Detroit — Tigers versus Tigers. Team Blue against Team Orange. Team Maybin versus Team Miggy.
It was a couple of weeks of trying to work themselves into game shape, but the Tigers’ everyday routine of live batting practice and intrasquad games came to an end.
The practice is over and it’s time for the real thing to start.
Monday marked the end of three weeks of Summer Camp, as the Tigers shifted their focus to Cincinnati, where they’ll have two exhibition games — playing against another team, finally — on Tuesday and Wednesday nights before opening the regular season Friday at Great American Ball Park.
The intrasquad finale featured Miguel Cabrera’s two hits, a last look in camp at Matt Manning, one of their top pitching prospects, and no new injuries, which came as a relief for manager Ron Gardenhire. That might be the best news of finishing camp and heading into games that count — amid the difficult circumstances of a pandemic that broke up spring training and delayed the start of the season.
“These guys are ready to go play, ready to start this thing and play a couple of exhibition games against another team,” Gardenhire said. “We didn’t have very many injuries, so, that’s a good thing. A little bit unscathed, but we got scathed a little bit too, and that's what always happens in spring training — you have nicks and you get beat up a little bit.
“We dealt with all that, we got all these guys the at-bats they needed, and we’re pretty comfortable with that and now we got two more exhibition games but in a different atmosphere against another team, I think these guys are all looking forward to that.”
Monday’s finale saw starting pitcher Ivan Nova give up eight runs on 11 hits in 4 ⅔ innings, but for the final time, the numbers don’t matter as much as fine-tuning and getting pitchers ready for the regular season. It was about getting the yips out of fielding grounders and taking the right routes in the outfield.
Things start rounding into form for the two exhibition games and then the real stuff starts on Friday. One more rehearsal with relaxed rules helped to make sure the Tigers and Gardenhire had seen all they needed before hitting the road.
The Tigers’ rotation still is in question, with Matthew Boyd getting the Opening Day nod and Spencer Turnbull and Nova just behind him. What happens after that, especially with the news that Jordan Zimmermann would be on the 45-day injured list, is still a work in progress, with general manager Al Avila and his staff still working on the last cuts.
The early indication is that they'll mesh the rotation together, with the possibility of utilizing Michael Fulmer and possibly younger pitchers as a short-term fix, but with top prospect Casey Mize being assigned to the taxi squad as well, the fan-favorite won't be the choice — at least not yet.
They’ll have to figure out the final spots, after they assigned 19 players to the taxi squad Monday, with 11 to come before Wednesday’s deadline.
“It’s going to be fun to see another team, and play in another stadium, and then get this thing rolling. That’s what we’ve been waiting on for a long time, since spring training ended the first time,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve been waiting to get to this point — exhibition games are kind of like spring training games, where you’re finding out who can and who can’t, but right now, it’s just about getting a few more at-bats against another team, which amps up everything, gets everybody a little bit more fired up and ready to go.”