Tigers' Miguel Cabrera locked and loaded, ready to get the ball rolling

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Miguel Cabrera homered again Saturday and he looks ready for a big season.

Lakeland, Fla. — Miguel Cabrera is ready.

“I feel good,” he said. “I feel healthy. And I want to feel that in the season."

Cabrera, who missed three-and-a-half months of last season with a ruptured biceps, whacked his fourth home run of the spring Saturday, in the Tigers’ 8-7 Grapefruit League win over the Rays.

“I needed to see some pitches, see a lot of pitches,” Cabrera said. “Just to figure out my strike zone and go from there.”

The last two home runs he’s hit have been pulled, with extreme force. The one Saturday, off a 92-mph fastball from Hunter Wood, landed at the back of the berm well beyond the left-center field wall.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 8, Rays 7

“He’s hit a couple of home runs to right-center field, that’s his natural power,” general manager Al Avila said early this week. “And he’s pulled a couple a long way, too. Not too long ago, people were saying, ‘What happened to his power?’

“Well, you saw it. He still has it.”

He’s kept his average above .300 all spring (at .326 after Saturday) and, after a slow start in the field, he’s seems to be back up to game speed defensively, as well.

More: Tigers' JaCoby Jones, Drew VerHagen likely starting season on IL; Opening Day roster in flux

He was asked if he felt better going into this season than he has in the past few seasons.

“I don’t feel anything bad, so I’ve got to say yes,” he said. “I feel like I have a good idea of what I’m doing at home plate, and I have a good idea of what I am doing in the field.

"Hopefully I can do that the whole year."

Jordan Zimmermann

An Opening Day start?

It sure seems inevitable that the Tigers will have Jordan Zimmermann on the mound Thursday for the season opener at Toronto.

Saturday was a scheduled taper start for him — putting him in position to start Thursday. He has already built his pitch count up to 90 pitches, so he ended up throwing 69 pitches (47 strikes) in four innings.

“That was the plan,” he said. “I am happy where I am at. It’s been a good spring.”

The only damage he allowed were back-to-back home runs in the third inning to Tommy Pham (two-run homer) and Ji-Man Choi.

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“I thought I threw the ball pretty well,” Zimmermann said. “The one Choi hit, I thought that was a fly ball. I don’t know if the wind was blowing up there or what (it was). On Pham’s, I heard them yell the runners was going so I rushed it and yanked it back over the plate. He put a good swing on that one."

More significantly, Zimmermann continued to use four pitches, getting swing-and-miss strikeouts on a 3-2 curveball (Avisail Garcia) and 1-2 change-up (Emilio Bonifacio).

“Yeah, I got a couple of ground outs with the change-up, too,” he said. “That’s what  I wanted, to have that fourth pitch. It’s still pretty hard (85) but it had some movement going the other way. My curve and slider go one way (right to left) and the change goes the other way.

“So I have four pitches at four different speeds. I hope that continues.”

Around the horn

It is still not sure where veteran catcher Cameron Rupp will start the season. He's the last veteran catcher left after the club released Bobby Wilson Saturday. Most likely, Rupp will start in Toledo, but he gave the Tigers something to think about Saturday. He whacked a two-out, two-run walk-off double.

… The Tigers scored four unearned runs off Rays starter Charlie Morton. After Josh Harrison led off with a double, Cabrera was safe on an error by Morton. With the bases loaded and two outs, left fielder Pham lost Christin Stewart’s fly ball in the sun.

All three runs scored. And then John Hicks followed with a double.

… Tigers Rule 5 draftee Reed Garrett was roughed up for the first time this spring, giving up four runs and four hits in one-plus innings. 

… Jeimer Candelario continues to sting the ball (.283 after a slow start). He had two singles and a walk.

… The Rays used a four-outfielder alignment in the fourth inning against Harrison and Nick Castellanos. Harrison struck out and Castellanos looped a single over the third baseman’s head.

… Triple-A first baseman Josh Lester clubbed a home run in the seventh.


Twitter: @cmccosky