RHP Drew VerHagen
In the home opener on Friday, a familiar face to Lakeland fans, Drew VerHagen, took the mound for Lakeland. Similar to last season, VerHagen worked primarily with a low-90s fastball that peaked at 94 mph. VerHagen had nice separation between his fastball and secondary offerings, frequently changing speeds to keep the opposition off balance. As a result, eight of his thirteen outs came on the ground.
VerHagen's velocity noticeably dipped a tad in his last inning of work. His mechanics didn't appear as sharp and a couple defensive miscues noticeably frustrated him; ultimately ending his night in the fifth inning. Tiring later in a start isn't unusual after just a couple weeks of organized pitching, but it will be important for VerHagen to keep his composure and avoid miscues outside of his control impacting his performance.
Overall VerHagen's start was much smoother than the box score suggests though (4 1/3 IP, four hits, three earned runs, two walks, one strikeout). He had impressive stretches of dominance, retiring nine in a row and twelve of his first thirteen batters.
LHP Kyle Ryan
Sunday, southpaw Kyle Ryan got the start for the Flying Tigers. Despite being very lanky at 6-foot-5, Ryan seemed to repeat his delivery well. He worked primarily with a mid-to-high-80s fastball; again showing great variance as he touched 92 and 93 mph a couple times and mixed in his breaking ball and change-up nicely.
Ryan attacked all four quadrants of the strike zone and appeared to be comfortable throwing his secondary stuff in all counts. Similar to VerHagen, the majority of Ryan's batted balls were hit weakly. One thing that really stood out was Ryan's ability to hold runners. His quick feet and sneaky move to first nabbed a Yankees runner early on, setting the pace for a quiet afternoon on the base paths.
Aside from a hanger that resulted in a solo shot to right-field, Ryan threw 5 2/3 innings of quiet, uneventful ball, yielding just that one run, along with scattering five hits with a walk and a strikeout.
RHP Will Clinard
Clinard relieved VerHagen on Friday night, and immediately allowed a line drive single that scored two of VerHagen's base runners. He quickly settled though, inducing an inning ending double play and then tossing a scoreless sixth inning in the next frame, including a strikeout, with no walks.
Clinard flashed his plus cutter and a fastball that hit 93 and 94 mph a couple times. He absolutely oozes confidence on the mound and should be an interesting reliever to keep tabs on this season.
LHP Joe Rogers
Another reliever that continues to stand out is southpaw Joe Rogers. Similar to Clinard, Rogers has that bulldog mentality on the mound that you like to see in a late-inning reliever. On Sunday, he regularly attacked batters with a fastball that sat in the low-90s.
What continues to impress the most about Rogers is his solid, sharp curveball. He featured the curve a bit more than in the past and it tormented both left and right-handed batters. It appears to be an above-average swing and miss offering and he's not afraid to throw the pitch for a strike or when he's behind in the count. Rogers also mixed in the occasional two-seam fastball as well but did not utilize his change-up in this particular outing.
After initial debate whether or not he would transition into a starting role, at least for now, it appears that Rogers has found a home as a late-inning reliever for Lakeland this season. In his outing that spanned 1 2/3 innings, he gave up a pair of hits, but also struck out two and didn't allow a walk or a run.
James Chipman is the Lakeland Correspondent for TigsTown. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JAYRC_TigsTown.