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Tigers likely to replace Miggy internally

Backup catcher Hicks played well filling in at first base in May
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- John Hicks was one of the Tigers' most productive hitters in May while filling in for an injured Miguel Cabrera. With Cabrera now out for the rest of the year, they'll need about a half-season of that from their backup catcher turned primary first baseman.

What Detroit doesn't need is Hicks trying to fill the giant void left by Cabrera in the middle of its lineup.

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DETROIT -- John Hicks was one of the Tigers' most productive hitters in May while filling in for an injured Miguel Cabrera. With Cabrera now out for the rest of the year, they'll need about a half-season of that from their backup catcher turned primary first baseman.

What Detroit doesn't need is Hicks trying to fill the giant void left by Cabrera in the middle of its lineup.

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"I'm excited to get to play a lot, for sure. The pressure is kind of what you put on yourself," Hicks said. "I'm going to go out and play and be the best version of myself that I can be. I can't go out and pretend to be Miguel Cabrera. That's not going to happen. I have to be the best John Hicks I can be."

That's all his manager wants.

"You're not going to replace [Cabrera]. You just don't," Ron Gardenhire said. "You put people in that spot, but you don't replace a guy like that with that kind of experience. I've seen it from the other side, but you guys have seen firsthand what this guy has done in his career and what he can do, and what him being in the lineup means for opposing pitchers."

Though the free-agent market includes a pair of recently released older first basemen in Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez, the Tigers are expected to fill the vacancy at first base from within the organization. Part of that is their situation. Despite its surprising standing in the American League Central, Detroit is still in a rebuilding process, and the veterans they've added have all been upside plays with potential trade value if they rebound.

Part of that, too, is what the Tigers saw from in Hicks in May while Cabrera was on the 10-day disabled list with a hamstring strain. He hit .304 (31-for-110) with six doubles, three home runs, 14 RBIs and a .796 OPS for the month, and he would have been in line for Tigers Player of the Month if not for Nicholas Castellanos' tear at the plate.

It wasn't a major adjustment at the plate, Hicks said. It was more a product of regular at-bats, something Hicks hasn't enjoyed much in his brief big league career.

Video: DET@MIN: Hicks snags grounder, starts the double play

"First base is probably a little easier on your legs, a little easier on your body," Hicks said. "But it's just getting consistent at-bats."

Hicks will get a good share of starts at first base for now, with Niko Goodrum also filling in when he isn't starting elsewhere around the infield or corner outfield spots. One player who isn't in line for time at first base, however, is Castellanos, who has been speculated as a future first baseman with Cabrera potentially moving to designated hitter next season.

"Castellanos is our right fielder," Gardenhire said. "We're trying to make him a right fielder, and he's still working at it, and he's working really hard."

Turnbull makes name in Erie
While Beau Burrows, Sandy Baez and Kyle Funkhouser draw most of the attention as pitching prospects at Double-A Erie, Spencer Turnbull won Eastern League Pitcher of the Week honors for his four-hit, 11-strikeout shutout of Reading on Sunday. It's the fourth scoreless performance in Turnbull's past seven starts, and a sign that the former second-round pick out of Alabama and the Tigers' No. 29 prospect might be ready to knock on Detroit's door.

"I guess sometimes you think about stuff like that," Turnbull said of a promotion to Triple-A, "but all that's completely out of my control. I just have to trust the process and believe that if I'm doing everything I'm supposed to be doing, all that will take care of itself. Everyone has told me I have what it takes, it's just about being consistent. That's in my hands."

Though Turnbull has always had a power arsenal, his strikeout rate of 10.3 per nine innings is the best of his career. He polished his secondary pitches in the offseason, notably his slider, but he also has enjoyed the benefits of health following elbow and shoulder issues in 2016 and '17.

Though Turnbull's 4.29 ERA doesn't stand out, he has become stingier as the weather has warmed in Erie. Yet while the ball travels better in warmer conditions, he has yet to allow a home run in 63 innings this season.

"You can look at my numbers in April and then in May and see how I feel about the cold weather," Turnbull said. "I'm glad I had to do it, though, because I know in the future I'm going to have to pitch in cold weather."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Miguel Cabrera, Nicholas Castellanos, John Hicks