February 2011

Cabrera arraignment set for March 16

An arraignment hearing for Miguel Cabrera is scheduled for March 16 at 9 a.m. ET in St. Lucie County Circuit Court, according to records listed on the court web site.

Cabrera does not necessarily have to attend the hearing; he could waive the arraignment through an attorney. The St. Lucie County is located in Ft. Pierce, where Cabrera was arrested last Wednesday night on suspicion of driving under the influence and resisting an officer without violence.

Where Cabrera will be in mid-March remains in question. He’s currently at home in South Florida, having been released on bond last Thursday morning, while he and the Tigers await a doctor’s evaluation that will help determine any treatment. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said he hopes to hear more on that this week.

While the Tigers expect Cabrera will be around Spring Training at some point, the evaluation and the ensuing action to come out of it will play a big role in determining when.

Cabrera’s locker remains untouched in the Tigers clubhouse while Tigers camp rolls on. Prospect Ryan Strieby, non-roster invitee Scott Thorman and utiltyman Don Kelly have been handling first base in drills, something they would have done whether or not Cabrera was in camp.

Weighing the running game

The Tigers want to be a team that can run a little more. Austin Jackson has set a goal of 40 stolen bases. Yet there’s still the matter of having guys on base for Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

“If you’re on first base and [Cabrera] is up, you’re in scoring position,” said Will Rhymes, who pointed out the percentages often suggest not running.

So how much more can the Tigers really run? Can they be more aggressive stealing bases, or is it more about taking the extra base on a hit?

It’ll be an interesting facet to see develop as spring training unfolds. If you’ve followed for a while, you know the Tigers have talked about being a better baserunning team seemingly every year since Jim Leyland arrived. But at the end of the day, they’re a certain style of team. So you have to take some of this with a grain of salt.

That said, they haven’t had a player with Austin Jackson’s combination of speed and on-base ability in a very long time, and Leyland wants to utilize that talent. Jackson has the green light, but Leyland has the ability to put on the stop sign. But Leyland liked the aggressiveness he saw Jackson develop a bit as last season went along.

“The thing with Austin Jackson you’ve got to remember is he’s going to get better,” Leyland said. “At the same time, they’re going to be more aware of Austin Jackson than they are somebody else.”

It takes time, Leyland said, for baserunners to learn pitchers and read their moves, even though scouting reports on those things have come a long way.

Ultimately, Leyland said, he’s more focused on getting guys who don’t run very often to take their opportunities.

Valverde is going to have a pitch count

If there was a lasting image to the Tigers’ second-half fade from contention other than the injuries to Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen last year, it might’ve been Jose Valverde’s 60-pitch marathon to finish off a July 30 win at Boston. He needed every one of those pitches to turn what had been a 6-1 lead into a 6-5 loss, and he didn’t seem to be the same after that.

That kind of outing won’t happen again in 2011.

“If his pitch count gets to a certain point, I’m going to take him out,” manager Jim Leyland said Saturday morning.

Doesn’t matter the situation or the state of the bullpen after that. Leyland wouldn’t say that the pitch count would be, but he indicated it would be a firm limit.

Valverde had two 38-pitch outings on top of the infamous 60-pitch affair, though one of them was an extra-inning battle at Minnesota Sept. 2 in which he lasted three innings. Generally speaking, if he entered a game in the eighth inning to close it out, he was open for trouble.

Leyland didn’t want to do it, but Joel Zumaya’s season-ending injury and other problems, including Phil Coke’s workload, left him without many late-inning arms he could count on. With Joaquin Benoit now on board to go with Ryan Perry and Joel Zumaya, depth shouldn’t be a problem if everybody’s healthy.

“He’ll be protected,” Leyland said of Valverde. “All our pitchers are.”

Valverde missed his third consecutive day of work Saturday with flu-like symptoms. Leyland said he hopes to have Valverde back Sunday.

Dombowski quotes on Cabrera

Full story on MLB.com, and the video should follow soon, but here are some other quotes from Dave Dombrowski:

“He wants to be here. He feels terrible, I guess would be the way to describe it, something happened that he’s not here. But he understands the importance of making sure this is properly evaluated and he’s helped. Everybody’s in agreement with that.”

On rumors whether the Tigers might try to alter Cabrera’s contract, Dombrowski said: “There’s a lot of contract language out there, but what’s out there at this point, there’s no language that [would be altered]. And we’re not trying to do anything.”

On whether Dombrowski is disappointed: “I don’t think that’s the word you use. I don’t use that word. First of all, I know a lot more than anybody else does at this point. I think anytime you deal with alcoholism and an addiction, and I’ve been doing this for a long time in my career, you realize it’s an ongoing battle. It’s not easy. And if it’s a player or it’s personal, it’s hard. What sets somebody off at a certain time to take a drink, I’m not wise enough to know that, but it happens. You need to make sure that the player or the person continues to follow the program. And that’s why people sometimes have been through this many, many times. I don’t set the program. Whatever doctors have ever recommended to me in the past, we always follow. And I bet you I’ve been involved in 20-25 cases throughout my career. But it’s one of those where we will help him take care of his problem, because I know he has a problem.”

