March 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Kurt Mensching

Mistakes are a sign of spring training -- and nothing to worry about

Victor Martinez singles in the fourth inning of the Tigers' spring training game against the Astros on Saturday. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

Lakeland, Fla. -- You see crazy things in a spring training game. Like Miguel Cabrera trying to go from first to third base on a walk. Crazy, indeed.

And you hear crazy things, too. Like that Cabrera being thrown out stealing third base on a walk was a positive sign, because he had the right idea in mind.

Just a courtesy reminder as players run into outs, pitchers groove fastballs that end up deposited on the Joker Marchant Stadium berm and assorted mistakes are made by regulars and minor leaguers alike.

There’s a reason “that’s spring training” is an oft-repeated mantra among coaches, players and media types -- all the more so when these kinds of crazy things happen on the diamond.

Stuff like that doesn’t really matter. Especially now, not a week into the Grapefruit League season.

“That’s what spring training is for,” Torii Hunter said. “People get caught up in numbers and they don’t go on the back of your baseball card at all. What you do in spring training, they’re going to forget about it until the next spring training -- maybe by April 1.”

If they’re smart, they’ll forget it even earlier.

Ask a pitcher what he’s working on. Location, getting a feel for his pitches after a long offseason, and just feeling a bit of adrenaline facing opposing batters whose jerseys are different than your own are typical responses.

Results? Not even worth considering. Not right now. It’s not just spring training. It’s early in spring training.

“Maybe tweak or fine tune something you weren't so happy with from the previous outing, (you) just continue to work on that,” Tigers closer Joe Nathan said. “For the most part, it's just about going out there on a daily basis, allow that time to just build your arm strength up."

Max Scherzer said you just don’t want to walk someone. It’s better to give up a home run than a walk. So he delivered a 2-0 pitch right down the middle to Brian McCann that eventually hit against the wall of the batting cages beyond the right-field wall.

That’s spring training.

Enjoy it. Don’t read into it.

“It's tough to evaluate in spring training,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “It's extremely tough to evaluate the first two-three games of spring training. It's more about preparation than evaluation at this point."

And “process.” That’s another word you’ll hear.

Friday, the Tigers ran into four outs against the Yankees. Twice runners were thrown out at the plate. If it’s the regular season, you’re home fuming. “Execution. Let’s start with the third base coach.”

But coach Dave Clark is safe, for now, and Ausmus is going to be the last guy to criticize when the Tigers run themselves into another out.

Right now, they’ve all got the green light. Some will learn they’re better base runners than they thought. Others will … well, they are who we thought they are.

"We want them to take chances now," Ausmus said. "You hope that creates kind of an overall mentality of baserunning for the team that we're always trying to go the extra 90 or 180 feet.

"It gets refined as players understand what they can or can't do. Third day of spring training exhibition games? Let's go after them. Let's force them to make the play.”

It’s different in April. But right now, mistakes are not only allowed, they’re encouraged.

You make the mistakes in February and March so that you won’t make them in April and beyond.

That’s spring training.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com.

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