Right-hander strikes out five; newly acquired Gonzalez goes 1-for-2 with RBI
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jason Heyward, author of several tape-measure home runs at Joker Marchant Stadium, hit what might have been his longest on Tuesday. His sixth-inning drive off Rick Porcello cleared the scoreboard in right field and carried towards the moving truck behind it, helping power the Braves to a 12-3 win over the Tigers.
Heyward's fourth home of the spring was his second in Lakeland, and the second no-doubt drive by a Tigers opponent this week. Four weeks after Heyward hit the batting-practice cages beyond right field, and two days after Giancarlo Stanton cleared the berm in the depths of left-center, Heyward arguably topped both.
Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter, who deked fans and raised his glove like he had a chance on Gerald Laird's two-run homer three batters earlier, simply looked to the ground and picked at the outfield grass as Heyward's drive soared. Both home runs came off Porcello, who gave up three runs each in the first and sixth innings of his final spring tuneup.
Porcello allowed six runs on 10 hits over six innings. For the spring, he allowed 16 earned runs on 27 hits over 18 1/3 innings, a reversal from the solid spring he enjoyed last year to beat out Drew Smyly for a rotation spot.
"I feel really good," Porcello said. "Obviously, the results haven't been there this spring. I don't look into it any more than how I feel and how I'm executing pitches. I feel good, and the ability to execute pitches is there. I just need to bear down a little bit more."
Laird, Porcello's catcher during two different stints in Detroit, drove in two of those six runs, his first RBIs in an injury-shortened spring. Heyward scored twice, while Dan Uggla and Justin Upton had two hits each. Ramiro Pena hit a two-run triple in the seventh off Ian Krol to put Atlanta into double digits.
Braves starter Ervin Santana, who tossed 14 shutout innings against the Tigers last season as a Royal, gave up a run in each of the first two innings but still limited the damage. Hunter singled and scored on a Victor Martinez groundout in the first, then Alex Avila singled and scored on Alex Gonzalez's groundout an inning later.
Gonzalez, taking over at shortstop following his trade from the Orioles, went 1-for-3 with a walk in his first game as a Tiger. Nick Castellanos hit a pair of doubles, raising his average to .389 on the spring, while Avila and Miguel Cabrera had two-hit games.
Up next:Justin Verlander will make his final tuneup before his Opening Day assignment Wednesday when he faces the Phillies in a 1:05 p.m. ET game in Clearwater, Fla., that can be seen live on MLB.TV. Verlander has a chance at a shutout spring, having thrown 13 2/3 innings without a run in Grapefruit League play. Most of the Tigers' starting lineup is scheduled to make the trip.