Lakeland, Fla. — As first impressions go, it would be hard to top what Casey Mize showed the Tigers in his first big-league camp.
“I was just really impressed with how he handled himself,” catcher John Hicks said. “I mean, a lot of guys come in as a high draft pick and they are cocky and act like they know it all. But he’s been awesome. He’s in here being quiet, but then guys will joke with him and he’s having a good time.
“He knows when to talk and when not to talk, which for a young guy can take a little time. He’s gone about it the right way.”
And his five-pitch tool kit wasn’t too shabby, either.
"He's on a mission," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's going to push the envelope on our bosses here, because he's going to be a fast-track guy. He's got major-league stuff right now.
"He can make that baseball do a lot of things."
Mize made three appearances, one shortened to one hitter because of the rain. But he showcased the skills that made him the first overall pick in last year’s draft Monday against the Cardinals — most impressively a fastball that hit 98 mph and a dirty splitter.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Mize, who was reassigned to minor-league camp Tuesday. “Impressed, obviously, facing these hitters, some of the best in the world. Some of the takes and swings they put on balls were impressive.
“I know I’ve got to get better if I want to compete at that level. But I learned a lot and enjoyed competing against them. Looking forward to it in the future, too.”
Mize blew through the seventh inning Monday on 11 pitches, allowing just one ball to be put in play. After he struck out Randy Arozarena on three pitches, he faced Kolten Wong, a veteran hitter who had driven a Michael Fulmer fastball onto the right field party deck in the first inning.
Mize got two quick strikes with hard sliders, just missed with a 97-mph heater and then got him to chase on a splitter in the dirt.
“Just facing him in general was cool,” Mize said. “To punch him out was really cool. I know he’s a great hitter, so that was a fun at-bat.”
He walked back-to-back hitters in his second inning of work -- still having some issues adjusting to new mechanics from the stretch -- but he minimized the damage. The run scored after a bunt and a sacrifice fly.
Hitting upper-90s like he has all spring was somewhat of a surprise. At Auburn, he typically sat in the mid-90s.
“When you are only going one or two innings at a time, you can let it eat, that’s just the mindset and the goal,” Mize said. “If I am pitching in the seventh inning, I’m going to act like a reliever. That’s what I’m going to do.
“Most of your back-end guys in major-league games are going to be throwing pretty hard. I was just trying to throw strikes. I guess I was amped up. I knew it was only going to be an inning or two, might as well go after it.”
Mize will begin stretching out in minor-league games, building his pitch count. It’s not been officially determined, but he is expected to start the season at High-A Lakeland.
"With some guys, you say, 'When you go down there, don't big-league it,'" Gardenhire said. "You don't have to say that with this kid. He's going to work. He's going to get after it."
Besides Mize, Eduardo Paredes, a right-hander who was a non-roster invitee, was reassigned to minor-league camp. Right-hander Eduardo Jimenez was optioned to Double-A Erie.