February 13th, 2009

So this is reporting day

I think I mention this every year, but it gets lost in the anticipation surrounding spring training: The day pitchers and catchers report is actually not a very big day in the course of camp, at least not with the Tigers. Almost all the pitchers and catchers were already here this week, if not sooner. Virtually all the starting pitching candidates have been here for a while.

Still, there were a few notable arrivals. Miguel Cabrera walked into manager Jim Leyland’s office with a wide smile and gave him a big hug. He definitely seems very comfortable around the Tigers clubhouse now — vastly different than last year, when he was trying to figure out his surroundings and deal with expectations.

A comfort level is something Taiwanese pitcher Fu-Te Ni is probably going to have to struggle to find. When he spent more than 20 hours on airplanes to make the trip from his home to Florida, it marked just his second-ever trip to the United States. He speaks very little English, and has a friend with him to serve as an interpreter. When pitching coach Rick Knapp saw him and went to shake hands, the one English word Ni could use was hello. Hey, it’s a start.

Saw some of the first organized positional workouts of the spring this morning, when strength and conditioning coach Javair Gillett took the early-arriving outfielders onto the field for some running work. Much of what they do before formal workouts involves hitting in the cages or on one of the practice fields.

As you might have seen in the reporting day story this morning, manager Jim Leyland said he was going to keep hammering the point that they have to be ready for cold weather when they get to Detroit. I’m not sure how much he can other than to keep reminding them. While Florida will likely have another cold spell or two when it gets no warmer than the 50s or low 60s, it’s difficult to compare that to Detroit in April. Cranking up the air conditioning might only send the players outside, and regardless, it won’t do much good on game days. Making it brutally hot in Lakeland might get the players looking forward a little bit to opening, but I’m not sure how long that’ll last. Regardless, Leyland wants to emphasize it because the early games are going to be important, and the Tigers had such a slow start at 0-7 last year.

In other news …

  • Why was Leyland talking about the need for a backup CF when Curtis Granderson is expected to start close to every game? Because Leyland wants to make sure they have some insurance if Granderson is injured and has to miss a few games in a row. As we discussed before, that need could be the one factor that makes it tougher for Jeff Larish to make the team.
  • Leyland on Cabrera: “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anybody quite like him.”
  • Look for a lot of fundamentals work for pitchers on the back fields Saturday morning. That means stepping off the mound, pickoff throws, fielding ground balls and bunts in front of the mound and throwing to first. This is where it’s going to finally hit a lot of folks that Kenny Rogers isn’t around this spring, because he would put on a show in these drills the first day of camp.
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