Two Tigers prospects get long-awaited bout

February 28th, 2022

LAKELAND, Fla. --  and  became good friends a few years ago as kids in amateur baseball’s showcase circuit. They fulfilled a shared dream of becoming pro teammates when the Tigers drafted both of them out of high school in last summer’s MLB Draft, then became roommates in the Tigers’ Minor League camp. But they had wondered for the longest time what it would be like to be opponents.

Monday morning’s live batting practice finally brought their chance to face each other in the Tigers’ Minor League minicamp, where a matchup that had been anticipated for months lasted just three pitches -- three electric, filthy pitches.

And after Jobe’s high-spin slider sent Pacheco to his knees striking out, Pacheco had a new appreciation for what it’s like seeing that much-complimented pitch from the batter’s box rather than the infield.

“Yeah, it’s real,” Pacheco said, smiling. “It’s real.”

Jobe and Pacheco, the Tigers' No. 3 and No. 6 prospects per MLB Pipeline, had been talking trash about such a matchup since last summer and how Pacheco’s prodigious power would fare against Jobe’s slider and sneaky fastball. They never faced each other while growing up, and they only admired each other’s talents as peers rather than rivals. Then the Tigers drafted Jobe and Pacheco in the first and second rounds, respectively, last year.

In that sense, they’re a unique tandem in Tigers camp. Detroit has had top prospects rise through the system in groups and become friends since the organization began its rebuild five years ago, but those friendships have generally been among players at similar positions, whether as pitchers (Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning were all rookie starters in Detroit last year) or hitters (first baseman Spencer Torkelson and outfielder Riley Greene are expected to reach Detroit sometime soon). Moreover, none of those guys were friends before joining the organization.

In a Minor League camp where everybody is pulling in the same direction, this is about as close as Tigertown is going to get to a showdown. The Tigers steered away from it last week, keeping the teenage wonders on separate fields as Jobe faced hitters last Wednesday for the first time since his high-school career ended last May.

The two didn’t know they were facing each other Monday until they got on the field.

“It was unexpected, but it was awesome,” Jobe said.

Not surprisingly, neither took it easy on the other.

Jobe didn’t flip a first-pitch slider on his friend, but he challenged him with a fastball that seemed to catch Pacheco off his timing as he swung and missed.

“Had to get the fastball and the slider,” Jobe said. “He had a chance at the fastball, but he missed.”

Ahead in the count, Jobe let his slider go to work. Pacheco fouled off the first one, but chased when Jobe buried the next. Pacheco put his head down and walked back to the dugout.

“It was a good experience,” Pacheco said. “I was going to face him sooner or later. I got some swings off, kind of wish he got some more fastballs going. But he’s a great competitor. He has all the stuff in the world to become a Cy Young winner. It was fun.”

It will surely not be the last time they face each other in this minicamp, which runs until the full Minor League camp opens in mid-March. Jobe is expected to pitch again later this week, and there’s a chance the Tigers set up intrasquad games as camp rolls on. But until the rematch, Jobe plans to take advantage of bragging rights.

“We’re going to talk a little trash for a little bit,” Jobe said. “We’re going to give it a couple of days. [I’ll] let him hear it, because I know I’d be getting the same, but he’ll get another shot.”

If Jobe is looking for a new rivalry, he might find one with the Tigers’ other young shortstop prospects in camp. After Manuel Sequera turned on a fastball for a home run off him last week, Cristian Santana -- Detroit’s No. 9 prospect per MLB Pipeline -- did the same Monday against one of the final pitches of Jobe’s 25-pitch session. He had been borderline dominant to that point.

“It was kind of the same pitch as last time where I wanted it more up and it kind of got on the inside and then it came back a little bit,” Jobe said. “But that’s part of it. That’s what we’re doing this for, to learn from it and get after it. But I did get a lot more swings and misses on my fastball than I did the other day.

“Definitely feels like we’re making progress. I know it’s going to take time. It’s not just going to happen overnight, so I’m not really worried about it. I know Santana’s a good hitter. I’d heard some different things about me possibly tipping my pitches, but that’s something we’re going to check out in the video room and get a handle on it.”