Found March 07, 2012 on Fox Sports Detroit:
87229447
By STEVE KORNACKISpecial to FOXSportsDetroit.com LAKELAND , Fla. -- The first thing that strikes you upon walking into the Detroit Tigers' clubhouse is that they no longer revolve around Miguel Cabrera. He has been the undisputed main man, the face of the franchise, since arriving from the Florida Marlins in 2008. But now Prince Fielder is there to share center stage. And, for the early going, he has become the player gaining the most attention with 611-foot batting practice homers and other Ruthian exploits. Then theres ace Justin Verlander, the reigning league MVP and Cy Young Award winner. So, now batting third in the lineup and getting third billing: Miguel Cabrera. This adjustment would crush some players. But mention it to Cabrera and he smiles. I am fine with that, Cabrera said. Its better for the team. If the guy behind me and the guy ahead of me are good, I will do better. Give (Tigers general manager) Dave Dombrowski credit and give our manager (Jim Leyland) credit. They worked hard for us to put this team together. This is a better team and everyone should get credit. There is plenty of credit to go around when you win. Cabrera, like Fielder and Verlander, has Hall of Fame potential. He has won the American League Triple Crown over three different seasons: batting .344 last year; hitting 37 homers in 2008; and getting 126 RBIs in 2010. Ty Cobb is the only other Tiger to lead the league in all three. So, were talking Big Kahuna, The Man or El Hombre here. But it doesnt effect Miguel to share the attention, said Detroit Hall of Famer and front office assistant Al Kaline. Hes such a team guy; he just wants to win. He is the best hitter in the American League, if not all of baseball, and they asked him to move from first to third. He could very well said, Oh, uh, no. But instead, he put himself on the line and said, Yes. That shows you what a team player he is, and sends quite a message to the rest of the team. That message being: nobody is bigger than the team. Were talking the batting champion of the league doing this for me! Fielder said. He couldve said, Hell, no. And that wouldve been it. But it motivates me to have him do that for me. I cant thank him enough, and its the coolest thing. It makes me want to work that much harder to get this team where we want to be -- to the World Series. Fielder paused, looked up at me, and added, How do you like that? The fans in Detroit would like that just fine. The Tigers last went to the Series in 2006 and last won it in 1984. But the Fielder signing, which lifted the gloom of Victor Martinezs season-ending knee injury, has many believing there will be joy in Tigertown this season. And Fielder added that he would be fine with Cabrera taking over center stage at some point this season. The more players you have to talk about on the team, he said, the better the team is. I want us all to be stars. Thats when you have a team that is remembered. Fielder is highly social and clubhouse conversations tend to center around his locker, which is several down from Cabreras and where Carlos Guillen used to dress. Guillen and Magglio Ordonez -- both good friends of Cabreras and fellow Venezuelans -- are gone and the neighborhood has decidedly changed at that end of the big room. Still, Cabrera is happy. He seems happier than he ever has with the Tigers. I asked him about that and he smiled and nodded affirmatively. Cabrera also shrugged off the position change as being any kind of problem. Why not do it? he said. If you can do it, do it. Somebody came up to me and said, Hey, man, you have lost your position. But I said, No, I dont really have a position. I love this game so much and just want to play anywhere. And so the Tigers have a slugger and perennial All-Star who talks like a utility infielder. A man who is a utility infielder and outfielder, Don Kelly, was asked about Cabreras attitude. Miggy just wants to play, Kelly said. He doesnt care if hes the guy. We know what kind of teammate he is. And the move to third is going to work fine. Im greatly impressed with how he moves around. Infielder Danny Worth nodded and said, I thought the slow rollers would get him, but he eats them up. People forget how fast Miggy is for how big he is. Cabrera has lost more than 20 pounds to improve his agility. But hes far from disappearing. And that goes for the national attention Cabrera will continue receiving. Its just that the talent level has gone up in Detroit . And when that happens, like Fielder says, you very likely get a team to remember. Promise kept Victor Jose Martinez, the 7-year-old young son of Detroit s injured designated hitter, was talking hitting with Fielder prior to a recent game. Then the effervescent Martinez s eyes got big and he blurted out, I want to see you hit a home run today! Fielder smiled and said, I will do that for you. Where are you sitting? Ill look for you and point to you when I hit it. And, in that Sunday game that featured nine Detroit homers in an 18-3 win over the Atlanta Braves, Fielder hit a tape-measure solo homer off a light tower in the third inning. But little Martinez wasnt around, Fielder said. I called him after the game. All he had to say was, Oh, you did? Good-bye. Second surgery for Martinez Victor Martinez, who hit .330 with 12 homers and 103 RBIs in 2011, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during offseason conditioning. He said he will be examined April 2 before having the second surgery required to repair his knee. I never thought about two surgeries, Martinez , 33, said. That really got me downBut the doctors say I will be 100 percent by next spring training. He ruled out returning late this season. From April, it will take six to nine months to get ready to play, Martinez said. So, no way. I wish, though. Well see what happens after the surgeries and go from there. Its real tough when you are used to playing every day. It makes it tough to see your teammates on the field and you want to be out there. Martinez has played more than 140 games in all but one of his eight full seasons in the majors, and got into 127 in 2010, when he had a broken left thumb with Boston .
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