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Tigers announce first three starters for the Grapefruit League season

Garrett Hill will lead the Tigers out of the gate in spring action.

MLB: Houston Astros at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 Detroit Tigers will take the field for some exhibition baseball on Saturday, kicking off the Grapefruit League season. On Thursday, the planned rotation for the first three games was revealed. Of course, most of this won’t be on television or streaming anywhere. I’m always a bit surprised they don’t cater to the real sickos, like ourselves for example, who will watch just about any and all spring training games. Such is our lot, and so the first chance to see the new edition will come on Monday evening, and only with MLB Network or

Right-hander Garrett Hill will get the ball for the first few innings on Saturday, as the Tigers kick off the spring schedule against the 2022 National League champs, Dave Dombrowski’s Philadelphia Phillies. The game is set for 1:05 p.m. from Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, and will only be broadcast on AM radio.

Hill is one of a slew of late round picks from the Al Avila led Tigers who’ve made good over the past few years. Drafted in the 26th round back in 2018, Hill hasn’t reached the level of Beau Brieske, or the prospect status of Wilmer Flores, but he did have a decent major league debut in 2022.

Hill tossed 60 13 innings and posted a 4.03 ERA. The strikeouts, walks, and hard contact against say he’s going to have trouble making it as a starter, but for now it makes sense to stretch him out fully until the Tigers see how the rotation is setting up in late March. In Hill’s favor was a delivery adjustment to more of an overhead wind-up that saw his velocity tick up from his usual 93-93mph to 97 mph in relief. If he can build back up to that velo and tighten his command a bit more, Hill could be a very useful swingman/reliever this year.

Sunday’s contest will also be a home game in Lakeland, this time against the Baltimore Orioles at 1:05 p.m. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for his spring debut. After a very odd and disappointing first season in Detroit, Rodriguez is reportedly ahead of the curve as he prepares to pitch for Team Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic in March. That one will be radio only as well, this time on 97.1 the Ticket and the usual suspects broadcasting the Tigers Radio Network.

Finally, the partially televised debut of the 2023 Tigers will be on Monday evening, with first pitch set for 6:35 p.m. against the New York Yankees. A road game for the Tigers, that one will be broadcast on the YES Network as well as on MLB Network/ Right-hander Beau Brieske will look to build on a nice 2022 campaign that saw him break out for the back half of most Tigers prospects lists due to a velo bump and improved command of his fastball-changeup combination.

Brieske posted a 4.19 ERA across 15 starts in his rookie season. He had some issues getting ambushed early in games, but typically settled down to give the Tigers quality innings and got better as the year progressed. Brieske’s season ended with a forearm strain in August, but fortunately it didn’t require surgery and the rehab has gone well. Brieske’s big task this season is to build on his gains by improving his slider. If that pitch takes a leap, and this is a key focus from Chris Fetter’s bulked up coaching staff, Brieske could yet fulfill his likely ceiling as a solid mid-rotation starter. For now, he’s probably sixth or seventh on the starting depth chart. We’ll see where he stands after the usual spring injury attrition, but for now it’ll just be nice to have the sights and sounds of baseball back in our lives.

The first fully televised game on Bally Sports Detroit will be on Saturday, March 5 against the Minnesota Twins.