Tigers end spring camp with 5-0 loss to Rays; head to Detroit
Lakeland, Florida – Goodbye Spring Camp.
When the Tigers gather in TigerTown in 2022, they pray that all of the problems and inconveniences that have plagued them over the past year will go down in pandemic history.
No more COVID-19 masks. No more puny, socially distant crowds at Publix Field. No more rules against visiting a post-game restaurant for dinner, a simple treat that MLB players and staff have been denied this year as strict rules have been put in place to limit exposure to coronavirus.
After weathering pandemic restrictions, the Tigers didn’t want to escape injury until Tuesday when they ended their Grapefruit League season with a seven-innings loss to the Rays at Publix Field. Before the season opener on Thursday against the Indians in Comerica Park, they made their way to a team charter and a flight to Detroit.
“You walk on eggshells on a day like this,” said Tiger manager AJ Hinch after a two-hour game that was more of a scrum as both Detroit and Tampa Bay finished their pre-season dress rehearsals. “I was happy that it was a game where no one was injured on either side and both teams can get into the (regular) season.”
In addition to avoiding crutches and throws, Hinch’s main goal on Tuesday was to bring Casey Mize and Michael Fulmer up to date. Mize is pushing for his first full season of rotation in the big league. Fulmer adjusts to life as a helper, which can include short or long stays – at any point in time in a game.
Mize was more than okay: 4⅔ innings, five hits, two runs, one walk, six strikeouts on a 62-pitch turn. His two-seam fastball ran between 95 and 97. He had a slider that smelled a handful of rays in two hits, including a punch-out by Randy Arozarena in the first. Arozarena rarely swings as badly as Mize does on strike three.
Mize also made his mistakes, which in the second included a tough lesson in big league pitch sequencing.
After Mize defeated Joey Wendle 0-2, he threw a two-seater on 97, which Wendle soiled. He came back with an 87-mile slider, which Wendle roped into the right corner of the field for a double.
“Didn’t bury it in the lower part of the zone,” Mize said. “He could put a barrel on it and pull it down the line. Just something I need to do better. “
Mize threw another shutout in the fifth, until Manuel Margot turned a single into a sprint-and-stretch double. A brightly colored single attracted two and with two out invited Hinch to summon Fulmer – on purpose to see what Fulmer could do with a situation of inherited runners.
Brett Sullivan’s double out of the pocket initially scored both runners, leaving Mize’s pitching line more chaotic than it might have been.
Hinch wasn’t bothered.
“Casey was pretty good today,” said Hinch, adding that getting Mize into a fifth inning before starting the Tigers’ fifth regular season game is imperative.
“He’s been working on a few things. I particularly liked the way he controlled the game in progress. “
The focus of the running game was on the stage in Tampa Bay’s half of the third.
After one-time Tigers farm worker Willy Adames hit a Mize slider low against the field fence in the center left to score a leadoff double, Mize thought it was good time to get a pickoff in runner-up.
It turned once and only missed when Adames struck the day. He came back a second time and the ball came off Willi Castro’s glove and jumped onto second baseman Niko Goodrum, who moved to third base when the Tigers put Adames away.
“I thought he fought pretty well,” Hinch said of Mize’s overall work. “He’s starting to understand his strengths beforehand. He was very efficient today.
“He got a few swings and misses with all his pitches and got out of the trip healthy.
“All of these were major priorities today.”
BULLPEN UPS AND DOWNS
Fulmer was socked for Sullivan’s double in fifth and a ground single before wiping Mike Brosseau on four fields, all strikes including two-seamers at 94-95.
Matt Manning had a tougher inning, allowing two runs with two hits and two walks while hitting one.
Drew Hutchison ended with a goalless final inning that included a strikeout.
A RISK UNDERTAKING
Indication of how a manager’s nerves are tested in a final spring camp game when health is a # 1 priority:
“You can’t ask players to play with governors,” he said. “Basically, all bad things can happen today. It gives you no way not to compete or a way not to run a game plan.
“But you think about what happens in 48 hours (Thursday, opening day). We’re playing against the Indians in Comerica Park and the only thing that can change is something that is going wrong with your health today. “
ABOUT THE HORN
… The Tigers had four hits, three singles and a double by Victor Reyes.
… The Tigers finished their season in the Grapefruit League with a record of 13-12, with ties not recognized in the tables by MLB.