February 25th, 2013

Monday’s notes: Tracking Cabrera’s moon shot

I watched this replay of Miguel Cabrera’s home run of Jonathan Papelbon several times. I saw the ball disappear somewhere around the left-field concourse. I still couldn’t figure out whether it left the ballpark, no matter how many times I watched.

Finally, as the Tigers and Phillies were wrapped up this 10-1 affair, I decided to head out to the concourse and try to figure it out myself. I’m not good at this. I have neither a tape measure nor a very good sense of distance. But I figured I’d give it a shot.

The left-field concourse at Bright House Networks Field has two tiki bars — a big one for Frenchy’s, the local bar and grill known for their grouper sandwiches, and a smaller one that just serves drinks. The home run seemingly headed over the smaller one.

The bartender there was very nice, and tried to explain it as best she could while trying to take care of customers. She knew about the home run I was asking about, and said it hit off the fence behind her bar, as shown in this picture.

springtraining 032

Beyond that fence, you can see there’s a drop. That’s pretty much where the ballpark ends. There’s a player parking lot behind there, but the ball reportedly did not land there. There was another report that the ball hit a refrigeration unit down there. But in an area with two tiki bars and no shortage of customers, I’m taking the word of the one who hasn’t had a drink.

springtraining 031The concourse looks to be about 50 feet wide, followed by another 50 feet to the fence. It’s 329 feet down the left-field line, but no other measurement between there and center field. Best guess is that it’s about 350 feet to the fence where he hit it. Add another 100 feet as explained above, and you have a (loosely, and perhaps conservatively) estimated 450-foot drive.

The picture on the right shows what the view looks like from just in front of that back fence, demonstrating how far back it is.

From what the bartender and the Philadelphia media said, it’s not rare to see a ball travel that far in that area. Home runs have landed in the player parking lot before, shattering windshields. One of those happened last spring. Most of those, though, were hit in batting practice. Cabrera did it in a game.

However, Cabrera did it in a spring training game, and spring training games don’t get official estimates. This was my best shot.

Other information, hopefully more accurate, from today in Tigers camp:

  • Drew Smyly felt very good about the few changeups he threw in his two innings of work. The mechanical adjustment pitching coach Jeff Jones made with him feels more like a natural pitch, he said. Before, he was trying to force the changeup as he released it.
  • Look for a feature on Nick Castellanos on the site tonight, but one of the interesting points he made was that he thinks he feels some of his success hitting left-handers comes from the fact that he grew up hitting pitches thrown by his father, a left-hander. Over the years, he developed an inside-out swing by trying to send the pitch back from the angle it came. Ironically, he roughed up right-handed pitching all day Monday after lefty Cliff Lee struck him out on a called third strike, but Lee does that a lot.
  • Leyland said he spent Sunday night going over potential rosters. It sounds like Ramon Santiago’s spot is safe, barring injury, as is Brayan Pena’s role as backup catcher. That leaves two spots left, at least one going to an extra outfielder, and at least some consideration for a right-handed hitter and a pinch-runner. You can see the opportunity there for Jeff Kobernus to take if he hits, and his leadoff single through the middle ahead of Castellanos’ home run in the fifth didn’t hurt.
  • Max Scherzer felt fine today, according to Leyland. He’ll throw one more live batting practice session before he’s cleared to start next Saturday in one of the Tigers’ split-squad games, likely at home against the Pirates.

Dirks feeling better, could return Tuesday

A day after the Tigers had to scratch Andy Dirks from the lineup with an intercostal muscle issue, manager Jim Leyland said Dirks is feeling much better. Dirks could have played today against the Phillies in Clearwater, Leyland indicated, but they decided to play it safe instead of rushing him back against a lefty.

Before the injury, Dirks was on the travel roster to Kissimmee for Tuesday’s game against the Astros. No word whether he’ll be back on there now that he’s healthy, but with Nick Castellanos playing the entire game in left field today against the Phillies, as is Jeff Kobernus at DH, the rosters would lend themselves to seeing Dirks play Tuesday.

Monday: Tigers at Phillies

As expected, Victor Martinez is back in the lineup, this time at first base with Prince Fielder off. Jim Leyland was talking about giving one of the extra catchers in camp the start at DH, but went instead with Jeff Kobernus, giving him a test against the kind of lefty they want him to play against (Cliff Lee).

Reminder: Today’s game is live on MLB Network beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B
  5. Omar Infante, 2B
  6. Jeff Kobernus, DH
  7. Nick Castellanos, LF
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Danny Worth, SS

P: Drew Smyly, Casey Crosby, Darin Downs, Trevor Bell, Michael Morrison, Luis Marte, Kenny Faulk

PHILLIES

  1. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
  2. Chase Utley, 2B
  3. Michael Young, 3B
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Darin Ruf, LF
  6. Carlos Ruiz, DH
  7. John Mayberry Jr., RF
  8. Erik Kratz, C
  9. Michael Martinez, CF

P: Cliff Lee, Tyler Cloyd, Michael Stutes, Phillippe Aumont, Jonathan Papelbon, Raul Valdez

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