Miguel CabreraLAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland is confident slugger Miguel Cabrera's arrest this week will have no effect on the team's performance.
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Cabrera was arrested late Wednesday on suspicion of drunken driving in Fort Pierce, about 110 miles southeast of Lakeland, where the Tigers hold spring training.
"It is not going to be a disruption for our team. Trust me," Leyland emphatically said Friday. "I'm the field manager. I manage the players on the field. Our clubhouse will be great, and our team has a hell of a chance to be an outstanding team."
Leyland also said he's expecting big things from the slugger.
"I know for a fact, without getting into this situation, I know for a fact Miguel Cabrera is in the best shape of his life. He's stronger than he's ever been, and he's quicker than he's ever been. I think Miguel Cabrera is probably going to have the biggest year of his life."
Leyland also made this forecast about Cabrera: "He's going to be welcomed here with open arms by his teammates, and they're going to want to see him hit that [ball] over the right-centerfield fence with two men on, and he's going to do that."
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said Thursday he wasn't sure when Cabrera would report to camp. There was no update from the team Friday.
Pitchers and catchers have been working out this week, but the full team takes the field today, and position players have begun arriving.
Cabrera was "very embarrassed" and planned to apologize to his teammates and the Tigers organization when reporting to camp today, a person familiar with the situation told the Associated Press on Thursday. The person said he talked to Cabrera after the slugger was released from jail, then spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the incident.
Leyland initially said he wouldn't discuss Cabrera, but he did talk about his team's mindset.
"It's not going to affect the team at all," Leyland said. "You think Magglio Ordonez and those guys are going to go about their business any different?"
But Ordonez made it clear yesterday that the incident will not be glossed over.
"Miguel is the franchise player of this team," he said. "He understands that they are building the team around him. He needs to pull everything together.
"He is a superstar, and he needs to act like a superstar."
Detroit is hoping to contend for the AL Central title after adding players like Victor Martinez and Brad Penny in the offseason. Cabrera is the lineup's centerpiece. He hit .328 with 38 home runs last year and finished second in the American League MVP vote to Texas' Josh Hamilton.
Hamilton's award capped an incredible comeback for a player whose career was derailed by well-documented cocaine and alcohol addictions after he got hurt in the minors. Hamilton cautioned that he didn't know enough about Cabrera's situation to offer too much advice.
"The thing we don't know is, is it an isolated incident or something that's been there?" Hamilton said. "It's tough to assess the situation unless you have the facts."
Nobody doubts Cabrera's physical ability, but teammates are concerned about him. He's struggled with drinking-related problems in the past. Late in the 2009 season, police said Cabrera got into a fight with his wife after a night of drinking.
Dombrowski had to pick up Cabrera at the station after that incident. No charges were filed.
When asked Thursday if Cabrera might have to spend time away from the team for counseling, Dombrowski said he didn't know.
Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge says the Tigers want to do their part, as well.
"I want to do what's best for Miggy. Not baseball-wise — like friend to friend, whatever's best. He has to want to do it too," Inge said. "I know I can make someone feel welcome."