Gardenhire's goal: Get Cabrera to Opening Day healthy

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera participates in infield drills on Monday.

Lakeland, Fla. — There was a nod and a smile from Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon Monday as he watched the ball pop off Miguel Cabrera’s bat in batting practice.

“I know he said he was feeling good and he was moving around good,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “And I know from talking to Lloyd, he said, ‘Man, that’s really good to see. He’s got some pop in his step and pop in his bat a little bit, the ball’s jumping off and he feels good.’

“That’s exciting.”

Cabrera played with two herniated discs in his back last season and lost a lot of strength and fluidity. But he looked spry Monday, participating in all the drills, including live batting practice.

More: Heart-healthy, V-Mart looks to find rhythm with young Tigers

More: Trio of Tigers pull ‘Buddy’ prank on Ron Gardenhire

“I told Miggy that when we start doing these defensive drills, I don’t want to see anything silly,” Gardenhire said. “I told him, ‘You’ve been working your tail off and you feel good, let’s keep it that way.’

“But he was right there in the middle of it.”

Gardenhire said there was no structured plan to ease Cabrera in or limit his workload this spring. But he is going to talk to him every day and he’s going to rely on Cabrera to tell him honestly how he’s feeling.

“You do it by conversation,” Gardenhire said. “That’s the biggest thing. These guys have been playing ball a long time and they are going to get up some days and be better than others. And the days they aren’t feeling great, I want them to tell me.

“We’re not going to press it. We’re not going to push it. Let’s just get through spring training.”

Be an example

Gardenhire made a point to talk with shortstop Jose Iglesias before the morning drillwork.

Iglesias was working in the middle of the diamond with a lot of young players, including the club’s top infield prospects Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara and Harold Castro.

More: Mensching: Hosmer deal shows Tigers right to sit out offseason

“I told Jose I need his help with these infielders,” Gardenhire said. “I need him to be an example-setter. Because he’s so good and he can do so many things, I want him to show the, fundamentally, how he does all that.

“We know how good he is and how he can be really flashy at times, because he is a great shortstop. But I told him I need his help. We’ve got a lot of young people who are watching him. If he does these drills right, everybody is going to fall in right behind him."

Message received.

“I tell you what, he was fantastic out there," Gardenhire said.

Norris checks out

There was one conspicuous absence Monday — left-hander Daniel Norris.

According to the Tigers, Norris flew to Philadelphia to be examined by Dr. William Meyers, who treated Norris’ groin injury last season. The visit was characterized as a follow-up and Meyers found no structural damage.

Norris is expected to be back in camp Tuesday and cleared for full participation.

Twitter: @cmccosky