LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jordan Zimmermann had been working on a pickoff play to third base in his Minor League start last weekend. When he received the pickoff sign with runners at the corners in the fifth inning Saturday, he thought it was another refresher course.
Third baseman Jeimer Candelario wasn't on the same page.
"A little mix-up in the signs," Zimmermann said after the game.
Candelario caught the throw, but was nowhere near the bag. Since the throw was behind him, he did not have a chance to make a step toward the bag, resulting in a balk that scored another run in the Tigers' 4-1 loss to the Phillies.
• Veteran infielder Amarista released
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It was very much a mix-up.
"We honestly gave the [sign to] throw over to first base, not third base," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "There was a reason why they tried it. They thought they made eye contact."
It was that kind of afternoon for Zimmermann, whose final tuneup before his Opening Day start ended with four runs allowed on nine hits over five innings. He struck out six, half of them in the first inning, to finish his Grapefruit League slate with 18 strikeouts in as many innings. His lone walk was his first since March 3.
Zimmermann's fastball topped out at 93 mph on the Joker Marchant Stadium radar gun, but his key again was the slider. Two of his first-inning strikeouts were swing-and-misses off of it, and the other was a called third strike on a fastball that froze Nick Williams after he fouled off a slider.
A couple of big hits off the slider hurt Zimmermann, notably Pedro Florimon's leadoff triple in the second. However, the Phils took advantage of some opportunities as well, from Andrew Knapp's safety squeeze that he beat out for an RBI bunt single in the second to speedy Roman Quinn outrunning a pickoff at second base to steal third and set up a run in the fourth.
"I just had a real tough time getting my slider down and in to lefties today," Zimmermann said. "They all seemed to be thigh-high and up, and they were able to hit it past second base or out to right. … It's just one of those days where the curveball was a better pitch, and I should've stuck with that. But it's Spring Training; I'm going to continue working on the slider."
Said Gardenhire: "I still like the way he's throwing. Early in the game, the ball was really jumping out of his hand. I think he's right where he needs to be. He's healthy and he's confident with his stuff, and I think he'll be just fine."
Saupold puts up zeros
Warwick Saupold, who's fighting to retain his spot in the Tigers' bullpen, helped his cause with two scoreless innings in Saturday's loss after giving up runs in four of his previous five outings.
"The ball had good movement; that was good," Gardenhire said. "It all depends on who you're facing a lot of times, if you're facing big league hitters as opposed to younger hitters. We just need to see him do that consistently. He's got good stuff."
With Johnny Barbato working back from elbow soreness and not slated to pitch until Tuesday in a Minor League game, Saupold would seem to have the upper hand for a spot unless the Tigers acquire a reliever from another team, either a waiver claim or free agent who was just released.
Tigers raise money for strength coach
Tigers players and staff have collected autographed merchandise to auction off and raise money for Matt Rosenhamer, a strength and conditioning coach in the organization who was recently diagnosed with testicular cancer. Items include autographed bats from Jose Cabrera and Hall of Famers Al Kaline and Alan Trammell, as well as a team autographed jersey. For more information, visit rosenhamer.gesture.com or text ROSENHAMER to 52182.
Michael Fulmer makes his final Spring Training tuneup Sunday when the Tigers host the Braves for a 1:05 p.m. ET game at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium. Fulmer tossed five innings of two-run ball with five strikeouts in his last start last Monday against the Orioles. MLB.TV and Fox Sports Detroit will have the telecast, with the radio call on 97.1 The Ticket and MLB Gameday Audio.