Detroit Tigers welcome fans’ return in spring-training rout of Phillies
Lakeland, Florida – For one, Derek Holland was cheered to throw in front of real people on Sunday.
“I wish I could say the exact words to describe how it felt,” said veteran Lefty, who tried to win a spot on the Tigers Bullpen as a non-squad invitee. “It’s all we want. We want the fans back. Just to have that atmosphere. Just hearing these people – they could cheer us on or exploit us. It just felt good to have her back. “
Holland threw a goalless inning in the Tigers’ 10-2 opener in the Grapefruit League against the Phillies at Joker Marchant Stadium, in which several reliefs on the edge of the squad fight wanted to make a positive impression.
“I felt like my things were where I needed them,” said Holland, who got a pair of rollover groundouts and a strikeout in his 19-pitch inning. “I have to keep improving. I saw a few things that I wasn’t really happy with, but we got the results we needed. I am pleased. “
His fastball speed, as read by the stadium radar weapon, reached 93-94 mph.
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“The baby was boiling,” he said. “It was good. I thought everything was good, that’s the main thing. Being healthy in the off-season was huge and coming here to get this opportunity – I want to make the most of it.”
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Manager AJ Hinch knew that the 34-year-old Holland would be overwhelmed, especially with a one-inning burst.
“He wouldn’t make his way easier,” said Hinch. “But Velo is probably the last thing I’ll watch. I thought he handled his inning pretty well.”
Nevertheless, Holland reached 94 in 2019, but has not consistently lived there since 2015.
“He’s never thrown so hard in live punch training,” said Hinch. “And that’s just a good example of how the replay, the game intensity, the game focus and everything is received with the fans in the stands. It’s just a little different when you get those replays for an experienced pitcher.”
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Ironically, the fate of the player Holland was most closely linked to the starter Sunday of the Tigers. Lefty Tyler Alexander gave up two runs in two innings, including a leadoff home run against Adam Haseley on his second field.
Alexander also noticed that things were a little different with the fans in the seats.
“That was definitely different; Since we’re at home and I’m giving up a lead-off home run and the fans are cheering, ”said Alexander. “That wouldn’t normally happen. But it was great to hear people. “
The home run came from a cutter and an RBI double from Mickey Moniak from a two-strike slider. Otherwise Alexander was crisp. Of its 30 parking spaces, 21 were strikes.
“I felt pretty good,” said Alexander. “I just wanted to get out early and attack and be one step ahead of the guys. I did that pretty well.”
Holland’s best chance to get the team out of spring right now is if Alexander can win a spot in the Tiger’s rotation. While Alexander still has two minor league options, it’s a good bet that if he wasn’t given a rotation, he would end up back in the bullpen role he played last season.
But there is still a long way to go before this becomes clear.
“I have to apply for a job like every year,” said Holland. “We’re not given anything. Even if I had a big league deal, it doesn’t matter. I still have to fight for a job.”
It’s unclear if Holland has an opt-out option if they don’t make the team, but the sound of that makes them like being in this group.
“After hearing what AJ preaches, a lot of these people, including me, are ready to run through a wall for him,” said Holland. “The chemistry, I’m not kidding, it was electric from day one. Just a group of people, we all click together, we all want the same thing.
“I feel like AJ has this clubhouse right where it needs to be. But it’s just a game. I just have to go on and work on things.”
The Tigers finished the seven-inning game with four pitchers who, barring a number of injuries, are unlikely to break camp with the team. But there are four pitchers who could very well play a role at some point in the season.
►The right-hander Alex Lange had an eventful, goalless inning with a 28 pitch. He walked two, threw a wild field, but his fastball was 97 mph and he got a lot of ugly swings with both his curveball and slider.
“The breaking ball is his calling card,” said Hinch. “If he can increase the fastball in combination with that, he’s really interesting.”
The 26-year-old Lange joined the Tigers in 2019 from the Cubs trading with Nick Castellanos. He started opening his eyes last year after the tigers took him to the bullpen.
“He’s an intense guy who raises the bullpen question, with the shorter breaks and the power stuff,” said Hinch. “He used both his curveball and slider today. (Catcher Dustin) Garneau in the dugout told me it was pretty legitimate. The batsman’s swings told me it was pretty good.
“Of course we will give him challenges on the way to improve his command, but I thought it was a good first outing for him.”
►The left-hander Ian Krol, who promoted the Tigers in 2014 and 2015 and is a non-squad participant in the camp, threw a clean fifth inning with 13 pitches and two strikeouts.
“When he came back into the dugout, I said ‘Welcome back,'” said Hinch. “He’s been here before and I know he’s trying to revive and be a major league option as opposed to just a man who throws professionally.”
Krol’s fastball hit 92, but he could command which his crisp balls, both the cutter and the curveball, set up.
“That was his only problem – can he get into those curveball counts,” said Hinch. “He did that today and made the rackets more defensive. You know, no conclusions are drawn on the first outing, but I was glad he was able to stay in the strike zone and present this curveball.”
►Lefty Robbie Ross Jr., who hits a minor league deal and works at the minicamp, threw an 11-pitch goalless inning with two strikeouts. The former Rangers and Red Sox pitcher wasn’t overwhelming (90-91 mph) but he worked effectively in the zone.
► Right-handed Drew Carlton, another mini-camper who has had a strong winter ball campaign in the Dominican Republic, only needed six spaces to get his three outs in the seventh.
“He was exactly in that line, whether we wanted to bring him into the camp or not,” said Hinch. “He’s a strike thrower, his things are moving and he was very much in control. You know, he’s been doing this for a while and the performance doesn’t lie.
“He has obstacles ahead of him, but he may be an option at some point.”
As for the game, most of the art has been marred by nine walks by Phillies pitchers, including five in the first inning, three with loaded bases.
“Lots of good things, especially in this first inning,” said Hinch. “We had a lot of good bats, really top to bottom, whether it was drawing walks or hitting the ball hard. And starting with a spring home run was a nice boost too.”
Not cheap either. Tiger’s shortstop Willi Castro hit the first field that former Tiger Ivan Nova threw into the bullpen in the right center in the lower part of the first inning. The ball left his racket at an exit speed of 110.6 mph and moved 458 feet.
Catcher Eric Haase and infielder Daniel Pinero also met the Tigers.
“A lot of the guys talked about having the fans back, just a little enthusiasm, just something to make themselves feel normal,” said Hinch. “Thank you to everyone who came here and created this atmosphere.
“The best way to get back to normal is to have fans in the stands. Even in a spring game with limited capacity it was a breath of fresh air for everyone.”
Maybe not everyone. At the end of the sixth inning, Lakeland police, four of them, had to forcibly remove an unruly fan from the stadium. The police remained calm even if the man threw his can of beer at one of them. The crowd cheered the police when they finally got him out of the stadium.