Bradenton, Fla. — When it came down to it, Tigers general manager Al Avila didn’t really care where Carlos Correa ended up signing. Yes, sure, after Correa snubbed his 10-year, $275 million offer in November, he would’ve preferred the All-Star didn’t sign in his own division (with the Twins).
But he’s long been secure in the belief that he signed the right shortstop this offseason — Javier Báez.
“From the first day that he walked in there, the guys in the clubhouse, the smiles on their faces, that tells you everything,” Avila said Saturday. “And the way he reacted to that welcome, you can just tell he’s extremely happy right now and off to a great start.”
He truly seems to be happy and content, and not just because he got a six-year, $140 million contract done before the lockout.
“It’s just the way they are in the clubhouse,” Baez said after he made his Grapefruit League debut in a 6-3 loss to the Pirates. “Everybody is together. Everybody is happy. Everybody is having fun in there.”
There is one common denominator to all those good vibes. Well, two common denominators.
“Obviously, Miggy,” Baez said of Miguel Cabrera. “Miggy is the key to starting the fun. As soon as he gets to the clubhouse, everyone wants to be around him. He loves that.”
“The manager (AJ Hinch), he likes to have fun and he likes to be around the guys,” Báez said. “He likes going around the clubhouse and talking to the guys. He’s got really good communication with everybody.”
Báez, who grounded out and flew out in his two at-bats Saturday, was asked how it felt to put the Tigers uniform on for the first time — even if it was a road spring jersey.
“It feels great to hear the fans and all the ‘Welcome to Detroit,’ ” he said. “But I was really excited when we took pictures the other day (in Lakeland) and I was in full uniform. This is, like, the third time I’ve worn the uniform now.”
Baez didn’t get any action at shortstop in his brief stay in the game, but he was paired with second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the first time they’ve been together up the middle since 2012 when they were teammates with Mesa in the Arizona Fall League.
“We’ve got pretty good communication with the language,” Baez said with a smile. “Although he speaks like ten languages. But it’s fun. Him and Miggy are always together — it’s going to be fun.”
Mize on the attack
Right-hander Casey Mize had an encouraging debut, allowing a broken bat single and a walk with three strikeouts in two innings.
The hope was he’d go three innings within a 45-pitch limit, but he was at 39 (24 strikes, 10 foul balls) after two. Day over.
“I fell behind a couple of hitters, which I wasn’t happy about, but I felt good,” he said.
He threw 26 four-seam fastballs, average velocity was 94 mph and he was hitting 96.5. One of the changes he made in the offseason was to scrap his two-seam fastball, which had been a pitch he’d use when he was behind in the count.
He put the new approach to work against Anthony Alford in the second inning. Mize fell behind 2-0 and then pumped two 95-mph fastballs for strikes (one swinging) to get back in the count. He won the at-bat with a nasty 2-2 slider that Alford whiffed on.
“If I’d thrown a two-seamer (on 2-0) it probably would’ve been smoked,” he said. “I was happy with the four-seamer. I think I threw some good disadvantaged-count fastballs that I was able to get some swings and misses on.”
Four, to be exact.
“I’m happy with that, for sure,” he said.
Right-hander Beau Brieske, the Tigers’ minor-league pitcher of the year last season, was electric in his Grapefruit League debut Saturday, striking out four in two hitless innings.
“Getting his first taste of this, it was pretty impressive,” Hinch said. “Pretty good stuff for the first time in big-league camp, though obviously he has a head start with minicamp. But there’s a lot to like.”
He came out throwing 97-mph heaters in his first inning, retiring the side in 10 pitches, with two punchouts. In all, he got seven swings-and-misses and six called strikes.
Around the horn
Outfielder Daz Cameron has been somewhat the forgotten prospect in this camp, but he served up a reminder that he’s still in the mix. He lined a single (104 mph off the bat) that knocked Pirates starter Mitch Keller (thigh bruise) out of the game. Then he homered over the center field wall and singled in a run. “One of the things he brings is some thump in his bat on any given day,” Hinch said. “We want him to clean up a lot of things around the intricacies of the game — some of the outfield positioning stuff and baserunning.”
… Tigers pitchers yielded four home runs in the game: Alex Lange (to Ben Gamel), Jason Foley (to Oneil Cruz), Garrett Hill (to Tucupita Marcano) and Logan Shore (to Endy Rodriguez).
… Robbie Grossman, making his spring debut, blasted an opposite-field home run in his second at-bat.