore at DH. But when he plays the field, the knee takes more wear and tear.
Unlike the O’s series, the DH isn’t an option for this Interleague series. If Cabrera can’t play first base Saturday, he’ll be limited to pinch-hitting work at best.
Cabrera left Friday’s game in the sixth inning after a strikeout and two groundouts against Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz. He complained to hitting coach Lloyd McClendon after his last at-bat about not being able to push off on the knee in his swing. Once the Tigers took the field for the sixth, he was out. Brandon Dixon, who started at second base for just the fourth time in his Major League career, moved over to first, with Atlanta native Gordon Beckham entering the game at second.
However, Cabrera acknowledged the knee had been an issue in previous games on the trip as well.
“The last three games, I haven’t been using my legs much [in my swing],” Cabrera said. “It’s time to look at it.”
Though Cabrera missed most of last season with a torn biceps, his bigger concern going into this season was his back and knees, which have given him issues in past years. Cabrera missed a game against the Astros two weeks ago with knee stiffness, and he has played more at DH of late than at first this year. He has started five games at first base on this road trip thanks in part to a pair of Interleague series.