Detroit Tigers reliever Will Vest struggles again in 6-3 loss to New York Yankees

Detroit Free Press

TAMPA, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers lost to the New York Yankees, 6-3, on Tuesday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

The Tigers are 12-14 in Grapefruit League play.

What happened

After a seven-day absence, right-handed reliever Will Vest appeared in a spring training game. He recorded two outs in the sixth inning as the Yankees scored five runs against him.

“Didn’t start out so bad,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “He just had a couple ground-ball hits, but it certainly didn’t end well.”

The 27-year-old, who pitched in 59 games for the Tigers last season, wasn’t injured during the week without an outing in big-league camp. Rather, he was trying to fix the mechanics of his delivery on the backfields in Lakeland.

Vest has allowed 13 runs across four innings in five games.

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The Tigers scored two runs in the first inning against right-hander Luis Severino and were blanked until scoring their third run in the ninth inning on Gage Workman’s RBI double.

Severino gave up two runs on four hits and one walk with nine strikeouts in four innings.

Starting off

Right-hander Spencer Turnbull, in his fourth start this spring after missing 1½ seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, didn’t concede a hit until Josh Donaldson hammered a poorly executed sinker for a 411-foot solo home run to left-center in the fourth inning.

Otherwise, Turnbull was nearly perfect.

The 30-year-old allowed one run on one hit and one walk with three strikeouts in 4⅔ innings, throwing 46 of 67 pitches for strikes.

“I felt really good about my mindset and my command and pitch execution,” Turnbull said. “I still wouldn’t say I’m super-pleased with my stuff. I still don’t feel great, just the ease of how the fastball is coming out and the power movement. But it was much better than last week in terms of putting it where I wanted.”

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Turnbull walked Anthony Volpe in the second inning.

He threw 26 sliders, 16 four-seam fastballs, 15 sinkers, five changeups and five curveballs. The slider-heavy arsenal, surprisingly, didn’t generate a large number of swings and misses, but he managed to locate his fastball and secondary pitches inside the strike zone.

“He was pretty hard on himself,” Hinch said. “Seven ground balls in four-plus innings is pretty good. If he didn’t have his perfect stuff, you got to execute. It’s a good sign that he had his command.”

Turnbull got five whiffs — two sliders, two fastballs and one sinker — and 12 called strikes.

His fastball sat around 93.5 mph.

“The swing-and-miss stuff wasn’t quite there, but I’ll take that any day, like getting ahead, attacking, making pitches, executing for the most part,” Turnbull said. “I was able to locate (the slider) great. It wasn’t that power swing-and-miss (slider) the whole time, but it was very effective. I’m really pleased how I pitched with what I had, so I’ll take that.”

At the plate

Kerry Carpenter is competing with Akil Baddoo to be the fourth outfielder on the Opening Day roster. He crushed the third pitch of the game, a changeup from Severino, for a solo home run, sending the ball over the right-center fence with a 104.5 mph exit velocity.

It was Carpenter’s third homer in spring training. All three homers occurred against the Yankees, including two against Severino.

“I’ve seen all his pitches now: cutter, slider, changeup and heater,” Carpenter said. “I have somewhat of an idea about what his pitches look like, but he does a good mix, so you never really know what’s coming.”

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Jonathan Schoop, batting second, hit a single to right field and stole second on Riley Greene’s strikeout. Schoop scored on a two-out double from Austin Meadows in the first inning, putting the Tigers ahead 2-0.

Ryan Kreidler struck out, though, to strand Meadows.

The Tigers struck out 18 times.

On the mound

After Turnbull’s two outs in the fifth, Vest entered and completed the inning by fielding a bunt grounder from Jose Trevino. The sixth inning, though, began with a leadoff single from Rafael Ortega.

Vest faced eight batters in the sixth. He generated two groundouts but was responsible for one hit-by-pitch, one balk, three singles, one double and one home run.

“A mixture of everything will lead to a bad inning,” Hinch said.

Gleyber Torres tied the game, 2-2, with an RBI single, then Donaldson’s second homer put the Yankees ahead 5-2. Vest advanced a runner to third base on a balk, and the runner scored on Willie Calhoun’s groundout to make it 6-2.

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Left-hander Tyler Alexander hasn’t been consistent in spring training, but he appears to be on the right track as Opening Day approaches. He took over for Vest in the sixth inning, recorded the final out and struck out the side in the seventh inning.

Alexander, who tossed 23 pitches (14 strikes), struck out Ortega (swinging strike, 79.4 mph slider), Tyler Hardman (swinging strike, 83.6 mph changeup) and Alan Mejia (79.8 mph slider).

“He’s battled this whole spring,” Hinch said. “Sometimes it’s been a work in progress and other times it’s been effective. His breaking ball, it sounds like it feels better, which is good. Execution was better, counts were better, results were better.”

Right-hander Jose Cisnero failed to complete the eighth inning, throwing 13 of 24 pitches for strikes. He finished with one of each — hit, walk and strikeout — but didn’t allow any runs. Righty Yaya Chentouf, elevated from minor-league camp, struck out Matt Pita for the third out.

Cisnero will pitch Wednesday for back-to-back outings.

Three stars

1. Turnbull; 2. Alexander; 3. Carpenter.

Next up

Wednesday (1:05 p.m.) vs. Atlanta Braves in Lakeland (Bally Sports Detroit).

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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