On Cabrera’s status for the regular season: “The regular season’s a while away yet. Even if you deal with most programs, most of them are 30-day programs. And I’m not saying that’s what he’s going into.”

On any potential discipline from MLB: “I cannot speak for them, but I would be surprised, because usually Major League Baseball, in talking to them, there are processes that are negotiated through the Association, what steps are involved, and if players are cooperative in what they need to do.”

On the idea of having someone with him, as Josh Hamilton does: “He has had people that have been with him a lot during the season last year. He had a lot of people with him all the time, really. He had somebody with him almost all year long, on the road and in Detroit. He had different people. He didn’t have one individual assigned to him. And his representatives, Diego Bentz and Fernando Cuza, they’re extremely cooperative in working with this. They want to help.”

“One of the things when you deal with these things are routines. How do you deal with them? And sometimes, when you get away from routines, I know myself, I always worry a little bit more. During the season, I don’t worry as much, because we have somebody there all the time. We’ve got almost, between the players, staff members, between people that were with him, family members, his wife is very much involved, there’s almost somebody with him all the time. But I always have more worries in the wintertime, and that’s why you stay on the phone with people and call and kind of find out. I don’t call the player, because the player can tell you anything that they would like to. Not just in this circumstance but in others, I don’t call the player. I call people that are around him at that time.”

On where Cabrera was going: “He was coming here at the time. And his car broke down. … He was on his way here and the radiator blew up. … He was on his way. He had just left his home a couple hours before that. He was driving. I didn’t know that exactly at the time.”

Cabrera not in camp, undergoing evaluation

Miguel Cabrera was not in camp with the Tigers on the first day of full-squad workouts Saturday, and he isn’t expected to report until at least the middle of next week. The All-Star slugger will meet in South Florida with doctors, who will determine the next course of action for him.

Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski made the announcement Saturday morning.

“We had conversations yesterday … between the Commissioner’s Office, the Players Association, myself and Miguel’s representative,” Dombrowski said, “and basically, we’ve all decided that it’s best he be continuing to visit and really find out what’s taken place, and be in a position where [doctors] can meet with him and completely assess what has taken place.

“Until that happens, we’ve all decided that it’s better for him to do that away from camp, even though he would love to be here and is capable of playing at this point. But he even acknowledges that he’ll do whatever he needs to do, and is willing to work with everybody for whatever needs to be done. There’s complete cooperation with all of the groups. We’re all on the same pages. The doctor that does the evaluation will be coordinated by the Commissioner’s Office and the Players Association, and he’ll make his recommendation on what needs to be done.”

Cabrera was arrested late Wednesday night in Fort Pierce, Fla., on charges of suspicion driving under the influence and resisting an officer without violence. After talking with Cabrera on Friday, Dombrowski determined that Cabrera was trying to drive to Lakeland that night when the radiator broke down.

“He realizes he’s had an alcohol problem in the past that he’s addressed, and has worked through, and he fell off of that program,” Dombrowski said. “He acknowledges that and will do what’s necessary to get him back on track.”

Dombrowski said he would not speculate on whether Cabrera might go into a treatment program.

Non-Tiger reactions to Cabrera arrest

Ozzie Guillen has a very keen interest in Miguel Cabrera’s life, since they’re practically family. He also has an interest in his career. So when news came out this morning of Cabrera’s arrest in Fort Pierce, you had to figure Ozzie would say something.

“It was sad,” Guillen said. “It was sad because I’m his friend. I’m surprised what happened. I wish it [hadn’t] happened to anyone. I don’t know why people go through that. There are people out there [who] look at Miguel as an example. I say that in the meeting: Don’t put your family in that position.

“I feel bad for Miggy. Sometimes you are immature and hopefully he can learn from this. I’ll know more later. But it’s kind of sad for me, because I know this guy very well and when you do stuff like that, no matter what you think, I wish he’d do different and think a little more. Hopefully he can learn from this and not t put himself in that situation again and take it like a man and face what he do wrong and think for the best and come up well — not just for him and the Detroit organization, especially for him and his family. Everything else don’t matter.

“It’s an easy thing about this. Miguel Cabrera hit .350, with 130 RBIs and 50 home runs, people forgot what happened in February. I guarantee that. [But] your family ain’t going to forget that.”

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez managed Cabrera for one season in Florida, but goes back further than that with him. He sounded a similar alarm, especially in the second paragraph.

