LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Detroit Tigers contemplated throughout spring training whether to send teenage slugging sensation Cameron Maybin to the West Michigan Whitecaps to begin his professional career.
The parent club made it official Thursday.
Maybin, 18, is scheduled to make his minor-league debut with the Whitecaps when the Class A affiliate opens the 2006 Midwest League season at home Thursday.
He was the Tigers' first-round pick (10th overall) out of T.C. Roberson High School in Arden, N.C., during last summer's amateur draft. He agreed to a $2.65-million signing bonus after a long negotiating period that prevented him from making his debut until this spring.
"I'm just glad to be here," Maybin said.
"The whole money issue is (in the past), so it's all about performance now. I think everybody wants to play, and I'm just trying to get off to a good start."
He sure seems prepared.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Maybin smashed a long solo home run Thursday afternoon against the Class A farm team of the Cleveland Indians in Winter Haven, Fla.
The prodigious line drive had almost no visible arc, and it would've gone farther if it hadn't slammed into the netting atop the outfield wall in left-center.
"I'm pretty happy with that," he said.
The Tigers say Maybin, who has been compared to former major-league sluggers Joe Carter and Andre Dawson, is mature enough to make his pro debut in a full-season league. He will celebrate his 19th birthday Tuesday.
The plan calls for Maybin to be the starting center fielder for the Whitecaps and hit in the No. 3 spot in the batting order, manager Matt Walbeck said.
He could spend the entire season in West Michigan.
"You can't teach experience," Walbeck said. "The only way to get it is to play. You look at his tools and you see he can do it all. We'll take good care of him."
It's the first time in the 10-year affiliation with the Tigers that West Michigan will be the starting point for a heralded first-round high school draft pick.
The Tigers sent previous No. 1 picks Jeff Weaver (1998), Eric Munson (1999), Matt Wheatland (2000), Kenny Baugh (2001) and Scott Moore (2002) to the Whitecaps, but only Moore spent a full season in West Michigan.
The Tigers were expected to finalize the Whitecaps' roster today.
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