Rafael Belliard hit fungoes Wednesday. He has done this thousands of times as an infield coach, but he hadn't hit practice grounders yet this spring training.

Boy, did he enjoy it. In fact, it's his favorite part of the job as infield coach for the Detroit Tigers. Taking a fungo bat, tossing a ball into the air and ripping it to Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder during batting practice keeps Belliard connected to the game.

He wasn't so sure he'd be doing this when he returned from a family vacation in China last December and discovered six voice mails on his cell phone from his doctor.

"I was scared," Belliard said.

Who wouldn't be?

The former major league shortstop had taken an annual blood test to check his prostate just before his trip. The results came in while he was gone.

"Something was wrong," he said.

He and the doctors just didn't know what. He felt no pain or discomfort. He felt nothing, really. Neither did his doctor in Florida. Tests suggested everything was normal, despite the abnormal blood test. To be safe, his doctor suggested a biopsy. The results came back positive. Belliard, 51, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January.

He found out just before the winter caravan. After consulting three physicians, he decided on laparoscopic surgery to remove the tumors. On Jan. 31, doctors cut six tiny incisions in his lower abdomen, he said.

"They used a robot to do it," he said.