Tigers put in work to conquer treacherous Trop

August 18th, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Tigers’ defense was one of the highlights of Friday's 2-0 win over the Rays, a feat made even more impressive considering the series is being held at Tropicana Field, a ballpark notorious for being tough on visiting teams.

The artificial turf inside the dome plays faster than grass, and while the Tigers have gotten a taste of indoor baseball this season at Safeco Field (Mariners) and Rogers Centre (Blue Jays), The Trop’s roof definitely presents differently than the other two.

The top of the dome is made from an off-white canvas that’s close to the same color as the ball. Tampa Bay installed a new field lighting system prior to the 2019 season to help with identification, but the infield is unique as well.

“You’ve got Astroturf out there -- which we don’t see much of -- and then you’ve got regular dirt, so when the ball goes off the Astroturf, that stuff puts spin on the ball,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “[The outfield] is a little spongy, so fly balls, if you don’t get to them, they’re going to bounce way up in the air.”

To help guard against errors – especially with players like , who play multiple positions -- a chunk of pregame workouts each day so far has been devoted to popups, catwalk lessons, reading grounders as they come off the (artificial) infield and onto the (dirt) basepaths and strategies on how to handle any combination of the three.

The Tigers played an exhibition game in St. Petersburg on March 26, but many players currently with the club were not on the roster then. “Better safe than sorry” is a motto Detroit was happy to adopt Saturday, particularly with fly-ball pitcher on the hill.

“When the ball goes up, if you take your eyes off of it when you’re running, you’re going to have a hard time picking it back up,” Gardenhire said. “They’ve changed some of the ground rules since we first started; it makes a difference when it hits [the catwalks]. It’ll bounce off, and you can chase them all over the place.”

Trio join forces in Toledo
went 0-for-4 with a walk in his second rehab game for Triple-A Toledo on Saturday night. The Tigers’ corner infielder has been out with a left thumb sprain since Aug. 4 and will continue to work on his timing at the plate while with the Mud Hens.

(concussion) went 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI as Toledo’s left fielder in the 5-1 win over Pawtucket. The Tigers are waiting to bring back their outfielder until after he logs some innings on defense at Triple-A.

The Tigers are obviously less concerned with numbers than they are with healthy outings from their rehabbers, and Gardenhire was pleased with the follow-up he received. In these types of situations, he said, no news is good news.

“Everybody’s fine; everybody’s doing their thing,” he said.

• Catcher (back) joined Candelario and Stewart at Toledo as the DH and went 2-for-5 following two games at Class A Advanced Lakeland. Greiner was placed on the injured list June 15.

Road to Detroit
Left-hander Joey Wentz, the Tigers’ No. 10 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, threw five scoreless innings at Double-A Erie on Friday. He scattered four hits, walked none and struck out seven. … Isaac Paredes (No. 5 prospect) went 1-for-4 with Erie, homering and driving in two runs. … Willi Castro (No. 11) had two hits at Toledo. … Kody Clemens (No. 17) went 3-for-4 at Toledo, including a pair of doubles.

Did you know?
With ’s five-inning relief performance in Friday’s win, he became the first Detroit reliever to throw at least five scoreless innings in relief since Drew Smyly on April 20, 2013, against the Angels, and the first to do it with three or fewer hits since Charlie Furbush (May 27, 2011, vs. the Red Sox).

VerHagen is 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his past three appearances (15 innings).