LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers hitters put on a little bit of a home-run show in their live batting practice, from Avisail Garcia delivering a drive to Brennan Boesch taking a pitch deep. For the most part, though, the pitchers reminded everyone why they're usually further along in their program than hitters at this point in the season.
It isn't just about an extra four days of formal workouts. In many ways, pitchers have been throwing off a mound for several weeks, either in pre-camp workouts here or at facilities closer to home. Hitters, for the most part, were watching live pitching for the first time since last fall.
"You could tell [the hitters] were ready to go and wanted to get back at it," manager Jim Leyland said.
Leyland has given hitters the option for how they want to approach these early sessions. They can swing at some pitches if they want, or they can simply watch pitches into the mitt to get an idea of the timing again. They also have the option of knowing what pitch is coming.
Pitchers will get at least two sessions of live action against hitters in before games begin.
Cabrera determined to thrive at new position
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The early morning clouds hadn't yet burned off in the heavy, humid Florida air when Miguel Cabrera's workout began. While his Tigers teammates were still rolling in, Cabrera was running sprints along the outfield warning track of Joker Marchant Stadium, a resistance band attached to his weight as he ran from the foul line to straightaway center.
By contrast, the sun was out and beaming by the time Tigers infielders began their first formal drills of the spring on the back fields at Tigertown. And as Miguel Cabrera charged in on rollers and turned to fire, he was still smiling. He had a bounce in his step that reflected how much he's enjoying this chance he has.
"I've always wanted to play third base," Cabrera said on Friday, "but they don't let me play."
They had better options at third then, notably Brandon Inge. More importantly, they didn't have other logical options at first until Prince Fielder arrived.
Cabrera has talked enthusiastically about moving back to third base, the spot he manned from 2006 until early in the 2008 season. Even before Victor Martinez suffered his season-ending knee injury last month, Cabrera said he had been working out this offseason with the idea of playing third base in mind. If the Tigers wanted him and Martinez in the lineup during Interleague Play, or if they made it to the World Series, he wanted to be ready.
"It's not going to be my decision, it's going to be skip's decision," said Cabrera, motioning to manager Jim Leyland's office. "But when you're ready and you show up ready to play somewhere else -- first base, third base -- you help the skipper make a good decision. I was prepared for that, and I told Victor I will be ready if you have a chance to play first base."
Still, he hadn't worked out there in any formal role. Friday's first full-squad workout was his first real chance to let his energy show in the field.
It was a simple drill, taking ground balls and simulating decisions on where to throw for an out, but it's a start.
"I'm just working hard, trying to work on little things over there, trying to do the right things," Cabrera said.
The fungo grounder drills were relatively routine. Cabrera will receive more tests in the coming days, once Leyland follows through on his plan to speed up infield practice to better simulate game speed.
If Cabrera wasn't moving comfortably around third base this early in camp, then there would be a problem. But that doesn't mean he has to approach it with a bounce in his step. Cabrera looked Friday like someone with a bounce and a half, even before he stepped into the batter's box for live batting practice and took a pitch deep to right field.
Garcia showing promise after intense winter
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Avisail Garcia could walk around the Tigers complex alongside Miguel Cabrera, and many would presume that he could be his little brother. And Cabrera might be the only person in camp who would make Garcia seem little. Even then, they looked like the same size when walking together.
The way that Garcia was hitting pitches on Friday morning, he shouldn't be labeled "little" standing to anyone.
After an offseason of workouts and winter ball, Garcia estimates that he's up near 245 pounds -- up from his previous weight of 235 -- much of which is muscle on his 6-foot-4 body. That strength hasn't manifested itself in his Minor League stats quite yet, but his raw power is impressive to watch.
"I feel good," he said. "I worked hard in Venezuela, in the academy in Valencia. I worked hard to lift and I took a little more practice."
It was enough to catch manager Jim Leyland's eye on Friday, when he put on a little bit of a show during batting practice.
"If you watched that young Garcia kid hit, you had to be pretty impressed," Leyland said. "But you try not to get carried away. He's a talent that's coming, and he's a big, young guy. He's only going to get stronger. He's got a lot of tools, and it's fun to watch him hit out there. But you don't get too carried away."
When told of Leyland's comments, Garcia smiled.
"I feel good," he said. "I work for that. I feel proud that he said that."