DETROIT — No matter how banged up he is, Miguel Cabrera is a threat to hit the ball where nobody can catch it.
It's the rest of his duties that have looked more and more painful. Those jogs out of the batter's box became progressively slower, and although Cabrera helped the Tigers win the AL Central for a third straight year, even they can't be sure what to expect from their best hitter in the postseason.
"He's not 100 percent," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's been playing in a lot of pain. He's a real tough guy. I think if anybody knew the pain he's playing in, they probably wouldn't believe it."
After winning the Triple Crown in 2012, Cabrera was even better for much of this season. By the end of August, he looked well on his way to one of the league's best offensive seasons of the past 50 years. His final numbers were still terrific — a .348 average, .442 on-base percentage and .636 slugging percentage, all tops in the AL — but toward the end, nagging problems began to add up.
"It doesn't matter right now," Cabrera, 30, said. "You've got to be ready to play. Go out there and play hard."
Cabrera missed a game in early July with a bad back, and July 22 against the White Sox he left early with what the team called a sore left hip flexor. After missing four games, the third baseman homered in his first at-bat July 27 against the Phillies.
He was bothered by a strained lower abdomen in early August, was hobbled after fouling two balls off his left shin and on Aug. 20 aggravated a strain in his groin, abdominal and hip area. He kept playing, never going on the disabled list, but his numbers finally dipped a bit.
LESTER GETS THE NOD: Red Sox manager John Farrell waited until all of his players safely made it out of a simulated game before confirming what he had only hinted at before: LHP Jon Lester will start Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
"He's been outstanding in the second half," Farrell said. "The last couple of starts he's put together for us have been very strong."
Lester, who was 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA this season, won his first six decisions and seven of his last nine. From May 20 through the All-Star break, he went 2-6 with a 6.27 ERA.
FROM FIRST PITCH TO PEN: Brett Anderson could hardly be happier about returning to the postseason, even if it's in a much different role than he's accustomed to with the Athletics.
Nearly a year after starting Game 3 of the 2012 ALDS, and six months after getting the ball on opening day, the left-hander will be in the bullpen when Oakland hosts the Tigers in the AL playoffs beginning Friday.
"I have to be ready from the first pitch to the last out," Anderson said. "I could be in any situation. My stuff kind of plays anywhere, so it's being open to those roles and trying to help the team win."
BRAVES ROSTER: 2B Dan Uggla, Atlanta's highest-paid player who batted .179 this season, was left off the NLDS roster along with LH starter Paul Maholm and reliever Scott Downs. RHP Freddy Garcia made the roster and could start a potential Game 4.
MUJICA MAKES TEAM: RHP Edward Mujica, who lost his closer's job down the stretch and had an 11.05 ERA in September, is on the Cardinals' NLDS roster.