Tigers’ Cabrera uses live BP to do some WBC scouting

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — The first couple of days of live batting practice are a fascinating study.

Neither the pitchers nor hitters enjoy the experience; the former are leery because they haven’t thrown to a batter in months — and plunking teammates is bad business — and the latter isn’t close to having any sense of timing.

Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, shown here facing Justin Verlander in batting practice Sunday, is using live batting practice to size up Tigers teammates Michael Fulmer and Alex Wilson, two pitchers he might face in the World Baseball Classic.

“I told Anthony Gose he was a brave man,” Justin Wilson joked. “He was the first left-handed hitter to step in against me. Takes courage to do that.”

Gose never swung his bat. He just tracked pitches, which a lot of hitters do in the early rounds.

Justin Verlander, who faced Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton in his first session, talked about not wanting to throw inside — though that is something he needs to work on.

“I wanted to work on a few things, like going inside on righties today, but with Miggy, J.D. and Upton, I held off,” he said. “You don’t want to let one get away and hurt anybody.”

Michael Fulmer had the same attitude.

“Look, those are the guys who are going to be helping me out all year long,” he said. “I want them to have confidence up there. I was just throwing everything away and letting them hit the ball to the opposite field and feel good about themselves.”

Alex Wilson can’t abide doing it that way.

“No way,” he said. “I don’t throw in the mid 90s. I cannot afford not to establish the inside part of the plate. I don’t care. I tell them all before they get in there, I am coming in. I have to. I mean, I don’t want to hurt anybody, but I’m coming inside.”

Alex Wilson recalled his first spring with the Red Sox. One of the first pitches he threw in his first live batting practice, he drilled veteran J.D. Drew in the back leg.

“Oh man,” he said. “I thought, ‘That’s it, I’m done.’ ”

Wilson and Fulmer both got the idea that Cabrera used the session as a scouting mission for a possible showdown in the World Baseball Classic. Both Wilson and Fulmer are pitching for Team USA, while Cabrera will play for Venezuela.

Cabrera, who was assigned to hit against Wilson, actually changed fields to face Fulmer, as well.

“Yeah, he was scouting,” Wilson said. “I knew what he was doing. So I threw him a couple of change-ups. I never throw change-ups, but I made sure to throw him a couple.”

Fulmer crossed up Cabrera, too, cutting his four-seam fastball.

Fun stuff.