Notes: Porcello gets first taste
Leyland hoping Inge situation is resolved to everyone's benefit
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rick Porcello's first Major League drill didn't cut him any slack. As he stood on the practice fields Friday morning readying for pitchers' fielding practice, he realized he wasn't simply on the same field with fielding madman Kenny Rogers, he was following right behind him, taking ground balls around first base.
Lots of luck, kid.
"He's a fantastic fielder," Porcello marveled afterwards. "He may be 43, but he moves like he's in his 20s. [He's] extremely quick off the mound. Every ball, he fields like it's no problem. He makes it look easy."
Actually, Porcello held his own against the Gold Glove winner, who is 24 years his elder. He didn't make the diving stops or goaltender-like saves that have made Rogers' fielding work a Spring Training spectator sport for teammates over the past few years, but he showed the instincts. Rogers helped out by providing some pointers.
Like Rogers, Porcello was a high school shortstop. But Porcello only played short on days when he didn't pitch; Rogers, who didn't pitch in school, played short regularly.
With that, Porcello's first Spring Training had begun. At one point while he was stretching, manager Jim Leyland walked up to him and reminded him that he was playing high school ball a year ago at this time.
It just feels longer than that.
"It seems like a lifetime ago," Porcello said with a smile. "I don't forget anything from my high school days, but it's like remembering back, it seems like so long ago. And it was only last year."
The plan with Inge: Friday's makeshift press conference involving Brandon Inge and his situation produced the impression of a situation very much in flux. While Leyland considers it a strong possibility that the Tigers will trade Inge, they're going to work him out as a utility player until he's dealt.
It produces quite a dichotomy, preparing Inge for a role that neither he nor his manager expect him to have to play when the season starts while readying him for a full-time job he and Leyland hope he finds somewhere else soon.
"I hope he is traded where he can play third base every day, because that's what he is," Leyland said. "I don't think there's any question about it. It's a little bit of an awkward situation, but for selfish reasons, I don't want it to detract from what the ballclub is trying to do."
Friday morning, as Inge prepared for his new and possibly temporary role, he was donning old leg pads and borrowing a mitt.
"It's going to be tough," Inge said after the workout. "Two bullpen [sessions] today, and my legs already hurt. So we're going to have to do some work."
So will the Tigers, of course, to trade him. They've had little to no success finding a deal since December, when the trade for Miguel Cabrera suddenly unseated Inge from the hot corner, and Leyland said he knew of no "hot irons" at the moment. His optimism is based on the tendency that teams find pressing needs in Spring Training and injuries can force clubs to deal quickly.
"I can't sit here today and tell you that we'll definitely trade him," Leyland said. "I can't do that. But I do think there's a possibility. I would say that there's a pretty good possibility, I would think."
Leyland said Vance Wilson's status would not affect any trade situation. Though Leyland is still cautious with Wilson and his status for Opening Day, he said a full recovery from last summer's Tommy John ligament replacement surgery is expected, even if it's not when the season begins.
"We would not [keep] Brandon Inge just to protect ourselves for a month," Leyland said.
Tickets going fast: Tigers director of Lakeland operations Ron Myers said the team is about 70 percent of the way toward its goal of 100,000 tickets sold for this spring. Still, tickets remain available for every spring game, including general admission and berm seating for the lone meeting with the Yankees on Saturday, March 15. Sellouts are difficult to reach because of the open seating along the grassy left-field berm.
The Tigers set an all-time franchise record last year for Spring Training attendance with 119,232 over 17 games at Joker Marchant Stadium. They're well ahead of last year's pace for tickets sold, even though the home schedule includes just one game against the Yankees, one against the Mets and none against the Red Sox. Those three teams combined for five dates last spring.
"What it is," Myers said, "is now the Detroit Tigers are the draw."
No-shows: Reliever Francisco Cruceta was still in his native Dominican Republic on Friday dealing with visa issues, making him the lone pitcher not in camp for the first workout. It's not expected to be a lengthy absence.
Catcher Dane Sardinha was the only other missing Tiger on Friday. He was due to arrive in Florida around midday and should be present on Saturday.
Quotable: When asked about Curtis Granderson's well-chronicled habit of eating at McDonald's, even after signing his new long-term contract, Leyland was skeptical.
"If he's eating at McDonald's," Leyland said, "he's probably talking to a guy about buying a McDonald's."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.