DETROIT — The swing looked like typical Miguel Cabrera as the veteran Tiger sprayed line drives around Comerica Park Friday afternoon. The setting was different, from Tigers Minor Leaguer Erasmo Ramírez on the mound to a media relations person shagging balls in right field.
The live batting practice was the final step in Cabrera’s progression from the left biceps strain that hindered his swing two weeks ago. He’s expected to be reinstated from the 10-day injured list this weekend against the Royals.
“This was Miggy’s last step,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s going to do some ground balls and get a little bit of extra work in, and then we need to make a decision whether we play him [Saturday], or do we play him Sunday and give him a day off [Saturday].”
Whichever day Cabrera returns, he’s expected to play first base, stepping right back into his role bouncing between first and DH. He had a swinging injury rather than a fielding or throwing injury, so it shouldn’t make a difference.
Either day, Cabrera will face a Royals team he has roughed up both historically and recently. He’s a .306 career hitter with 32 homers and 140 RBIs in 206 games against Kansas City, and his production hasn’t fallen off much with age. Four of his 10 home runs last season came in nine games against the Royals. One of those homers was off the Royals’ scheduled Saturday starter, Brady Singer.
Skubal on board with piggyback
Tarik Skubal expected some sort of setup to deal with the innings ramp-up he was set to face this season, so he’s rolling with this week’s shift to piggyback starter. Whatever role he’s facing, he said, he’s pitching the same game.
That game for him is a work progress. Skubal threw fastballs or sliders for more than 80 percent of his pitches last season. For this season, he has worked in a splitter that he developed over the winter. He also has a curveball he needs to mix in more often.
“I’ve talked with [pitching coach Chris] Fetter about that a little bit, just get my usage of [the slider and curveball] up more, and then that’ll kind of take away from the fastball percentage, too,” Skubal said.
Hinch said Thursday he’d like Skubal to throw fewer splitters.
“He’s a fastball-dominant pitcher who’s trying to find his way inside the strike zone,” Hinch said. “Being comfortable with his routine and comfortable with your prep, and then the next step is being comfortable with your own stuff, that’s a work in progress.
“Tarik, for me, is going to throw more curveball-slider as the year progresses and get away from his split, not use his fourth-best pitch as much as he’s used it in his first few starts. That’s a learning process for him.”
Jones adjusts to part-time role
Hinch said before Thursday’s loss that JaCoby Jones was “a good game away from feeling better” about his role after seeing his playing time drop from previous seasons. Jones then homered Thursday to go with a highlight catch. It came in defeat, but Jones gave the Tigers a chance while also stating his case to play more.
“It’s frustrating for him,” Hinch said. “He’s been a regular player for the last few years here, and now he’s found himself fighting for playing time and hasn’t quite gotten on track. His attitude’s been good, but the results haven’t really matched that.”
Jones said after Thursday’s loss that the individual performance was a “sigh of relief” after putting in work to bounce back.
“It’s tough when you don’t have success and you work your tail off,” Jones said. “Just gotta keep grinding.”
Jones was back in Friday’s lineup against lefty Mike Minor.
• The Tigers were among the half-dozen or so teams with a scouting presence at Aníbal Sánchez’s throwing showcase Friday in Miami. Detroit also scouted him when he threw for teams along with Julio Teheran in February. Sánchez pitched for Detroit from 2012-17 and is well-regarded for his work ethic and willingness to help young pitchers.