Signs point to Miguel Cabrera coming out of injury-induced slump

Miguel Cabrera celebrates his two-run home run scoring Miguel Cabrera celebrates his two-run home run scoring Torii Hunter of the Detroit Tigers in the fourth inning against the Oakland Athletics during Game 5 of the American League Division Series at O.co Coliseum. (Oct. 10, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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BOSTON - Miguel Cabrera seems to like discussing injuries about as much as Derek Jeter does.

Meaning, not at all.

Jeter often says if you're playing, you're not hurt, and the interviews progress from there, with little being disclosed.

Tigers third baseman Cabrera, who has been battling abdominal, groin and hip injuries the latter part of the season, wasn't in any mood to discuss those maladies Friday afternoon.

"Yeah, I feel good," he repeated several times before his team's workout in advance of the American League Championship Series.

Game 1 of the ALCS between the Tigers and Red Sox is Saturday night at 8 at Fenway Park, with Boston's Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75) taking on Detroit's Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57).

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Though stars abound on both teams, no player in the early going is likely to be scrutinized more than Cabrera, a threat to win the AL MVP award a second straight season after hitting .348 with a .442 OBP, 44 homers, 137 RBIs and an otherworldly 1.078 OPS.

But Cabrera went homerless the final nine games of the regular season and hit only one in the final 25. He did break out in a big way in the Tigers' 3-0 victory over Oakland in ALDS Game 5 on Thursday, hitting a two-run homer, his only extra-base hit of the series.

Asked Friday if the constant injury questions are getting on his nerves, Cabrera said: "They can ask whatever they want to. My job is to go out there and play baseball."

Of the home run against the A's possibly being the start of a hot streak, Cabrera shrugged.

"We won the game," he said. "That's the most important thing. We won a big game. We have to be ready to go tomorrow and see what happens."

Red Sox manager John Farrell said regardless of Cabrera's condition, Boston pitchers will take the same level of precaution.

"I think we still see some of the strengths that he has, which are many," Farrell said. "But if you make a mistake on the other part of the plate, you're going to pay for it, much like last night. You hope that you can find ways to, I don't want to say contain him, but maybe minimize the damage that the situations present themselves."

Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander put it another way.

"I know Miggy is the best hitter on the planet, whether he's hurt or not," said Verlander, who allowed two hits in eight shutout innings in ALDS Game 5 and will start Game 3 of this series.

After Thursday's game, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, according to MLB.com, said he sees signs of the 30-year-old slugger's power returning. He cited batting practice, when Cabrera sent balls over the wall in center at cavernous O.co Coliseum.

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"Two weeks ago, he didn't do that," Dombrowski said. "So you can see it's coming back gradually."

Cabrera rarely smiled while talking to reporters Friday but did laugh when asked about the night of travel.

"I'm really tired," he said with a weary smile.

The Tigers flew a red-eye here from Oakland, arriving in their Boston hotel at about 8 a.m.

"We're used to getting in at 9. Most of the time it's not after a game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland deadpanned. "No, I'm kidding you. It was a little rough, to be honest with you. But probably the best long flight we've ever had, obviously, for the right reasons. A little tired. A little worn out. But we'll be fine by tomorrow. We'll recoup, had a little workout today and go about our business."

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