Notes: Ross improves, Cabrera gets tricky out

March 11th, 2019

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Tyson Ross knew how poorly his first three starts of the spring had gone, but as he toed the Hammond Stadium rubber Monday afternoon, he also knew exactly what he needed to do to turn things around. 

“I definitely had a problem with keeping the ball in the yard,” said Ross, who had a 13.50 ERA and allowed three home runs in his first three Spring Training starts. “I look back and it was a lot to do with the leadoff guy getting on or just being behind in counts.” 

Ross retired the first seven batters he faced in the Tigers’ 3-0 win over the Twins, giving up just one fly-ball out and one ground-ball single during his four scoreless innings. He struck out five and didn’t issue a walk, facing the minimum 12 batters thanks to a nifty play by Miguel Cabrera at first base. (More on that later.)

Ross had about a dozen swings and misses during his 50-pitch outing, the majority thanks to his fastball. He went down to the bullpen after leaving the game and threw an additional 15 pitches to stretch his pitch count.

“Even veterans want to see a little better result every time out,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They don’t worry about it as much as the kids, but it’s a feel-good [start] for him. There’s a reason you’re a veteran, because you can figure it out. That’s what’s happening here.”

The four zeroes he put on the scoreboard -- especially after his last outing, in which he allowed four runs in three innings -- were enough proof that Ross’ recent work with pitching coach Rick Anderson is paying dividends.

“The only difference between this one and the last one was really just getting ahead,” Ross said. “Getting strike one, working ahead in counts and being able to be in the driver’s seat. Last time out, the rhythm and tempo was good, but I was 1-0 and 2-0, having to come back over the heart of the plate when the hitters are more aggressive.”

That’s a first
The Twins didn’t have their first baserunner until 's one-out single in the third, but the infielder was erased by the rarest of plays: the hidden-ball trick.

Ross threw over to first base to keep Adrianza from taking a big lead, though the play wasn’t close. Miguel Cabrera put the tag on as a formality, then appeared to throw the ball back to Ross.

Only he didn’t. Cabrera held on to the ball, then tagged Adrianza, who was a foot or so off the bag as he tried to collect himself for his next lead.

“Savvy move by Miggy,” Ross said. “He deked me a little bit on it, too. It was a nice play to take that runner off-base and get me back in the windup with two outs. That’s probably the first time I've seen it in person. It was awesome.”

Cabrera didn’t seem as impressed with the play, noting that he does it every time he gets a pickoff throw.

“This time it worked, but I always try to do it,” Cabrera said. “I was surprised. I always try to play with the runner, but never in my career was I that close.”

If he always does it, then how did Adrianza let himself get tagged out?

“It’s Spring Training,” Cabrera said. “He might have forgot.”

Surely opponents will take note of the play in the future, so it’s possible Cabrera wasted his one shot on a game that doesn’t count. That’s fine with Twins manager Rocco Baldelli, who probably would have handled it worse had it been a regular-season contest.

“Miggy has been working on that play for about 15 years and he’s getting pretty good at it, so it happens,” Baldelli said. “Truthfully being a Spring Training game, it’s probably a lot easier to take and smile about. I’m not going to say I was smiling, but I might have smirked.”

An interesting sub-plot to the play? The first-base coach at the time was Toby Gardenhire, son of the Tigers manager. The younger Gardenhire manages Minnesota’s Gulf Coast League affiliate, but was allowed to come be a part of Monday’s game because his father was in the other dugout.

“I was happy he coached first base. I’ll buy that little sucker a beer tonight,” the elder Gardenhire said. “It’s just great, couldn’t have gotten any better. He won’t have much fun at home tonight.”

Up next
The Tigers play the second half of their back-to-back games in Fort Myers on Tuesday, visiting the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. Left-hander Daniel Norris makes his fourth appearance (third start) of the spring, while lefty David Price makes his 2019 Grapefruit League debut for Boston. Norris has spent much of the spring dealing with a dip in velocity, but he looked like his old self during a one-inning outing Friday against the Yankees, giving him some optimism heading into this start. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.