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Tigers new clean-up hitter C.J. Cron continues his early home run spree

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit – Something about facing Tigers’ pitching, even in cavernous Comerica Park, seems to agree with C.J. Cron.

He’s homered three times in his last seven intrasquad at-bats, the last a majestic blast off right-handed side-armer John Schreiber Friday into the upper section of seats just beneath the Jumbotron in left field.

Tigers' C.J. Cron hits a solo home run during an intrasquad game at Detroit Tigers Summer Camp at Comerica Park in Detroit on July 16, 2020.

“It’s impossible to say why you hit well in certain parks and why you don’t in others,” said Cron, who hit two home runs Thursday night. “It’s just one of those things. I feel comfortable in the box here. I remember that throughout my career I’ve had success in this ballpark.

“I hope once the season starts I feel just as comfortable.”

Against Tigers pitching over the years, Cron has hit 12 home runs (five at Comerica) and hit .306 with a .625 slugging and .956 OPS. He’s got a .560 career slugging percentage at Comerica.

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“Really, it’s just the ebbs and flows of a season,” he said. “You are going to have times when you see the ball well, you just try to make it continue as long as possible. Things are feeling good, but there’s still a week left in camp.”

He’s gotten credit for four home runs in nine games, but he had a fifth stolen by a remarkable catch by rookie Riley Greene.

“Are you kidding me, I’m not talking to him after that,” Cron joked. “He’s really a great kid. He’s humble and he wants to learn a lot while he’s here. He’s quiet. I told him it was a great play. The way he sprinted to the wall, you usually scale the wall then jump. He went full sprint right from the get-go and then had full extension over the wall.

“It was one of the best robs I’ve ever seen and I let him know that. I also let him know don’t ever do that again.”

Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera rounds third base during an intrasquad baseball game, Friday, July 17, 2020, in Detroit.

Manager Ron Gardenhire, even back in Lakeland, had situated Cron in the No. 4 spot in the order behind Miguel Cabrera. The two combined for four runs in a five-run third inning Friday.

“We saw that in spring training,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve got some veterans who know how to hit the ball and that’s what we were hoping for. We’ve got some bonafide hitters in there. Now we need to put some people in front of them and there you have it.”

Veteran second baseman Jonathan Schoop seems to be settling into the No. 2 hole. He was on base in all three of his at-bats Friday and scored two runs. In one of those runs, he hustled all the way home from second base on a slow roller to third base.

Niko Goodrum has been hitting in the lead-off spot throughout camp.

Cron, for his part, has absolutely no beef hitting behind Cabrera.

“Not to put any pressure on us, but hitting behind a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer is pretty cool,” he said.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Buck Farmer throws during an intrasquad game on Friday.

Where's the fire?

Buck Farmer pitched a scoreless, 20-pitch inning Friday, showcasing a nasty slider and change-up. But, for the second straight outing, his fastball velocity, normally 95-96 mph, was topping out at 92.

“It’s spring training and you are throwing live BP and against your own guys, you’re not really letting it fly,” Gardenhire said. “Not as much as when you are facing another team. I’m sure a lot of guys’ velo is down.”

Gardenhire suspects, too, that the stadium radar gun is running a tad sluggish. Rookie Matt Manning, who has upper-90s heat, was barely hitting 94 on Wednesday.

“I’m not worried about it,” Gardenhire said. “The velocity will be there by the time we get (to opening day). Plus, we’re going through a dead-arm period. We’re in that spot in camp. They’ve all been throwing, doing their routines and I think we are all a little worn out.”

Gardenhire is giving the veteran players an optional day Saturday, with live bullpen sessions set up for the younger hitters and the pitchers who need the work.

JaCoby Jones

Around the horn

►Outfielders JaCoby Jones (oblique), Derek Hill (bruised knee) and Travis Demeritte (groin and quad) were held out again Friday. Gardenhire said Jones was ready to play, but they were being cautious. Hill could return by Sunday. Demeritte, Gardenhire said, is not ready to play. With a week left, he may have to start the season on the injured list.

►Third base prospect Isaac Paredes was at practice for the first time, but Gardenhire said he was nowhere near ready to compete in games. He and infielder Sergio Alcantara, who also just returned, will likely not see any game action before reporting to the taxi squad.

►Schreiber showed some mettle Friday. After getting rocked for five runs and five hits, including Cron’s home run and doubles by Cabrera, Jorge Bonifacio and Brandon Dixon, he came back and pitched a clean inning – striking out Eric Haase and Bonifacio and getting Goodrum to fly to center.

Twitter @cmccosky