The Detroit Tigers have been a Grapefruit League juggernaut thus far, and none can stand before them. The Yankees went down in defeat on Wednesday, with the Tigers avenging their only loss to take a 5-1 record into split squad action against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday. Enjoy that record while it lasts, Tigers fans.
For his part, new manager Ron Gardenhire appears rejuvenated. At the very least, he is very much enjoying the process of honing a big group of young players into a cohesive team. He was featured on an MLB mic’d up session and the footage shows him running drills and bantering with players and fans alike. The personable manager is going to be more entertaining than Brad Ausmus, even if his teams are decidedly not. For his part, Gardenhire expects to have a good entertaining season and to “shock some people.”
I suppose we’ll be shocked if his team doesn’t finish last in the AL Central. For their part, MLB has the Tigers slated for just three national broadcasts on the year, which is probably something no Tigers fan is going to complain about given the typical quality of some of those broadcasts.
Random Tigers stuff
Gardenhire’s future catcher is likely to be Tigers prospect Jake Rogers. He and Gardenhire talked about his goals and outlook for the season. Meanwhile, Daniel Norris had his first go of the spring campaign and looked solid, apart from hanging a pitch to Gary Sanchez which quickly left the building. Norris didn’t have his usual velocity, but the changeup and breaking balls were sharp as he settled in.
Norris put a lot of work in this offseason to improve his flexibility and footwork in his delivery, and some of that was on display on Wednesday. The goal is, chiefly, to stay healthy, but also to clean up his throwing motion, particularly from the ground up. Pitching coach Chris Bosio has already helped him back a few subtle changes in his delivery. They have also added different drills to improve his balance and stability on the mound. Where last year Norris was regularly seen doing a mock pulldown drill before each pitch to help him keep the ball down, Bosio has instead emphasized changing his sight line to the catcher. Still, we have already seen what a healthy Norris can do. Staying on the field and getting consistent reps is job number one.
Fun with early spring stats
Of players with three or more games played, Mikie Mahtook and Derek Norris currently lead the Tigers with a .500 batting average. JaCoby Jones is hitting .444. No it doesn’t mean anything. However, it is cool to see some of the prospects getting out to a nice little start to show they belong. Mike Gerber is hitting .333 with an .889 OPS. Sergio Alcantara has a long way to go as a prospect, but hey, he’s hitting .300 so far. That’s good for the confidence, however long it lasts.
Lance McCullers and Marcus Stroman are messing with you
Twitter has a lot of clutter and noise, but at its best, it brings you interactions from people who normally wouldn’t have occasion to chat. Houston Astros starter Lance McCullers has one of the sickest repertoires in the game at the moment, and he’s working on adding another wrinkle.
Lance McCullers, Messing with Timing. Thanks for dedicating that one to me, Lance. pic.twitter.com/0T5ryAliE0— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 28, 2018
Toronto Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman is another who follows in the footsteps of Luis Tiant and Johnny Cueto. Stroman is well known for his pauses and double kicks to mess with hitters’ timing. He enjoyed McCullers’ work here.
Love this! Your curveball after a pause delivery and then quick pitch curveball...— Marcus Stroman (@MStrooo6) February 28, 2018
Perhaps these two should hang out in the offseason to talk about sequencing and the art of the pause.
Justin Verlander and Noah Syndergaard look ready to go
The pair of aces locked horns on Tuesday and looked absolutely dominant, with innumerable GIFs proliferating on Twitter. Meanwhile, Verlander has become the leader and catalyst for experimentation and improvement on the Astros’ pitching staff. Brent Strom must be having the time of his life.
Justin Verlander, 2 Pitch Sequence Curve/Slider Tunnel. pic.twitter.com/Wn8RngyTFP— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 26, 2018
Thor, Changeup and 93mph Slider K sequence. pic.twitter.com/itaT5DF7Oi— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 26, 2018
Hitters aren’t thrilled. It’s spring training guys, we’re just trying to settle in here!
George Springer's reaction to Noah Syndergaard's first pitch (100 mph). pic.twitter.com/m7O0ZFftrv— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 26, 2018
Around the horn
Matt Harvey had a promising first outing, sitting 95 miles per hour and topping out at 96 mph. FanGraphs’ Meg Rowley continues her manager and player ejection classification series. Jay Jaffe takes a look at what Clayton Kershaw’s next contract will look like should he opt out of his deal after the 2018 season. Tim Lincecum is back again after signing with the Rangers, but “The Freak” is no more.
Felix Hernandez should only miss one start after getting drilled in the pitching elbow by a comebacker earlier this week. Dave Martinez uses camels as visual aids for the Nationals. Terry Francona is master of the prank, with no camels required. Tom Verducci investigates which young pitchers are at the greatest risk of injury.