Cabrera, Martinez 'possibly' ready to play in spring games

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Miguel Cabrera

Lakeland, Fla. – Miguel Cabrera did almost an hour's worth of interviews with an assortment of Spanish-speaking media Saturday before strolling over to the local scribes.

"Gringo interview," he said, smiling.

It was a good day for Cabrera and for designated hitter Victor Martinez. Both faced live pitching for the first time since their surgeries – Cabrera had five at-bats and Martinez six against Houston Astros minor league pitchers on the back fields – and they came away feeling ready to face big league pitching.

"Tell Skip to put me in the lineup," Cabrera said. "Tell him to put Miggy in the lineup."

The Skipper, who watched both play on the back fields while Gene Lamont ran the team against the Mets at Marchant Stadium, was doing his best to curb misplaced enthusiasm.

"We will have to see how they feel in the morning," manager Brad Ausmus said. "If they are fine, then both will DH."

If there is no setback or soreness, Cabrera will be the designated hitter against Washington in Lakeland and Martinez, who lives in Orlando, will be the designated hitter against Atlanta at Disney.

But, again, Ausmus expressed caution.

"I'm not ready to throw a parade," he said. "They still have to be fine in the morning. If they DH tomorrow, they have to be fine on Monday. There's a little bit of a ways to go before Miggy is on the field. There are little things like sliding that they haven't done.

"So, it's good they are able to partake in games, but this does not mean that come April 6 they will be ready."

Taking their cuts

Seeing them hit Saturday, though, it's hard not to feel optimistic about the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters being in the lineup Opening Day.

Victor Martinez homered in the fifth of his six at-bats Saturday against minor league pitching.

Cabrera, who hadn't taken a swing against live pitching since his final at-bat against the Orioles last season, singled in his first three at-bats. He beat the Astros' defensive shift twice.

"They gave me a lot of holes over there; I have to use it," Cabrera said. "The first time they shift, I take it. Thank you."

He walked and struck out on his last two at-bats.

"My timing was good," he said. "My eyes, not so good. Too fast. I see the ball coming too fast."

Martinez took six at-bats because he wanted to take three from each side of the plate. He struck out his first time, then flew out, grounded out and flew out again.

But on his fifth at-bat, hitting left-handed, he belted a long home run to right-center field.

"I felt better than I thought facing live pitching for the first time," said Martinez, who grounded out sharply his sixth at-bat. "I was really happy with the results."

Like Cabrera, Martinez had some trouble getting used to the pace of the live pitching. Both alternated between a Triple-A game and a Double-A game on adjacent fields. The Double-A pitcher Martinez hit the home run off was throwing his fastball in mid-90s.

"The hardest part is the timing," Martinez said. "It's always hard when you are coming off the offseason and trying to get your timing down. We come here (to spring training) to see live pitching and that was something I wasn't able to do.

"I really want to start seeing more live pitching. Honestly, I felt better than what I thought I'd feel. The first time everything is fast but I was able to slow down a little bit. It felt good."

Ausmus said he was never worried about their bats coming around – the two have been taking full batting practice for two weeks – his concern was how they were moving.

"We want to get them at-bats," Ausmus said. "But the final hurdle in terms of getting them in on the Major League side will be running the bases and being fine with it. Once they can run the bases and we're confident they are comfortable and the re-injury risk is at a minimum, then we can put them in a game."

Cabrera ran the bases with the team on Friday. Martinez ran them with strength coach Chris Walter after his at-bats Saturday.

"That was the best I have felt since I have been here," Martinez said.

'It's more about their movement'

Again, though, it's how his surgically-repaired knee and Cabrera's surgically-repaired ankle feel Sunday that's important.

"We feel like they are running the bases well enough where they can DH, but we don't want them trying to stretch singles into doubles or doubles into triples," Ausmus said. "It's more about their movement.

"And you can take it a step farther. It's not so much running, but running and then stopping and going back the other way. They've been doing agilities but there is no perfect way to simulate the speed or situations unless you play games."

Both players said they felt there is enough time in spring to get their timing ready for Opening Day – if they are able to get daily live at-bats.

"I don't know what Ausmus is going to day," Cabrera said. "If he says I need more at-bats, then I need more at-bats. If he says I am ready to go, let's go."