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V-Mart, Cabrera continue to make steady progress

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — Victor Martinez was on the field at Joker Marchant Stadium early Wednesday morning, working with strength coach Chris Walter.

Walter had set up cones in right field and Martinez was running, first forward and then backwards between the cones. It wasn't a full sprint, but short, 10- to 15-yard bursts. Later, Walter had Martinez running to and then circling around a series of six cones.

He wasn't making hard cuts on the surgically repaired left knee, but he was turning around the cones much like he would round a base.

After that, Martinez joined Miguel Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes for a 40-minute round of batting practice.

Seeing both Martinez and Cabrera — who is coming back from ankle surgery — that active and energetic, hitting balls all over the yard, it's hard to imagine both won't be ready to play by Opening Day.

But manager Brad Ausmus said to pump the brakes on that.

"There are still hurdles to cross," he said. "Mostly with the running and agility stuff. We get to a point where we think they can play in a game, but it's tough. As much as you run and do agilities, it's tough to simulate game action.

"There is a lot of sudden movements. As you know, baseball is a lot of standing around and sudden movement. That is hard to simulate."

Ausmus said there is still no hard date set for either one to play in a spring game.

"We will try to get as many at-bats as we can for both without risking a setback," he said. "It will be on the fly."

Most likely their first game action will come on the minor league fields. Ausmus said it hasn't yet been determined when that would happen.

Of all the individual health concerns the Tigers had coming into spring training, most are trending favorably.

Shortstop Jose Iglesias (stress fractures) has played back-to-back games in the field with no residual pain or soreness. Reliever Bruce Rondon (Tommy John surgery) pitched an inning on one-day rest and told Aumsus Wednesday the arm felt fine.

Cespedes (quad), Ian Kinsler (shoulder) and Alex Avila (back) seem to have come through their short-term injuries and are back on a regular schedule.

"Some of those concerns we are more comfortable with, for sure," Ausmus said. "Rondon and Iglesias specifically. Cespedes is OK, Kins is OK, Alex is OK. We didn't think they were long-term issues, but they're back.

"Now we will see how the first baseman (Cabrera) and the designated hitter (Martinez) progress."

Wednesday's theatrics

Not in the 93 years spring training games have been played in Bradenton had a crowd so large turned out.

More than 2,000 standing-room seats were sold for a Pirates-Tigers evening game that the Pirates won, 8-7.

What the folks saw in abundance were long Pirates home runs. Three of them, with Tony Sanchez, Starling Marte, and Willy Garcia all blasting bombs on a night the Tigers had twice as many hits as Pittsburgh, 14.

Starring among Tigers batters was Ian Kinsler, who had a pair of doubles and a single and who is now batting .409 in Grapefruit League games.

Nick Castellanos (.296) had a pair of singles, as did catcher Miguel Gonzalez. Tony Pankake, the Tigers' seventh-round pick in 2014, from the University of South Carolina, had a two-run, bases-loaded single in the Tigers' four-run ninth.

Pitchers' performance

Shane Greene started Wednesday for the Tigers and was generally sharp in 3-2/3 innings, as was reliever Angel Nesbitt

(one inning, two strikeouts, one walk). Alex Wilson and Alberto Cabrera also threw scoreless single innings.

But a pair of Tigers left-handed relievers had rugged nights.

Tom Gorzelanny (9.00 ERA in Grapefruit League games) allowed two runs on Marte's home run. Kyle Ryan was socked for a pair of runs on three hits and a walk.

Ausmus insisted he is "not in any way concerned about" Gorzelanny, saying: "When he gets it up (high in the strike zone), he's gonna get hit. He's got to be down in the zone and on the corners."

Another left-handed reliever who was scheduled to pitch, Ian Krol, was scratched because of some tightness in his throwing arm.

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky

Lynn Henning contributed.