“I’m pulling for him,” Gonzalez said. “We all know about his numbers as
a baseball player.  But as a person and human being, he’s a quality
guy.  If he does have a disease, he needs to take care of that. …

“I hope to see him in Lakeland. I  would tell him he
needs to take care of it, whatever it takes, even if it takes
taking a year off. I’ve never been in that situation personally, but he
needs to take care of that because it’s going to end bad.”

Day 3 notes: Furbush makes early impression

Charlie Furbush didn’t come into camp with nearly the hype of fellow Tigers pitching prospects Jacob Turner and Andy Oliver. But he comes in with a massive strikeout total, a very deceptive delivery and a good reputation.

He has the manager’s attention.

“I’m real interested to see him,” manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday morning. “I got a very interesting report on him from somebody who’s not with the Tigers, how much progress he’s made in the last year or so.”

Leyland talked quite a bit about Furbush this morning — not really as a guy fighting to make the team out of this camp, but as one of the young starters trying to put himself in a position for an in-season call-up if injuries or other issues force the Tigers to dip into the farm system for another starter.

They are not looking at him at this point as a lefty reliever, Leyland indicated.

“I think we’re focusing on him as a starting pitcher,” Leyland said. “That’s what he’s been, and we’re thinking along those lines.”

If Furbush isn’t among the lefty relief candidates, that reduces the pool a bit. Daniel Schlereth is obviously a big part of it, as is long reliever Brad Thomas. The other lefties in camp include non-roster  guys Fu-Te Ni, Adam Wilk and John Bale.

But it also puts a little more depth into the Tigers’ starting ranks. Detroit’s insurance starters appeared limited to Oliver and Turner, barring a spot start or two from Thomas, but Leyland emphasized they have some depth.

“We think we’ve got more depth than a lot of people think we have,” Leyland said.

Other notes:

  • Leyland said he went into the weight room to get in a morning workout around 7 am. He found Brad Penny already into his workout. “He’s working his [tail] off,” Leyland said. “I went up to him and said, ‘You’re a young guy yet.'”
  • Justin Verlander said today he’s going to be tough on himself in his bullpen sessions and game outings this spring as he tries to get himself ready for his best form in April. Physically, his offseason and springs workouts haven’t been any different, but his mental preparation and focus are way different.
  • Brandon Inge isn’t in camp yet, but there’s a present waiting on his chair in the clubhouse. Somebody found one of his old chest protectors (it has his name on it) from his catching days and put it on there with a note: “Pudge wanted to make sure you had gear this year. Just in case!”
  • One good piece of news about Phil Coke’s conversion to starting: It should be a little safer for fans in the stands. One teammate suggested Coke led the Majors in long toss overthrows into the seats. Coke counted three fans he hit by accident.

Day 1 notes: Leyland targets Valverde for PFP

Remember Jim Leyland’s running challenge to Justin Verlander on PFP grounders in workouts last spring training? Leyland would crow whenever he got a ground ball past Verlander, who’s competitive enough that he wants to win at that. Kept waiting to see if they renewed the challenge Monday, the first day of spring workouts, but Leyland found a new target for his fun: Jose Valverde.

“I set you up, baby! And I can do it again if I want,” Leyland bragged when he got a tricky ground ball past his closer.

“Anytime I want. Just a little on, a little off,” he said after another one.

Valverde loved it. He had a good laugh whenever Leyland said it. And then he came up with some pretty impressive grabs for a Big Potato.

Leyland loved that, too.

“He’s a fun guy,” Leyland said of Valverde after the workout. “He’s really got one of the better personalities I’ve ever been around. And I guess when you’re that big and strong, it’s probably a good thing you’ve got a good personality.

“He’s legitimately fun to be around. I like him a lot.”

Leyland also likes the PFP drills a lot, because the way they set it up, pitchers see a good number of ground balls without a lot of standing around. They separate the pitchers into groups and split them onto the four back fields of the Tigertown complex, then rotate them around. Each field emphasizes a different area.

“I think it’s a good drill,” Leyland said. “And I will do it for as long as I manage.”

Other things worth noting on the first day of official workouts:

