February 21st, 2012

Day 2: Peralta prepares for new rapport

It takes a very secure individual to hit in the same batting practice group as Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. But Jhonny Peralta wasn’t particularly worried about that as he watched the two launch home runs into the back trees on the Tigertown complex Monday.

Like everyone else around, he just took it in. Then he went about his regular routine, hitting line drives to left field and looking for solid contact.

Peralta has been in this situation before. He was part of a powerhouse lineup in Cleveland in 2007 that included Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore. But that, he said, doesn’t compare to this.

“It’s unbelievable watching those two hitting,” Peralta said of Cabrera and Fielder Tuesday morning. “They make it look so easy and they go out so far.”

It takes a similarly confident individual to handle the potential brunt of the infield shift that will put Fielder and Cabrera on the corners. But Peralta, who grew accustomed to Brandon Inge’s range at third last year, doesn’t seem worried about that either.

Peralta is going about his business, like he always does.

Tigers officials have said Cabrera’s return to third base will have no impact on Peralta at shortstop, that Peralta won’t be called on to make do anything more than he did last year. There will be balls hit to third that Cabrera might not get, that Inge might have gotten, but it won’t fall on Peralta to make up for it.

Peralta saw Cabrera play at third base during a three-game Interleague series in 2007 and a couple times in the opening month of the 2008 season, but doesn’t remember much of it. He’s going into it with an open mind, ready to learn what Cabrera can do.

“We need to see how it goes in Spring Training, see how he goes to the left side,” Peralta said. “That’s why we’re here in Spring Training.”

Peralta spent the offseason going through the same training program he had last offseason, when he made the transition from third base back to full-time shortstop.

Road to nowhere: Infielder Danny Worth reported to camp Tuesday after arriving in Lakeland around 1 a.m. His cross-country drive from southern California took about 2 1/2 days after getting in his car and hitting the road Saturday afternoon.

It would’ve been about two hours shorter, but he lost his way in Oklahoma, where he was intending to change interstates off of I-40 and head further south at some point.

“I just missed the highway,” he said. “I took a wrong turn around Oklahoma City.”

That led him onto the back roads of Oklahoma and Texas, an adventure he joked about on his twitter account.

“Every house looks like it could be in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” he said.

He made it, but this might be the last time he tries. He has driven the trip the last few years so that he would have his own car around and could ship it north with the team once the season starts, but he’s thinking he might fly and have his car shipped to Florida from now on.

“Boesch always makes fun of my driving,” Worth said as Boesch shook his head from the next locker over.

Actual workout item of the day: As chronicled on the site Tuesday, nobody provides a running commentary on his own Spring Training mound sessions like Justin Verlander. He took an intensity and a purpose into every pitch he threw last Spring Training, and he’s doing the same this time around. So when he doesn’t like a pitch, it isn’t hard to tell.

Sometimes, it’s clean enough for publication, like when he asks his catcher (Gerald Laird, in Tuesday’s case) about location and life on a pitch. Other times, he’ll simply mutter in frustration. But he lets it loose with game velocity.

His opinion on his first formal throwing session this camp was mixed.

“It went OK,” he said. “Not as good as I would like, but not as bad either. The major thing at this point is making sure the ball’s coming out all right and my mechanics are good.”

Non-workout item of the day: For years, we’ve heard Jim Leyland talk about Tony La Russa and reference their many phone conversations. La Russa’s arrival in camp Tuesday morning to start a two-week stint shadowing Dave Dombrowski was a chance to see their rapport in person.

“I’ve got one goal,” La Russa said. “That’s to have him stop smoking and eat tofu.”

Later, La Russa said, “He’ll eat tofu before he stops smoking.”

Leyland shot back, “I didn’t start smoking until I started coaching for him.”

At one point, Leyland called closer Jose Valverde into his office because La Russa wanted to meet him. Valverde walked out of the office like he had been told he’d been traded.

At another point, Miguel Cabrera came in on his own and introduced himself.

La Russa: “Is he on your team, too?”

Leyland: “You’re not the only guy who had a Pujols.”

Quote of the day: “I’m looking for a legitimate, confident swagger, without being a total, cocky [jerk]. I don’t have any problem with guys that talk it, if they can back it up.” — Leyland