Tigers 4, Pirates 1

Miguel Cabrera has three home runs in 21 at-bats and if all goes

well, he won’t be back at spring training for almost three

weeks.

The reigning AL MVP and Triple Crown winner is headed to the

World Baseball Classic and hopes to help Team Venezuela advance all

the way to the finals March 19 in San Francisco.

Cabrera is one of several major league stars who will play for

Venezuela, a tournament favorite. His teammates include Pablo

Sandoval, Carlos Gonzalez, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera and

Martin Prado.

”Let’s go and see what happens,” Cabrera said after hitting a

two-run homer for a Detroit Tigers split squad Saturday in a 4-1

victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. ”On paper you might look

good, but you go out there and you don’t know what’s going to

happen in baseball. It’s crazy.”

For the national fervor it inspires, Cabrera compared playing in

the WBC to playing in the World Series.

”When you hear the national anthem and you see all the people

in the stands singing the national anthem, it makes you feel very

emotional. It’s different,” he said. ”But in the World Series,

you’ve played 162 games. Right now it’s kind of different because

we’re just starting the year and you don’t know how you’re

feeling.

”Maybe you feel pretty good one day but you don’t feel good the

next day. It’s kind of weird. You’ve got to set your mind to go out

there and say, `Let’s do it, let’s go play hard.”’

Cabrera has played in seven games this spring, but rarely beyond

the fifth inning.

”When we go out and play a full game (Thursday in Puerto Rico),

it’s going to be the first time we’ve played nine innings,” he

said. ”We’ll see how we feel when we play nine innings and get

four at-bats. But I feel good. My legs feel good.”

It usually doesn’t take the 29-year-old Cabrera long to get

cranked up. Tigers manager Jim Leyland often says Cabrera is a

natural was ”born to play baseball.”

His opposite-field home run Saturday off Jeanmar Gomez was the

only long ball hit on a chilly day with the wind blowing out.

”It was the wind,” Cabrera said, grinning. ”I just hit it and

ran.”

Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle wasn’t convinced.

”How much was jet stream and how much was him?” Hurdle said.

”The guy is a tremendous hitter, well warranted by the season he

put up last year. … He’s not just a talented guy; he has a plan

when he goes up there.”

Sandoval, the World Series MVP for San Francisco last year, is

also a third baseman, so Cabrera isn’t sure which position he’ll

play for Venezuela. He said he doesn’t care if he is moved to first

base, where he has played before. He just wants to get started.

”I’m excited to see how we’re going to do,” Cabrera said.

Drew Smyly, competing for the fifth spot in Detroit’s rotation,

pitched three perfect innings in his second spring start.

Gomez also went three innings. He gave up three hits, three

walks and four runs, two on Cabrera’s homer in the third.

Austin Jackson had one of Detroit’s three hits and scored

twice.

NOTES: Recently retired Super Bowl champion Ray Lewis, who grew

up in Lakeland, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … Pirates

catcher Russell Martin went 0 for 3 as the designated hitter after

missing three days with upper-body soreness. Martin will catch

Sunday in Bradenton. … Max Scherzer will get his first spring

start for the Tigers against Atlanta on Sunday. … The Tigers

agreed to terms with seven players and now have all the players on

their 40-man roster under contract.