LAKELAND, Fla. -- Austin Jackson came into camp looking to improve his hitting. Little did he know his first opponent would be Austin Jackson.
No, he isn't battling himself at the plate. But in his lone at-bat Friday, he was facing Florida Southern College starting pitcher Austin Jackson.
The battle ended with the Tigers' Jackson grounding out. Still, he was able to laugh about it on his way into the clubhouse at the end of the inning.
"I just found that out," the Tigers' Jackson said. "That was crazy."
Miggy, Prince get right to it in exhibition
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Miguel Cabrera didn't have to wait long for his first test at third base.
Prince Fielder didn't have to wait long for his first hit in a Tigers uniform, even if it was more seeing-eye than tape-measure.
All in all, Detroit's 11-1 win over Florida Southern College Friday afternoon, for an exhibition, was quite a show. And none of it involved home runs.
Though the bulk of the damage came in a six-run seventh inning, the first frame was the showcase. It was the inning that put the Tigers' potential starting lineup on display for the first time in 2012, including the new-look infield, with Cabrera at third base for the first time since 2008 and Fielder at first for the first time in a Tigers uniform.
Cabrera's highlight was in the field, a sharp grounder from FSC catcher Austin Chubb that forced a quick reaction. Cabrera made a nifty scoop before firing across the infield to easily get the out and retire the side.
"I try to make plays," Cabrera said. "I try to make the easy play."
Fielder, for one, was impressed.
"That was sick," Fielder said. "That was nice, real nice. He made it look easy. That's unfortunate, because when he makes them look easy, nobody's going to give him that much credit. But no, if he's making them look easy, that means he's doing his job."
Fielder's fame so far this camp had been for mammoth home runs in batting practice. His first actual hit of the spring, though, was a two-out double he pulled just inside first base and down the right-field line, scoring Brennan Boesch for Detroit's first run.
Fielder took second base easily. He also scored from second without a throw on Delmon Young's bloop single into short center field.
"I think you're going to find that he's a pretty instinctive guy," manager Jim Leyland said of Fielder.
Inge's fate at keystone to be decided by bat
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brandon Inge lost his starting job at third base last summer because of his bat. It appears his fate at second base will be determined by much the same criteria.
As far as manager Jim Leyland is concerned, Inge has shown he can handle his position shift just fine.
"To be honest with you, for the most part, it's going to come down to how he hits," Leyland said. "You can see him moving around there. He's going to be all right at second base. He's going to be fine. He's got a great arm. He can turn a double play. ...
"He's going to be fine as a second baseman. That's not even a concern to me. We have to iron some things out, but he's going to be fine."
Inge will start at second base Saturday, when the Tigers begin the Major League portion of their Spring Training schedule against the Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex.
Inge and Ryan Raburn are expected to split the vast majority of innings at second base this spring, though Raburn won't be on the trip for Saturday's contest. Raburn will start Sunday against the Braves at Joker Marchant Stadium, though Inge could follow him and play the later innings.
"He needs to get some innings logged there, yes," Leyland said. "But I'm not going to wear him out."
Oliver impresses with three strong innings
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Andy Oliver's first outing of the spring went well, even if it went longer than he expected and the Tigers wanted.
Oliver's three scoreless innings on one hit with six strikeouts earned him the win in Friday's exhibition victory over Florida Southern College. The outing also served to showcase the fastball-slider combination that makes him an intriguing starting prospect and fifth-starter candidate, despite his command struggles last year at Triple-A Toledo.
Oliver was set to pitch two innings. Once he struck out the side in the second, however, he accidentally missed the hook from pitching coach Jeff Jones.
"I guess Jonesy came over and said, 'Hey, good job, you're done,'" Oliver said with a laugh. "I didn't hear him say, 'You're done.' And I went back out there for the third one. I just didn't hear him."
It was an honest mistake that became a little confusing when Casey Crosby came out of the bullpen, only to jog right back in. Oliver struck out two more Mocs in a scoreless third.
Offseason regimen has Valverde in peak shape
LAKELAND, Fla. -- There's a little less of the Big Potato to go around.
It's difficult to imagine Jose Valverde doing anything quietly, let alone something quietly on the field. But while the results of Miguel Cabrera's offseason workout program became an early topic at Tigers camp, Valverde might have actually lost more weight -- 40 pounds by his estimate.
Valverde is listed at 255 pounds, though that's believed to be a conservative estimate.
The weight loss came from an offseason workout regimen that included a lot of running in his native Dominican Republic. He's already feeling the difference in his workouts.
"I feel much better this year than last year -- energy and everything," Valverde said. "Last year, I was tired the first day."
There's a long-term perspective to this as well. Valverde, who turns 34 later this month, would like to keep pitching into his late 30s. Most of the relievers who remained effective as they approached 40 years old were in good athletic shape for their age. Mariano Rivera is one example. Trevor Hoffman was another. Todd Jones, for all the ribbing he took about his shape, was an underrated athlete.
Valverde and his agents would be interested in keeping him a Tiger. No substantive talks have taken place on a contract extension, though a source said the subject briefly came up during the offseason before Detroit exercised its $9 million option on Valverde's contract. That could be revisited at some point this spring.
"I want to stay here," Valverde said. "Why not? It's nice here. We have a good team. I want to finish my career here."