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I assume there are a few readers here who don't have the time, resources, or motivation to listen to the broadcasts of Spring Training games, but are still interested in how their favorite Tigers are doing. I thought I would provide a recap of the action every week or so, to provide everyone with an update on the action down in Florida.
There isn't much to analyze here. Max Scherzer hasn't made an appearance yet, apparently by design. Justin Verlander and Doug Fister each had a 2-inning start and each gave up a few hits but neither outing was very noteworthy. Anibal Sanchez made two starts and totaled five innings, giving up seven hits but not allowing any runners to cross the plate.
Rick Porcello looked good in his first outing - as did Drew Smyly - but Rick had a mini-implosion in his second start, allowing three runs on four hits. Some solace can be taken in the fact that two of those four hits were on groundballs, which is what Rick was trying to do in the first place. I think we can safely chalk that start up to bad luck and small sample sizes.
Overall, the starters performed about as expected. And no, we still don't know who the fifth starter will be.
Apart from Andy Dirks' left intercostal strain, there isn't much news from the projected "Best 9." Andy went 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts in the first game, only to be scratched from the lineup the following afternoon and hasn't been seen since. He will be back soon, reportedly.
A thinner Prince Fielder had three hits in his 13 plate appearances, and two of them left the park. He also drew three walks to go with a trio of strikeouts. Miguel Cabrera, not to be outmatched, also had two dingers to go with a double and a single in his 19 plate appearances. Miggy is getting more playing time than anyone else, probably because he will be leaving the team soon to participate in the World Baseball Classic.
Torii Hunter has had some early struggles, going 2 for 12 with three strikeouts in the first week, but I see no reason to worry there. On the other hand, Victor Martinez has been taking some good swings, going 6 for 16 with a home run. On top of that, I can remember at least three of his outs being described as line drives over the radio broadcast. It sounds like Victor hasn't been effected much by his year away from baseball.
Omar Infante has been showing off his own brand of sneaky power, racking up three doubles in his 15 plate appearances to go with a pair of walks. Omar also flashed a little leather, successfully converting all 19 of his chances in the field and turning three double plays.
The biggest question facing Tigers fans this spring is "can Bruce Rondon be an effective closer?" Well, after two appearances I can confidently answer that question with a definitive "I don't know." Bruce faced eight batters and he struck out half of them. But he also issued three walks. The only conclusion we can make so far is that this is going to be an interesting season.
This just in: there are actually relief pitchers on the Tigers roster that aren't named Bruce Rondon. The rest of the bullpen locks - Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke, and Al Alburquerque, - each had two relatively uneventful innings. Actually, most of the guys competing for last two spots didn't do anything noteworthy either, with the exceptions of Kyle Lobstein and Duane Below.
The Rule 5 pick allowed four runs on seven (!) hits in his 3.2 innings. Below looked great in his first appearance only to give up five runs in his second, granted it was in the rain and there were probably some pretty sloppy conditions. We shouldn't read too much into these results, but I'm sure Darin Downs is breathing a little easier. He racked up five strikeouts and didn't allow a run in his four innings, by the way.
There are some interesting competitions going on for the three available bench spots this spring. Tiger veteran Ramon Santiago suffered a calf strain and has not played yet. His main competition for infield playing time, Danny Worth, struggled early at the plate going 0 for his first 8 at-bats. He did, however, pick up a pair of hits that included a double in Thursday's game.
Brennan Boesch is also battling an injury, specifically with the dreaded oblique, and he has not seen any time either. Quintin Berry hasn't exactly ran away with the outfielder spot though, as he went 1 for 5 with two strikeouts before being scratched from the lineup with patella tendonitis. Hopefully Boesch and/or Berry can get in the lineup and produce soon, or the Tigers could be very thin in the outfield.
Rule 5 pickup Jeff Kobernus has gotten plenty of playing time all over the field, including a start in CF, but hasn't exactly set the world on fire at the plate. He went 3-15 with an RBI triple, and he also ground into a double play to end a game with the tying run on first base. Utility Wizard Don Kelly went 3 for 8 with a home run, a double, and two walks. Oddly, I don't think Donnie has played any position other than 1B. I am not sure what to make of that, so insert your own analysis here.
Prospects and Other Notables
Nick Castellanos and Tyler Collins have shown why they are among the organizations best prospects. Collins has split time in both corner outfield spots, going 6 for 13 with two doubles and two triples. Castellanos, the consensus top prospect in the organization, has been playing left field exclusively and went 6 for 9 with a home run off of Jonathan Papelbon (who was not throwing his best stuff). Perhaps more impressive are the three walks Nick drew, which is a good sign considering his previous struggles with plate discipline and pitch recognition.
Avisail Garcia has been out in right field quite a bit, and has gone 2 for 12 from the plate with a double, two walks, and two strikeouts. Middle infielder Eugenio Suarez, who was ranked as the Tigers #9 prospect by BYB's Brian Sakowski, has struggled, going 0 for 6 with three strikeouts in his limited playing time. He also committed a fielding error in the rain on a grounder that took a very tough hop.
The Tigers top catching prospect, James McCann, went 0 for 6 but he didn't strike out. So that's something, I guess. Daniel Fields, who Brian ranked as the #19 prospect and even answered some questions for us, has been in center field whenever Austin Jackson isn't. He is hitless in 10 plate appearances but has drawn a pair of walks, has stolen a base, and has made several impressive catches in the field.
Non-roster invitee and non-prospect third basemen Kevin Russo has been fairly impressive, going 4 for 8 with a home run and a double. There's no chance he makes the roster, but I like to give credit where credit is due.