LAKELAND, Fla — Jackson Jobe, the Detroit Tigers‘ top pitching prospect, crouched behind home plate and flashed a sign, looking like a catcher.
Tyler Madden, the Tigers’ second pick in the 2021 MLB draft, was on the mound on Wednesday morning on the back fields at Tiger Town, the first day of the Tigers minicamp.
Jobe wanted the high fastball and put up his glove confidently.
Madden threw the pitch — softer than normal, this was Day 1 after all — and Jobe caught the ball perfectly.
CAN’T WAIT: Jackson Jobe ‘counting down the days’ until mini-camp in Lakeland
Jobe sprung to his feet and acted like he was going to throw out a runner trying to steal second.
His form? Pretty good to tell you the truth.
Wait a second.
What is the top pitching prospect doing at catcher?
Jobe was only having fun. It wasn’t even a real bullpen, so he lightly tossed the ball back to his teammate.
Soon, both prized pitchers will throw their first bullpens for real. A group of pitchers is expected to throw on Thursday.
Sixty-two players have been invited to this minicamp. The pitcher and catchers reported Wednesday and the rest will show up on Monday. No major league players are allowed to attend because of a lockout in the ongoing labor dispute. Only players not on the 40-man roster are allowed to participate.
The 19-year-old Jobe also threw the ball in Wednesday’s practice, and just like Madden, he wasn’t going full tilt. But make no mistake, Jobe looks the part. He is 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds and is known for his wicked breaking ball. Some say he’s the best amateur pitcher they’ve ever seen.
SPRING CAMP: These players could help in the Tigers in 2022
The Tigers have invested $6.9 million in Jobe’s right arm.
This minicamp features other pitching prospects, too, such as 22-year-old Reese Olson and 23-year-old Beau Brieske, as well as 26-year-old Garrett Hill. And there were new faces, like Tigers director of pitching Gabe Ribas. He spent the early portion of Wednesday’s workout chatting up these heralded prospects, asking about their hometowns and past baseball experiences.
Everybody is in the get-to-know-you stage.
Ribas came to the Tigers in October after spending four seasons as a pitching coach in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ farm system.
Who’s running the show?
Alan Trammell, the Hall of Fame shortstop, showed up looking like he could play right now. He carried a glove and fungo bat.
Tigers manager AJ Hinch also came to the camp and watched in the middle of four fields, but he is not allowed to do any coaching because of MLB rules.
That means it is, in essence, Ryan Garko’s camp.
Garko is the new director of player development who spent the past two years with the Los Angeles Angels. The 41-year-old was hired in September to replace Dave Littlefield, who was reassigned in August as part of several front office moves.
Garko walked up to the Lakeland backfields alongside Sam Menzin, the most versatile member of the front office. Although Menzin is an old face around these parts, around since his days as an intern in 2012, he’s a new assistant general manager to general manager Al Avila.
A healthy cut
Garko and Menzin stood behind the cage, watching the catchers take batting practice.
Dillon Dingler, the Tigers’ top catching prospect, grounded out to the left side of the infield on what should have been his last swing.
“Stay in there,” the batting practice pitcher said.
Dingler took another cut and crushed a ball to the middle of the field.
BEHIND THE PLATE: How Dillon Dingler will apply lessons learned on offense, defense
“It’s definitely different than last year,” Dingler said. “But honestly, getting the opportunity to be out here and get better every day, you can’t ask for anything more, especially with beautiful weather like this.”
Dingler had a freak injury in 2021. A ball ricocheted and hit off his left pinky finger, the one on the outside of his glove.
“I was out for a few weeks,” he said. “It kind of cut my season a little bit shorter than I then I was expecting.”
But he is healthy.
Long time, no see
The stunner of all stunners — we had an actual Franklin Perez sighting.
Perez, the oft-injured prize of the Justin Verlander deal, is not on the 40-man roster. He was released by the Tigers last May after having shoulder surgery.
Technically, he was not invited to the minicamp, but he is going through rehab.
So he went to a field and did a workout.
Perez was acquired by the Tigers in the 2017 Justin Verlander trade, along with catcher Jake Rogers and outfielder Daz Cameron. Since the trade, Perez has only pitched nine games and 27 innings because of numerous injuries.
He was released from the roster to make room for Eric Haase.