Grapefruit League: Detroit Tigers (12-16) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (9-14)
When: 6:05 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, Florida.
Radio: None (other radio affiliates).
Probable starting pitchers: Tigers LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (1-0, 0.00 ERA this spring) vs. Pirates RHP Roansy Contreras (0-0, 3.00).
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LF Kerry Carpenter
2B Nick Maton
SS Javier Báez
RF Austin Meadows
1B Spencer Torkelson
DH Miguel Cabrera
CF Akil Baddoo
C Eric Haase
3B Jonathan Schoop
P Eduardo Rodriguez
Game notes: It’s hard to believe, but the Pirates, for so long the MLB standard for fruitless rebuilds, have had both a winning season (82-79 in 2018) and a playoff appearance (NL wild card in 2015) than the Tigers (2016 and 2014, respectively). The Pirates, who lost 100 games each of the past two seasons, probably won’t be good again, thanks to some noticeable roster holes — we see you, catcher Austin Hedges — but they have some prospects to watch.
The fun starts with hulking shortstop Oneil Cruz; the 24-year-old stands 6-foot-7 and set the Statcast-era record for the fastest throw to first by a middle infielder last season. He also crushed 17 homers in 331 at-bats, a near-30-homer pace stretched out over 550 ABs. He’s not perfect — his .233 batting average last season, and his .225/.244/.425 slash line in 40 ABs this spring suggest growing pains are yet to come — but he should provide at least a few highlights this season.
Tonight’s Bucs starter, Roansy Contreras, serviceably ate innings last season, delivering a 3.79 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 95 innings over 21 appearances (18 of them starts). He also walked 39 batters over that span, which explains why he’s likely to wind up in the Bucs’ bullpen when the season starts next Thursday.
The Tigers, meanwhile, will send lefty Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound; this will be just his third start of the spring for the Tigers, plus one appearance for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Still, E-Rod appears close to in-season shape; he struck out five and walked one while allowing four hits and no runs over 4 2/3 innings against the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
After tonight’s game, the Tigers wrap up their spring training slate with a trip to Dunedin to face the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday evening, followed by a visit from the Tampa Bay Rays — their Opening Day foes — on Sunday afternoon. The Pirates, meanwhile, host the Orioles on Saturday night, then wrap up against the Braves on Sunday and the Twins on Monday and Tuesday.
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