Tigers spring training observations: Miguel Cabrera shows ultimate respect to prospect

Detroit Free Press

Jeff Seidel, Evan Petzold | Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — A Detroit Tigers prospect received a stamp of approval from a future Hall of Famer on Tuesday morning.

Miguel Cabrera, whose trip to Cooperstown is all but certain, faced prospect Matt Manning in live batting practice on a back field behind Joker Marchant Stadium.

Cabrera was tracking the ball, standing in the batter’s box and taking pitches, getting used to seeing live pitching again.

Manning, one of the Tigers’ top prospects, looked smooth and easy.

After Cabrera stepped out of the box, he said: “Bueno!”

When Cabrera tells a prospect something is “good,” it is impressive, no matter the language.

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Skubal feels good

After taking live batting practice against Tarik Skubal, Riley Greene jogged into the outfield, where he met with High-A West Michigan manager Brayan Pena.

“Man, those balls look a million miles an hour right now,” Greene said.

Greene didn’t take any swings against Skubal — he just tracked the ball to get his timing back.

Skubal also faced Robbie Grossman and JaCoby Jones.

“The ball came out well,” Skubal said. “A lot of good things. Some stuff that I can obviously work on, but it was good for the first day throwing to hitters. Kind of got that competitive juice going.”

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Goodrum ‘graceful’

The Tigers set up a base running drill in the outfield, putting down bases on the grass.

It was a basic drill, but manager AJ Hinch was impressed with the way Niko Goodrum moved.

“I told Niko today, you might be the most graceful athlete that we have in our group,” Hinch said. “Getting up close to him, he’s put together, a great looking athlete.”

Goodrum has taken most of his reps at shortstop, but he has the versatility to play all over the field.

“There aren’t that many players in the league that can play and play well, at all these positions,” Hinch said. “There are no more than a handful of guys in the entire league that can do that.”

Fulmer hits ground running

Hinch was also impressed with Michael Fulmer, who threw pitches in a live batting practice.

“Very healthy,” Hinch said about Fulmer. “He was excited and happy to get through his first live BP session. He looked like he had a good time. He threw all of his pitches. … Michael was good and got through his session with relative ease.”

Tigers’ Robbie Grossman finds pride in clubhouse, lineup leadership roles ]

Cutting down runs

During one part of infield drills, the Tigers took ground balls up on the infield grass.

But that might be something fans need to get used to.

“Yesterday in an infield meeting, I told them, we’re gonna play the infield in probably more than any team in baseball,” Hinch said. “Our goal is to stop runs, so when a guy’s on third with one out and he hits a ground ball, then they’re not going to score.”

Aggressive? Sure.

But it could also be an indication Hinch knows this team might not score a lot of runs.

‘Most physical team’

Harold Castro, who is trying to make this team as a utility player, played three different positions Tuesday.

“I will tell you, I like the way it looks,” Hinch said.

Longtime observers noticed Castro appears to have added bulk to his frame.

“I’m probably the last person you can ask in this camp on whether or not somebody has, has added a ton of weight or added added strength are built off anything,” Hinch said.

Then, Hinch added a nugget on the overall size of this team.

“We are as physical as any team I’ve been around,” he said.

Torkelson shows frustration

Before live bullpens started, prospect Spencer Torkelson took ground balls at third base. Once, when he fumbled the ball, third base coach Chip Hale tossed his notes in the air as a sign of frustration.

Torkelson whipped the ball at the fence to his right, a reminder he is still learning how to hold down the hot corner.

Then, he repeated the drill successfully.

After ground-ball drills, Torkelson took weak fly balls. He dashed from his spot at third base to the shallow part of the outfield, attempting to make an over-the-head snag.

“Just like when you play football,” Hale yelled. “Turn and run.”

 

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