DETROIT -- The Tigers are closing out the season with several young players who didn't begin the year in Detroit. They could open next season with an even younger squad. Expect manager Ron Gardenhire to spend a good amount of Spring Training focusing on defensive fundamentals before then.After three unearned
DETROIT -- The Tigers are closing out the season with several young players who didn't begin the year in Detroit. They could open next season with an even younger squad. Expect manager Ron Gardenhire to spend a good amount of Spring Training focusing on defensive fundamentals before then.
After three unearned runs off Francisco Liriano made the difference in a 4-3 loss to the Royals, those early morning sessions that lie ahead for the young Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., in six months have more evidence for their importance.
"We're going to have a lot of young players in camp. We know that," Gardenhire said. "It's going to be different people. We plan on doing a lot of work. We plan on talking with our Minor League staff, getting everybody on board with what we're going to try to do here.
"It's going to be fun. You don't want to go into Spring Training thinking it's going to be a grind. This is going to be fun, because we're going to do a lot of fun, coming to the ballpark and doing a lot of things that we're talking about doing. You're going to see the difference, we hope, as we go along here. That's the big thing, understanding control of the baseball and getting it into the right people's hands and go from there."
Christin Stewart was not in Major League camp with the Tigers last Spring Training. He made some appearances in Grapefruit League games, but he missed the chance to work with Tigers coaches in daily workouts. His defensive work at Triple-A Toledo with outfield instructor Gene Roof prepared him for an eventual callup, but Friday marked his introduction to the speed of the big-league game.
In the first inning, Raul Mondesi capitalized on one of Detroit's lapses to score the Royals' first run. Mondesi saw Stewart's throw from left field to second base and broke from third, and he reached top speed so quickly that he scored without a throw. It was the kind of baserunning that marked the Royals' style during their World Series years.
"I tried to read the play. I was hoping he would do that, 100 percent," Mondesi said. "Then I just ran hard and got us a run."
"Great instinctual baserunning," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
It's the style of play Gardenhire also wants his baserunners to emulate -- and his fielders to beware.
"You have to come up and get rid of the ball," Gardenhire said. "You can't look around and hold the ball. If he gives it up to second base right away, or gives it up to the cutoff man, who knows? But you can't hold. Those guys are really aggressive runners.
"And he was talked to. He gets it."
It wasn't an errant play, but it wasn't an earned run off Liriano either. Two fourth-inning errors -- a missed throw by Jarrod Saltalamacchia at first base and a fumble from Stewart in the left-field corner -- set up two more unearned runs.
To single out Stewart one day after his two-homer, six-RBI game would overlook the general play from Friday's loss, and the teaching moments that have come up with other players over the last couple weeks.
"We made a lot of mistakes," Gardenhire said. "[Liriano] actually threw the ball pretty good, I thought. We played really bad baseball the first three or four innings, missing plays and not throwing the ball to the right place. One of those learning experiences, I hope."
Alex Gordon's third-inning RBI single, one of three hits for him on the night, comprised the lone earned run against Liriano (5-11), who posted his third consecutive quality start. Royals starter Ian Kennedy (3-8) delivered seven-plus quality innings for the win.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Nicholas Castellanos nearly led the Tigers back with a pair of RBI doubles in the sixth and eighth innings before a Ronny Rodriguez single and Jeimer Candelario walk put the potential winning run on base. Royals closer Wily Peralta struck out Lugo and pinch-hitter Jim Adduci, both on breaking balls, for his 12th save.
Castellanos' two doubles bumped his season total to 44, tied for 23rd on the Tigers' single-season list.
Victor Martinez will pick up a bat one more time for what he says will be his final Major League game Saturday as the series continues with a 6:10 p.m. ET start at Comerica Park. The Tigers will honor their longtime designated hitter in pregame festivities before Jordan Zimmermann (7-8, 4.41) takes the mound opposite Jakob Junis (8-12, 4.42), who beat the Tigers twice in Detroit in April.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.