Miguel passes the torch to Torkelson at 1B

LAKELAND, Fla. – Miguel Cabrera began the preseason saying he would give up playing time at first without a problem to make way for Spencer Torkelson. On Saturday, Cabrera presented Torkelson with a glove to make the transition official.

The Tigers told Torkerson, baseball’s fourth-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline, that he had made the Opening Day roster on Saturday, in a meeting with manager AJ Hinch. But manager and general manager Al Avila weren’t the only ones present. There was also Cabrera, who has defended Detroit’s first baseman in 12 of his 14 seasons with the club.

“AJ, Miggy and I were in AJ’s office and Miguel officially gave him the first base mascot,” Ávila described. “Miggy was a part of it, and with a lot of pride. You could see Tork’s emotion.”

Torkelson probably wears his own glove, but the gesture was the passing of the torch by Detroit’s best hitter of the last generation, making way for who might be next. The 39-year-old veteran has been following Torkelson since the team selected him in the 2020 amateur draft. Since then, Cabrera has helped Torkelson and fellow top prospect Riley Greene on their way through the minors.

“We want Torkelson in the lineup, so I’ll take the designated hitter job,” Cabrera said last month. “I’m here to help, to go out there and play my best baseball, but also to help everyone here.”

In many ways, Torkelson potentially represents the end of a string of five losing seasons that has worn Cabrera down more than anyone else. When the Venezuelan was at his peak, the chance to win was so latent that he decided to continue playing despite various injuries, including a torn groin in one season and a broken foot in another. The losses of the Tigers in recent seasons have taken their toll.

Compared to the injuries he’s had to deal with, giving up first is an easy sacrifice for Cabrera, wanting to pave the way for a young slugger who could return Detroit to contention.

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Miguel passes the torch to Torkelson at 1B