Tigers' Gardenhire shifts gears, says it's time to 'get hopping' with intrasquad games
Detroit – That’s enough.
After two excruciatingly long and hot days of standing in the outfield shagging balls during one live batting practice session after another, seeing precious little team and fundamental work being done as the Tigers try to live within the confines of Major League Baseball’s stringent and detailed health and safety rules, manager Ron Gardenhire has ripped up the camp program.
“We had to change it up,” Gardenhire said Tuesday morning. “It seemed like we weren’t going anywhere and guys were getting anxious out there. We’re going to get hopping tomorrow.”
The plan was to continue working in small groups, mostly hitting against live pitching, through the week, but starting Wednesday, team drills will be back and intrasquad games will be played.
“We are going to start the day with fundamentals, doing infield and outfield relays and really get after it,” Gardenhire said. “We’re going to have more of a team format. I think we are able to do that. I’m tired of shagging. I want to get some action and the players want to get after it.
“So that’s what we’re going to do.”
He and his coaches have already made up the lineups. Gardenhire said he will try to keep his presumed starting lineup together, at least for the early part of the game. Which means most likely Miguel Cabrera will be the designated hitter and Austin Romine will catch. The infield will be comprised of C.J. Cron (first base), Jonathan Schoop (second), Niko Goodrum (shortstop) and Jeimer Candelario (third), with probably JaCoby Jones in center, Christin Stewart in left and Cameron Maybin in right.
Victor Reyes, a candidate to start in right field, hasn’t been spotted yet in any of the practice sessions available to the public.
Gardenhire also said he would try to work veteran utility players Harold Castro and Jordy Mercer into that first-group mix.
“We want them to work together and get familiar with each other,” he said. “We have to start getting them ready and figure out which 30 players we’re going to start the season with. We’ve done this the right way (abiding by the league's distancing rules) and now we’ve got to move forward.
“It’s going to get more entertaining out there. We want to see movement. We want to see skills. These guys are athletes and they want to show their skills.”
Gardenhire said at-bats are going to be limited for the younger players in these games. He said they are looking for an alternative field where the likes of Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson can get their work in and not take at-bats away from guys on or vying for a spot on the active roster.
“The goal is to get 30 guys ready and hitting on all cylinders when this thing starts,” Gardenhire said.
The Tigers will play two exhibition games in Cincinnati against the Reds, July 21 and 22, before opening the season at Great American Ballpark on July 24. Gardenhire said he expected to already have the 30-man roster mostly set before those two exhibition games.
“It’ll give us a sense of what it’s going to look like, playing in a Major League stadium with no fans in the stands,” he said. “We will get a pretty good feel doing that and our players will to get to pitch to and hit against another club.
“Then we will get a day off like we normally would after the end of spring training and then play 20 games in a row.”
The Tigers will face the Reds eight times in the first 13 days, counting the exhibition games. That’s a lot of exposure to former Tiger Nick Castellanos.
“I’m sure Nicky is going to have fun trying to whack us,” Gardenhire said, laughing. “We miss him. He was really good around here. The guy is a good player, but we’ll try to figure out a way to get him out. Hopefully we will make him chase (pitches).
“I saw teams do that to him when he was playing with us.”