Detroit shows improved defense in spring

Detroit shows improved defense in spring

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Tigers needed time last season acclimate to new positions and teammates, evidenced by its 16th-ranked defense in the Major Leagues.

Eighth-year infield coach Rafael Belliard said he took part in 20 interviews last year when Miguel Cabrera shifted from first to third base, making room for free-agent acquisition Prince Fielder. Detroit later acquired second baseman Omar Infante in a trade with the Marlins in July, further altering its infield.

"Cabrera played shortstop when he was young," said Belliard, who spent 17 seasons as a Major League infielder. "He has good hands and good arms. He worked a lot and hard to be where he is now, and I think he played pretty good defense last year."

Entering Saturday afternoon's game against the Cardinals, the Tigers ranked third in all of spring baseball with a .986 fielding percentage, committing 11 errors in their first 21 games, with five of them credited to players no longer in Detroit's big league camp.

Since spring schedules differ for each player, it can be tough for the projected infield to get enough work in together. Against the Cardinals on Saturday, shortstop Jhonny Peralta made the trip to Roger Dean Stadium, but Ramon Santiago started in place of Infante. Peralta made a throwing error in the first inning of a 3-0 win.

Belliard makes sure Peralta and Infante turn 15 to 20 double plays apiece before every home game, and in the next 10 days before Opening Day, he hopes to have them put in extra work.

"I like to work around the bases and in the cage," Belliard said. "It's a repetition. We try to make the routine plays so every time we turn double plays -- if we get two -- the starting pitchers stay in the game longer. That's why we work a lot on them."

Christina De Nicola is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.