Cabrera Goes Deep In Marlins' First Spring Training Game

Wednesday, February 28th 2007, 6:01 am
By: News On 6

Miguel Cabrera stepped to the plate during Florida's first spring training game and immediately showed off his familiar power.

The All-Star slugger homered in the third inning to help the Marlins beat the University of Miami 12-7 on Tuesday in Jupiter, Fla.

``I want to be ready for the season,'' said Cabrera, awarded a $7.4 million contract in arbitration this month. ``I don't want to start slow.''

Jeremy Hermida and Joe Borchard also connected for the Marlins, and top prospect Chris Volstad pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings. Florida faces its first big league opponent Wednesday when it plays the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.

There were three other scheduled games Wednesday between major league teams: Detroit vs. the New York Mets; Colorado vs. the Chicago White Sox; and Minnesota vs. Boston.

In other Marlins news, club officials were peeved to hear that ex-manager Joe Girardi gave rival pitcher Jon Lieber helpful tips last year.

Lieber said his season with the Philadelphia Phillies turned around shortly after he was roughed up by the Marlins last July 31, and he credits a phone call from Girardi, a former major league catcher. They played together with the Chicago Cubs from 2000-02.

``He just mentioned that the hitters said everything that was coming in was just very flat,'' Lieber told the Philadelphia Daily News. ``I wasn't on top of the ball like I should have been.''

Both teams contended for the NL wild-card berth, and Lieber beat the Marlins twice in September.

Florida general manager Larry Beinfest declined to comment, but another team official said the front office was angry about the matter. The official requested anonymity because Beinfest wouldn't comment.

There's no indication that Marlins executives knew last year about Girardi's conversation with Lieber. Girardi's relationship with management quickly soured in his only season with Florida, and he was fired in October _ then chosen NL Manager of the Year.

Marlins ace Dontrelle Willis shrugged off the comments about Girardi helping Lieber.

``What are you going to do now?'' Willis said. ``He doesn't even work here anymore. You can't dock his pay.

``I don't think it's a big deal. If we lost the wild card by two games, OK. But there are so many different other factors.''

Florida finished 10 games behind NL wild-card winner Los Angeles and seven behind Philadelphia.

At Kissimmee, Fla., Mike Hampton was back on the mound for the Atlanta Braves, throwing breaking balls for the first time this spring.

Taking another small step in his comeback from major elbow surgery, Hampton threw a handful of curves during five minutes of batting practice. He could definitely feel the resistance in his elbow.

``I'm not where I need to be,'' Hampton said. ``It felt good early, then I threw some breaking balls. I didn't feel as good later in the session as it did earlier.''

Seventeen months ago, doctors cut into Hampton's left elbow and replaced a damaged ligament _ the Tommy John procedure. The recovery always takes at least a year and, even then, there's no guarantee the elbow will feel like it did before, at least not right away.

Hampton, hopeful of being 100 percent when he got to spring training, now realizes he's still in the midst of rehabilitation.

``There's going to be good days and bad days,'' he said, standing at his locker with a bulky ice pack strapped to his left shoulder. ``I just know I've got a long way to go. I've still got some stuff to accomplish before I can get into a game. That's just reality.''

At Mesa, Ariz., Kerry Wood threw 27 pitches in live batting practice for the Chicago Cubs. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Wood will throw another session of live BP on Friday and then the team will determine when he'll get into a Cactus League game.

Wood, a former starting pitcher and staff ace, is making the transition to the bullpen following offseason rehabilitation of a rotator cuff problem. Wood did not undergo surgery, instead choosing to strengthen the muscles around the rotator cuff.

The Cubs will ease him into action this spring. They plan to use him as a one-inning reliever when the regular season starts.

``He's still not as sharp as he will be, but you wouldn't expect him to be,'' Rothschild said. ``The arm speed is there. The velocity is pretty much there.''

At Tampa, Fla., new Yankees pitcher Kei Igawa needed just 19 pitches to cruise through two scoreless innings in an intrasquad game.

``He was good,'' manager Joe Torre said. ``There's really no wasted motions. He's very compact and he goes after it. I think that's a sign of knowing what you want to do.''

At Lakeland, Fla., the AL champion Detroit Tigers got a leadoff homer from Curtis Granderson and routed Florida Southern 14-0.

Also, the Cleveland Indians have started talks with the agent for pitcher C.C. Sabathia on a contract extension. Sabathia is due to make $8.75 million this year and $9 million in 2008. He is eligible for free agency after the 2008 World Series.

And the Minnesota Twins agreed with reliever Jesse Crain on a $3.25 million, three-year contract.