Senior Writer

Tigers camp report: Likes and dislikes


LAKELAND, Fla. -- What I like and don't like about the Tigers:


 Miguel Cabrera with a bat. If the Tigers are as good as they could be, the baseball world will take note of how good Cabrera really is. Tigers manager Jim Leyland is a huge Albert Pujols fan, but asked where Cabrera ranks as a hitter, Leyland said, "I don't think he's second to anyone. He hits the ball the other way like it's a ping-pong ball."

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 Magglio Ordonez in front of Cabrera, Victor Martinez behind him. Leyland thinks we make too much of this, but if you watched the Tigers after Ordonez and Carlos Guillen got hurt last year, you saw how stranded Cabrera was in the middle of the lineup. Ordonez looks healthy this spring, and Martinez, as Leyland says, was "a perfect fit" for the Tigers.

 Justin Verlander at the top of the rotation. In five full big-league seasons, Verlander has averaged 16.6 wins. The stats guys will tell you that wins don't matter. I'll take a No. 1 starter who wins with that regularity.

 Brandon Inge feeling healthy. The Tigers third baseman played the last two years with his knees bothering him, first because he needed surgery and then because he was recovering from it. He says he feels almost like new this spring, and that could be big.


 Cabrera with a bottle of Scotch. Cabrera's teammates hope his ugly alcohol incident at the start of spring will prove to be the wakeup call he needed. Perhaps, but it's also a reminder of what could go wrong with a 27-year-old hitter that compares to Frank Robinson, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mickey Mantle.

 Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. Peralta's Tiger teammates rave about him, and he played so well at the end of last year that the team rewarded him with a two-year, $11.25 million contract. Peralta is happier than he was in the final days in Cleveland, but is he really a shortstop you can count on? We'll see.

 Carlos Guillen feeling ... healthy? Guillen hasn't played yet this spring, and while the Tigers aren't ruling him off the opening day roster, he's going to need to get ready quickly. And he is important. "A healthy Carlos Guillen gives us a real good lineup," Leyland said.

 Victor Martinez, full-time DH? There's no doubt that the Tigers are hoping that Alex Avila can be the everyday catcher, with Martinez maybe going behind the plate one day a week. Martinez isn't complaining, but he did say, "I've never been a full-time DH." We'll see how he handles it, and whether Avila can hit enough, and whether having Martinez in the DH spot keeps others out of the lineup.


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