Tigers To Audition Many Players This Spring
ALSO: NEW RULES MAY BE GREAT FOR BILL MAHER BUT NOT FOR BASEBALL
Remembering Rico Carty
“Enjoyed your article on "the Beeg Boy" mostly because as a Pirate fan in those days, I was able to watch him play many times a year as a Brave and always enjoyed seeing him play.
One thing never brought up though, is how when he played for the Braves, he always carried his wallet in the back pocket of his uniform pants.
Bob Prince, the Pirates announcer who pointed that out one game, claimed Rico didn't trust whatever type of security was used in the locker room so he carried his wallet with him.
I watched every time after Prince said that to see if I could catch that bulge in his back pocket and usually could.
Of course that was back when baseball had loads of characters in the game. Back when baseball was fun.”
— Steve Carvin, Barnesville, Ohio
Did you know…
As a hitter, Shohei Ohtani has 80 home runs in the past two seasons combined, trailing only Aaron Judge (101) during that span . . .
The only active player with multiple 50-homer seasons, Judge (220) trails only Nolan Arenado (229) in long balls since the outfielder’s 2016 debut . . .
Mike Trout’s three 40-homer seasons since 2015 are tied with Arenado for most in the majors over the last eight years . . .
Where does Pete Alonso fit in? Over the last four years, he ranks first with 146 home runs -- including a rookie-record and MLB-high 53 in 2019 -- that is nine more than Judge's 137. Alonso has also averaged 46 home runs per 162 games . . .
FanGraphs predicts no team will reach the century mark in wins or losses this year and that the Braves will lead the majors with 93 victories.
Photo Blast From The Past
The smiling reporter right behind Hank Aaron’s right shoulder in this 1973 picture is Dan Schlossberg, now your friendly Weekend Editor of Here’s The Pitch ! He was interviewing Aaron when the blond guy on the right, then the Governor of Georgia, interrupted for this photo op. As Joaquin Andujar once said about the game of baseball, “Youneverknow.”
4 Spring Training Storylines of the Detroit Tigers
By Joe Underhill
Hope springs eternal! Regardless of how the 2022 season came to a close, Spring Training signals a new beginning and for fan bases starved for on-the-field success, Spring Training offers hope that this year will be different. For fans of the Detroit Tigers, there are four major storylines to watch that will go a long way in determining the success of the Tigers in 2023.
When the Tigers decided to non-tender a contract to Jeimer Candelario, the question of who would play third base for the 2023 season became a major off-season question. The answer to that question is still to be determined as camp opens. There are no fewer than six players who are vying for playing time at third base this year. It is very likely there will be several players who will log significant innings at third this year.
While the Tigers didn’t sign or trade for an established third baseman, they did acquire two players with experience at the position in Nick Maton and Matt Vierling. Both Maton and Vierling have big-league experience and have played all over the diamond.
Vierling is more likely to get his reps in the outfield, but has been able to handle playing on the dirt without issue. Maton is more likely to spend time on the dirt. A natural shortstop, has played all over and is a solid defender.
Another candidate with an early advantage is Ryan Kreidler, a shortstop by trade and a candidate for a utility role. Kreidler showed his glove is major-league ready, but his bat struggled mightily in his first big-league experience. Kreidler did post positive wRC+ in the minors, however.
In addition to these three players who are all on the 40-man roster, the Tigers also traded for Tyler Nevin (40-man who plays the four corners), and have brought in Andy Ibanez and Cesar Hernandez on minor-league contracts with invites to big-league camp. Also, youngsters Colt Keith, Justyn Henry-Malloy, and Andre Lipcius will get the opportunity to show they should be in the Tigers’ future plans.
The Tigers’ starting rotation in 2022 was in flux, as 10 different pitchers made at least eight starts. Tarik Skubal, Casey Mize, Alex Faedo, and Beau Brieske were all lost for the year, with Mize only lasting 10 innings before undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Skubal and Mize are still a long way from being ready to get back into the rotation. The Tigers do not have a projected starter who threw over 100 innings in 2022. Eduardo Rodriguez is back and healthy after missing a large portion of last season with injuries and personal issues. Spencer Turnbull is back after missing most of 2021 and 2022 with Tommy John surgery and will mostly likely need his workload managed carefully.
