Fielder doubles in 1st at-bat, Tigers win
It took only a half-inning for Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to make their first connection of the spring.
Shifted from first base over to third base to make room for Detroit's newest star, Cabrera fielded a hard grounder and made the throw to Fielder for the out Friday in the Tigers' 11-1 exhibition win over Florida Southern.
It might have been a routine play for some. But for the Tigers, it was a nice sign from Cabrera, who hasn't played third base on a regular basis since 2007.
Cabrera and Fielder combined for 68 homers and 225 RBIs last year. Cabrera said he was fine to make the move to accommodate Fielder, the prized free agent from Milwaukee who signed with the Tigers after a serious injury to All-Star Victor Martinez.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he knew Cabrera would make the play. It was a hot shot off the bat of Austin Chubb, and Cabrera handled it as if he'd been playing third his whole career.
''I am ready to play third and I am just excited to be playing my first game there,'' Cabrera said before the game. ''I am going to work hard and not try to impress anybody. I still want to work hard and win games.''
Said Leyland: ''We were sloppy on defense today, but (Cabrera) made a nice play. He's having no problems. He has a great feel for defense and his arm is fine.''
Fielder and Cabrera are the 3-4 hitters in the Tigers' lineup, Leyland said, after leadoff Austin Jackson and No. 2 man Brennan Boesch.
Fielder played his first game wearing a Tigers uniform and said he feels completely comfortable in the setting. He doubled in his first at-bat for Detroit.
''I've been having a blast,'' Fielder said. ''I'm not nervous, but there's some anxiety. I just want to make sure I get a hit real soon.''
Fielder, who received a huge ovation before the game, hustled to second and scored on a single by Delmon Young that made it 2-0.
Non-roster outfielder Matt Young, who played 20 games for Atlanta last season, went 3 for 3 and scored two runs.
Andy Oliver, who started two games for the Tigers last season, pitched the first three innings. Leyland said he didn't want him to go that long, but Oliver allowed only one hit and struck out six. He is a candidate for the fifth spot in the Tigers' rotation.
NOTES: Boesch said he is ready to play after missing the last postseason with a nagging thumb injury. The outfielder said the injury is behind him and he's ready to go. ... Leyland said that Brandon Inge is a viable candidate for the second base job even though he hasn't played the position since high school. He'll challenge Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago. Leyland said it would all come down to Inge's hitting. Inge will start at second on Saturday in Kissimmee against Atlanta.