Tigers' Cabrera lets limitations slide against Yankees

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Tampa, Fla. — Limitations on Miggy?

Yeah, good luck with that.

It sure didn't fly Tuesday night against the Yankees, when Miguel Cabrera went sliding into second base — despite manager Brad Ausmus putting both Cabrera and Victor Martinez under a no-sliding order.

"I told Miggy again today, no sliding," Ausmus said during his pregame conversation with reporters. "Just get tagged out."

Cabrera appeared, at least early, to be playing by the rules.

In the first inning, after lining a vintage hard single into right field, he was on first base when J.D. Martinez hit a smashed liner to second baseman Stephen Drew. Off the bag a bit, Drew fired to first — but Cabrera raced bag carefully, standing up.

The caution tape wasn't out for long.

The next batter, Yoenis Cespedes, hit a slow roller to the left side of the infield, and it appeared that shortstop Didi Gregorius would try to get the force at second base. So there went Cabrera, sliding feet first into the bag.

He got up quickly, with no issues. But, no doubt, his manager was holding his breath watching from the third-base dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

"I didn't see it," Ausmus said after the Tigers' 9-8 loss. "Then I looked up and saw he had dirt on his pants."

Cabrera is coming off ankle surgery, and Martinez is coming off knee surgery.

The Tigers remain hopeful both will be ready to play Opening Day on April 6, so they're trying to keep them on a safe, yet increasing pace these final couple weeks of spring training.

Hence, the sliding ban.

In fact, both were scheduled to slide on the padded landings Wednesday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. Ausmus told Cabrera he doesn't have to now that he felt good sliding Tuesday.

If the sliding drill goes well Wednesday, the ban will be lifted for Martinez.

"We have to make sure they're at least comfortable with it," Ausmus said.

The first step was getting the duo some swings, which they started Saturday. Then they did some running, starting Sunday. Then Maritnez will do some sliding, and then Cabrera will play first base for the first time this spring. Cabrera will take some swings in a minor-league game Wednesday, and then could make his debut at first base Thursday against the Orioles in Lakeland.

Cabrera went 1-for-3 in four plate appearances in Tuesday's game against the Yankees, with a walk. He still looks uncomfortable on the curveball; a couple froze him his second time up, then he swung through one from tough lefty Andrew Miller for a strikeout his third time up, and took one from right-hander Nick Rumbelow for a called third strike his last at-bat.

Martinez, meanwhile, got seven plate appearances in a minor-league game.

During one single for Martinez in the early afternoon, he looked up to Ausmus, who was watching from above, to see if Ausmus wanted Martinez to run or have a pinch-runner.

"I told him to stay on first," Ausmus said. "I wanted him to run. He's got to run the bases. If we're going to put him in a game out here, he's got to run the bases.

"It seemed the more he ran, the more comfortable he was."

Martinez will be the designated hitter in Wednesday's game against the Marlins in Lakeland.

Once Cabrera starts playing first base, the two can start playing in the same game and stop having to rely on minor-league at-bats.

Cabrera appears ahead of Martinez, but that's to be expected, since Cabrera had his surgery in October, and Martinez just last month.