The two free-agent additions to the rotation are former Tiger Matthew Boyd and Michael Lorenzen. Both dealt with injuries in 2022 and are on one-year deals to establish themselves.
The last spot in the rotation, at least to start the season, will belong to Matt Manning, who had his own injury issues in 2022.
All three of these pitchers will most likely need to have their workloads managed and will need to skip starts throughout the year. Because of that, the next group will be one of the most interesting groups to watch this spring because there will be a lot of starts and innings that will need to be filled.
That group is going to include Joey Wentz, Alex Faedo, Beau Brieske, Rony Garcia, Garrett Hill, Reese Olson, Zach Logue and Rule 5 pick Mason Englert. The group is young and looking to prove, with members seeking to establish themselves as major-league players. Several are likely to find themselves seeing time in the bullpen.
The sophomore success (or failure) of Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene will probably have the greatest impact on the success of the Tigers’ 2023 season. The continued development of Torkelson and Greene, along with Akil Baddoo and Kerry Carpenter, is critical to the Tiger’s batting order finding success.
Torkelson struggled through much of the 2022 season, batting .203 with a SLG of just .319 and a wRC+ of 76, which is after a mid-season demotion to AAA to iron out his mechanics. Throughout his minor-league career, Torkelson has taken time to adapt to the league before putting up strong numbers. The Tigers need Tork to be able to put up a .260-.270 average with 20+ home runs, numbers that he has the talent to meet and surpass.
Riley Greene was slowed by a foot injury at the end of spring training in 2022 and spent very little time on rehab before making his major-league debut. Greene will play the majority of the innings in center field, where he posted a positive DRS while making a number of highlight reel catches. Offensively, Greene was solid slashing .253/.321/.362, but the ceiling for Greene is that of a .290+ average with 20+ home runs.
Baddoo and Carpenter will be part of the outfield competition with newcomers Matt Vierling, Nick Maton, Justyn Henry-Malloy and Jonathan Davis.
Baddoo had an excellent rookie season in 2021, but struggled in 2022 and is looking to establish as more than a fourth or fifth outfielder. Carpenter had a breakout in 2021 that led him from AA to the majors, combining to hit 36 home runs, including six in the majors in only 113 plate appearances. The challenge for Carpenter is his defense, but with power being a major need for the Tigers, he will get the opportunity to show that he belongs.
The Tigers have assembled a significant number of players who are capable of playing multiple positions, giving manager AJ Hinch the ability to mix and match to take advantage of any weakness in opposing pitching staffs. How the bench shakes out will be interesting to watch as there a number of young players like Vierling, Maton, Kriedler, Zack Short, and Tyler Nevin, who need playing time to prove whether they are ready for the majors or not.
Spring Training is always one of the most exciting times of the year. In just a few short weeks, teams will pack up and begin the marathon that is a major-league season. Who will be starting the marathon with the Tigers is just one reason to tune into spring training baseball.
Joe Underhill is a high school administrator and diehard baseball fan and fan of the city of Detroit. Joe currently writes for www.tigstown.com. You can follow Joe on Twitter@TransplantedDet or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Major League Baseball To Challenge Little League? Is The ‘Mercy Rule’ Next?
By Bob Nesoff
The old saw says “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Major League Baseball seems to be hellbent on violating that saying.
The brain trusts have begun formulating new rules for the upcoming baseball season that could put fans scratching their heads. At a recent meeting, they began to codify new rules for the American, National and probably the minor leagues as well.
During the pandemic, they sought to upend things in order to shorten the season and, possibly, bring more fans into the ball parks across the country. Television and the movies often had shows revolving around ghostly beings and their haunting of some characters.
Now baseball has stepped into that act.
During the pandemic-ravaged 2020 season, in order to speed up extra-inning games, they introduced what has come to be known as “The Ghost Runner.” OK, it’s not a spectral being, but a runner that automatically starts the inning on second base. For every inning thereafter he will be granted an automatic double, something real players would like to have starting any inning.
The Ghost Runner, hated by many fans, sometimes scored. Sometimes didn’t score. But seeing a runner on second base at the start of an inning was often very unsettling to both the pitcher and the fans. The hope was that by the 2023 season the Ghost Runner would have gone back to the grave.
