I recently wrote about Miguel Cabrera moving up to the top of my draft sheet ahead of Albert Pujols. For one day at least, I was validated. As the Detroit Tigers faced the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday, the two first basemen were in their respective lineups.
Returning from another behavioral time out due to his alcohol-related incident earlier in camp, Cabrera smoked the ball every time up. He finished 2-for-3, including a double and a home run, stroked to right field with a supporting breeze. Cabrera scored three times and added a walk.
Pujols, on the other hand, saw his spring average drop to .273 as he went 0-for-2. Tigers starter Phil Coke made the great Pujols look bad on a swinging strike three on an off-speed offering to close their second and final meeting.
Albert has been swinging and missing a lot this spring. Seven whiffs in 22 at-bats is common among mortals, but almost unheard of from a player that has fanned just once in every 10.5 plate appearances over his first decade as a major leaguer.
Pujols wasn’t alone as the entire middle of the St. Louis lineup struggled. He, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman went a combined 1-for-8 on the afternoon as the Cardinals show continued weakness against left-handed pitching.
Coke was solid, scattering just four baserunners over four scoreless innings and lowering his spring ERA to 1.38. He fanned two other St. Louis hitters in addition to Pujols. Coke should fetch in the $5-$6 range in a 5x5 mixed league.
Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit continued his scoreless spring, striking out a pair of Cardinals in his one inning of work. In his five innings so far, he has nothing in the runs column except for goose eggs.
A name to watch: Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter. Given an opportunity by Nick Punto’s groin injury and subsequent surgery, the 25-year-old has impressed despite having no Triple-A experience. Batting .458 on the spring, Carpenter was played in the outfield for the first time ever on Friday by manager Tony La Russa, perhaps trying to help the prospective rookie prove he belongs.
With the Cardinals starter at the hot corner being the oft-injured David Freese, Carpenter may end up offering an interesting alternative. He was the organization’s minor league Player of the Year in 2010.