Lakeland, Fla. – Just like riding a bike, eh Miguel Cabrera?
Playing in his first competitive baseball game since tearing his left biceps muscle last June, Cabrera walked and singled to left field in a 10-6 loss to the Phillies Sunday, the Grapefruit League home opener at Publix Field.
And he felt almost like he’s never played the game before.
“It felt a little weird,” he said. “Like I don’t know what I’m doing in the field. Hitting was good, but on the field, base running and defense, I felt uncomfortable.”
After he walked on a 3-2 pitch in the second inning, he was doubled off at second base after Jeimer Candelario grounded out to the first baseman. Cabrera seemed to slow up going into the base and didn’t slide.
His grimace wasn’t from feeling physical pain.
“I was like, ‘What am I doing?’” he said.
Remember, it's been eight months since Cabrera has played a game at any speed, let alone professional speed. And even though he's played, 2,264 games in his 16-year career, there's going to be a reacclimation process.
"He's talking about just being out there, because he's been out for a long time -- not health-wise or anything," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was looking around like, 'Man, it's been a long time.'
"He was uncomfortable with his footwork and everything else, just because he hasn't done it in a pretty good while. We just have to give him time and he'll be fine. We just need to get him some action."
Cabrera will be part of the squad that travels to Jupiter Mondayand play the Cardinals. The other half of the squad will play the Phillies again, in Clearwater.
"He's fine," Gardenhire said. "He's happy to be back in the clubhouse. That's one of his favorite spaces, favorite places. He likes that part of it, being back around the guys. He's having a good time.
"But he's been out of baseball for a good while with the injuries and we've got to get him acclimated. He's done all the drills, but we need to get him back in games and game situations. Because right now it feels a little foreign to him."
There is more than enough time for Cabrera to get comfortable on the field again. But the way he lashed a 3-0 pitch in the fourth inning looked very familiar.
“The hitting is OK,” Cabrera said. “But getting in the right position, the reactions on the field, not good.”