'Very nice': Tigers' sparkling 'D' pleases Gardenhire in Grapefruit opener

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers second baseman Niko Goodrum homered in the third inning.

Dunedin, Fla. — It’s spring training. You don’t want to focus much on results. In the grand scheme of a season, spring training results aren’t even a blip on the relevancy meter.

That’s how managers and front office evaluators look at it. Players, on the other hand, even veteran players who are virtually assured of a roster spot, aren’t wired that way.

“Players in general find their ultimate peace in results,” said Tigers’ left-hander Matt Moore, who pitched two scoreless innings in the Tigers’ 4-0 Grapefruit League opening win over the Blue Jays Saturday. “Had I gone out there and not gotten an out, it wouldn’t have mattered if my four-seamer was doing anything or my curveball had a good shape.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Blue Jays 0

“We’re still trying to get guys out and trying to keep my infielders and outfielders in the game.”

Moore accomplished both — he felt good about his pitches and he got outs. He threw 19 pitches, 13 strikes, and allowed one hit — a two-out double to Teoscar Hernandez — and a walk. He got a swinging strikeout and three ground ball outs.

“I didn’t try to throw one pitch more than another, I just wanted to get into that competitive mode,” said Moore, who is trying to bounce back from a couple of rough seasons. “It’s spring training and everybody has things they are adjusting to and working on.

“But it was nice to get some ground balls and swings and misses on the change-up.”

His fastball was registering at 92-93 mph, but he was more concerned about walking Kevin Pillar and throwing Hernandez a 1-0 cookie.

“Hopefully in the next three or four weeks, I will be sharper than that,” he said.

Manager Ron Gardenhire was pleased, not only with Moore's outing, but also the mostly flawless defense and the fact that seven pitchers combined for just one walk on a sweltering day. 

"Very nice," Gardenhire said. "We made some plays. We threw it to the cutoff man most every time, all those little things we've been talking about. Throwing the ball over the plate is very important and we made a lot of really good defensive plays.

"That's the result when you keep the pace of the game going. You are able to make plays like that because you're into the game."

Two defensive gems in particular: Center fielder JaCoby Jones held Hernandez to single on a ball that was scorched into the left-center field gap. Jones ran it down going away from second base, yet still managed to make a strong jump throw to the bag that held Hernandez on first.

Later in the game, veteran second baseman Gordon Beckham, who singled in the top of the inning, made a brilliant running-diving stop of a ball hit to his glove side. He got up quick and got the out. 

"What we are looking for out here is exactly what they are saying," Gardenhire said. "We want to get our work in, we want to see results and we want to get better as we go along. This was a good start."

Left-hander Blaine Hardy (one inning) and right handers Louis Coleman (one inning), Rule 5 draftee Reed Garrett (one inning), Zac Reininger (two innings) and Sandy Baez (one inning) kept the Blue Jays off the scoreboard.

Minor-league camper Drew Carlton worked the ninth.

Hardy, after giving up a leadoff single to Bo Bichette in the third, got two straight ground balls to shortstop — the last turned into a fast double-play.

“You want to have success in spring training,” Hardy said. “Your first four or five outings, the older guys know, it’s all about, ‘Where am I at, let’s see how this pitch is working in a game scenario.' Because once you get amped up and the adrenaline kicks in…”

Hardy threw a fastball to the first batter he faced that ran high to his arm side. He said that hadn’t happened by accident in any of his bullpens or live batting practice sessions. Adrenaline. 

“I was like, ‘I am going to get after this one,’ and then, well, at least it’s coming out good,” he said, laughing. “You don’t necessarily want to see the radar gun, but it helps known my arm is back to where it needs to be.”

Hardy, like Moore, didn’t show his entire arsenal. The Tigers open the regular season at Toronto.

“We’re going to see these guys a bunch right out of the gate, so I pretty much just worked on fastball command and change-up command,” he said. “You don’t want to show everything, then we get into a bind up there in Game 1 and it’s, ‘Oh man, I just threw this to him in spring training.’”

All the Tigers offense came in the third inning against Blue Jays lefty Thomas Pannone. Grayson Greiner doubled and scored on a single by Mikie Mahtook (two hits and a walk). Jeimer Candelario doubled home Mahtook and then Niko Goodrum shellacked a fastball over the wall in center field.

Dustin Peterson, utility man claimed off waivers from the Braves, had a pair of hits.


Twitter: @cmccosky