Ausmus 'surprised' if Cabrera not in Opening Day lineup
Lakeland, Fla. — If you were at Joker Marchant Stadium on this cool (for Florida) and breezy Saturday, you got a glimpse of the Tigers Opening Day lineup — well, with two possible exceptions.
"David Price wasn't pitching," manager Brad Ausmus pointed out after the Tigers beat the Cardinals 4-3.
The other exception is not, as you might expect, first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who hit his third home run in five games, a two-run shot to right field and is all but ready to go.
No, the other exception is designated hitter Victor Martinez, who Ausmus described as being just a "tick" behind Cabrera.
"As of right now, I am optimistic we can have them both ready for Opening Day," Ausmus said. "But I am probably more optimistic at this point that Miggy will be ready."
Cabrera had foot and ankle surgery Oct. 24. Martinez had meniscus surgery Feb. 10.
Cabrera played six innings at first base Saturday and is moving around more fluidly than Martinez. He is also swinging the bat better — hitting .385 to Martinez's .143.
"I would be surprised if Miggy wasn't in the Opening Day lineup and less surprised if Victor wasn't," Ausmus said. "But we still have time to get him ready."
Here's how the Tigers will bat on Opening Day against Twins and right-hander Phil Hughes, assuming Martinez is ready — 1. Anthony Gose, CF; 2. Ian Kinsler, 2B; 3. Cabrera, 1B; 4. Martinez, DH; 5. J.D. Martinez, RF; 6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF; 7. Alex Avila, C; 8. Nick Castellanos, 3B; 9. Jose Iglesias, SS.
Kinsler and Iglesias played nine innings together for the first time this spring and turned a slick double-play in the ninth.
"The more they play together, the more they get to know each other and the smoother things will run," Ausmus said.
The same goes for the communication between Iglesias and Gose and Cespedes. Iglesias nearly collided with Cespedes on one pop up, and did collide with Gose on another — causing Gose to drop it, leading to a pair of unearned runs off starter Shane Greene.
"The wind played a part in that," Ausmus said. "Anthony said he called it late and that threw him off. That's why we play spring training games, to get those kinds of things worked out."
Avila hit a long home run to the bullpen in right center to tie the game at 3-3 in the seventh. First baseman Jordan Lennerton knocked in the winning run with a double to right-center that scored Kinsler from first.
Greene pitched five innings, allowed one earned run and three hits.
Having Iglesias, Martinez and Cabrera all ready for Opening Day seemed like a long shot when spring training began. So given all three are on pace to be in the lineup April 6 — the Tigers have won the spring, regardless of the 10-16-2 record.
Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky