Published February 17, 2011
LAKELAND, Fla. – Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera was arrested late Wednesday on suspicion of drunken driving in Florida, leaving teammates stunned and concerned about the slugging first baseman less than a week into spring training.
The 27-year-old Cabrera has struggled with drinking-related problems in the past, but he's coming off perhaps his best season. He hit .328 with 38 home runs last year and finished second in the American League MVP vote.
Cabrera was spotted by a deputy in a car with a smoking engine alongside a road in Fort Pierce. Inside the vehicle, Cabrera smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and took a swig from a bottle of scotch in front of a deputy, according to the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office. He refused to cooperate and more deputies were called to the scene.
The arrest occurred about 110 miles southeast of Lakeland, where the Tigers hold spring training. Pitchers and catchers began workouts earlier this week, but position players don't start until Saturday.
"It was obviously a shock to everybody," catcher Alex Avila said.
Cabrera is "very embarrassed" and plans to apologize to his teammates and the Tigers organization when he reports to camp Saturday, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person said he talked to Cabrera after the slugger was released from jail, then spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to publicly discuss the incident.
General manager Dave Dombrowski said Thursday afternoon he'd spoken briefly to Cabrera. Dombrowski has also been in touch with the commissioner's office.
Detroit's position players are supposed to report Friday for Saturday's workout.
"He would love to be here (Friday), but we still need to work through some of this," Dombrowski said. "We fully support him trying to get help for his situation. You do that for anybody you know, if it was an employee, a friend, whatever it may be."
According to the police report, Cabrera was wandering into the road with his hands up before he was handcuffed. He kept saying, "Do you know who I am? You don't know anything about my problems," and cursed at deputies who tried to get him into a patrol car.
One deputy struck Cabrera in the left thigh several times with his knee after Cabrera pushed into him, causing the ballplayer to fall into the patrol car. Cabrera refused to take a breath test, deputies said.
He was arrested on misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and resisting an officer without violence. He posted $1,350 bond and was released from jail at 7:45 a.m. Thursday.
"It's hard," said second baseman Carlos Guillen, who is in camp recovering from an injury. "He's a really good friend. I know he was working hard in the winter to have a good season this year."
The news was slow to reach the Tigers' spring training complex, but Guillen, who like Cabrera is from Venezuela, was shaken when he found out.
"I worry about him," Guillen said.
Manager Jim Leyland declined to discuss Cabrera's situation.
When asked if Cabrera might have to spend time away from the team for counseling, Dombrowski said he didn't know.
"Those are in experts' hands," he said. "There's people that are experts in these areas, doctors that handle these types of situations. The commissioner's office and players' association work very closely together in trying to help these types of situations. Their knowledge far exceeds mine."
Late in the 2009 season, police said Cabrera got into a fight with his wife after a night of drinking, shortly before his team lost a key game. The Tigers then lost an AL Central tiebreaker to Minnesota.
Dombrowski had to pick up Cabrera at the station after that incident. No charges were filed.
Avila trained with Cabrera this offseason, and the two are close.
"As hard as we work in this game, and everybody wants to win, there's obviously things that are more important in life. ... That's one thing that I know Miguel knows — that he has a family here," Avila said. "Millions of people have problems with alcohol throughout the entire world. It's not something that can't be overcome. It's something that can be overcome, but you need a lot of help."
During spring training last year, Cabrera said he was done drinking alcohol after he spent much of the offseason in counseling.
"You guys write in the paper 'alcoholic,' that's not right," he said last March before a spring training workout. "I don't know how to explain, but it's not an alcohol problem."
Cabrera has a home in Boca Raton, about 75 miles south of Fort Pierce. There was no phone listing for him.
Detroit went 81-81 last season but is hoping to make a run at the AL Central title after adding Victor Martinez to hit in the middle of the lineup with Cabrera. For a team that entered spring training full of optimism, the news Thursday was jarring.
"When you hear something like this, you don't really think about the baseball part," Avila said. "You think about Miguel personally, and what he's going through."
Associated Press writer Jennifer Kay in Miami and AP freelance writer Dionisio Soldevila in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, contributed to this report.