Continued from page 1

“I go by my instinct, like everybody else does,” said owner Mike Ilitch, the Little Caesars pizza mogul who signed off on this massive deal after what had been a quiet offseason for the Tigers. “My instincts told me that this is going to work out fine.”

Leyland sounded as taken aback as anyone with his club’s sudden change.

“This boggles my mind, to be honest with you,” he said. “I was kidding somebody. I said _ I’m being funny _ `About three weeks ago we were talking about maybe getting an extra pitcher or bullpen guy or something. Well, we didn’t know if we had the finances to get a guy.’ I said, `I don’t know what happened in three weeks. Little Caesars did good, evidently.’”

The hardest adjustment might be for Cabrera. He’s returning to a position he played while with the Florida Marlins, but he’s played only 14 games at third base with the Tigers _ all in 2008 right after he joined the team.

Fielder made 15 errors last year, the most in baseball by a first baseman.

“Mr. Ilitch and Dave have given me a lot of nice pieces to this puzzle. It’s my job, along with coaches, to figure out how to put that puzzle all together,” Leyland said. “(Cabrera) is not going to have the agility, most likely, defensively that Brandon Inge had. You give up a little something, but you get a whole lot in return.”

Leyland said he talked to Inge, who lost his job as Detroit’s everyday third baseman last season.

“He’s not the happiest camper,” Leyland said. “He certainly understands.”

Dombrowski indicated he’s satisfied with his roster heading into spring training, although it’s hard to rule out any more moves after the Tigers shockingly emerged with Fielder.

The pitching rotation is anchored by Verlander, who won the Cy Young Award and MVP last year, but Detroit’s fifth starter spot is still uncertain. Dombrowski said the Tigers could bring in some non-roster invites to compete for that job.

“I think positional player-wise, we’re pretty well set,” he said.


AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.