LAKELAND, Fla. – After almost two weeks of turmoil, Miguel Cabrera returned to where he's most comfortable: a baseball field.
Cabrera played his first game following his arrest, going 0-for-2 with a walk as the Detroit Tigers' designated hitter Monday in a 6-2 win over the New York Yankees.
Cabrera batted cleanup, his first appearance since his arrest on Feb. 16 on suspicion of driving under the influence and resisting an officer without violence. He is to be arraigned on March 16.
After the game, he refused to answer any non-baseball questions. Cabrera said he is looking forward to playing the field, but manager Jim Leyland said he will DH again Tuesday against Toronto, then play the field Wednesday against Houston.
"It's kind of slow playing DH," Cabrera said. "I really prefer playing at first. I was starting to feel normal in batting practice, but I am looking forward to playing in the field."
Cabrera hit a sharp grounder down the third-base line in the first off CC Sabathia, but Alex Rodriquez made a backhand grab and threw out Cabrera out at first. Cabrera hit a similar ball in the third, but Rodriguez made another backhand stab and retired Cabrera at first. Cabrera drew a walk in his final at-bat and was removed for a pinch runner.
Leyland said Cabrera looked to be in spring training form. Cabrera hit .328 with 38 homers and 126 RBIs last season, finishing second in AL MVP voting to Texas' Josh Hamilton.
"It's going to take some time to get ready," Leyland said. "He'll be fine."
Cabrera was greeted warmly by fans before each at-bat.
"I heard the applause," Cabrera said. "It was good to get the first game out of the way, but I can do better. I was thinking about seeing strikes, but I heard the fans supporting me."
The game itself provided a likely preview of opening day on March 31, when the teams meet at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia allowed two hits and struck out two for the Yankees, and Justin Verlander gave up two hits in two scoreless innings for the Tigers. Sabathia said he felt fine following offseason to repair a minor tear in his right knee.
"My fastball command was good, away. I still got to do some work in to righties," he said. "Usually, it takes me a while to get it. To have it pretty good this early, I can start working on my other pitches. I felt great. My knee, no problems."
One-time Chicago Cubs star Mark Prior pitched a 1-2-3 inning with a strikeout for New York. Prior, who hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 2006, is trying to earn a job with the Yankees as a long reliever.
"If I'm healthy, I know I can compete at this level," Prior said.
Detroit scored two runs each against Daniel Turpen, Robert Fish, and D.J. Mitchell in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
Rick Porcello followed Verlander with two scoreless innings for the Tigers. New York took a 2-0 lead in the fifth against rookie Charlie Furbush, ending Detroit's 22-inning scoreless streak.
With the score tied 2-2, Cale Iorg homered to give the Tigers a lead, and two batters later, Andy Dirks doubled home John Murrian. Dirks went 2-for-2 and is batting .667.
Mark Teixeira, Jorge Vasquez, and Francisco Cervelli each had two hits for the Yankees.
NOTES: New York C Russell Martin (right knee) was the DH in his first spring training game. He is expects to catch Thursday or Friday. ... Yankees OF Greg Golson said tests performed after he was hit in the helmet by an A.J. Burnett pitch during batting practice Sunday were negative. Golson said he never saw the ball because of bright sunshine behind the CF fence. ... Tigers reliever Daniel Schlereth left in the eighth inning after pulling his left hamstring. He was helped off the field. Leyland said he didn't know if Schlereth was upset by the pain or the frustration. He was covering first when he felt a pop.