Tigers notes: Cabrera healthy, happy, hitting bombs again
LAKELAND, Fla. — Miggy was being Miggy, hitting home runs and laughing heartily.
Miguel Cabrera hit his first homers of the spring during Monday’s rout of the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter. The first was smoked to right field, and the second was launched to straight-away center.
He knocked in four runs and — with speedy Ian Kinsler and Rajai Davis likely hitting in front of him — could be a threat to reach the 140-RBI plateau for the first time.
Will those two new faces mean more run production for Cabrera?
"I hope so!" said Cabrera, who chuckled long and loud at the thought.
The Tigers beat the Cardinals, 17-5, with 22 hits. Nick Castellanos also hit a long homer to center as the offense came alive with Davis leading off and getting three hits.
"It was good," Cabrera said. "The whole lineup got going, even though half of the lineup stayed back here!"
Again, Cabrera smiled to punctuate the comment and laughed.
Five Opening Day starters — Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson, Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Jose Iglesias — weren’t in the lineup. But Castellanos and rookie right fielder Steven Moya picked up the slack, each matching Cabrera’s four RBI.
Cabrera had core muscle repair surgery during the offseason after playing half of last season injured. Despite the injury, he still won the American League batting crown with a career-high .348 average. He also challenged for a repeat Triple Crown before he fell short with 44 homers and 137 RBI.
"I feel good," Cabrera said. "I need to keep working hard and get ready for the first day of the season."
That’s March 31, when the Kansas City Royals visit Comerica Park.
"And they want me to be aggressive on the bases, too," Cabrera added.
When asked for a prediction on a stolen-base total — he had three last year — Cabrera waved it off and smiled.
"What, you want me to steal bases?" he asked.
It was mentioned that he did try to go from first base to third on a walk in an earlier spring game. Cabrera was thrown out by a mile.
"I tried," Cabrera said, shrugging his shoulders. "I thought, ‘Let’s take a chance.’ But there was no chance."
And once again he laughed at his own joke.
After talking with three reporters, Cabrera waved in his father and a handful of players to hold court. He enjoys the banter before batting practice and every minute spent around the game.
Cabrera, hitting .474 this spring, batted third and played first base in Tuesday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Iglesias continues taking steps toward returning to the lineup. A stress reaction in both shins and inflammation has kept him sidelined since Feb. 27.
"I took batting practice the last two days," Iglesias said Tuesday, "and it went good. I had no problems with that."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said he’ll play Iglesias when he proclaims himself ready for action, adding that the day is approaching when being ready for the season could be in question.
Asked if he has a feel for when he might be able to play, Iglesias said, "I have no idea."
BATTING ORDER DISCUSSION
It’s been a case of another day, another lineup for Ausmus. That’s due in part to players getting days off in spring training, but mostly to his desire to continue tinkering and experimenting.
Torii Hunter was the No. 2 hitter last year, but he was a middle-of-the-order batter for most of his career. Ausmus had him hitting fifth Tuesday.
"I’m not solid on anything," Ausmus said when asked if he was considering dropping Hunter back into the meat of the order. "But I am 95-percent sure on Miggy and Victor (Martinez in the three-four spots)."
Batting first Monday, Davis sparked a 17-run explosion. He hit second on Tuesday behind second baseman Kinsler, who appears to be the most likely leadoff hitter.