BALTIMORE — Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch has changed his mind.
One home run away from No. 500, Miguel Cabrera didn’t start Thursday’s series finale against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, postponing his milestone chase until the Tigers return to Detroit on Friday to begin a six-game homestand.
The Tigers want to protect Cabrera’s health and offer fans the best chance to witness his 500th home run at Comerica Park, where a “Miggy Milestones” tracker is stationed beyond left field. He hit No. 499 to left-center field in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Orioles, doing so in the fifth inning off right-hander Matt Harvey.
“Originally when I drew his schedule up and played him at first base (Wednesday), it’s because I didn’t quite anticipate playing him in the day game (Thursday),” Hinch said before Thursday’s game. “Then you can get caught up with this excitement that he’s swinging the bat great. You want it to happen as soon as possible for him. That’s why I was bullish initially about playing him.
“He wants to play, which is why he said that to me when I first broached the topic about his playing time this week, let alone the chase for 500.”
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Keeping Cabrera out of Thursday’s lineup comes as a surprise, considering Hinch — talking after Wednesday’s victory — said he would start the 38-year-old at designated hitter for the final game in Baltimore, even with temperatures approaching 100 degrees at game start.
At Camden Yards, Cabrera has hit .293 (44-for-150) with 12 homers over 40 games in his 19-year career. He went 3-for-4 in Wednesday win with two singles, a home run and a sacrifice fly, giving him 2,950 career hits.
“I really wanted to play him,” Hinch said Thursday afternoon. “Then I go back inside (the clubhouse), and the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t feel good about it. I see what he’s got to do to prepare himself after a long game. It’s close to midnight, and he’s in the tub getting his postgame treatment. I took a shower and got back to the hotel. I still didn’t feel good about it.
“I told myself I was going to sleep on it. When I woke up this morning, I decided. We played two rain delay games in the excessive heat. Obviously, there’s a component of hitting 500. I had no idea if it could happen today, but everybody back in Detroit, I want them to be a part of it. I can get caught up in wanting it to happen as soon as possible. I have no idea if it can happen over the homestand.
“Combine all of that, and when you think about what’s best for Miggy, day game after a night game, and then under the context of this fun experience we’re all having, I’m hoping he proves us right to hit it at home in front of our fans and hit it in a win.”
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Fans are expected to flood Comerica Park for the upcoming homestand against Cleveland (Friday-Sunday) and the Los Angeles Angels (Tuesday-Thursday) in hopes of watching No. 500 in person. Ticket sales could boom.
But Hinch didn’t feel pressure from owner Christopher Ilitch, general manager Al Avila or anyone else in the organization to pause Cabrera’s 500-homer chase.
It was fully his decision.
“Nobody said a word to me about it,” Hinch said. “To their credit, they were very open to whatever was best for Miggy and best for our team. In a time where it would have been easy to step in and try to lean on me in the decision-making process, I love the fact that they stayed out of it and allowed it to naturally evolve.”
Tigers lineup today
RF Robbie Grossman
DH Jonathan Schoop
3B Jeimer Candelario
LF Eric Haase
1B Renato Nunez
2B Willi Castro
CF Victor Reyes
C Grayson Greiner
SS Zack Short
P Matt Manning
Boyd to 60-day IL but returning soon
The Tigers moved left-handed starter Matthew Boyd — sidelined since June 15 with left arm discomfort — to the 60-day injured list Thursday, making room from outfielder Jacob Robson on the 40-man roster.
Robson, 26, joined the roster to replace utility player Niko Goodrum, who went to the 10-day injured list with a left groin strain. Although Boyd moved to the 60-day IL, that doesn’t mean he had a setback in his rehab assignment. He was scheduled to make his first rehab start Thursday for the Mud Hens on the road against the Columbus Clippers.
“His 60th day is Saturday, August 14,” Hinch said. “The 60-day is procedural, given that he’s not coming back to the big leagues before August 14. He will exceed 60 days before we’re going to consider bringing him back.”
Righty starter Jose Urena — out since July 17 with a right groin strain — is nearing his transition to Triple-A for a rehab assignment. He is expected to pitch in tandem with Boyd on Tuesday against Indianapolis at Fifth Third Field in Toledo.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.