Miguel Cabrera is definitely the Tigers’ starting third baseman

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Miguel Cabrera said as much as soon as the Prince Fielder signing happened, but manager Jim Leyland made things official during Fielder’s introductory press conference today: Cabrera will be the Tigers’ starting third baseman.

And not only that, Leyland added that he doesn’t even plan to remove Cabrera for defensive purposes late in games.

Cabrera, who’s mediocre at best as a first baseman, hasn’t played third base regularly since his first season with the Tigers in 2008. He lasted two weeks there before Leyland shifted him across the diamond and started Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge at third base.

Victor Martinez returning from his torn ACL next season would put the Tigers in a tough spot and necessitate one of Fielder, Cabrera, or Martinez playing somewhere other than designated hitter, but with Martinez expected to miss all of this season it seems strange that they wouldn’t use the DH on Fielder or Cabrera.

And apparently they might not even use it on Delmon Young, at least not all the time. Imagine a world in which Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Delmon Young are on the same American League team and someone else is the designated hitter.

Of course, while the defense isn’t going to be pretty the Tigers’ offense figures to be plenty scary, with Leyland saying this is his projected batting order:

1. Austin Jackson
2. Brennan Boesch
3. Miguel Cabrera
4. Prince Fielder
5. Delmon Young
6. Alex Avila
7. Jhonny Peralta
8. Andy Dirks/Don Kelly
9. Ryan Raburn

It’s worth noting that Jackson (.331 career on-base percentage) and Boesch (.330 OBP) aren’t exactly ideal table-setters for two of the best sluggers in baseball, although Fielder would at least benefit from having Cabrera (.395 OBP) directly in front of him.

And in that above scenario the Tigers also have Brandon Inge and Ramon Santiago on the bench, which will apparently be the only place to find defense in Detroit this season.

Report: Cardinals, Yadier Molina making “major progress” on contract extension

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Cardinals and catcher Yadier Molina are making “major progress” on a contract extension. Molina told the team he won’t discuss an extension during the season, hence the rapid progress.

Molina is entering the last guaranteed year of a five-year, $75 million contract signed in March 2012. He and the Cardinals hold a mutual option worth $15 million with a $2 million buyout for the 2018 season. The new extension would presumably cover at least the 2018-19 seasons and likely ’20 as well.

Molina is 34 years old but is still among the most productive catchers in baseball. Last season, he hit .307/.360/.427 with 38 doubles, 58 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 581 plate appearances. Though he has lost a step or two with age, Molina is still well-regarded for his defense. The Cardinals also value his ability to handle the pitching staff.

Sandy Leon homered twice in one inning, including a grand slam

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Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon achieved a rare feat during Monday afternoon’s Grapefruit League exhibition against the Orioles: he homered twice in one inning. One of those homers happened to be a grand slam.

Leon led off the top of the fifth inning with a solo home run off of Logan Verrett. Verrett continued to get knocked around, giving up three singles and a walk before being relieved by Brian Moran. Moran gave up a walk to load the bases, then a single to knock in a run and keep the bases loaded. Leon stepped back to the plate and swatted a grand slam to left field, making it an eight-run fifth for the Red Sox. The Sox would tack on one more before the inning was mercifully ended.

How often do players homer twice in one inning during the regular season? Not that often. Since 2010, the feat has been accomplished four times in the American League and twice in the National League. The Orioles’ Mark Trumbo was the only one to do it last year.

As for Leon, he’s on track to open the season as the starting catcher in Boston, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald reported last week.