Leyland: Cabrera won't exit for defense

Leyland: Cabrera won't exit for defense

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers will not have a closer at third base.

If manager Jim Leyland's earlier statements on Miguel Cabrera playing nine innings at third base without a defensive replacement weren't already clear, he said it again Monday, this time with authority.

Perhaps part of it is a statement about Cabrera's work at third base so far this spring. A bigger part, though, seems to be the fact that Leyland doesn't want to take his best hitter out of the lineup and then have to try to win without him if the other team ties the game.

"He's the third baseman," Leyland said. "That's the way it is and I'm not 'defensing' for him. I've seen that too many times."

Monday was the first time on the Spring Training schedule that Cabrera didn't get in early-morning work at third base before a home game. The team had a meeting with Major League Baseball personnel on security, which took up the time slot in which Cabrera and Don Kelly normally get their extra work from infield coach Rafael Belliard.

Cabrera was involved in two plays in Monday's game against the Mets. He couldn't run down Jordany Valdespin's slow roller in the fifth inning as part of New York's six-run rally. But two batters later, he made an aggressive play on Justin Turner's groundout to try to start a double play, a twin killing that was thwarted by a low throw from Eric Patterson to first.