LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tucked in the upper shelf of Brandon Inge's locker at Joker Marchant Stadium is a second baseman's glove he's trying to break in. He hasn't had to use one in a game in a long, long time.
He won't have to wait long to get his shot. When the Tigers start the Major League portion of their Spring Training schedule Saturday against the Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, Inge will be in the starting lineup at second base. Ryan Raburn, who's starting Friday against Florida Southern and Sunday at home against the Braves, will spend Saturday working out at Joker Marchant Stadium.
"I can't wait," Inge said. "I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it now more just because of last year. I'm ready to turn the page."
While Miguel Cabrera's transition from first to third has been the center of attention on the back fields of the Tigertown complex ever since full-squad workouts began a week ago, Inge's move has been relatively subdued since his much-ballyhooed arrival. The daily judgments on his handling of ground balls, the observation of his work and enthusiasm in drills, has been minimal.
Unlike Cabrera, of course, the questions about Inge always come back to hitting, and whether the muscle he added from a new workout program will pay off at the plate. Defensively, though, the workouts have so far gone smoothly.
His knees, surgically repaired a few years ago, are a "non-issue," he said. He's feeling a little soreness from turning and pivots, something he did far less often at third. But he's also feeling confidence.
"There's nothing I don't feel I can do at second that everybody else can," Inge said.
Inge and Raburn are likely to split the vast majority of starts in the Grapefruit League schedule, manager Jim Leyland indicated. Ramon Santiago, another candidate at second, could see some later-inning time there on occasion, but Leyland said he'll get more play spelling Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. He doesn't need to see Santiago at second to know he can play there.
Games, Inge said, are the true test.
"You can mimic anything you want in practice," Inge said. "But games, that's something else."
Leyland supportive of second Wild Card
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland sits on the committee that came up with the proposed expanded playoff format to add an extra Wild Card and provide more incentive for teams to win their division. It makes sense that he'd be in favor of the proposal, though he won a World Series title out of the Wild Card slot with the 1997 Florida Marlins.
There's a catch, though. Yes, Leyland likes the expanded setup, but the rumored one-game format is another story. Though past reports suggested Leyland supported it, he did not support that part.
"I did not like the one-game playoff," Leyland said. "It's possible that somebody could win a division with 84 wins and some other team could get 97 wins and still be behind the team that won 98 and play one [extra] game. So it's never going to be perfect.
"But at the end of the day, I'm for whatever the Commissioner -- and more important, whatever the fans -- want. That's what I think is the best way to handle our game: What do the people that you're asking to spend the money want?"
Leyland's good friend and fellow committee member, former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, spoke in favor of the potential change at Tigers camp last week.
"I do not like just the one game," Leyland cautioned, "but in saying that, I support [the overall idea]."
Leyland was able to support one rule change last year with the adoption of a roster tweak allowing teams to add a pitcher for a day when they have to play a doubleheader. He's also trying to support an expansion of instant replay that would include fair or foul calls on line drives and ground balls down the lines.
A play like that in a close game, Leyland said, can have more of an impact than a solo homer in a runaway victory. Part of the problem, Leyland said, is how to place baserunners on a ball initially ruled foul that turns out to be fair.
Cabrera changes diet
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Miguel Cabrera can describe some of his favorite foods like he's reading a menu from a restaurant back in his native Venezuela. He can also do it while putting it in his past.
"This thing, arepa, it's like bread, but they make it with corn," Cabrera told reporters after his workout Wednesday. "We put everything [in it]: cheese, steak, everything. It's so good, so I've got to stop."
When asked if he missed it, Cabrera pointed to his head.
"No. Right now, no," he said.
In other words, he can't eat it anymore -- not if he wants to make his move to third base work, if he wants to move better, and if he wants to remain a durable, productive player well into his 30s.
Cabrera has been hesitant in camp to discuss how many pounds he once weighed or had to lose. On Wednesday, though, he confirmed that he has changed the way he eats with help from someone he knows.
"It's kind of helped me a little bit," he said of his new diet. "You know, you've got to sacrifice, you've got to do it, and you've got to work hard to get better. That's what I want, to get better every day and try to do my best."
Cabrera is aware what it means to his longevity, having seen other players struggle into their mid-30s. He'll turn 29 on April 18.
"When you [get to] 30-something, you start to have problems with your knees, with your hamstrings, obliques, back," said Cabrera, whose contract runs through 2015. "So you've got to see other players at 37, 36. They play for a long career and they don't have injuries, and you have to look to them. They're in good shape. So why don't you do it? Why don't you follow the right step? When you get to that age, if you're lucky, if you have a chance to play to 37, 38, you're still in your best shape."
Lineup set for Florida Southern exhibition
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The starting lineup for Friday's exhibition against Florida Southern College looks a lot like the projected starting lineup manager Jim Leyland gave at the Prince Fielder press conference in January. The one difference is the uncertainty at designated hitter.
Austin Jackson will bat leadoff in center field, followed by right fielder Brennan Boesch, Miguel Cabrera at third base, Fielder at first, Delmon Young in left field and Alex Avila at catcher. Jhonny Peralta will bat seventh and play shortstop.
The designated hitter slot, for this day at least, falls to Andy Dirks, batting eighth. Ryan Raburn will bat ninth and start at second base.
For now, at least, the lineup doesn't mean much. Most of the starters will play long enough to get one at-bat before they're replaced. Between travel rosters and days of rest, Detroit might not have that many projected Opening Day starters all in the same lineup until the final couple weeks of camp. Still, it's something to watch.
Not all of them will make the trip to Disney World for Saturday's big league spring opener against the Braves. Brandon Inge will start at second base, and Gerald Laird will start at catcher.