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Detroit – Did you notice anything different about Miguel Cabrera Friday?

Yes, he looks leaner, more fit and he’s moving and swinging the bat more fluidly, more like himself, more like a player not suffering from two bulging discs in his back.

But that’s not it. Look closer. Look at his batting helmet. Beginning in spring training, Cabrera started using a helmet with a face guard protecting the left side of his face.

“The way they are pitching now is dangerous,” Cabrera said Sunday.

It’s been more than two years now that the scouting report on Cabrera has been: Pitch him high and hard inside. It happened several times on Opening Day. Pirates starter Ivan Nova buzzed him up and in with fastballs a couple of times.

“All the time,” Cabrera said, shaking his head.

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For that reason, Cabrera went to Tigers clubhouse manager Jim Schmakel last year and asked to get a face guard on his helmet.

“Last year after JaCoby Jones got hit (in the face) and got the mask on, and Miggy kept getting pitched up and in, he asked me for it,” Schmakel said. “He didn’t wear it last year, but he had one.

“This spring he came to me again and said he wanted one.”

Cabrera, Nick Castellanos and Jose Iglesias have all started wearing the face guard this season. Jones has been wearing one since his injury last year. Catcher James McCann has been carrying one around with him, but he hasn’t yet gotten comfortable wearing it.

“Proactive,” Castellanos said.

Better safe than sorry, for sure.

Twitter @cmccosky

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