Star slugger Cabrera, Tigers start spring with a new outlook

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

LAKELAND, Fla. — Miguel Cabrera showed up Sunday morning for the start of his 20th spring training camp in the majors, his 15th with the Detroit Tigers.

This one is a little different. For the first time since 2016, the fortified Tigers are thinking about winning, perhaps even contending.

“I think we’ve got an opportunity to do that here, so I’m really excited and ready to go,” said the 38-year-old Cabrera, who needs only 13 hits to reach 3,000 for his career.

The Tigers went 77-85 last season in their first year under manager A.J. Hinch. It was a big leap up from four straight seasons of winning percentages under .400.

The 2021 Tigers had a winning record after May 7, then boosted their roster with three veterans ahead of the 99-day MLB lockout.

“Our manager and organization sent a new message last year that it’s time to win, and they showed that this past offseason, signing two big guys for our team,” Cabrera noted. “Hopefully we can stay healthy and compete.”

In November, Detroit traded for catcher Tucker Barnhart from Cincinnati, then signed left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez and shortstop Javier Baez to long-term contracts.

Those acquisitions and the arrivals of prospects Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson gave the Tigers a different look and a different set of expectations as they prepared for Monday’s first organized workout.

“We need to set the bar high,” Hinch said. “As we come into this camp, we got the feel of winning a little bit, not a lot, and I think we need to continue the same message.”

Outfielder Robbie Grossman noticed.

“There’a a buzz in the clubhouse,” he said. “We’ve brought in some really good players. We’re only going to get better so our expectations are getting higher and higher.”

Greene, a 21-year-old outfielder, was the fifth overall pick in the 2019 draft. The 22-year-old Torkelson, the first overall pick in 2020, is a first baseman. They are among 17 non-roster players who have been in camp for weeks while the major league veterans waited for the lockout to end.

“I think they’re tremendous prospects,” Hinch said. “They’re going to have an opportunity to showcase what they can do and how they fit.”

Whether Greene and/or Torkelson make the opening-day roster will affect other roster decisions, such as whether Detroit starts the season with five outfielders or three catchers, how much Cabrera plays first base and whether Jonathan Schoop plays first base or second base, Hinch said.

Cabrera hit .256 with 15 home runs and 75 RBIs in 130 games last year. He finished the season with 502 career homers.

The 28-year-old Rodriguez joins Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning in the starting pitching rotation. Tyler Alexander has the inside track on the fifth spot, although Hinch said “he also can be a very valuable Swiss army knife out of the bullpen.”

There are also one or two bullpen spots available.

Because of the quick turnaround after the MLB lockout, spring training has been squeezed into less than four weeks. The Tigers are scheduled to start their regular season on April 8 at home against the Chicago White Sox.

“The pitching has obviously got to get up and running pretty quickly,” Hinch said. “You’re looking at four starts per starter. You’re looking at trying to condense how many outings the guys have. We’ve got to get them into games a little faster. We’re not going to get a ton of looks at our younger guys in camp. But there’s 30 teams that have the same thing.”

Anthony Volpe, 21, wins Yankees’ starting shortstop job

Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sp

TAMPA, Fla. — Anthony Volpe grew up watching Derek Jeter star at shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Now, the 21-year-old is getting the chance to be the Yankees’ Opening Day shortstop against the San Francisco Giants.

The team announced after a 6-2 win over Toronto in spring training that Volpe had won the spot. New York manager Aaron Boone called the kid into his office to deliver the news.

“My heart was beating pretty hard,” said Volpe, rated one of baseball’s best prospects. “Incredible. I’m just so excited. It’s hard for me to even put into words.”

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, hitting coach Dillon Lawson and bench coach Carlos Mendoza were also present.

Volpe was able to share the news with his parents and other family members near the Yankees’ dugout and said it is something he will never forget.

“It was pretty emotional,” Volpe said. “It was just an unbelievable moment to share with them.”

Volpe, who grew up a Yankees fan, lived in Manhattan as a child before moving to New Jersey. Jeter was his favorite player.

“It’s very surreal,” Volpe said. “I’ve only ever been to games at Yankee Stadium and for the most part only watched him play there.”

Volpe is hitting .314 with three homers, five RBIs and a .417 on-base percentage in 17 Grapefruit League games. He has just 22 games of experience at Triple-A.

Spring training started with Volpe, Oswald Peraza and holdover Isiah Kiner-Falefa competing for the everyday shortstop job. Kiner-Falefa was shifted into a utility role midway through camp, and Peraza was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

“While certainly the performance was there, he killed it between the lines,” Boone said of Volpe. “All the other things that we’ve been hearing about showed up. There’s an energy he plays the game with, and an instinct that he has that is evident. He really checked every box that we could have had for him. Absolutely kicked the door in and earned his opportunity.”

Volpe arrived in Florida in December to work out at the Yankees’ minor league complex.

“He’s earned the right to take that spot, and we’re excited for him and excited for us,” Cashman said. “He just dominated all sides of the ball during February and March, and that bodes well obviously for him as we move forward.”

Volpe was selected out of high school with the 30th overall pick in the 2019 draft from Delbarton School in New Jersey. He passed up a college commitment to Vanderbilt to sign with the Yankees.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get into the organization,” Volpe said. “This day, this feeling, this moment was kind of what I’ve worked my whole life for when I made that big decision.”

“Right now it’s crazy,” he added. “I don’t even know what lies ahead but Thursday I just want to go out and play, and have fun.”