CLEARWATER, Fla. – Detroit Tigers designated hitter Miguel Cabrera will never forget his MLB arrival. He was playing for Double-A Carolina, an affiliate of the Florida Marlins, when manager Tracy Woodson benched him during the game.
He sat alone in the dugout.
“That was a scary moment,” Cabrera said Sunday. “They told me after the game that I was called up, so I was relieved after that. Like, what did I do? The manager wouldn’t even talk to me. I thought I did something wrong.”
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Cabrera, who turns 39 on April 18, made his MLB debut June 20, 2003, at 20 years old. He hit a walk-off home run in his first game, won the World Series that year and has played 19 seasons in the majors, earning two MVP awards, the Triple Crown in 2012, 11 All-Star selections and four batting titles.
He is arguably the greatest right-handed hitter of his generation.
On Saturday, the Tigers’ leaders – general manager Al Avila and manager AJ Hinch – included Cabrera in their meeting to welcome top prospect Spencer Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick in 2020, to the Opening Day roster.
“It was a great moment,” Cabrera said. “To see his face, his emotion, it was a very emotional moment for me and for the guys in the room. I’m so happy for him because he worked hard to be on the team, and he made it.”
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Cabrera has been with the Tigers for 14 seasons, playing games at first base in 12 of those campaigns. On the first day of spring training, Cabrera offered to give up the position if Torkelson made the roster.
Now, the job officially belongs to Torkelson.
“If we want to win, we need him in the lineup,” Cabrera said. “He has the potential to be really good in the big leagues. He has the potential to be the man here in Detroit. If he spent one more year in the minor leagues, it’s not going to help us. I think he’s ready. I “he he’s going to be good. I think he’s going to do a lot of things for us in Detroit.”
Torkelson, 22, is hitting .280 (7-for-25) with four doubles, three RBIs, two walks and four strikeouts in 12 games this spring training. He is the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and the No. 4 prospect in baseball.
The No. 5 prospect in the sport, outfielder Riley Greene, hit .429 (9-for-21) with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, four RBIs, three walks and six strikeouts in 11 games this spring.
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The Tigers were ready to announce Greene as the Opening Day center fielder, but Greene’s camp – and his Opening Day roster bid – ended in Friday’s game, when he suffered a fracture in his right foot. He will start the season on the injured list, could miss six to eight weeks and needs rehab assignments.
Cabrera was disappointed when he learned about Greene’s foot injury.
“That hurt a lot,” Cabrera said. “I think he’s ready, too. We got to wait two months now. But he’s going to be with us when he recovers. He deserves that. He had a great spring training.”
Wily Peralta joins camp
Right-hander Wily Peralta, whom the Tigers view as a multi-inning reliever, arrived in Florida on Saturday and reported to the return spring training complex Sunday morning.
The Tigers signed him March 16 to a minor-league contract, but he needed his work visa before leaving the Dominican Republic. The 32-year-old will throw a bullpen Monday.
“I saw him today,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said Sunday. “He brought a smile to everybody’s face. Huge reaction in the clubhouse. And he looks great. He’s been throwing and has faced some hitters.”
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Once Peralta completes a live batting practice session, the Tigers will start their season in Low-A Lakeland. He will pitch at at least two outings for the Flying Tigers before advancing to Triple-A Toledo.
“And then we don’t have a target date or anything like that,” Hinch said. “But as a reliever, which we would target him as a multi-inning reliever, we’ll build him up like we would a major-league reliever.”
Peralta posted a 3.07 ERA with 38 walks and 58 strikeouts over 93⅔ innings in 19 games (18 starts) for the Tigers in 2021. He had a 14.4% strikeout rate and 9.5% walk rate.
Michael Pineda’s backfield outing
Right-hander Michael Pineda, expected to join the starting rotation at some point in April, pitched in a minor-league game Saturday on the TigerTown backfields. He tossed at least 30 pitches across two innings.
“Got everything he needed out of it,” Hinch said. “It would be like his first spring training outing. He’s right on track with what a first outing in spring training would be. Clearly not ready to break with us volume-wise, but right on schedule.”
Pineda is scheduled to throw a bullpen in Lakeland before traveling to Toledo, where he will continue building his stamina towards a full-time starting role in the majors.
The Tigers signed Pineda on March 19 to a one-year, $ 5.5 million contract, but he could not pitch in games until his work visa was approved. The transition from a tourist visa to a work visa did not happen until Wednesday.
The 33-year-old posted a 3.62 ERA with 21 walks and 88 strikeouts across 109⅓ innings in 22 games (21 starts) for the Minnesota Twins last season. He has a 3.98 ERA in his eight-year MLB career.
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