LAKELAND, Fla. — It became a Battle Royale.
Two Detroit Tigers prospects: Keider Montero vs. Izaac Pacheco.
A young pitcher against an even younger hitter.
Neither one giving in. Each one fighting. And it turned into an entertaining, revealing drama that seemed to go on for several minutes.
Montero, 21, was on the mound at the backfields at TigerTown, throwing a live round of batting practice Tuesday morning. Montero is an intriguing pitcher to watch because he’s one of the Tigers prospects who can really spin it.
Pacheco, 19, is an interesting batter to keep an eye on because he was the Tigers second selection in the 2021 MLB draft. And we are slowly learning what makes him tick.
So watching them battle figured to be interesting.
But what happened? It felt epic.
Montero threw a pitch and Pacheco fouled it off.
“Good job,” somebody said.
He fouled off another.
“Stay on him,” somebody said from behind the cage.
Another foul. More encouragement.
“Way to fight!”
He went back into the box, got set, dipped down and fouled off another.
“Way to battle!”
And then he fouled off another.
“You got this!”
It was amazing to watch.
One small moment in a practice. There was action on every field around the complex but this was different, watching Pacheco fight, seeing his determination and resolve. He didn’t look frustrated. He was calm and professional.
At one point, I think I saw him foul off six pitches in a row.
Jon Rosoff, who was the catcher, thinks it was even higher.
“I wasn’t really keeping count but I think it was like a 12-pitch at bat,” Rosoff said. “It felt like 12 or 15.”
Pacheco wasn’t even sure how many it was.
“I was thinking about it,” he said. “It had to be over eight (fouls). I’m gonna watch video and figure it out. But it was a ton. A ton. It was awesome. Those are the at bats that I practice all the time for.”
Montero ended the battle by burying a curve into Rosoff’s mitt.
Pacheco took the pitch, buckled, saw Rosoff stick it and knew he was out. Strike three.
He walked calmly out of the box.
“I mean, you tip your hat right?” he said.
Before Montero pitched, Tigers director of pitching Gabe Ribas instructed Rosoff to call a lot of fastballs.
“Going in, he wanted to be fastball heavy,” Rosoff said. “I was trying to adhere to that.”
So he kept throwing heat. “He was fouling off really good pitches,” Rosoff said. “Then, at a certain point, I’m like, ‘OK, I’m going to end this.’ So we started breaking out the other pitches.”
Montero has five different pitches.
“He’s pitching really well,” Rosoff said. “He’s working on slider — that’s a new pitch they started work on and that was very, very sharp. It just had very sharp sliders spin, very tight like didn’t pop out of the hand. So it gonna be fun to watch him with a four-seam (fastball), two-seam (fastball), changeup, curveball and slider.”
And it took all of them to get Pacheco out.
Must watch Santana
There are certain guys in every batting practice you find yourself watching.
Riley Greene is one, no doubt. But Cristian Santana is turning into one of those guys.
“The kid is good,” Pacheco said. “He’s one of those guys that just walks out and rakes. I love the kid.”
Santana hit a home run off Jackson Jobe, the the No. 3 pick in the 2021 MLB draft, on Sunday.
Monday, he hit a ball off the wall against Montero.
“He’s got really fast hands,” Outfielder Jacob Robson said. “He takes the knob to the ball really well. And he’s aggressive. You can see his bat stays on plane, he stays through it. He’s somebody fun to watch, if he can maintain that and improve upon it.”
The talk in TigerTown was a potential resolution to the MLB owner’s lockout.
If they do reach an agreement Tuesday, how long will it take to get the big-league players into camp?
When will they start playing games?
Nobody knew as of Tuesday morning.
Contact Jeff Seidel: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.