Pitchers get started on time, hitters not so much
Lakeland, Fla. — Joe Nathan was on the seventh of his eight warm-up pitches in the fifth inning when he looked back at the pace-of-play clock.
Baseball officials are mandating the first pitch of an inning be thrown within 2 minutes, 25 seconds after the third out was recorded the previous half-inning. Clocks have been installed in the outfield and behind home plate in all parks. Tuesday was the first time pitchers and hitters worked with the clock.
"I still had plenty of time, and that was good to find out," Nathan said. "I don't have to change my routine or speed up anything to get my work in or get my pitches in."
Nathan said there were still 50 seconds on the clock when he threw his final warm-up.
"I really tried to stay in my routine and see where the clock was," he said. "Then I could make adjustments the next time if I had to. But I got to my last warm-up pitch and I still had plenty of time. I could even take a deep breath or two, let one eat (the final warm-up pitch) and get ready for the inning."
The problem was — and it happened throughout the game — the pitchers were ready in time but the hitters were not. All but three of the innings started late, most times because the hitters were late to the box.
"I don't think it's going to be much of a factor," manager Brad Ausmus said.
But it may be achieving the desired result. Game time Tuesday, despite numerous substitutions, was 2 hours 51 seconds.
Catcher Alex Avila batted second (walk, hit by pitch and strike out) and caught four innings, probably two more than usual for the first action of the spring. But there was a good reason.
Avila will be leaving the team for a few days to be with his wife, who is about to deliver their second child.
"He's probably going to miss three days," Ausmus said. "If everything goes according to plan, he will play Saturday."
Bryan Holaday was scheduled to start Wednesday against the Orioles in Sarasota.
Kyle Lobstein was the Tigers' fifth starter at the end of last season and wound up pitching — well — in some significant games.
As he took the mound Tuesday, he knew barring injury he will be in the starting rotation at Triple A Toledo come Opening Day.
That can be tough for a young pitcher to deal with, as Lobstein already knows.
"That was the same situation last year," Lobstein said. "I know I can do better preparing myself for the season this year. The beginning of last season was a little rough for me."
After not making the Tigers last spring, Lobstein went 0-3 with a 7.84 ERA at Toledo. Hitters hit .352 against him.
"I can't think of it that way," he said.
"Either way, I have to get ready for the season. We start playing games at the same time. I was maybe a little lackadaisical mentally last year."
He was all business Tuesday, allowing two hits to the Orioles in two scoreless innings. He threw mostly sliders and change-ups. His four-seam fastball, normally 89-90 mph, topped out at 85.
"This definitely exposed some things I need to work on," he said.
"Mostly trying to get my fastball inside. That's a big component of my game because I don't throw that hard. I have to keep guys on their toes."
Around the horn
Reliever Joakim Soria is the only healthy pitcher not on the schedule the first five games.
Ausmus said that was by Soria's choice.
When other pitchers threw their first live batting practice, he threw an extra bullpen session. While the team played the Orioles, he threw live batting practice on the backfields.
Right-handers Bruce Rondon and Joba Chamberlain also threw on the backfields.
… Outfielder Steven Moya was held out with back spasms. He will be evaluated this morning.
… Utility man Hernan Perez got some extended work in left field and made all three plays that came his way.
… Here is today's lineup: Anthony Gose (designated hitter), Jose Iglesias (shortstop), J.D. Martinez (right field), Nick Castellanos (third), Aaron Westlake (first), Holaday (catcher), Daniel Fields (center field), Perez (second), Andrew Romine (left). Anibal Sanchez will start.