Tigers' Ryan Carpenter, on roster bubble, impressive in debut

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Tampa, Fla. — This is how cruel baseball can be for guys on the roster bubble.

Left-handed pitcher Ryan Carpenter, signed to a minor-league contract this offseason and in the fight for the fifth rotation spot, pitched two scoreless innings against a well-stocked Yankees lineup Friday in the Grapefruit League opener.

It was his first start in a big-league spring game and he allowed just one hit and a walk with three strikeouts.

“It was really good to get out there and get that first game under my belt,” said the former Rockies farmhand. “To make a start here against the Yankees, it was a lot of fun.”

Little did he know that during his outing, reports were circulating that the Tigers had signed veteran left-handed starter Francisco Liriano to a one-year, $4 million deal. His chances of making the big-league club out of spring training diminished significantly before he even threw a pitch.

And that is why players always say, just control what you can control. Carpenter did the only thing he could do Friday – pitch well.

“I was a little up early,” he said. “I couldn’t really get the ball down in the zone. But I thought I made a good adjustment going into the second inning and started to get my fastball down and the breaking pitches came around, as well.”

Carpenter features a deceptively firm fastball (91-92 mph) and a slow curveball that he throws to right-handed hitters. But the pitch that has altered the trajectory of his career is a sweeping, 80-mph slider that he throws mostly to left-handers.

“I just started throwing it last year and I am still trying to get used to it, honestly,” he said. “But it’s gotten a little better, getting tighter.”

He left the game with a 1-0 lead.

Leonys Martin, who the Tigers hope can be their everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter, created that run with his legs. He had an infield single to lead off the game and aggressively tagged and took second base on a long fly out to left by Nicholas Castellanos.

He scored on a two-out single by non-roster invitee Chad Huffman.

The run held up until the bottom of the sixth. The Yankees scored three times off Low-A prospect Austin Sodders. The big hit was a two-run single by catcher Jorge Saez.

More:Kid gloves coming off for Tigers' Matt Manning


Miguel Cabrera served as the Tigers designated hitter in his first action of the spring. He grounded out to third and singled to right field in his two at-bats.

It was also his first action against the Yankees since the brawl last August, which was ignited by his push-and-shove with Yankees catcher Austin Romine. Romine was behind the plate Friday.

There were no incidents, but clearly, Cabrera hasn’t forgotten.

“If they want to make something, they can make something,” he said. “I am not here to please everybody and be a nice guy.”

Asked if he said anything to Romine, Cabrera said, “I don’t have to say anything.”

Cabrera did about 30 minutes of conditioning after his two at-bats.

“It’s the first game, so it’s hard to say there is any difference (in how he feels at the plate),” he said. “In batting practice, yeah. I feel loose and have more movement…I’m just trying to be more calm at home plate and try to be more patient. Just wait for my pitch and try to put my best swing on it.”


Cabrera was where Yankees Giancarlo Stanton was back in 2008. A young star for the Marlins, he was traded to an American League power.

And Cabrera thinks the move will be just as beneficial for Stanton as it was for him.

“He’s going to have a great year,” Cabrera said. “I say that to every hitter that goes from the National League to the American League. You are going to hit more in the American League because this league is more about hitting.”

That wasn’t a knock on American League pitching. Cabrera’s point was, pitchers have to face nine legitimate hitters in the American League – no pitching around the No. 8 hitter to get to the pitcher’s spot.

“That’s a big difference,” he said. “But for him, that team they have, the stadium they play in (home run friendly), the teams that they play in that division (small parks), it’s going to allow him to hit more home runs and hit for a higher average.”

Stanton walked and grounded into a double play in his Yankees’ spring debut.


The Tigers and Yankees wore caps with SD emblazoned on the front in honor of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

All 30 teams will wear the caps for their first exhibition game.

“We all know what happened and it’s been really tough watching television and seeing all the sadness,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “This is just a small example of what we all should be trying to do — make this world better and get rid of these guns (assault rifles) that are doing this.

“We’re trying to lift the people up and let them know we are thinking about them and how much are hearts are broken for them and their families.”


Former Yankees Johnny Barbato and Mark Montgomery, right-handers trying to win spots in the Tigers’ bullpen, each pitched a scoreless inning against their former mates. Barbato’s fastball touched 96 mph.

…Veteran Alexi Amarista made a couple of sterling defensive plays, a diving stop to save a run at second base and another at shortstop. He will be given every chance to win a utility spot on the 25-man roster.

… Rule 5 draftee Victor Reyes is passing the eye test early in camp. “I love what I see there,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got a nice swing, real calm. He’s very sure (in the outfield) and covers a lot of ground. He’s got those big, long strides and long arms. It’s nice to see.” Reyes, who played right field, made a long running catch into the gap to steal a double.