Taking a look at all the stories circulating in Florida, here are the bits from the beat you might have missed this week.
Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, and Miguel Cabrera are back in Lakeland
One of the biggest complaints regarding an otherwise riveting World Baseball Classic was the fact it took so many heavy-hitters out of the Tigers camp. Detroit had a whopping 15 players representing seven different countries in the WBC. While some made it back to camp sooner than others, both Team USA and Team Venezuela were in it to the later games, meaning Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Francisco Rodriguez, and Bruce Rondon were all absent from spring training camp for the bulk of the month. With all the players now back, the team will slowly behind to reintegrate them into spring training play.
For Miguel Cabrera, that will come at whatever pace he chooses. The Tigers’ first baseman experienced tightness in his back during the WBC. Regarding his timetable to start playing, Cabrera said, “I'll play when I'm ready to play. If I play tomorrow, I play tomorrow.” In the meantime, his sole focus is on making sure he is healthy when the regular season comes around. “I'm going to worry about getting my back good and I feel that I'm 100 percent.”
Ian Kinsler, who hit a two-run home run in the WBC final, had positive things to say about the experience.
"It's a huge win for American baseball. It was just a great tournament. I think after the fact, tomorrow, the next day, the next day after that, we'll start to realize what we accomplished as a group so quickly, to come together so quickly."
Leyland gets his championship, Ausmus is thrilled
Take one Tigers superstar, add one beloved former manager, mix in a championship game, and the result is pure magic. That’s what the baseball-loving world got to see on Wednesday night during the heart-pounding conclusion to the WBC. Kinsler brought the power with his bat, Jim brought the management expertise (that many armchair managers at home still questioned vocally online) and at the end of nine innings America had won its first WBC championship. It seems fitting that a Tigers player would be one of the game’s stars, bringing a victory to Leyland he hadn’t been able to achieve in his years in the Tigers’ dugout.
The Tigers’ current manager Brad Ausmus was quick to heap well-wishes on his predecessor saying, “I know there was some stress involved for him in putting together this team and having to manage this team when you've got a bunch of players who often start and yet they can't all start. I was really happy for him.”
Ausmus also summed up Leyland’s legacy nicely by saying, “He's one of the best managers in the history of the game.” The sentiment mirrors what many others are thinking, that Leyland is all but certain to be headed for the Hall of Fame.
J.D. Martinez gets a second opinion
Amid a freakish run on injuries this spring, the most obviously concerning has to be the foot sprain experienced by J.D. Martinez. The words “second opinion” are rarely a good sign when it comes to injury assessments in baseball. Martinez is now able to put weight on his foot, which is a promising sign.
J.D. Martinez: "It feels better every day. It’s just little by little, but it’s going in the right direction at least."— Jason Beck (@beckjason) March 22, 2017
For now, the plan is for Martinez to visit Dr. Robert Anderson and ensure that there is nothing more serious going on before he or the team will make any announcements regarding his timeline for return.
JaCoby Jones might just get his shot at the big show
J.D. Martinez’s injury brings up another interesting question: who would the Tigers use in his place if he starts the season on the disabled list? With all the swirling questions about who will step up in center field, up until now there has been no doubt who would be standing in right field. While Steven Moya might seem like the obvious solution — having filled the right field role last time J.D. was injured — reporter Evan Woodbury had a different suggestion. Rather than bringing Jones up as the permanent center fielder, bring him up as an injury replacement for Martinez. It gives the Tigers an extended opportunity to see how he does at the major league level without committing to him as their full-time guy in center. It also gives someone like Mikie Mahtook or Tyler Collins a chance to see how they fare in center during the regular season.
Jones was both enthusiastic and diplomatic when asked about his level of preparedness. Of being moved up to the major league level, Jones said, “I feel like, whenever they want me to play, I am capable of competing in the big leagues. But it’s their decision, so I am not going to worry about where they send me or what they want to do with my development.”
For the Tigers this might just be a golden opportunity to let Jones test his mettle in the big pond.