Milestones behind him, Miguel Cabrera hopes for fun final year

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LAKELAND, Fla. – Two years ago, Miguel Cabrera hit his 500th home run, and last season he reached 3,000 hits.

Now there’s one more reason for an extended celebration of the Detroit slugger’s career.

This is his final year.

“I’m going to go out there and be me. Try to have fun, try to go out there and, when they give me a chance to play, play. I don’t know what is going to be my role this year,” Cabrera said. “If I can hit, I want to be in the lineup.”

Cabrera sounded at ease with his decision to call it a career when he spoke at spring training Monday, joking with reporters in his usual playful way and insisting he doesn’t need opponents to lavish him with attention. That will likely come whether he wants it or not.

“I brought him up in the first meeting, so that tells you that I didn’t listen to his desire to not be talked about,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “We’re going to cherish our time with Miggy. We’re also going to let him be a player, a contributor, and just be himself.”

Two decades after his big league debut as a 20-year-old Florida Marlin, Cabrera says he doesn’t remember much about his first spring training – “I have a better car right now” – but he’s hoping for a healthy season and more wins for Detroit.

The Tigers haven’t made the playoffs since 2014, and Cabrera hasn’t had a really excellent season since 2016.

Still, baseball was captivated a year ago when Albert Pujols managed to hit 24 home runs in his last season, surpassing 700 for his career.

Don’t expect a similar chase from Cabrera, if only because he passed so many milestones so recently. He enters this season with 507 homers, 3,088 hits and 607 doubles – not to mention a .308 career average.

“It’s been a thrill to be able to follow him. I feel privileged to have a chance to watch him play days in, day out for so many years, and the joy that he brought us,” said Dave Dombrowski, who is currently the president of the Philadelphia Phillies but ran Detroit’s front office when Cabrera won the Triple Crown and the first of two straight MVPs in 2012.

Dombrowski, who was also with Florida when the Marlins signed a teenaged Cabrera in 1999, says he still exchanges texts with him when he accomplishes something big. There’s certainly plenty of respect for Cabrera around the sport.

Cabrera played in 112 games last season. He said Monday that he feels good physically, but he joked that he’ll have to wait and see how he feels after an 0-for-4 day at the plate. He made it clear that he’s not expecting opponents to roll out the red carpet for him as his playing career winds down.

“It’s nice if they do something. It’s nice if they don’t,” he said. “I don’t want attention, I don’t want any distraction for our team. We look forward to go out there and beat these guys.”

Hinch and the Tigers, however, want to enjoy this final season with him. Cabrera may be in the spotlight sooner than usual, since he’s on Venezuela’s roster for next month’s World Baseball Classic – along with Detroit left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

“It’s just going to be something special,” Rodriguez said. “It’s his last year. We’re going to go to play together in WBC for our country and then play the last season in MLB together. I know it’s going to be great and I can’t wait to enjoy it.”

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

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WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”


Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.


Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.


Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

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