Leyland spent the early part of the winter toying with the idea of having Cabrera bat third, a move he was forced to make for some post-season games last year.
But that was before the season-ending knee injury to Victor Martinez prompted the surprise signing of Fielder.
The new slugger affords Leyland the opportunity to alternate hitters from each side of the plate, which will be a burden on opposing managers as they try to get situational match-ups against Detroit in the middle and late innings.
"I've written down many, many lineups already," Leyland said. "It's amazing because in every lineup that I've written down so far, Cabrera and Fielder are in that lineup."
The way things stand now, Austin Jackson, a right-handed bat, opens the order. Brennan Boesch, a left-handed hitter, did well as the No. 2 man in the lineup last season and will do so again this season.
The right-handed Cabrera hits third, then the lefty-swinging Fielder comes fourth and the right-handed Delmon Young fifth. Alex Avila, a left-handed bat, slots into the sixth spot followed by right-handed hitting Jhonny Peralta in the lineup Leyland said he probably would open the season with.
Getting Fielder takes away the chief problem Leyland had with having Cabrera bat third.
Leyland didn't like the idea of having Cabrera come up in the first inning and two out and being walked, intentionally or not. But that won't happen now with Fielder coming up fourth.
Alternating solid left- and right-handed hitters in the batting order is also a convenient way to make opposing managers make multiple pitching changes in late-game match-up situations because they won't want to leave specialists in for unfavorable left-on-right or right-on-left pairings.
Leyland almost certainly will spread the use of the designated hitter spot around to give his bench playing time, but most effectively to give players such as Fielder, Cabrera and Avila a break from defensive duties while keeping their bats in the lineup.
--1B Prince Fielder has agreed to a nine-year, $214 million contract in Detroit's stunning move to replace injured DH Victor Martinez on the roster. Fielder, who will play his first season with the Tigers at age 28, spent some of his childhood in Detroit while his dad, Cecil, played first for the Tigers. He hit a baseball into the Tiger Stadium seats at the age of 12. "This is an awesome moment," Fielder said. "I really don't know what to say. I am just excited. This is a dream come true. I just never thought this could happen." Fielder has 228 home runs in six seasons playing for Milwaukee. Like his father, Prince has reached 50 home runs in a season and he has a high of 141 RBI. The signing was not announced until after Fielder passed his physical.
--1B/3B Miguel Cabrera agreed to move back to third base to accommodate Detroit's addition of 1B Prince Fielder. Cabrera, who has 383 games of experience in the majors at third, was approached during the Tigers' winter press caravan and reacted positively when told his team had a chance to attract Fielder. He played 14 games at third base when acquired by the club for the 2008 season but was quickly shifted to first when he made five errors. "People don't realize what kind of athleticism Miguel Cabrera still has if he puts his mind to it," RF Brennan Boesch told MLB Network Radio. "If they say go play third base, the guy still has a ton of arm to do it. He'll just have to dedicate himself and get back into shape where he can play third on a consistent basis." Said manager Jim Leyland: "Not concerned at all. My job and the coaches' is to figure it out. But Miguel Cabrera is going to play third base. And I feel very comfortable with it. I think he has a tremendous set of hands, he's one of the best athletes in baseball, his first step is quick, and he has a tremendous throwing arm."
--RF Brennan Boesch wants to hit in front of 3B Miguel Cabrera and 1B Prince Fielder, not behind them. "If I am hitting behind them, there's probably not a lot of RBI on the table," Boesch told MLB Network Radio. "I'm hoping I can hit in front (of them) and can score a lot of runs for these guys." Boesch might be hitting second in the order under that scenario, a position he had some success in during the 2011 season. "I'm really excited to have another left-handed bat to talk hitting," Boesch said of Fielder. "Maybe I'll pick some things up."
--3B Brandon Inge finds himself essentially forced off third base by the acquisition of 1B Prince Fielder, which shifts Miguel Cabrera back across the diamond, and it could squeeze him off the roster. Inge becomes a late-inning sub and will only get starts when Fielder or Cabrera is used as the designated hitter. Inge is under contract for $5 million this season, with a similar club option for 2013 that has a $500,000 buyout. However his career took a downturn last season when he agreed to go to the minors after hitting .177. He returned Aug. 20 and batted .278 the rest of the way, mainly as a platoon player, to end at .197 with three home runs and 23 RBI in 269 at-bats. He battled mononucleosis during the season. But Detroit designating Inge for assignment last year showed a willingness to eat his contract, and with Fielder on board the Tigers might try to either trade Inge or let him go rather than have him sit unhappily on the bench. Manager Jim Leyland said he spoke with Inge and made an apology for how the longest-tenured Tigers player heard the news about being displaced by Cabrera. "I called him and explained that to him and he understood that part," he said. "He's not very happy because he wants to play. I wouldn't give you a nickel for him if he didn't want to play. I love Brandon Inge, but we're talking about playing Prince Fielder at first and Miguel Cabrera at the other corner."
--UT Don Kelly might lose some starts at third base, but the addition of 1B Prince Fielder will allow manager Jim Leyland to use him in the super-utility role in which he has prospered the last two years. Kelly was slated to share time at third with 3B Brandon Inge, an arrangement they had last post-season, but with 1B Miguel Cabrera shifting over to third with the signing of Fielder, that will free up Kelly for Leyland to use as an all-over sub and late-game pinch-hitter. He was especially effective in that role the second half of last season and in the playoffs.
--CF Austin Jackson is making changes in his batting stance in an effort to cut down his swing and his strikeouts. Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon has been drilling Jackson hard after a season in which his league-worst strikeout total of 170 his rookie season rose to 181 last year. "I'm very excited," McClendon said during the club's winter press caravan around the state of Michigan. "I came away from this project probably more excited than by any project I've done in my seven years here at this time of year. I'm extremely pleased by how quickly he adjusted and adapted. And really the credit goes to him because he wanted to do it and he was willing to do it. My hope is that we're going to see some drastic differences." Much of the work involves reducing his leg kick, which has made him late on fastballs and unable to adjust to two-strike breaking balls. "The key is the ability to adjust and go to a two-strike approach," McClendon said. "And those are things he didn't do before."
--2B/LF Ryan Raburn might have had a poor first half to the 2011 season because he had a "V-shaped" break in his left index finger suffered when he slid into second base at Target Field May 11 at Minnesota. Raburn was batting .253 with four home runs in April before a .113 May with no home runs. He went on his usual second-half tear about the time his finger healed, batting .275 in July, .323 in August, and .383 in September. "I don't know how to explain it," said Raburn, who probably will platoon at second with INF Ramon Santiago this year. The injury originally went undiagnosed, and by the time it was discovered the healing process was nearly complete. "It's just injuries," Raburn said. "Everyone plays with them."
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Big-name free agents Detroit has signed since 2003 represented by agent Scott Boras, whom some clubs prefer not to deal with. He got the Tigers to sign C Ivan Rodriguez following Detroit's 119-loss season, followed by RF Magglio Ordonez, LHP Kenny Rogers, LF/DH Johnny Damon, and now, 1B Prince Fielder.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've written down many, many lineups already. It's amazing because in every lineup that I've written down so far, (3B Miguel) Cabrera and (1B Prince) Fielder are in that lineup." -- Manager Jim Leyland.