The original intent of the Ghost Runner was to be discussed each season. But, lo and behold, in early February the MLB Joint Competition Committee voted unanimously to make ghostly apparitions a permanent part of the game.
The reasoning here in the National Pastime, was allegedly an effort to reduce injury and wear and tear on pitchers in a limited player pool. They felt it would also limit the possibility of “marathon” extra-inning games.
The wonder is what football players, who mash and crash into each other, would think of a “no contact” rule.
OK, no one wants to sit through a 15 or 20-inning game. Not on those hard, slatted seats in the cheaper sections of ballparks. Those in the cushioned, more expensive locales, might not have the same feeling. But so far as this writer knows, no survey was ever taken of fans to see what they want.
Seats for baseball games, once affordable, now range in price from $385 for upfront to more than $2,000 for a ticket to a suite.
Now consider this: We are talking about players making millions upon millions of dollars to swing at a ball and run. Most don’t even get a hit one out of three or four chances at the plate. Pitchers are pulled from the game when their pitch count reaches a predetermined level.
There should be a plaque in every locker room to Wilbur Wood, who in 1973 pitched both games of a double header. OK, he lost and he was the last one to do that. But back then players weren’t coddled the way they are today.
Ron Blomberg, Yankee first baseman, became the first designated hitter in baseball 30 years ago this coming April 3.He’s been invited by the Yanks to throw out the first pitch. In that historic game, he returned to the dugout, picked up his glove, and headed to the field. He was called back and reminded that he was a designated batter and, as such, did not play the field.
But the baseball brain trusts did not stop at ghostly doings. Position players can no longer be put in a game to pitch unless certain rules are met. A team would have to be leading by a minimum of 10 runs to put, say a left-fielder in to pitch. A team trailing by eight or more runs would be permitted to make the substitution.
Once a game reaches extra innings, in addition to the Ghost Runner, position players can become pitchers no matter the score.
The question now is: If a team is leading by a certain number of runs, will the game be called off because of a “Mercy Rule,” as there is in Little League? MLB is well on the way to becoming LL.
Will the next World Series be played in Williamsport, PA, home of the Little League World Series? That, by the way, is a true world series because there is no geographical limit for teams to participate. Taiwan has often fielded winning teams. And Little League players aren’t paid. They simply earn a trophy and a title.
Babe Ruth, Happy Chandler, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle would die. Oh, they are dead. Baseball could be on the skids to meet them if they keep dumbing down the rules.
Writer and author Bob Nesoff divides his time between Milford, NJ and Del Rey, FL. This article was reprinted with his permission.
“I was a little surprised that the prices had gone up for the players more than I would guessed.”
— Mets owner Steve Cohen after signing 10 free agents
Starling Marte, who plays right field for the Mets, is taking it slowly this spring after double groin surgery . . .
Also easing into shape (sore shoulder) is Kyle Wright, whose 21 wins for Atlanta led the majors last season . . .
The Yankees will try versatile switch-hitter Oswaldo Cabrera at the infield and outfield corners . . .
Aaron Judge, who could play left field whenever Giancarlo Stanton plays right, has not played a single inning there despite 5,409 2/3 frames in the outfield . . .
Angels manager Phil Nevin told MLB Network Radio that Shohei Ohtani is miffed about losing his 2021 MVP trophy to Judge last year. Ohtani, 28, finished fourth in homers (34), seventh in RBI (95), third in strikeouts by a pitcher (219), and first in strikeouts per nine innings (11.9) while posting a 15-9 record and 2.33 ERA in 28 starts.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [email@example.com] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [firstname.lastname@example.org] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [email@example.com] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.
The reaction of many baseball people to the new rules is kind of over the top. Some of them, like the ghost runner are dumb, but I'm personally on board with the pitch clock. I don't care how long a game lasts, especially if I'm at the ballpark- I'll sit there happily for 5 hours. But I want action, not standing around. The problem with modern baseball is not game length, it's pace, and I'm hopeful they will help with that. Plus, 5 years from now, as is the case with most new rules that have been added, most people won't even notice.