The offseason recovery for Miguel Cabrera went about as well as anyone could have hoped for. Wednesday afternoon the Detroit Tigers announced that, after a CT scan was conducted in Miami on Tuesday and sent to Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C., for review, Cabrera is able to return to baseball activities. With the first full squad workout on February 24, the team could not have asked for better timing.
"Miguel has been cleared to initiate non-impact baseball activities including hitting and throwing, and will begin a running progression until full weight-bearing is achieved," the Tigers announced. "While there is no definitive timetable, it's optimistic Miguel could be ready close to Opening Day."
Cabrera had made his own announcement earlier:
Gracias Dios por Ya poder empezar Mis actividades ⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️⚾️ pic.twitter.com/4u96WBfWzQ— Miguel Cabrera (@MiguelCabrera) February 18, 2015
Cabrera's ankle issues began in August last year, and ESPN's Buster Olney reported in September that the slugger was dealing with a bone spur, which would require surgery. While the Tigers denied the second half of the rumor at the time, it later became fact. As the season wore on, Cabrera battled through the pain, finishing with Cabrera-like numbers in September and earning Player of the Month honors.
What no one expected, however, was the subsequent stress fracture that Cabrera had apparently been playing through — which Dr. Anderson found while performing what was supposed to be minimal surgery to remove the bone spurs. Screws needed to be inserted into Cabrera's foot, handing him a significantly longer recovery period than was originally anticipated. Still, Cabrera's recovery stayed on track and he was out of his boot and in the gym doing limited workouts ahead of schedule.
The Tigers will use Aaron Westlake and Jordan Lennerton at first base at the start of spring training, MLB.com reporter Jason Beck notes. Cabrera, meanwhile, will begin his running progression by using an "anti-gravity" treadmill that controls how much weight is allowed to be put on Cabrera's leg, Beck reports.
The first baseman is coming off his second surgery in as many offseasons. Despite those injuries before, during, and after each season, Cabrera maintained numbers that most players would envy in their best years. Although the slugger was not able to retain his title as AL MVP, finally relinquishing that to Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Cabrera was still one of the best players in the game in 2014.
Full squad workout are only days away and the Tigers no longer have to worry about how they'll fill out Cabrera's place in the lineup during spring training. And because Victor Martinez is still recovering from his own knee surgery it creates an opening for Cabrera to take Martinez's place at designated hitter until he returns.
The last thing the Tigers want is for Cabrera to re-injure himself before the regular season gets underway, so while he'll certainly get time at first base to prepare for the season, it's likely most of his time in Lakeland will be at DH, particularly until Martinez returns.
Even then, the team will probably be cautious with Martinez in the weeks leading up to Opening Day. Once the season starts that may change, but until then both Cabrera and Martinez will be treated with kid gloves, especially because it's the one time the Tigers can afford to. Once the regular season gets underway, there won't be as much flexibility.