Detroit Tigers observations: Colt Keith almost decapitates Alan Trammell; very early defense peek

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — Colt Keith, the youngest player in Detroit Tigers major league camp, walked down the hallway outside the clubhouse with Hall of Famer Alan Trammell on Monday.

The future getting advice from the past.

“It’s very surreal to be around these guys,” said Keith, 21, arguably the top prospect in the Tigers system. “Just being around the big leaguers and Trammell and all the coaches and it’s great.”

A few hours later, Trammell was walking behind the pitcher’s mound during batting practice.

Keith hit a line drive that nearly took the Hall of Famer’s head off.

A missile up the middle.

“I feel good — fresh,” Keith said. “So ready to go.”

Keith arrived at TigerTown on Sunday, a few days after almost everybody else had arrived. But it was all by design. Instead of arriving in Lakeland earlier, Keith stayed home in Mississippi to end his training and take more live batting practice.

“I kind of prioritized those (batting practice sessions) over being a few days early here, just because I knew it wasn’t going to get very many at-bats going into the spring games and I wanted to be ready,” Keith said.

MORE ON KEITH:He thinks like Conor McGregor, plays like Joey Votto, looks like Tigers’ best prospect

By the looks of things, that decision paid off immediately

Keith was ripping the ball on Monday, hitting sharp line drives and massive home runs.

Clearly, the power is still there, even though he’s lost some weight.

Keith has been working with a track coach to improve his quickness. He finished last season at 245 pounds and he’s lost 10 pounds. Instead of just packing on muscle, he concentrated on injury prevention and developing his side-to-side quickness.

“Just trying to get faster and maybe steal a couple bags,” he said.

He has also tweaked his swing.

“Not completely different, just a lower leg kick, more of a toe tap,” he said.

But more than anything, he comes to this camp with a new perspective.

“I only played two and a half, three months last year (before a shoulder injury) and it was a long season,” he said. “If I went 0-for-4, I would be really angry with myself but looking back, when I get 500 at-bats, I’m not gonna let one day determine my mood for the next day or whatever.”

ANOTHER PROSPECT:Beau Brieske preparing like starter but willing to prove he’s ‘adaptable’

Who’s on third?

On the first day of full squad work, the Tigers went through a pop-up drill, using a machine to shoot balls high into the air.

A typical spring training drill that forces the players to communicate.

But it was interesting to see who played where.

Javier Baez at short, Jonathan Schoop at second and Spencer Torkelson at first — all predictable.

So who was at third?

Nick Maton.

Which could be a starting lineup.

The outfield was just as interesting.

Austin Meadows was in left field, Riley Greene and Jonathan Davis split time in center and Matt Vierling was in right field.

OH, BROTHER:Austin, Parker Meadows arrive for epic spring training they won’t forget

But Tigers manager A.J. Hinch has cautioned against reading between the lines of who plays where early in camp.

A ray of sunshine

In a rather devious move, the coaches shot the ball into the air … right into the sunshine.

One play, in particular, was a thing of beauty.

Vierling, who has speed to burn, showed it off, flying onto the infield dirt to catch a pop-up.

“He’s got all the tools in the world,” Hinch said. “And he’s gotten a very brief taste of the big leagues. What he’s done well, he’s done very well. He can be impactful. He’s got a great energy and a great vibe around him, too. So I like guys that have been on winning teams. Those are those are easy attributes to appreciate.”

School is back in session

Several players sat on stools in front of first base, as Tigers coaches went over baserunning, running through the smallest details.

“When we say we gave the players a lot, it’s not just these numbers,” Hinch said. “It’s actually tools to get to those numbers. So it’s real coaching. It’s not just providing them a spreadsheet.”

MORE FROM SEIDEL:Brain and bat have kept Andre Lipcius climbing through Tigers’ system

MORE FROM SEIDEL:New Tigers catcher Donny Sands came though darkness to realize dream

Contact Jeff Seidel at jseidel@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

To read Seidel’s recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel.

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