FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Iván Nova made his third start of the spring Wednesday at JetBlue Park and was met by some loud Boston bats, as he was hit around for five earned runs on seven hits over three innings in Detroit’s 13-9 slugfest victory.
While we’re all aware spring results are not the be-all and end-all of the season to come, Nova was pleased with how he felt after his outing and his progression with his pitch repertoire despite the box score.
“I felt better today,” Nova said following his 32-pitch outing. “I feel like I’m progressing. I’m good, I’m healthy. I’m strong.”
Nova’s main objective on his third trip to the bump this spring was to start mixing in pitches to get a better feel of his command as we inch towards the regular season. By his accounts, the 6-foot-5 righty felt as comfortable as could be, focusing on working in to right-handed hitters and incorporating his curveball and changeup.
“Working on the curveball today was really good, working on some changeups -- fastball command was there,” Nova said. “Command feels really good.”
Manager Ron Gardenhire echoed Nova’s comments after the game.
“He threw the ball great,” Gardenhire said. “The ball is coming out fine. He feels really good, he feels good with his command. He’s a veteran, not worried about him one bit.”
Nova, over the course of the last three seasons, has turned himself into one of the more reliable starters throughout the Majors. He tied a career high in innings pitched last season with 187 (also in 2017) and logged a respectable 161 innings in '18. He hopes to continue that dependability with the Tigers in his first season with the club.
“I think I’ve changed a lot of things that I was doing [earlier] in my career,” Nova said. “The dieting and stuff like that, the workouts, the lifting, the running. It’s been working -- we keep doing it. I always say I’m the guy that wants to be out there every five days.”
Nova did give up two long balls on the day, including one to former Tiger J.D. Martinez on a pitch down and in -- a spot where Martinez likes the ball. Nova, who also likes to work inside, talked about the challenge after his start and the mental toughness he brings to the mound.
“It’s my strength with your strength,” Nova said. “If you win, then [I’ll] tip my hat. If fastball in is my strength, I’ve got to go there.”
On a positive, Nova, who led the Majors last year by inducing 30 ground-ball double plays (1.44 per 9 IP), ended the second and third innings by getting Kevin Pillar and Christian Vázquez to hit into twin killings.
Cron, feeling good after offseason surgery, goes deep
Tiger newcomer C.J. Cron launched a three-run homer over the replica Green Monster in left field and out of JetBlue Park in the top of the first inning to show his right thumb is feeling just fine after offseason surgery.
“Swing feels fine, body feels good,” Cron said prior to the game. “Everything baseball-wise feels fine. I’ve had a good offseason and I feel like I’m having good at-bats this spring so far.”
His shot off of lefty Jeffrey Springs was his second of the spring and third extra-base hit in eight games.
Cron said he’s enjoying getting acclimated to his new surroundings and has been working to get to know his new comrades.
“The guys have been awesome so far, so, it’s been a good start,” said the first baseman. “It’s a good group of dudes, they’re fun to be around. It’s fun coming to the ballpark, and that’s kind of what you have to have.”
Cron, who spent last season with the Twins, was on a career pace in nearly every offensive category before hitting the injured list on July 6 with right thumb inflammation. Cron did come back after two different stints on the injured list, but hit a mere .232 in the remaining 42 games.
“When you’re carrying some stuff, it’s almost impossible to do things the right way,” Cron said. “I think when you have injuries towards the hand/wrist area, it just messes up your swing just enough to where it just doesn’t quite feel right. Even when I kind of started feeling better, my swing at that point was so messed up that it was hard for me to find it again.”
Now, he’s just working to get back to the pace he was on last year when he hit 25 homers and drove in 78 runs in just 125 games, and said spring is a way to fine-tune your swing.
“Not much can prepare you for the regular season,” Cron said. “It’s nice to be out there [in spring] and get at-bats, but you can feel it in the cage, you can feel what you need to do.”
Detroit digs the long ball
The Tigers combined for five home runs on Wednesday afternoon, bringing their Grapefruit League total to 19 -- the most by any club this spring thus far in league play.
Designated hitter Frank Schwindel led the way for the Tigers with two long balls after being hit on the hand in yesterday’s game vs. Minnesota. Cron, shortstop Niko Goodrum and catcher Eric Haase provided the rest of the pop on an afternoon when the ball was flying around the park.
“It was a good day,” Schwindel said following the game. “[I’m not] looking at it any different, just trying to have some fun -- go out here and do what I can do and see what happens.”
Schwindel signed a Minor League contract with Detroit in June 2019 after being the Royals' Opening Day first baseman. He was designated for assignment by Kansas City May 14 and released May 18 before signing with the Tigers. Schwindel is a non-roster invitee this spring.
“He can hit,” said Gardenhire. “He’s another guy that’s trying to make an impression here. He wants an opportunity to get back to the big leagues. He’s coming out and he’s working hard and he can hit. That’s what we’re looking for -- hitters.”
The Tigers will travel back home to Lakeland, where they’ll host the Yankees at Publix Field for a 1:05 p.m. ET start on Thursday. The 2018 No. 1 overall Draft pick, Casey Mize, will make his first start and third overall appearance this spring. In two innings of work thus far, Mize has allowed two earned runs on three hits, striking out four. Gerrit Cole gets the start for New York.