"Iíve been celebrating a lot lately," Octavio Dotel said. "Hopefully we keep doing that." (Elizabeth Connolly / Detroit News)
Lakeland, Fla. — He's back after being on the winning team in the World Baseball Classic. But he's not ready for the major league season to begin.
"I need to pitch," reliever Octavio Dotel said upon returning to the Tigers clubhouse Thursday, after getting a championship ring with the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. "I would love to pitch in four more games."
That's a lot, considering that after Thursday night's game at Joker Marchant Stadium against the Astros, the Tigers have nine games before leaving Florida.
But as they're doing with their starters, they can use Dotel in minor league games if necessary. Plus an every-other-day schedule for him might not be too much of a workload from here on out.
But while feeling behind, Dotel would not have missed the WBC for anything.
Well, almost anything.
"I compare the intensity of it to being in the World Series," he said. "I never expected we would win eight straight games. It was a great time."
It also proved to be another chance to celebrate — along with the three Tigers celebrations last year en route to the World Series, plus another in the Dominican winter league.
"I've been celebrating a lot lately," Dotel said. "Hopefully we keep doing that."
As expected, Dotel got an earful in the clubhouse about walking Miguel Cabrera when the Dominican Republic played Venezuela. But he was ready for it.
"Miggy wanted me to pitch to him," Dotel said. "I said, 'No, go to first.' We'd had a meeting at which we said we can't let Miggy beat us."
Dotel wasn't going to let Cabrera get the better of his Dominican teammate.
"I can't pitch to that guy, and I wasn't going to take a chance in the WBC," Dotel said. "He got me when I was with the White Sox and when I was with Pittsburgh. He got me between center and right to win both games. So with two out, and we were winning by three, I said, 'I walk you and face (Pablo) Sandoval instead.'
"It was a good move by me. Sandoval flied out to center."
No lefty left behind
Don't count out Jose Alvarez as a possible left-hander making the team.
"It's fair to say he's made a good impression," Leyland said. "He throws strikes and looks like he has a decent feel for pitching."
Alvarez, a 23-year-old Venezuelan, was signed as a minor-league free agent in November after spending three years in the Marlins organization.
Despite the exhibitions, the Tigers haven't gotten away from drills. On Saturday, for instance, "everyone is going to run a triple," Leyland said. "We're doing that for endurance."
It won't be a half-speed triple, either. It'll be a "get-after-it" triple during pregame workouts.
The drill will include all players who are "all right," Leyland said, so that would mean Victor Martinez , who Leyland said is the least likely Tigers player to hit a triple.
But that's not because he's been slowed by the knee surgery he had last year.
With only three career triples, Martinez wasn't a speedster before the injury. In 2,236 at-bats, he's never had a triple on the road. Or a stolen base.
The important thing is that Leyland "sees no issues at all" with Martinez's repaired knee.
"He's going to get his share of doubles and score from second when he's supposed to score," Leyland said.
Around the horn
Andy Dirks sat out Thursday night's game with a bruised (and swollen) right knee, but manager Jim Leyland hopes he'll be able to play today.
… As for Avisail Garcia 's sore heel, Leyland said, "He's better, but he's out. I have no idea (when he'll play next)."
Garcia said his goal is to get back to playing at some point before the Tigers leave Florida on March 30, but also couldn't pinpoint when that will be.