Last Week's Spring Training Notables

Raburn will spend 2011 focused on left field

Notables for the week from spring training in Lakeland: Ryan Raburn will only be playing left field this season, Clete Thomas is coming to camp ready to battle for a spot on the roster, and Jim Leyland puts Rick Porcello in some impressive company.

NOTES, QUOTES

--1B Miguel Cabrera was jailed in the late hours Feb. 16 and released early the following morning after being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and resisting arrest by Port St. Lucie, Fla., police. "He was down," said Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, who signed Cabrera as a 16-year-old when he was GM for Florida in 1999. "I've known him a long time." It was Cabrera's second public incident involving excessive drinking in three years. "First of all, I didn't think there were any problems," Dombrowski said. "(People) dealing with issues of alcohol can be in a constant battle for the rest of their lives." Dombrowski was consulting with baseball officials, the player's union, Cabrera's agent and others to determine a course of action. "Hopefully we'll support him in trying to get some help," Dombrowski said. "It's also tough help sometimes, and we Will Do that." The official reporting date for Tigers' position players was Saturday, but there was no indication when Cabrera would show up.

--C Alex Avila is trying to improve his ability to block breaking balls in the dirt. "One thing we've talked about, and it's not a negative," said manager Jim Leyland, "but he needs to improve on this, and will. When you call a breaking ball, there were times when he didn't expect it to be in the dirt. But anytime you call for a breaking ball at any level, you have to figure that ball is going to bounce. Most of the time it doesn't, but if you figure ahead of time and you're programmed for that, you won't get down late. There were a few times last year when Alex got down late. That's just a teaching thing, though, easy to fix. He'll figure it out." Avila is trying to catch as many of Detroit's pitchers as he can, especially those who weren't on the staff last season, since he'll be the Tigers' primary backstop.

--RHP Joaquin Benoit has been in the valley; now he wants to see what the world looks like from the mountaintop. Toward that end, Detroit's new setup man said he's taking some of the $16.5 million the Tigers will pay him over the next three seasons and will build a home on some mountaintop land he recently bought in his native Dominican Republic. It will be for his entire family, but especially his 50-year-old brother, Blas, who pushed him to excel as a youngster. "When I was 8, he got me up at 5:30 in the morning to run and rode a dirt bike next to me," Benoit said. "It was his dream to have a house in the mountains. It's at the top of the mountain. And all you can see is the city (of Santiago) to the south and the mountains to the north." Benoit was reflecting that he was unsigned until Feb. 15, 2010, when Tampa Bay signed him to a minor league deal. After 30 days in the minors, he was brought up and had one of the better seasons a setup man has ever had. He was the seventh reliever in modern baseball history to work at least 30 innings and give up less than one hit for every two innings pitched.

--RHP Rick Porcello shares some traits with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, manager Jim Leyland said as pitchers reported to get their arms in shape for hitters. "I think Rick Porcello is going to be a real good major league pitcher for a long time," Leyland said. "You're talking about a young guy here. To me, he's right on schedule. He's had the good. He's had the bad a little bit. He's had the in between. Now it's just a matter of settling in and being consistent. He will do that. He's a very smart kid. He'll figure out stuff as he goes along. Glavine and Maddux, I remember when they were real young. They also figured things out and kept getting smarter and smarter. They were a lot like Porcello. I think he'll figure out for a long time how to get hitters out. He's quietly a student of the game." "I feel I have the potential to be an effective four-pitch pitcher," Porcello said. "I wouldn't say I've got them all figured out, but I feel like I'm more of a four-pitch pitcher now than I was a year ago."

--OF Clete Thomas, whose 2010 season was cut way short by microfracture knee surgery, is coming to camp to work as hard as he can to make it difficult for the Tigers to send him to the minors again. Thomas is a left-handed hitter, which works against him, but he is a skilled three-position outfielder with a solid arm, and Detroit will need defensive replacements for RF Magglio Ordonez and LF Ryan Raburn in many games this season. Thomas was Detroit's final spring cut a year ago but hurt his knee and had surgery June 4. "It's good to be back and play baseball again," Thomas said. "That was just too long of a year last year. I'm looking forward to coming in here and playing hard. That's all I can ask for." He will be battling OFs Brennan Boesch and Casper Wells for one or two roster spots. Thomas, 27, has batted .253 with 22 doubles, four triples, eight homers and 48 RBI in 391 at-bats in parts of two seasons with Detroit.

--RHP Joel Zumaya couldn't wait to drop a smile -- and a curveball -- on new Tigers DH/C Victor Martinez. Zumaya had Martinez for his first throwing session of the spring and smiled as he unleashed a jaw-dropping curve on the new Tiger. "It was fun watching his reaction," Zumaya said. "My secondary pitches were lights out." "It's more fun being behind the plate for him," Martinez said, "than being in the box. The ball was coming of his hand loud." "It's no big deal who you throw next to, except when you're throwing next to Joel," Rick Porcello said. "I hate throwing next to him. When you're throwing your bullpens, you don't want it to look like your velocity is 30 miles an hour less than the guy next to you. You could literally hear his pitches rip through the air." "One thing we have to guard against," manager Jim Leyland said, "is that he was hurt, and hurt bad. Now all of a sudden, he's feeling good. You can't wait to get out there, to get on the mound, and to face hitters. That's normal. But you also can't get so excited that you make a foolish mistake -- which he won't."

--2B Carlos Guillen reported to spring training with pitchers and catchers, but only to swing a bat. Guillen, 35, underwent September microfracture knee surgery and has been cleared to resume running full speed. "I hit and jogged a little bit," Guillen said after his first time in the batting cages. "The next thing will be to run. I don't know when I'll do that. I just want to be 100 percent when I come back. I feel good. I've been swinging the bat with no problem, both sides (of the plate)." "The first big thing is to get him healthy," manager Jim Leyland said. "The second big thing is to see what he's got left."

--LF Ryan Raburn won't be switching between the corner outfield spots this season, as he did last year. He will be strictly a left fielder. "I'm not going to play Raburn in right field. I'm going to play him in left field only. He's got a great throwing arm for left field -- an accurate throwing arm," manager Jim Leyland said. "A lot of people put a bad arm in left field and a great arm in right field. I believe sometimes it's just the opposite. There are so many more right-handed hitters and balls going to left field, and if you get a good thrower in left field, that's really important."

BY THE NUMBERS: 105 -- Approximate payroll the Tigers will have, in millions, when the season opens. It's a drop of about $30 million from a year ago, a season in which Detroit paid $34 million to three pitchers it got sparse production from (Nate Robertson, Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman).

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Like everyone knows, he made a mistake and you are not supposed to drive drunk on the road. He will have to pay the consequences. Miguel's the franchise player. He understands (the team) depends on him a lot. He's a superstar and needs to act like a superstar." -- RF Magglio Ordonez, reacting to the news teammate 1B Miguel Cabrera had been arrested and charged with driving under the influence, the slugger's second public alcohol-related incident in a year and a half.

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