The Detroit Tigers took on the Atlanta Braves Tuesday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium, securing an easy 10-6 win despite several runs allowed by the bullpen. Here are some thoughts and observations from the spring training affair.
Justin Verlander made the start for the Tigers and threw 60 pitches over four scoreless innings. He showed great control and action on his pitches and seemed to be in mid-season form. The only hit he allowed was very soft, and the Tigers’ ace struck out five batters during his outing.
Francisco Rodriguez appeared to be fully recovered from his minor fingernail injury. His changeup looked strong, and he ended the inning with a double play after a Mike Aviles fielding error.
The afternoon was less successful for Bruce Rondon and Angel Nesbitt, as both relievers gave up a lot of hard contact. Both players showed command issues and neither pitcher inspired much confidence from their time on the mound.
Ian Kinsler made solid contact in his first two at bats, with both liners going to left/left-center field. He was robbed of a hit on the second at-bat, but his swing looks to be in good shape.
Justin Upton had another bland day at the plate, though there is still no reason to worry. He tallied some swings and misses and much of his contact was weak. However, he did show patience when drawing a walk after being down 0-2, and he did have one hard-hit single. He also showed good awareness on a shallow fly ball, advancing to second after it was misplayed by the right fielder.
It was fun watching Miguel Cabrera on TV. Not much to say about him other than expect another big season.
J.D. Martinez had a very weak strikeout in the first inning, but he crushed a homer to center in the third. He almost got a hold of another one in his next at-bat, but he ended with a deep fly out. Martinez was also interviewed during the broadcast and talked about his work this spring. He noted that it takes around 20 at-bats for him to know where his swing is, but after that it becomes about fine-tuning and experimenting with hitting different types of pitches. He also talked about how he has worked to take different angles in the outfield to improve his defense, specifically as it relates to the spin of the ball coming off the bat.
The day started fairly quiet for James McCann, with not much going on for him at the plate or behind it during the first six innings. But with the bases loaded, he drilled a shot to the opposite field in the seventh inning for a solid grand slam.
Tyler Collins got the start in center field as the Tigers continue to experiment with the absence created by Cameron Maybin’s injury. Almost as if on cue, all three batters lifted fly balls to Collins in the top of the first inning, and he played each one perfectly. While he did not need to make any spectacular plays, Collins did seem to handle the position well throughout the game and looked serviceable in center.
Collins and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both attempted bunts, with Collins reaching.
Saltalamacchia, Nick Castellanos, Aviles, Tommy Field, and Nate Schierholtz all saw multiple plate appearances, although there are not many takeaways from their afternoons. Aviles did not look great at the plate, and he committed an error, as well.
Other players to see an at-bat included JaCoby Jones, Wynton Bernard, Jason Krizan, and Mike Gerber.
The main interview of the game was Rich Dubee. He talked about how catchers are the main recipients of information gathered from analytics and how pitchers do not make changes to their game plans even if shifts are being deployed. Mario and Rod talk a lot about how pitchers should try to pitch to their defense, but Dubee did not make it sound like this is usually considered.
Dubee also talked about how Drew VerHagen has had a strong spring and how the Tigers are trying to get Rondon to make some changes to his delivery, including improving his time to the plate. Dubee believes that it is advantageous to have your best pitchers (starters) pitch longer into games as to relieve the pressure on the bullpen.
Mario and Rod did mention how right-handed the Tigers lineup will be this season. This topic is sure to be brought up many more times, but statistically the Tigers have proven that this issue is way overblown.
They also talked fondly about David Price when Vanderbilt was brought up and Yoenis Cespedes when reflecting on the Tigers’ offseason.