2014 Spring Notes: First Game Evals

The countdown is over. Tuesday afternoon the off-season officially ended as the Detroit Tigers played their annual tune-up game again the Division-II Florida Southern Moccasins. Notes on the participants inside!

The Tigers' 12-0 drubbing of the Mocs was their second consecutive shutout, after winning 11-0 last season. Tuesday's game marked the 28th all-time meeting between the two clubs.

Pitching Notes:

Drew VerHagen looked solid on Tuesday in both his appearance and stature. Listed at 6'6" 230 pounds, VerHagen is anything but the "lanky" individual that I've noticed some Detroit media reporting him to be. VerHagen has bulked up, possessing the strong, thick body of a potential inning eater.

On the mound VerHagen got ahead early and worked quickly, needing just nine and 12 pitches in his two innings of work.

VerHagen was aggressive, routinely challenging hitters inside. He moved the ball around the zone well and adequately sequenced his arsenal. The change looked good and the fastball featured solid late life. However, the consistency of VerHagen's curveball varied. He hung one that was fouled off and missed his target burying one in the dirt that was spit on for a ball. To his credit, VerHagen featured the offering more than the previous times I'd seen him in Lakeland. He also snapped off one of the better breaking balls I've observed him throw when he struck out the final batter of the second inning.

VerHagen would finish the day retiring all six batters that he faced; tallying two groundouts, two fly outs and two strikeouts.

Southpaw Robbie Ray relieved VerHagen in the third inning for his first game action as a Detroit Tigers prospect.

Ray struggled a bit out of the gate, putting himself in deep counts during a 22-pitch first inning of work. Showcasing his entire repertoire, Ray struck out the side in the first though, surprisingly with a different put-away pitch for each batter.

The fourth inning started off with a bang when the Mocs leadoff man tattooed a 2-1 fastball to deep center. To his credit, Ray had outstanding mound presence and he seemed unfazed by the potential threat. The runner at second was eventually thrown out anyways, trying to steal third base, eliminating the threat. Ray would add two more strikeouts to his tally, finishing with five over two innings of work.

Throughout Ray's 37-pitch affair, the opposition had lots of weak contact, fouling off approximately nine pitches. Ray worked up in the zone a lot. Command and control were a bit of a bear, especially with the off-speed stuff. While nothing in his repertoire really wowed me, Ray's sequencing, aggressiveness, ability to miss bats and the late life on the fastball were encouraging.

If you blinked in the fifth inning, chances are you missed Kyle Lobstein's performance. Working predominately with the fastball, Lobstein needed just ten pitches to retire the side in order.

Jose Ortega pitched the sixth inning. Two identical Broadway first pitch fastballs were driven to right field for outs. The first looked like a homer, driven to the warning track. Ortega then induced a groundout to short on a 2-1 change.

Jhan Marinez entered the game in the seventh inning, immediately allowing a hard hit double that sounded like a homer off the bat. Mariñez can best be described as wild. There's no command and no control. Regardless, the movement on his fastball is sick. The secondary stuff might lag in consistency, but the run and explosiveness on the fastball is enough to keep him on my short list. Mariñez escaped the jam with two strikeouts and a groundout that shattered the opposition's bat. He's a rollercoaster, but Jhan is exciting to watch.

The Tigers called on flame-thrower Jose Valdez for the eighth inning. Valdez utilized his slider early in the count and pounded the zone with heat. The right-hander bobbled a ball hit at him but quickly regrouped throwing the runner out at first. Valdez needed just eleven pitches total to set down the side in order, striking out one.

Closing things out, Melvin Mercedes allowed just an infield single hit halfway between home and third. Mercedes predominately threw his heavy fastball. He struck out two, including the final batter of the game on a 0-2 slider.

Position Players Notes:

By now it's well reported that outfielder Steven Moya stole the show Tuesday afternoon. A perfect 2-for-2 with a double, a triple and four runs driven in, Moya had an outstanding game.

Fellow outfielder Daniel Fields was 2-for-2 as well. Fields drove the very first pitch he saw this spring over the right-field wall for the Tigers first homer of the spring.

Tyler Collins, the only Tigers batter to record three at-bats reached base all three times. Collins smoked a double off the right-field wall, hit a bullet past the second-baseman and drew a walk.

Third-baseman Nick Castellanos might have gone hitless, but his defense looked promising Tuesday afternoon. Four batters into the game Castellanos was responsible for three putouts. He showed passable range running down a grounder, tracked a popup and dugout a deeply hit grounder making a strong throw to first for the out(s).

Infielder Eugenio Suarez went deep in the eighth, depositing a homer on the left-field berm.

Utility man Steve Lombardozzi went 2-for-2 with a double and two runs scored.

James Chipman is the Senior Lakeland Correspondent for TigsTown. Be sure to follow him on twitter @JAYRC_TigsTown.

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