Detroit — On the first pitch he saw from right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera slapped a hard ground ball into left field. On his second swing, a riding fastball from Ramirez shattered Cabrera’s bat.
On his last swing, he drove a ball into deep right-center, one hop into the shrubs.
It was 3:30 p.m. Friday and this live batting practice session at Comerica Park was the last hurdle Cabrera needed to clear before returning to the Tigers lineup.
“He’s doing well,” said manager AJ Hinch, who watched the session along with most of the Tigers’ position players. “This was his last test. He will take some ground balls and do a little extra (conditioning) work, then we will make a decision.”
Hinch said he wanted to talk to Cabrera after his workout. But barring an unforeseen setback, Cabrera will be starting at first base either Saturday or Sunday.
“I want to see what he wants to do,” Hinch said. “Do we play him Saturday or give him a day off and then play him on Sunday?”
Cabrera, who turned 38 last week, has been out since April 11 with a left bicep strain. He’d come out of the game in the seventh inning of the game in Cleveland on April 10 after a painful-looking swing.
He’d produced three hits (including a double and a home run) in 24 at-bats over seven games before the injury.
Ramirez, a veteran of nine big-league seasons, made a strong impression as a non-roster invitee this spring and has been working at the alternate site in Toledo.
“Erasmo needed to get some work in with the weather issues we’ve had,” Hinch said. “It worked well for him to come up here and throw to a couple of hitters (Victor Reyes was the other). He got two innings worth of volume. He did us a great service and got a little work in.”
Facing Royals left-hander Mike Minor Friday night, Hinch juggled his lineup, putting shortstop Niko Goodrum in the leadoff spot with rookie second baseman Zack Short batting second.
With that, Hinch was able to give infielder Willi Castro a night off after a rough series against Pittsburgh (2-for-10 with a couple of defensive misplays).
“Willi is going through a lot,” Hinch said. “We’re working with him now at second base and as baseball goes, you find yourself in these funky plays.”
Like the first inning Thursday when Castro failed to apply the tag on Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds at second base. Reynolds wound up scoring. Castro was also late to cover second base on what might’ve been an inning-ending double play in the same inning.
“We are throwing a lot of things at him and yesterday we might’ve overloaded him a little bit,” Hinch said. “There were a few plays we wanted to work on with him today. We went over the video. This was a good mental day for him, a good chance to get him back into instruction mode.”
Around the horn
Hinch said right-hander Matt Manning was finishing up his work in Lakeland and will be transitioning to alternate site in Toledo soon.
Manning, the Tigers’ top pitching prospect and No. 3 overall per MLB Pipeline, is expected to start the season in the Mud Hens rotation. The Triple-A season starts May 4.
… Veteran right-hander Wily Peralta, who the Tigers signed to a minor-league deal in the offseason, has been throwing in Lakeland and is also expected to transition to the alternate site soon and start the season in Toledo.
Because of travel visa and COVID-19 protocol issues, Peralta wasn’t able to take part in the Tigers’ big-league camp. Peralta turns 32 next month and has pitched for the Brewers and Royals over eight seasons. He didn’t pitch in 2020.
… Right-hander Rony Garcia, who spent all last season with the Tigers as a Rule 5 draft pick, has also transitioned to the alternate site and will start the season in Toledo. He missed spring training after an appendectomy.
Royals at Tigers
►First pitch: 1:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit
RHP Brady Singer (0-2, 3.77), Royals: He made three starts against the Tigers last year and allowed just three runs with 16 strikeouts in 18 innings. The Tigers managed just a .164 batting average against him. The sinker (95-mph), slider, change-up pitcher has allowed just one ball hit at 95-mph or better this season.
LHP Matthew Boyd (2-1, 2.03), Tigers: The strikeout numbers might be down, but soft contact and quick outs are up, which has allowed him to average seven innings over his last three starts. Opponents are 5-for-24 off his slider (average exit velocity of 82 mph) and 4-for-22 off his change-up (exit velo 81 mph). In 22 starts against the Royals, Boyd is 7-9 with a 6.05 ERA.