"I think he's going to relax here shortly and go on a tear is what I think," Leyland said. "I think he's getting ready, close, and I don't know if I'm right or not, but I just kind of smell like he's getting close to going on a tear."
That tear could begin on Sunday afternoon as the Tigers look to continue their recent success against the Yankees and take this weekend's three-game series at Comerica Park.
The Yankees will go with left-hander Andy Pettitte, against whom Cabrera is 4-for-12 with two home runs. Detroit will counter with Nate Robertson.
Leyland tried to pinpoint reasons for Cabrera's slow start. He feels the slugger might be putting too much pressure on himself while trying to live up to his new eight-year deal -- the biggest in team history and the fourth-richest contract in Major League history.
"I've seen it happen before, where guys go to new teams and sign big contracts and they put a little pressure on themselves for a while," Leyland said. "I can understand that. Cabrera wants to compete. He knows he was signed to be 'the guy,' but sometimes, you got to let that play out a little bit and not get too excited. Sometimes, guys want to live up to their entire contract in two weeks or one week, and that's not going to happen."
Leyland believes once Cabrera settles down, he will return to being the player that averaged 31 homers and 115 RBIs while batting .318 the past four seasons in Florida.
"I think Miguel Cabrera will be the first baseman for the Tigers for a long time," Leyland said. "I think he'll be a great first baseman and very productive. If he's not, that means everybody in baseball is wrong. Everybody in baseball that I've talked to says he's one of the top five, premier offensive forces in baseball -- not just people with the Tigers, everybody in baseball. It's not like they're speculating. They can read the numbers.
"When he relaxes and takes a little bit of pressure off himself, he'll be fine."
DET: LHP Nate Robertson (1-4, 6.64 ERA)
Robertson doesn't have a quality start in seven outings so far this year, and he has been inefficient with his pitches in his past two outings. Still, if he can repeat the last five innings of his victory over the Yankees on May 1, he'd be pretty happy, considering he gave up a three-run home run to Bobby Abreu three batters into his outing that night.
NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (3-3, 3.77 ERA)
Pettitte started and recorded a no-decision in his 400th career start on Tuesday, despite limiting the Indians to two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings and striking out a season-high six batters. His only blemish was a two-run homer to Jhonny Peralta on a sinker that did not cut quite enough, a problem that Pettitte continues to fight in his bullpen sessions. He lost to the Tigers on April 30 in New York, allowing five earned runs in six innings for his third loss.
Matt Joyce's home run in the second inning of Saturday's game ended a seven-game homerless streak for the Tigers. ... Ivan Rodriguez is batting .500 (7-for-14) in his past four games. ... Saturday's sellout crowd at Comerica Park was the largest non-Opening Day game in the ballpark's history, and it marked only the second time that Comerica has had 44,000-plus fans in back-to-back games.
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Official game notes
Tuesday: Tigers (Justin Verlander, 1-6, 6.43) at Royals (Zack Greinke, 4-1, 1.80), 8:10 p.m. ET
Wednesday: Tigers (TBD) at Royals (Luke Hochevar, 2-2, 4.94), 8:10 p.m. ET