Tigers’ Christin Stewart impresses in his big-league cameo

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Clearwater, Fla. — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has been champing at the bit to get a look at Tigers outfield prospect Christin Stewart. He and some of his coaches had lobbied for the slugger to get a big-league camp invite — to no avail.

So, when he saw Stewart’s name on the list of minor leaguers invited to play Thursday against the Phillies, he jumped at it.

“When I saw he was coming over, I definitely made a spot for him,” he said. “Just to see him.”

Stewart played all nine innings in left field and delivered three singles in five at-bats. His first hit was a line single down the right-field line against Phillies’ newly signed right-hander Jake Arrieta.

“He’s a nice-looking player,” Gardenhire said. “A strong young man, very sure of himself. He’s got a great swing. But he’s got things to learn — outfield play and the whole package. There’s stuff he needs to work on, but he’s a strong young man who can hit a baseball.”

Stewart, the two-time minor-league position player of the year in the Tigers’ organization, will start the season in Toledo but is expected to make his big-league debut this season. So why was he not invited to big-league camp?

“It just wasn’t his time,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve got a ton of outfielders. But that decision was made before I got hired. They (the Tigers front office) feel he needs to get his work done over there on the minor-league side.

“They weren’t ready to bring him up here. That’s what I was told.”

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Wilson getting right

Alex Wilson looked like a different pitcher in his 2.1 innings of work Thursday.

It’s been another rough spring for him, but he and pitching coach Chris Bosio worked through a mechanical flaw in his last bullpen session.

“I think my mechanics were just a tick off,” he said. “I looked at video and I was just sitting on my back side way lower than I normally do — like five or six inches difference. By doing that, I had no momentum going forward — it was all going back.

“I was fighting myself the whole way to get on top of the ball. So there was no finish, no life on the pitches.”

The finish and the life were back. His fastball was back up to 93 mph and the sharpness was back on his cutter. He allowed two hits, one an opposite-field home run to Adam Rosales, and he struck out four.

“Now it’s just a matter of trying to erase all the bad stuff that was programmed in,” Wilson said. “It felt a lot better. It felt easy and that’s a good sign.”

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Around the horn

Miguel Cabrera welcomed Arrieta back with a line-drive home run to the berm in right field in the first inning. It was his second home run of the spring. He’s hitting .333 with a .900 OPS this spring.

Jose Iglesias had an RBI double and a single. John Hicks also had two hits and an RBI.

… Home-plate umpire Tom Hallion wound up issuing five ejections — all stemming from hit-batsmen. Matthew Boyd was ejected, even though the pitch in question didn’t actually hit Odubel Herrera. Also ejected were Phillies pitchers Parker Frazier and Pedro Beato, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler and bench coach Rob Thomson.