Little did the seven-time Cy Young Award winner know what he was in for.
“They roasted me,” Clemens said with a laugh.
In the meeting, the team showed the video of a 20-year-old rookie named Miguel Cabrera homering off Clemens in Game 4 of the 2003 World Series, capping an at-bat that began with a fastball up and in.
“We talked about uncomfortable at-bats,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He threw at [Cabrera’s] face, and then Miggy took him deep. The boys had fun with that.”
It was a valuable lesson, but they didn’t stop there.
“We also learned that [Hall of Famer Alan] Trammell owned him, and that I took him deep,” Hinch added. “We made sure Roger was reminded of all that.”
Indeed, Trammell was a .364 (24-for-66) career hitter off Clemens with seven doubles, two home runs and 14 RBIs. He hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the seventh inning off Clemens at Tiger Stadium on June 12, 1987. And Trammell had one of the five hits Clemens allowed in his 20-strikeout shutout at Tiger Stadium on Sept. 18, 1996.
By contrast, Hinch was just 2-for-11 in his career off Clemens, but he homered in their final meeting on Aug. 10, 1999.
It was a fun time on Thursday, but replaying Cabrera’s homer off Clemens had a purpose.
“All we really want to do,” Hinch explained, “is have as many people in that room experience what a few in that room ever have, which is win a World Series. When you see someone at the beginning of a Hall of Fame career in Miguel facing Roger towards the tail end of his career, it’s just a good reminder that it can happen any time in your career, whether you’re ready for it or not.”
For some players in that meeting, it was ancient history. Riley Greene was 3 years old when that home run took place. Matt Manning and Akil Baddoo were 5. Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal were 6.
For the pitchers, the message from Clemens was valuable.
“I’ve had some awesome conversations with Roger. I love hearing him talk,” Mize said. “He was going through some game plan stuff, bullpen stuff, mindset stuff, and it’s awesome to hear a legend talk about how he thought about the game.”
Skies part for Mize
Casey Mize wasn’t sure he’d get a chance to make his scheduled start Thursday, judging by the forecast of all-day rain. Instead, the storms largely missed Joker Marchant Stadium until the sixth inning, and so did Yankees bats against Mize, who racked up six strikeouts over three scoreless innings.
Mize’s fastball sat around 94-96 mph and accounted for half of his strikeouts, including Marwin Gonzalez and Anthony Rizzo to open the game. Two more strikeouts were swings and misses off Mize’s splitter, a pitch he wants to work back into his arsenal.
“Threw some good ones,” Mize said. “Had good depth to it. The feel’s getting better. Progress has definitely been made in that area.”
Candy waits out rain
Jeimer Candelario was 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts this spring, including in his last six plate appearances and twice against the Yankees on Thursday, when rain delayed the game. While the rest of the Tigers starters exited the contest, Candelario waited out the delay for one more at-bat, since he was set to lead off the sixth inning.
The wait was worth it. Candelario turned on the first pitch from Joely Rodríguez and sent it deep to left for his first Spring Training home run in two years.
“When the rain stopped, I sent Miggy in,” Hinch said. “Miggy was going to get one more at-bat, but I didn't want him to wait. We offered the same to Jeimer and he said, 'No, I need to hit.' That's why he stayed. He goes home happy. Based on his last few plate appearances, he probably needed it.”
Said Candelario: “Today I needed to get three ABs, so I stayed there with the guys, and it worked [out] good.”