By Noah Trister
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 in 2010 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 like Cabrera don't start until Saturday.
"It was obviously a shock to everybody," catcher Alex Avila said.
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 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. He did say he expected every player to report in Lakeland by Friday, as planned.
Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski wasn't immediately available for comment.
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."
In 2009, police said Cabrera got into a fight with his wife after a night of drinking, shortly before his team lost the AL Central title to Minnesota.
Dombrowski had to pick up Cabrera at the station after that incident. No charges were filed.
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.
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"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."