LAKELAND, Fla. -- Because of Jim Leyland's close relationship with former Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, he and new Cards skipper Mike Matheny have gotten to know each other pretty well over the years.And as Matheny prepares for his first season at the helm of a Major League -- or any -- club, he's relying on some of the lessons he's learned from Leyland. "He just made himself available," Matheny said of Leyland. "He was one of those resources you'd be crazy not to take advantage of." Leyland and Matheny had a long chat on the field before Saturday's game at Joker Marchant Stadium. "I'm a big fan of Jim and how he's gone about it," Matheny said. "Just his no-nonsense approach, coming in and having high expectations for the guys. I love his honest approach. I love how he goes out of his way to build your trust by his honesty, even when it's tough to hear. I think he's a teacher of the game. Good, bad or indifferent, he's going to tell them what he sees. Just a great baseball mind and somebody I've always respected."
Tigers impressed with trio of young arms
LAKELAND, Fla. -- In Luis Marte, Brayan Villarreal and Jose Ortega, the Tigers have three young arms competing for a relief opportunity while refining their secondary pitches.All three have impressed Jim Leyland thus far in camp in their own way, but Villarreal, in particular, seems to have captured the skipper's fancy with regard to his growth in the last calendar year. "He looks like a totally different guy," Leyland said. "He's a lot more calm and under control."
Villarreal split last season between Triple-A and the big leagues, turning in a 5.05 ERA in 17 appearances for Toledo and a 6.75 ERA in 16 relief outings for the Tigers. He walked four batters per nine innings in the Minors and 5.6 in the Majors, so control was an issue for him. This spring, Villarreal has made five appearances (counting an exhibition with Florida Southern), working 5 2/3 innings total, and hasn't walked anybody. "His slider is more under control," Leyland said. And Leyland has also been very pleased with Marte and Ortega. He said Marte is probably the most advanced of the three in terms of his secondary pitches. "They're all making improvement," Leyland said.
Tigers cut relievers Stohr and Downs
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers further trimmed their Spring Training roster Saturday morning by making a pair of moves, neither of which affect the club's position battles.Right-hander Tyler Stohr was optioned to Double-A Erie, and left-hander Darin Downs was reassigned to Minor League camp. Stohr, 25, who made a successful return from Tommy John surgery last year, got in three Grapefruit League games, allowing one run and one hit with three walks and a strikeout in 2 1/3 innings. He pitched 57 innings of relief between Class A Lakeland and Erie last season. Downs, 27, was a non-roster invitee to camp after signing a Minor League deal with the Tigers in November. He appeared in two games, allowing two runs in two innings with three strikeouts and two walks. The Tigers now have 51 players in camp with less than three weeks to go before Opening Day.
'Manager for a Day' winner takes helm
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The man sitting to Jim Leyland's left during Leyland's pregame media session was Shelby Township resident Tom Lauzon, who bid what he would only reveal to be a "substantial amount" at a charity auction to be the Tigers' "Manager for a Day.""No pressure on him today," Leyland joked. "We're 10-1. I told him, 'Don't screw it up!'" Lauzon had his own record to keep intact, having won the same auction last year and been "Manager for a Day" for a Grapefruit League win by the Tigers in 2011. He said the temptation to relive the experience while helping out the Detroit Tigers Foundation's "Keeping Kids in the Game" charity was too good to pass up. "Rather than have my name on some plaque," he said, "I'd rather be here with this team." Lauzon is co-owner of Meridian Health Plan, a Medicaid management company in downtown Detroit. "He works with a lot of smokers," joked Leyland, who had a pack of Marlboros sitting on his desk. The jokes kept coming when Lauzon told a reporter he is 56 years old. "Do I look older?" he asked Leyland. Replied the skipper: "You will after today."
Jim Leyland said top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, who was shut down last week with right shoulder tendinitis, is making "a lot of progress" in his recovery. Turner is expected to start throwing bullpen sessions again soon, perhaps as early as Tuesday.
Outfield prospect Steven Moya, 20, was sent to Minor League camp on Friday but made a nice impression on Leyland. "He's just a baby," Leyland said. "He's strong, and he'll fill out more." Physically, Leyland said Moya reminded him of Darryl Strawberry. "If he hits like that," Leyland said, "he'll be OK."
The Cardinals brought a strong lineup to Lakeland, Fla., including Matt Holliday, David Freese and Lance Berkman. Leyland viewed it as a nice challenge for young lefties Adam Wilk, Andy Oliver and Drew Smyly. "They've got the big boys in there," Leyland said. "That's a good thing."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.