Tigers notes: Relievers need relief vs. Rays, Haase praises new tutors

Detroit News
By Lynn Henning |  Special to The Detroit News

St. Petersburg, Fla. − The Tigers used only relief pitchers in Monday’s 9-5 loss at Tropicana Field.

Early on, it looked as if the relievers needed relief.

The Tigers walked seven Rays batters in the first three innings.

Miguel Diaz escaped a 31-pitch first inning, minus any scoring, but had one of the passes. Tyler Holton had a walk as part of a five-hit, six-run second, all before Kervin Castro arrived in the third. Castro walked four, was dinged for a couple of hits, and donated three more Rays runs.

“Diaz escaped – the others didn’t,” said Hinch, who had better luck Monday with Jace Fry (1.1 innings, two strikeouts), Tyler Alexander (two innings, no hits or walks, one strikeout), Chasen Shreve (one inning, no hits, two strikeouts), and Aneurys Zabala, a 100-mph right-hander, signed as a minor-league free agent, who fired a fusillade of fastballs that were worth two strikeouts, as well as a walk.

Zabala, 26, has been with five different MLB clubs, which hints at past problems with control and pitch repertoire outside of his heater.

Monday, he threw 13 pitches at 98-99.

“We’ve been waiting to get him into a game,” Hinch said, explaining that Zabala had been working exclusively with the minor-league corps, where he’ll otherwise be stationed, at least early in 2023.

“But he has every bit of the arm strength we were promised when they sent him over.”

It will be a matter, Hinch said, of Zabala doing what he to this point hasn’t been able to show previous big-league teams.

“Secondary pitches are going to be key,” Hinch said. “He can’t be a one-pitch guy. You can intimidate a little bit late in games in spring … But you can’t hide 100 (mph) too long.”

Orioles 11, Tigers 7

In their split-squad tussle with the Orioles in Sarasota on Monday, the Tigers hit three home runs – by Akil Baddoo, Ryan Kreidler, and Michael Papierski – but couldn’t keep the Orioles from romping, 11-7.

Kerry Carpenter was 3-for-3, including a double.

In similar style with what went on at Tropicana Field, a parade of Tigers pitchers were walloped. The brunt of the bruises were taken by Zach Logue (three hits, two runs), Beau Brieske (four hits, two runs), Will Vest (two hits, two runs), and Angel DeJesus (three hits, three runs).

Around the horn

Eric Haase started in left field Monday at St. Petersburg and was 1-for-2, with a fifth-inning single that was clocked at 96-mph.

Expect more left-field sightings of Haase, who will take all the at-bats he can get, whether at catcher or in the outfield, first base − anywhere, he said Monday.

Haase is batting .292 on the Grapefruit League season. The biggest change he had hoped to make heading into 2023, in concert with the Tigers’ new hitting tutors:

“Definitely some better at-bats against right-hand fastballs,” he said, explaining that the tendency in 2022 to platoon him against left-handed pitching was perhaps an issue there.

“I’m just trying to use the ground a little more – stay on my backside a little more.

“The whole culture of the whole hitting staff is completely different.”

… Another of the exit-velo victors Monday was Justyn-Henry Malloy, who arrived later in the game at second base and banged a double (100.1) to go with a single.

Austin Meadows acknowledged that Monday had its share of sentiment as he arrived back at his old home ballpark, Tropicana Field.

It also presented a complication or two.

“I didn’t even know how to get over here,” he said, speaking of the visitor’s clubhouse, a place with which he had no familiarity until last April’s trade.

Lynn Henning is a retired Detroit News reporter and freelance writer.

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