Notes: Cabrera starts with a bang
Third baseman drills mammoth homer in first at-bat
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The 0-1 pitch took off of Miguel Cabrera's bat as a well-struck drive.
"Just a nice, quick, easy swing with a lot power," as Curtis Granderson summarized it. "The ball jumps off the bat."
Then it kept going. And going. And players on both sides kept watching.
Only the backdrop behind the center-field fence could keep it out of the players' parking lot behind Joker Marchant Stadium, and it hit nearly at the top. Cabrera's first contact in a game as a Tiger made an impact.
"Very impressive," said Placido Polanco, who homered two batters earlier. "You're going to see that a lot from him."
Ivan Rodriguez, Cabrera's teammate in Florida in 2003, agreed.
"That's how strong he is," he said.
To be fair, it was an exhibition game against a college team, and a strong wind was blowing out. But Cabrera's first-inning, two-run home run against Florida Southern essentially served to punctuate his arrival as a Tiger.
"That was just a missile," said Florida Southern second baseman Colin Kaline, who grew up a Tigers fan but had to put aside his allegiance for a day.
Cabrera, for his part, wasn't about to brag.
"The wind got it," he said.
Since he had played winter ball as recently as the end of January during the Venezuelan League finals, he hadn't had as much time out of game action as most of his teammates. Timing wasn't going to be an issue. Clearly, strength isn't, either.
Since distances on home run aren't usually given in Spring Training, and since exhibition games don't usually include television cameras, this shot will be the stuff of legend. The fence in straightaway center field is listed as 420 feet away. It stands about 10 feet tall, and the backdrop behind it goes an estimated 25-30 feet above that. The ball struck about three-quarters of the way up the backdrop.
"Somebody said 470 [feet]," Granderson said, recalling a conversation with teammates about it.
Sheff out for depositions: Though Gary Sheffield was at the ballpark on Tuesday morning, he was not in the lineup. On Wednesday, he'll be off for Tampa, where his expected absence for depositions in his arbitration case against agent Scott Boras begins.
Manager Jim Leyland said he expects Sheffield to miss at least the next two games. Because of the nature of the case, stemming from a lawsuit filed by Boras five years ago, Sheffield wasn't sure how long his time out would last, and it began earlier than he initially expected. He missed four days last March to deal with the case.
"If you don't see me, you'll know where I'm at," Sheffield said over the weekend.
Six players signed: The Tigers announced Tuesday that they've agreed to terms on one-year contracts with Denny Bautista, Armando Galarraga, Macay McBride, Zach Miner, Ryan Raburn and Clay Rapada. None of them were arbitration-eligible, so the contracts were a formality.
With the signings, the Tigers have 37 of their 38 players on the 40-man roster under contract, with Jason Grilli the lone unsigned player. If the two sides can't agree to terms by next week, the Tigers can simply renew his contract.
Wilson update: A day after Leyland said catcher Vance Wilson was "possible, but questionable" to begin playing games on March 20, Leyland termed the chances of Wilson being available for the start of the season as "possible."
"If I had to say today, I'd say Vance is possible, but not necessarily probable, to be ready," Leyland said.
Wilson, currently regaining arm strength following Tommy John surgery, is throwing from 120 feet.
Leyland reiterated, however, that Wilson's comeback will not affect whether the Tigers trade Brandon Inge. Nor, he said, would they go with Ryan Raburn as Rodriguez's backup should Wilson open the season on the disabled list. Rather, they would probably bring up a catcher to back up Pudge, like they did last year with Mike Rabelo.
Quotable: "He got real smart, real quick. I told him, 'Did you ever catch?' He said no. I said, 'Well, you should've said yes.' He figured it out, so he was over here catching guys prior to Spring Training." -- Leyland on Raburn
Coming up: The Tigers open the Major League portion of their Spring Training schedule on Wednesday when they host the Mets at Joker Marchant Stadium in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest. Jeremy Bonderman will make the start, followed by Grilli, Miner, Yorman Bazardo, Bautista and Tim Byrdak. Mike Pelfrey, Matt Wise, Pedro Feliciano, Jorge Sosa, Brian Stokes and Willie Collazo are scheduled to pitch for New York. The game will be broadcast on Gameday Audio and on AM 1270 and 97.1 FM in Detroit.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.