Detroit Tigers’ Nick Maton homers off top prospect in 8-8 tie with Orioles

Detroit Free Press

SARASOTA, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers tied the Baltimore Orioles, 8-8, in the second of Thursday’s split-squad games at Ed Smith Stadium.

The Tigers stayed at 12-16 in Grapefruit League play.

What happened

Five runs were scored in the third inning against right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, the No. 11 overall pick in the 2018 draft and Baltimore’s second-best prospect, with the biggest hit coming from Nick Maton’s bat.

Maton put the Tigers ahead, 5-3, with his fourth home run of spring training.

“It’s not always the same in-season as it is in the spring, or vice versa,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said, “but I like that we just took some quality at-bats, took a few singles here and there. It was nice to come back that way. Our at-bats got a little bit better against him as his innings mounted.”

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Former Tigers outfielder Daz Cameron, claimed off waivers by the Orioles in the offseason, finished 2-for-3 with two RBIs and one strikeout. He cranked a home run off left-hander Jace Fry in the fourth inning and a double off right-hander Edwin Uceta in the fifth.

The Orioles also received a home run from Cedric Mullins in the second inning off left-hander Tyler Holton.

Akil Baddoo hit a solo home run in the top of the ninth inning, cutting the Tigers’ deficit to 8-6. The reserve players, including a group of prospects, tacked on two more runs to tie the game, 8-8.

Eliezer Alfonzo (double) and Peyton Graham (walk) drove in the two runs.

“It was great to see us put up some good at-bats, control the strike zone and fight out way back,” Hinch said. “That’s when a tie feels like a win in the spring. A lot of first-timers got a chance to enjoy that.”

Starting off

The Tigers played a bullpen-only game and tossed six pitchers, beginning with Holton. The 26-year-old has started games in the minor leagues but hasn’t been fully stretched out since his college career at Florida State.

Holton allowed three runs on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts in 1⅔ innings.

Right-hander Miguel Díaz, recently reassigned to minor-league camp, threw 1⅓ scoreless innings with two strikeouts. The 28-year-old posted 7⅔ scoreless innings with three walks and 14 strikeouts in seven appearances this spring.

But Díaz won’t receive a spot on the Opening Day roster.

“I wasn’t expecting it, but we’re grownups, we’re mature, we’re professionals,” Díaz said. “I’m going to go to Toledo and focus on doing my job and doing my best, because sooner rather than later, I’ll be back in the majors.”

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Díaz, who has pitched 75 games in his MLB career, was surprised when he learned he would start the season in Triple-A Toledo. His performance in camp put him on the map as a relief pitcher the Tigers could promote in April.

Still, the demotion stung for a couple days.

“I felt a little bit down, but they told me the reason why,” Díaz said. “There was no room for me on the Opening Day roster. In the end, this is baseball and you got to keep doing your job every time you go out.”

The Tigers will keep a close eye on Díaz in Toledo.

“He keeps his head down and does his work,” Hinch said. “I’m proud of him. There’s a very, very small line between guys that make rosters and guys that don’t. He didn’t pout. He’s a pro, and he threw arguably his best inning of the spring. We’re going to keep taking notice. These decisions made at the end of camp are for one day, which is Opening Day, but the impressions still continue.”

At the plate

Aside from the third inning, Rodriguez pitched masterfully against the Tigers and allowed one batter to reach safely — Riley Greene on a fielding error in the first inning — in the other three innings.

The 23-year-old gave up five runs on four hits (zero walks) with five strikeouts across four innings.

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Before Maton’s home run, the Tigers scored on Greene’s RBI single to right field and Spencer Torkelson’s RBI single to center field. The third inning started with a leadoff single from Jonathan Schoop.

On the mound

In the fourth inning, Fry allowed two runs on three hits and one walk with one strikeout. Uceta pitched the fifth and sixth innings, allowing one run on four hits, before righty Matt Wisler took over for the seventh inning.

Wisler balked twice and allowed one run.

He has been charged with five balks in five spring training games.

“It’s a hard week for these guys,” Hinch said. “They want to make a perfect impression, so everything that goes against them feels like it’s heavier than it probably should. … But I promise these guys we take a longer view, so any one thing that a guy does this week is kept in perspective.”

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Left-hander Miguel Del Pozo, also recently reassigned to minor-league camp, entered for the eighth inning. He spoiled his five-inning scoreless streak by allowing a leadoff double to Jordan Westburg. The runner advanced to third base on a wild pitch and scored on ex-Tiger Josh Lester’s single, putting the Orioles ahead 8-5.

Three stars

1. Maton; 2. Díaz; 3. Baddoo.

Next up

Friday (6:05 p.m.) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates in Lakeland.

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

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