Tigers' Miguel Cabrera talks about his physical progress and next season. Robin Buckson, The Detroit News


Detroit — Had the Tigers been doing Monday what they once did regularly during October — competing in the playoffs — Miguel Cabrera says he'd have been ready to crush a pitch.

"But they don't want to push me," the Tigers slugger said as he appeared at the Corner Ballpark, where a few hundred baseball-playing kids had gathered the past two days as part of the "Miggy Ball" facet of The Miguel Cabrera Foundation's charity efforts.

Cabrera flew to Detroit this weekend from Miami, where he has been healing since June's surgery to mend a ruptured left biceps muscle.

"They say December," Cabrera said of doctors' plans to have him wait two more months before he swings a bat. "They don't want there to be any setbacks. You don't see this injury much in baseball."

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Cabrera is about to begin heavy weightlifting, which pleases a first baseman who played in only 38 games in 2018 and had 134 at-bats.

"It's been really tough," said Cabrera, who in six months turns 36. "It was kind of sad to watch games on TV."

He watched, nonetheless, and liked what he saw in a Tigers ethos tied to manager Ron Gardenhire.

"I feel proud of the way they play," said Cabrera, who batted .299, with three home runs and an .843 OPS before his biceps popped. "It was a good thing. They play 100 percent."

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What's essential to Cabrera and to the Tigers in 2018 is that Cabrera is 100 percent. He is owed a season, it seems.

There have been too many years of groin and ankle issues, of back ills, capped this season by the ripped biceps.

"I don't know if I can call it bad luck," he said. "I play a lot of years hurt. I think I paid the price the last two years."

He has said that, of course, fairly often in 2018 — that playing through these hurts and damaged body parts have diminished his game and left him vulnerable to longer layoffs.

Now that he has had four months to rest since his June surgery, he doesn't disagree with thoughts the layoff might have done some good. He has been able to reclaim his body, fully.

"I've got to think positively," Cabrera said. "I think that things happen for a reason." 

Cabrera carries a Tigers contract through at least 2023 and expects to start the season at first base. The Tigers have identical plans but have also said Cabrera would be a nice part-time option at designated hitter.

Cabrera prefers playing in the field. But he is open-minded, he said Monday, allowing that if the medical team and Tigers bosses prefer that he split time in the field and at DH, he's aboard.

"If they decide more days at DH is better for the team, and for health," he said with a nod.

Cabrera saluted his friend, Victor Martinez, for gutting out a final season and playing with his usual professionalism. 

He also acknowledged that five more years with the Tigers makes his "Miggy Ball" mission all the more important in Detroit. The program began as in his native Venezuela, spread to Miami, and to spring camp at Lakeland, Florida, and now benefits hundreds of youngsters in Metro Detroit.

"It's something to give back to the community," he said, speaking of the hitting, running, and throwing instruction that led to Sunday-Monday competition among several hundred boys and girls.

Cabrera will return to Miami and continue with his rehab. It's two months until he swings a bat. Two months after that, it's back to Lakeland, this time he hopes, for the start of a long and pain-free season.

Twitter @Lynn_Henning