CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Andy Oliver is not in full-on audition mode, as the Tigers' rotation is set and his ticket to Triple-A Toledo seems secure. But all young players, no matter their destination, want to leave a lasting positive impression with the Major League coaching staff.
Oliver is learning that he's at his best when he doesn't let such pressure affect his delivery. He's learning to just trust his stuff, particularly in pitchers' counts.
That, Oliver said, was the mindset he took into his three innings of work against a Phillies lineup loaded with regulars on Tuesday. Oliver made his first proper Grapefruit League start and allowed a run on two hits with two walks and a strikeout. He said he was pleased with the slider he's attempting to add to his repertoire this spring.
"I'm not trying to power it in there," he said. "I'm just throwing it as I was in the bullpen. That way, it has more depth and bite to it. So that's what I'm really happy about now. I can go out there in a game and use it in the same way as I do in the bullpen."
Oliver is taking a similar approach to his two-seam fastball.
"I'm pretty comfortable with it," he said. "When I back off it a little bit and don't try to power it, it has pretty good sink to it."
Split-squad action a chance for young Tigers
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nick Castellanos sounded a little bit like a kid when he talked about being in the same clubhouse as Miguel Cabrera, his favorite player as a kid growing up in South Florida. Of course, Castellanos doesn't turn 19 until Friday, so he isn't that far separated from his childhood.
"I think I was like 9 years old when [Cabrera] was a rookie on the World Series team," Castellanos said. "So this is really funny that I'm in a locker room with him right now, because I was sitting right behind his dugout when he was playing the Yankees [in the 2003 World Series]. That's a little bit exciting."
Daniel Fields has spend a lot more time here, having grown up following his dad around in Spring Training before spending his first pro season here last year in Class A ball. But Tuesday, the 20-year-old was wearing his father's old No. 29 as a player, not as a kid.
"I remember a lot," Fields said. "Every year, we would come down here, my brother and my mom and I. We'd always come down here every year. I'm definitely very familiar with this place, especially spending all last year down there, too."
2010 Spring Training - Detroit Tigers
News & Features
- Torii set to visit Minnesota as division rival
- Leyland, Tigers preparing for cold weather in Minnesota
- Tigers know not to take division-rival Twins lightly
- Quick hits
- Fister to start Tigers' home opener
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
Castellanos was the Tigers' top Draft pick last year, which was a dream come true for his Michigan-born mom and her family. He was here last fall for instructional league play and came up early for a Minor League minicamp. Once he put on the Old English D with the No. 44, though, it was a different feeling.
"It was actually my mom's birthday," he said. "She was like, 'Oh, this is the best birthday present you've given me so far.' And my dad was just like, 'Good luck.'"
Castellanos found a chance to talk with Cabrera before the game, but he didn't approach him as a fan.
"I said hello to him and all, but now it's business," he said. "I talked to him a little bit about hitting."
Fields received plenty of Major League hitting instruction growing up around this same clubhouse. His father, Bruce Fields, served as hitting coach from 2003-05 after playing in the system in the 1980s and managing at West Michigan and Toledo in the '90s. He was a sixth-round pick in 2009, passed up a scholarship to the University of Michigan, and spent all last year here in the Florida State League.
Wearing a Detroit uniform, even for a day, meant something.
"It means a lot, especially being able to play for the hometown team," Fields said.
Fields entered the game in center field and hit a line-drive single in the eighth. Castellanos flew out as a pinch-hitter and finished out the game at third base. They left their potential future manager impressed.
"There was some talent out there we brought into the game late," Jim Leyland said. "That's pretty impressive."
Schlereth rides bike, reports hamstring 'OK'
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Daniel Schlereth was still limping around the Tigers' clubhouse Tuesday morning, but he said his left hamstring wasn't as bad as originally feared when he injured it trying to cover first base on a ground ball Monday against the Yankees.
"I expected it to be a lot more sore today, but it's not," he said. "I rode the bike today, and it felt OK."
Schlereth isn't sure when he'll be able to pitch again, since he hasn't dealt with an injury like this before.
Boesch working on one-handed catch drills
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jim Leyland has talked since the middle of last season about getting Brennan Boesch to catch fly balls without needing his bare hand so close to his glove. The Tigers manager is seeing progress this spring, but he also wants Boesch to make it a habit.
They can't literally make him catch ball with one hand tied behind his back, but they can come close.
"We've been actually having him work with the open hand behind his back, going after balls and catching them with one hand," Leyland said. "Last year I told him to do a drill: Put a hand behind his back, throw him balls and make him run to them.
"It's probably a habit he's always done, so it's something he's got to break."
Boesch, who uses an old Steve Finley glove that a friend got for him, said he already feels a difference. Using one hand, he said, "makes it easier and a lot smoother."
Leyland said: "Nobody has ever caught the ball with two hands in the history of the game."
Catcher Omir Santos, a non-roster invitee in camp and the likely starting catcher at Triple-A Toledo, suffered a fractured big toe on his left foot in Monday's win over the Yankees, the Tigers announced Tuesday. Santos is expected to miss four to six weeks, which would put Opening Day in question. "Maybe, maybe not. I'll do whatever it takes to get back," Santos said. ... Both Brandon Inge and Victor Martinez stole second base without a throw Tuesday against the Blue Jays. Inge, in particular, was more than halfway to second before reliever Zach Stewart realized he had taken off. That doesn't mean either of them are going to rack up steals this year, but it reflects the mentality that manager Jim Leyland would like his average runners to take bases when they're easy to take. ... After going 0-for-5 in two other Spring Training games, Martinez broke out for his first hits as a Tiger with three singles Tuesday.