LAKELAND, Fla. -- The last time Jose Cabrera saw the Yankees, he was at the bottom of a dogpile after the first of three bench-clearing incidents between the two clubs in their series finale at Comerica Park. He'll see them again Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET, but he has more
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The last time Jose Cabrera saw the Yankees, he was at the bottom of a dogpile after the first of three bench-clearing incidents between the two clubs in their series finale at Comerica Park. He'll see them again Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET, but he has more pressing matters on his mind as the Tigers open the Grapefruit League portion of their schedule in Tampa, Fla.
Both teams have changed managers, most of their coaching staffs and parts of their rosters. Cabrera, who didn't play in Detroit's 6-1 exhibition win against Florida Southern College on Thursday, will be in Friday's starting lineup as the designated hitter as he opens what he hopes is a bounce-back season for him.
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Cabrera was one of four players suspended for the August fracas. Gary Sanchez, one of two Yankees suspended, will not play in Friday's game, though new Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters the decision was unrelated to last year's events.
By starting at DH, Cabrera can begin getting the at-bats he wants this spring without playing in the field, allowing new manager Ron Gardenhire to control the wear and tear Cabrera puts on his back at camp.
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Other Tigers scheduled to start Friday include right fielder Nicholas Castellanos, who was also part of the incident against the Yankees, along with Leonys Martin, John Hicks and Jeimer Candelario.
As for last year's hostilities, Gardenhire said it played no part in his decisions on the travel roster or lineup.
"I know that myself and most of my staff aren't knowledgeable about what happened," Gardenhire said. "We don't really give a care. I did watch it on TV from Arizona, and it was entertainment. Nothing like a barroom brawl in a baseball game. It was a good one. It was a classic. But I don't think we're all going to worry about that too awful much."
Against Florida Southern, they faced a 1-0 deficit and committed four errors through the first four innings before three-run rallies in the seventh and eighth put them in command, keeping them unbeaten against their Lakeland neighbors since 1987.
Friday's game will be televised on MLB.TV and online at MLB Gameday Audio.
The Florida Southern game is an annual tradition on the Tigers' Spring Training schedule, but it was a groundbreaking game for the home-plate umpire. Jen Pawol, one of two female umpires in affiliated Minor League Baseball last year, was the plate umpire for the game, her first assignment involving a Major League club.
Pawol was the first female umpire in the Minors in nearly a decade when Minor League Baseball hired her out of the college ranks to work in the Gulf Coast League in 2016. She advanced last year to the New York-Penn League, and could be in line for a full-season assignment next. She'll work Minor League games in Twins camp next month at Fort Myers, Fla., but received an early assignment when she got a call last week asking if she could head to Lakeland and umpire Thursday's exhibition.
"I wasn't nervous," Pawol said. "I couldn't wait to get out here. All these years of putting in the time, I felt prepared and I was really excited. I told the guys [on the umpiring crew], 'Let's just have fun today, and we'll be there for each other.' And that's what happened."
The game went well. After the game, Gardenhire stopped on his way to the Tigers' clubhouse to shake her hand and congratulate her on a good job.
"This is what we prepare for," Pawol said. "This is why you roast in the Gulf Coast League in the middle of the day and make sure you get all your calls right. Because you're only as good as your next call, and then you have to reset and get the next call and then the next pitch. It's like the Cadillac, and you get to finally drive it."
Alex Wilson wasn't expecting to have a pitching duel on his hands when he took the mound to start the Tigers' spring opener. He wasn't expecting to have another line drive back at him so soon, either.
Wilson, whose 2017 season ended in mid-September with a fractured right fibula suffered on a comebacker, could have had flashbacks after Florida Southern DH Hayden Marze smacked a liner back at him. This one was higher, headed toward his head, but Wilson made a quick move to put his glove in front of his face and caught it, stranding a runner at third base in the process.
"It seems like I can't catch a break with balls flying back at me," Wilson said. "But I caught this one. Keep it above the waist and I'm OK, apparently. It was almost like slow-motion to me."
Make a bid, buddy
Tigers pitchers' efforts to welcome Gardenhire to the club will end up going for a good cause. Jordan Zimmermann, Michael Fulmer and Wilson -- who all wore jerseys with "BUDDY" on the back as a joke for their new manager -- have put the jerseys up for auction. Gardenhire autographed each jersey, as did the respective player.
The jerseys are up for auction at MLB.com. Net proceeds from each sale will benefit the Prostate Cancer Foundation in honor of Gardenhire, a cancer survivor. Proceeds from the sale of Fulmer's jersey will benefit WINGS, a special-needs charity in his home state of Oklahoma. Proceeds from Wilson's jersey sale will benefit Wish Upon a Teen, a metro Detroit charity serving teenagers with severe life-threatening medical conditions. Proceeds from Zimmermann's jersey sale will benefit the baseball program at Auburndale (Wisconsin) High School, Zimmermann's alma mater.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.