  • Leyland mentioned this as a key camp for Tigers pitching prospects Andy Oliver, Jacob Turner and Charlie Furbush, even though their chances of making the team out of camp are slim (Furbush might have a better chance as a potential lefty reliever). Barring injuries, they won’t be part of the starting five, but they stand as the Tigers’ best options for insurance starters if somebody gets hurt, either here or during the season. “We want these guys to start this process today to get themselves prepared to get as close as they can,” Leyland said. “And if something does come up, maybe somebody is ready by the camp.”
  • For someone with such a key role on this team, Austin Jackson had possibly the quietest entrance of any potential star player this spring, which probably says a lot about how much he has learned in his second year. He showed up Monday morning after the clubhouse had emptied and pitchers and catchers had taken the field, then got in his work.
  • Among the arrivals Monday was Max St. Pierre, who reported to camp noticeably lighter. That wasn’t by design. He said he had two bouts of stomach virus and the flu, the combination of which dropped 15 pounds off his frame. He’s fine now, but he wants to regain some of that weight before the season starts.
  • Speaking of weight loss, Joel Zumaya said he’s down to 230 pounds, but wants to put on some weight before the season starts. “I want to be at the 240 range,” he said. “I’m at 230-231. But that’s just getting muscle and eating a little more. … If I can stay between 235 and 240, I think I’m good.”
  • In case you were wondering, Don Kelly was not among the catchers who took their place for bullpen sessions Monday morning. He was working with the other position players. That’s fine, because Leyland said a month ago that Kelly didn’t have to report with the catchers. Kelly was here early by his own choice.
  • Remember the ill-fated mohawk idea that went through the Tigers clubhouse last year? Detroit’s bullpen might have a replacement for it. Because right now, there are a lot of beards among the relievers, and not many plans to shave them anytime soon. Zumaya has pretty much a full beard and says he’s keeping it when the season starts. Schlereth has a beard fit for his native Alaska. Ryan Perry has a bit of one going. If it catches on, it’ll be a little cleaner looking than the mohawk one.

Guillen: I feel good, not sure about Opening Day yet

Most years, Carlos Guillen has come to Spring Training around the reporting date for pitchers and catchers. He hasn’t been lazy about his workouts at all. He just hasn’t been an early arrival. He was one on Monday.

It was the day pitchers and catchers held their first formal workout, officially starting off the Tigers’ 75th Spring Training in Lakeland, Fla. But it was also the day for Guillen to check in and meet with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, who will work with the rest of the team medical staff to give Guillen a game plan for his return from microfracture surgery on his left knee.

Nobody — not Guillen, nor Rand, nor manager Jim Leyland — wants to project anymore about his chances of being active for Opening Day. But so far, Guillen says, he’s feeling all right.

“I feel good,” he said Monday morning. “I’ve been swinging the bat with no problem, both sides.”

The big thing is that he’s in good spirits. He isn’t yet running, but he said he hopes to be cleared for that later this week or next. The confidence he seems to be getting from organizational people should give him some job security for when he gets back.

Leylands will enjoy this camp

Jim Leyland has a very lucrative contract to manage the Tigers. Patrick Leyland, on the other hand, received a nice but modest signing bonus to turn pro after the Tigers drafted him last summer.

On the other hand, Patrick Leyland was traveling on business with his dad, and he wasn’t a tag-along. So when they got to the airport in Pittsburgh and had time to spare before their flight to Florida took off, it was the younger Leyland who picked up the bill for breakfast.

The skipper, old school as he is, had two eggs and hashbrowns. The son went with the wrap.

“It was cool,” Patrick Leyland said Sunday. “We just BS’ed a little bit. It was good. It’s kind of different, but it’s a cool experience, too. I don’t really look at it as flying down with the manager or anything. It’s still just dad. So I don’t read too much into it.”

Still, he admits, “It’s a cool experience, I think probably moreso for me than it is for him.”

It’s a pretty cool experience for dad, too. After more than 40 years of Spring Trainings, they should all run together. This one was different, he said, because his son is a part of it. They’re going to enjoy it as much as they can.

At some point this spring, of course, the younger Leyland won’t be part of this camp. Patrick Leyland is a teenage catcher, eight months removed from high school graduation and the draft. At some point, his dad will call him into the office and tell him he’s being sent to Minor League camp. The future is his.

Jim Leyland, on the other hand, is a veteran manager trying to put together a winning team. He’s also in the final year of his current contract. For him, the future is now.

Patrick Leyland isn’t going to let his job get in the way of his father’s. It was fitting, then, that while they walked into the clubhouse together when they arrived Saturday, they went in different directions as soon as they got through the doorway. Dad turned left and went to his old office. Son turned his right and found his locker in the other corner of the clubhouse, where the non-roster invites are put.

“He’s very busy getting his team ready, and that’s what he’s here for,” Patrick said. “He’s got a big job to do. He’s got a lot on his plate, and I’ve got a lot on mine.”

It’s the job, Patrick says, that’s the easy part of this odd situation.

“Honestly, I think that’s the thing that’s the least strange, the baseball stuff,” he said. “I mean, you’re doing it with different people, guys you’ve been around for a while that are good players. But that’s why you’re here. That’s the second nature part. Being around everyone is the part that’s kind of odd. But once you get out there, that’s kind of second nature.”

He has a simple goal.

“I just want to stay here as long as I can and pick up as much as I can,” Patrick said, “and really observe these guys that have been doing it for years and years, how they go about their daily business and that kind of stuff. Obviously developing is why you’re here, but to pick up how they handle themselves and how they go about their day is something that I definitely want to take with me.”