Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera to play for Team Venezuela in 2023 World Baseball Classic




SEATTLE - Detroit Tigers veteran Miguel Cabrera, a 12-time All-Star and two-time American League MVP, has joined Team Venezuela for the 2023 World Baseball Classic ahead of what is expected to be his final MLB season.

The World Baseball Classic takes place from March 8-21, meaning Cabrera - along with several teammates - will leave spring training in Lakeland, Florida, to compete for their national teams before the regular season begins.

"I feel proud to represent Venezuela again at the WBC," Cabrera said in a statement. "I'm excited to be part of a team that will have the best players from our country currently playing in Major League Baseball."

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Miguel Cabrera of Venezuela swings as he bats against Puerto Rico during the second inning of the World Baseball Classic game in Guadalajara, Mexico, Friday, March 10, 2017.
Miguel Cabrera of Venezuela swings as he bats against Puerto Rico during the second inning of the World Baseball Classic game in Guadalajara, Mexico, Friday, March 10, 2017.  

Once Cabrera steps to the plate, he will have taken part in all five editions of the WBC as a player.

"I know it has been a long time since the last WBC, but the waiting is over," Cabrera said. "I'm aware of the huge talent of our players and coaches with us at Team Venezuela. Being with them and wearing the Venezuelan jersey makes me feel very proud. I will be there with them, cheering and helping them in all ways. I will contribute to my team in any role the manager wants me to."

Cabrera, who turns 40 in April, previously represented Team Venezuela in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2017. This time, Venezuela is in Pool D with Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Israel and an undetermined qualifier team. The five teams will compete at LoanDepot Park in Miami.

The United States is a member of Pool C at Chase Field in Phoenix. Teams in Pool A, which includes the Netherlands, are set to play at Taichung Intercontinental Baseball Stadium in Taiwan. Teams in Pool B are slated for the Tokyo Dome in Japan.

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Miami is the host city for the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship.

"He's done this a ton, so I think he takes great pride in that," Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. "Every dugout that we are in during the season is surrounded by the Venezuelan flag and Venezuelan people that just want a glimpse of Miggy. It's a reminder of how big of an influence he is around the baseball community and in that country."

Team Venezuela finished seventh in 2006, third in 2009, 10th in 2013 and eighth in 2017. On March 16, 2017, Cabrera exited a WBC game because of back tightness and missed the rest of the tournament. He ended up dealing with back issues for the entire 2017 season and saw his performance plummet to career lows.

Next year's Team Venezuela roster should feature Cabrera, José Altuve (Houston Astros), Salvador Pérez (Kansas City Royals), Luis Arráez (Minnesota Twins) and Andrés Giménez (Cleveland Guardians).

"When he's an active player, if he wasn't on that team, there would be a big void," Hinch said.

Team Venezuela will be managed by Houston Astros first base coach Omar López. Earlier this season, Cabrera was expected to join Team Venezuela for the WBC in a mentor role. Since then, the door has opened for him to play. Still, it's unlikely Cabrera - strictly a designated hitter - will be in the everyday lineup because of his health.

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In 2019, Cabrera was diagnosed with a chronic right knee injury.

"Miggy is such a big icon in our sport, let alone in Venezuela," Hinch said. "I know (López) wanted him to be a part of it. He talked to Miggy about it, and Miggy wants to be a part of it. The playing time is going to be DH-only or pinch hit. I'm not concerned about the spring as much as I'm excited for him to do that again."

Cabrera, the Triple Crown winner in 2012, is one of three players in MLB history to reach 3,000 hits500 home runs and 600 doubles, along with Albert Pujols (playing his final season in 2022) and the late Hank Aaron. In 2022, Cabrera is batting .254 with five home runs, 27 walks and 100 strikeouts in 111 games, posting a career-worst .620 OPS.

Since the All-Star break, Cabrera has a .167 batting average with two home runs in 32 games.

He is owed $32 million in 2023, the final year of his contract.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera in 2023 World Baseball Classic

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