Fort Myers, Fla. – The highlight of the day, other than seeing Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire roll up in his Harley-Davidson trike (he has a home near here), was Miguel Cabrera pulling off the old hidden ball trick at first base.
“Savvy move by Miggy,” said Tigers’ starting pitcher Tyson Ross.
It happened in the third inning of the Tigers' 3-0 Grapefruit League win over the Twins Monday. The Twins' Ehire Adrianza singled off Ross – the only hit Ross gave up in four impressive innings. Ross threw over to hold him close.
Cabrera applied the tag, playfully, as he usually does. Then he faked the throwback to Ross. Adrianza came off the bag and Cabrera tagged him out.
“I always do that, this time it worked,” said Cabrera. “I like to play with the runner, but never my whole career was I that close. I was surprised.”
So was Ross.
“He deked me on it, too,” he said. “It was nice for him to take that runner off base.”
Gardenhire said he's seen the play work before in the past, and it actually worked on him once.
"Phil Garner (former Tigers manager) used to try it all the time," Gardenhire said. "He got me on it, except it was timeout. And I didn't call timeout. It's an old-school trick."
Coaching first base for the Twins on that play was Gardenhire's son, Toby, who is a manager in the Twins system.
"I loved it," Gardenhire said with a laugh. "Couldn't get any better. He won't have much fun at home tonight."
This was the first time the Tigers played the Twins here since 2006. And it was a homecoming for Gardenhire, who spent a couple of decades worth of spring trainings here as a coach and managing in the Twins organization.
One of the roads leading into the stadium is named Gardenhire Way.
"It was a fun day coming back here," Gardenhire said. "It was nice to sleep in my own bed, that made it really nice. But to come back to the park was neat, seeing a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time."
Ross in total control
Ross, who struggled in his first three starts, faced the minimum 12 hitters in his four innings – thanks to Cabrera – striking out five. He threw 50 pitches, 33 for strikes. And 13 of those strikes were swing-and-misses.
“All the steps in the process came to a head today,” he said. “I was able to get some outs. I felt good about the outing. I was able to make some good pitches.”
All his pitches were in the velocity range of 82-91 mph. But he appeared to have good action on both his four-seam fastball and slider.
“The only difference between this start and the last start was getting ahead,” Ross said. “I was getting strike one and working ahead in counts and being able to be in the driver’s seat. As opposed to last time – I had my rhythm and timing but I was always 1-0, 2-0, and had to come back over the heart of the plate and the hitters could be more aggressive.”
After his four innings, Ross went to the bullpen and threw 15 more pitches to finish his outing.
“In my first three (starts) the results weren’t good and I had a problem keeping the ball in the yard,” he said of allowing three homers in his first three starts. “That had a lot to do with leadoff guys getting on and more about falling behind in counts.
“I was able to get the leadoff hitters out today and pitch ahead – made all the difference in the world.”
Jones goes yard
The Tigers, after leaving the bases loaded without scoring in third inning, broke through off Taylor Rogers in the fifth. After Gordon Beckham and Grayson Greiner broke the 0-0 game with back-to-back doubles, JaCoby Jones slugged a two-run shot onto the berm in left.
Jones fell behind in the count, worked it to full, then unloaded. It was his second homer of the spring.
"It's been talked about it enough; just trying to explain to him what he needs to do to help our ball club," Gardenhire said. "He's going to hit home runs, but he needs to cover the ball and put it in play. Because when he does, he seems to hit it pretty hard, barrels it up.
"Mostly, he has to stay in a positive mental state. You can't beat yourself up in this game, and he has a tendency to do because he's trying so hard. But he's doing better these last few games, a lot better."
Against Twins starter Kyle Gibson, Greiner, Jones and Christin Stewart singled to start the third inning. But Jeimer Candelario hit into a 3-2-3 double-play and Cabrera struck out.
... Tigers pitching limited the Twins to three hits. After Ross, Victor Alcantara and Daniel Stumpf (one hit) pitched one inning and lefty Ryan Carpenter, who is expected to start in the rotation at Toledo, pitched three one-hit, scoreless innings.
... Carpenter this spring has pitched eight shutout innings and allowed just two hits. "That was good to see," Gardenhire said. "He was really in control and he had really nice pace. His mechanics are a lot better."