They had better options at third then, notably Brandon Inge. More importantly, they didn't have other logical options at first until Prince Fielder arrived.
Cabrera has talked enthusiastically about moving back to third base, the spot he manned from 2006 until early in the 2008 season. Even before Victor Martinez suffered his season-ending knee injury last month, Cabrera said he had been working out this offseason with the idea of playing third base in mind. If the Tigers wanted him and Martinez in the lineup during Interleague Play, or if they made it to the World Series, he wanted to be ready.
"It's not going to be my decision, it's going to be skip's decision," said Cabrera, motioning to manager Jim Leyland's office. "But when you're ready and you show up ready to play somewhere else -- first base, third base -- you help the skipper make a good decision. I was prepared for that, and I told Victor I will be ready if you have a chance to play first base."
Still, he hadn't worked out there in any formal role. Friday's first full-squad workout was his first real chance to let his energy show in the field.
It was a simple drill, taking ground balls and simulating decisions on where to throw for an out, but it's a start.
"I'm just working hard, trying to work on little things over there, trying to do the right things," Cabrera said.
The fungo grounder drills were relatively routine. Cabrera will receive more tests in the coming days, once Leyland follows through on his plan to speed up infield practice to better simulate game speed.
If Cabrera wasn't moving comfortably around third base this early in camp, then there would be a problem. But that doesn't mean he has to approach it with a bounce in his step. Cabrera looked Friday like someone with a bounce and a half, even before he stepped into the batter's box for live batting practice and took a pitch deep to right field.