LAKELAND, Fla. — On the surface, a 10-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays would not seem to have been very entertaining for Tigers fans.
However, they got much of what they came to see in the Grapefruit League home opener at Marchant Stadium.
Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder both hit tape-measure home runs.
Torii Hunter, the newest Tiger, ripped a double in his first at-bat. Plus they got to see two scoreless innings from starter Anibal Sanchez and the debut of rookie wunderkind reliever Bruce Rondon.
Fielder launched a two-run homer in the first inning off Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow that landed on the roof of the indoor batting cages beyond the row of palm trees that line the outfield wall.
In the third inning, Cabrera crushed a Steve Delabar offering that went about as high as the top of the flagpole atop the berm in left-center field. The ball nearly carried over the grass berm, landing no more than 20 feet from a tiki hut refreshment center.
“We put on a show,” Fielder said with a smile.
Hunter said he wasn’t sure which ball traveled farther, but thought it was Cabrera’s.
“I usually say a home run is a home run no matter what the distance,” Hunter said. “But that one was a bomb. Prince’s was a bomb, too. Man!”
Hunter liked the sound of the crack of the bat on his own opposite-field double that hugged the right field foul line in the first inning.
“That was good to get that first one out of the way,” Hunter said. “That ball looks like it’s going 1,000 mph the first time up. You’ve got to get the timing down.”
It was 3-3 after five innings, but Toronto’s reserves got the best of Detroit’s. Jays second baseman Lance Zawadzki hit a grand slam in the sixth off Ryan Robowski. THE LOBSTEIN FACTOR
Just how does left-hander Kyle Lobstein factor into the pitching staff if he is impressive and Leyland wants to keep the Rule 5 prospect? Lobstein has pitched exclusively as a starter in the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and Detroit has four set starters and Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly competing for the fifth spot.
“He’s a protection guy (for starters) and a potential bullpen guy,” Leyland said. “If he’s better than one of the six we’ve got, we’ve really got something. Most likely, his potential to make this team is in the bullpen. He’ll get his opportunity. He threw well in his last batting practice (session) — significantly better than the first two.”
Lobstein, 23, was a Tampa Bay second-round pick in 2008 out of Flagstaff (Ariz.) Coconino High, and has not pitched beyond Double-A. He was 8-7 with a 4.06 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 144 innings pitched at Montgomery in 2012. The New York Mets took Lobstein in December’s Rule 5 draft, and traded him to Detroit for cash considerations. The Tigers must return him to Tampa Bay if they do not keep him on the 25-man roster for the entire regular season.
He will pitch Sunday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Lakeland after Justin Verlander makes his first start of the spring.
“I’m excited,” Lobstein said. “I’m a little anxious to get this first one out of the way.”
He said he hasn’t totally figured out how to prepare for the possibility of pitching in either relief or the rotation, but pitchers won’t be stretching out for extended innings for a few more weeks.
“I’m throwing quite a few in bullpens to keep my arm ready for anything,” Lobstein said. “It’s better to be over-prepared rather than not prepared. Either way, I have got to be prepared for a full season.” AROUND THE HORN
Tigers utility infielder Ramon Santiago is out “indefinitely,” according to Leyland, with a strained right calf muscle.
Leyland said both Cabrera and Fielder will get the day off Monday, when the Tigers play at Clearwater against the Phillies.
Sanchez pitched two scoreless innings, allowing three hits and getting one strike out. “We’re thrilled we got him,” Leyland said. “He was very effective last year for the Tigers — including the postseason.” Sanchez signed a five-year contract for $80 million to remain with Detroit.