Inside Baseball / By Mike Harrington: Cabrera’s puny numbers are a concern - The Buffalo News

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Inside Baseball / By Mike Harrington: Cabrera’s puny numbers are a concern

The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera turned 31 Friday. Upon that birthday, the Elias Sports Bureau pointed out the slugger had exactly the same lifetime statistics as Hank Aaron did when he turned 31 – a .320 batting average, 366 home runs and 796 RBIs. And the Detroit Free Press pointed out Aaron’s slugging percentage was just one point higher (.567-.566) although Cabrera has 50 more RBIs than the all-time leader did at 31 (1,266-1,216). It’s all downright spooky.

But something hasn’t been right in Motown thus far this season. Just as they gave him a 10-year, $292 million contract that was derided throughout the game, Cabrera’s heavy lumber has disappeared. He’s swinging matchsticks. There are some very un-Miggy-like numbers getting produced, to say the least.

Cabrera hit the weekend batting just .231 with one homer and seven RBIs in 56 at-bats over 13 games. His slugging percentage was a paltry .365, and it hasn’t been below .500 since his 2003 rookie season with the Marlins. His OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) was .651 and that figure hasn’t been below .900 since 2004.

Everything looked fine this spring, as Cabrera’s average-slugging-OPS slash line was .352/.611/1.051. But things went south as soon as the season came north.

So what’s up? Cabrera came clean a little bit Wednesday during an interview with Fox Sports, where he admitted he’s still working on his muscle strength after October sports hernia surgery and that his muscles feel “weird” in this brutal April cold.

I doubt Cabrera is feeling much heat from the big contract. What’s probably a little weird is the fact Prince Fielder is gone to Texas, not giving Cabrera the lineup protection he once had. Cabrera told Detroit reporters the injury made him compensate too much at the end of last season and produced a pull-happy approach at the plate.

He’s trying to return to being an all-fields hitter and expects that will allow him to get his numbers back to their norms.

But Cabrera has been so shaky so far that the Indians actually pitched to him with first base open in the eighth inning on Wednesday. There was a runner at third and Cleveland was protecting a 3-1 lead. Cabrera dropped an RBI single off reliever Cody Allen but the Tribe held on to win, 3-2. No intentional walk? Really?

“You always think about things like that when it comes to Miggy,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “I also think it’s the middle of April and it’s cold. When he’s in mid-season form, you’d think about intentionally walking him more.”

Left unsaid: When it’s a healthy Cabrera, you walk him just about every time.

The weather isn’t helping a guy trying to come back from such a surgery. Temperatures in Detroit are like everywhere else so far and it was 41 with a chilly wind for Wednesday’s game. The Tigers are thinking Cabrera will heat up with the weather. History says he will. They have 292 million reasons they need him to.


Can we get some summer somewhere? Anywhere? Cabrera and his teammates in Detroit weren’t the only ones suffering in recent days and playing in front of tons of unused but sold seats.

The Yankees grounds crew spent the morning shoveling snow off right field and chipping ice off the tarp prior to Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Cubs, a game they eventually played in 43-degree weather.

It was 31 in Minnesota Thursday for the Blue Jays-Twins day game, a few hours after they were snowed out Wednesday. It was 39 Wednesday in Baltimore for the Orioles-Rays, 42 Friday in Fenway for Red Sox-Orioles. There were about 250 people left in the stands in Chicago Wednesday by the end of a 14-inning game against the Red Sox where temperatures were in the 30s.

The Bisons played in front of about 100 people here Wednesday on a 36-degree night, which might be the coldest temps they’ve endured since the 29-degree 2003 opener played through sleet. It was 35 in Syracuse, 35 in Rochester and 41 in Toledo the same night.

Beantown remembrances

The Red Sox will be honoring victims, survivors and first responders of the Boston Marathon bombings tonight prior to their ESPN-televised game against the Orioles and again with the annual Patriots Day game Monday at 11 a.m.

They’ll also begin a new tradition tied to that game, wearing jerseys with “Boston” appearing on the front — just as they did in last year’s emotional Marathon tribute game made memorable by David Ortiz’s pregame “this is our bleeping city” speech.

Chapman on mend

The Reds said Friday that closer Aroldis Chapman has been cleared to throw batting practice for the first time since he was hit in the face by a Salvador Perez line drive during a Cactus League game March 19 in Surprise, Ariz.

Chapman sustained fractures of his nose and orbital bone in the scary scene. He’s expected to throw during the team’s road trip this week, then go on minor-league rehabilitations. Cincinnati’s Triple-A Louisville team plays the Bisons here for a four-game series beginning Saturday. That means Chapman could be pitching in Coca-Cola Field before he returns to Cincinnati.

Twitter trouble

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts shut down his Twitter account last week after an embarrassing faux pas that saw him retweet a picture of a scantily clad woman taking a selfie in a bathroom mirror.

Bogaerts said the picture was accidentally sent as a pocket-dial. Seriously.

“One thing’s for sure: I don’t want it to be a distraction on the team or for me. … The thing is, I don’t even tweet at all. I think my last tweet was probably last year. For me to do a tweet like that was something very unexpected.”

Around the horn

• The Braves and Phillies split back-to-back 1-0 games Wednesday and Thursday. According to Elias, they had never played consecutive 1-0 affairs before – and they’ve been meeting since 1883!

• Speaking of the Braves, wary eyes are being cast on their new stadium project in the posh Cobb County suburbs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the cost is now up to $386 million and there’s the chance that legal bills, infrastructure issues and other areas could push it higher. County leaders had promised to hold their contribution to $300 million when the project was unveiled.

• Early leader for Comeback Player of the Year is Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera, who set a franchise record with a hit in each of the club’s first 14 games this season.

• The Bisons opened their eighth year of hosting city of Buffalo high school games at Coca-Cola Field on Saturday. The schedule continues Monday with a double-header (Olmsted vs. CSAT at 11 a.m. and Hutch-Tech vs. Roy-Hart at 2).

Since 2007, the team’s tally is that owners Bob and Mindy Rich have contributed nearly $500,000 for baseball in the city schools, including $250,000 for the renovation of Johnny B. Wiley Stadium at the War Memorial Stadium site and the birth of the Junior Bisons team that plays each summer in the County of Erie Baseball Association.


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