Lakeland, Fla. – Hey, J-Hay, you ready to go?
“I’m always ready to go.”
For the last four days, new Tigers second baseman Josh Harrison has been working on the back fields at TigerTown while his teammates have played exhibition games in Dunedin, Jupiter, Clearwater and Port St. Lucie.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been weird,” Harrison said of his temporary solitude. “It’s been good for me to get a little individual attention and for me to kind of catch up on what I missed out on. It’s been good to get back into the flow and not feel like I had to be rushed.”
Harrison is expected to make his debut in a Tigers uniform on Wednesday against the Yankees at Marchant Stadium, teamed with his old double-play partner from the Pirates, Jordy Mercer. The two did a battery of infield drills together on Tuesday.
“We’re just getting him in baseball shape,” said Tigers quality control coach Joe Vavra, who has been supervising the workouts. “Just conditioning stuff, swinging the bat. He’s taken a lot of batting practice and he’s taken a lot of ground balls, and just getting used to our systems.”
Vavra spent a lot of time going over the Tigers’ coverage concepts, the defensive signals and various things the Tigers stress on shifts and other defensive alignments. Things that aren't really new to Harrison, but packaged and labeled differently.
“Every team has their own philosophy and how they run plays,” Harrison said. “Just positioning and certain ins and outs that you have to be present for to understand. But I’m a guy that learns pretty quick. It’s nothing new to me.
“It’s all been pretty smooth. No issues.”
It was never the Tigers intention to rush him into a game, but even it was, it took an extra day for some of his equipment to get to Lakeland. He was unpacking several boxes of training shoes and cleats Tuesday.
He has taken live batting practice. Left-hander Daniel Stumpf -- who is also expected to make his spring debut Wednesday -- threw to him on Sunday.
“In terms of baseball shape, he’s fine,” Vavra said. “He’s been running the bases, his hands are good, cardio is good – he’s in great shape. He’s a baseball player. He’s ready to go. Just with the schedule – do we want to put him on a bus to Port St. Lucie (two-hour drive) to start out?
“Listen, he’s a pro. He knows how to handle it. He’s been preparing himself for this most of his life. It’s just another year for him.”
Vavra has spent a lot of time the last few years breaking in young players – with the Twins through their rebuilding process and the last two years with the Tigers. Working with a seasoned veteran like Harrison the last few days had to feel like a holiday for him.
“It’s night and day when you get a guy like that,” he said, with a smile. “They’ve been groomed. They’ve been tried and tested. And what’s so good about them, they’re willing to share. He wants to share that experience.
“Him talking and you watch his actions on the field, the younger guys take notice and they go, ‘Wow.’ He is that comfortable and he understands himself, they just want to watch and see what he does.”
In Port St. Lucie Tuesday, the Tigers pounded the New York Mets, 14-4. The hitting stars were three utility players, two of whom are fighting desperately for a roster spot.
Niko Goodrum, who is expected to be primary utility man, had two hits including a double. Gordon Beckham, who is hitting .557 early in spring, had two hits, a double and two RBIs.
Harold Castro, hitting .500 this spring, had two hits, also, including his second home run of the spring. He knocked in three runs.
Veteran Pete Kozma added a three-run home run.
... On the pitching side, Matthew Boyd started and gave up two runs in 1.1 innings. Spencer Turnbull pitched two scoreless innings, allowing two hits. Left-hander Blaine Hardy worked his second scoreless inning of the spring .
... The defensive highlight of the game: Jake Rogers, the Tigers' No. 1 catching prospect, gunned down former Tiger Rajai Davis trying to steal second base.
Around the horn
Michael Fulmer is expected to make his first start of the spring Wednesday against the Yankees. The Tigers have slow-played his workload early in camp to allow him time to get acclimated to the brace he’s wearing on his surgically-repaired right knee. He also missed three day of camp, one for his arbitration hearing and two to be with his father prior to quadruple bypass surgery.
… The Tigers' No. 2 pitching prospect, right-hander Franklin Perez, made his spring debut Monday in Clearwater. He allowed a hit, with a strikeout in one scoreless inning. The stadium radar gun clocked his fastball as high as 96. But he got his strikeout with a knee-buckling curve ball. The pitch actually hung over the middle of the plate, but the action on it completely froze the hitter.
… Matt Moore is scheduled to start for the Tigers Thursday against the Braves in Orlando. It will be his second start. The Tigers haven’t yet revealed their pitching plans for the weekend.