Willi Castro HR of Detroit Tigers in Grapefruit League opener, wins 10-2

Evan Petzold

| Detroit Free Press


LAKELAND, Fla. – Willi Castro wants to make his mark on the everyday shortstop job the Detroit Tigers entrust him this season. He hopes to stay, but it is imperative that he show that last season was no fluke.

The 23-year-old started the year strong, hitting a 458-foot home run on the first official pitch he’s seen since last September. With a six-run blast in the first inning, the Tigers posted a 10-2 victory Sunday over the Philadelphia Phillies in the first Grapefruit League game at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The game lasted seven innings.

“The first inning, the quality of the at-bat, I found it exceptional,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Really top to bottom, the entire inning, whether it’s drawing walks, hitting the ball hard, opportunity for an RBI. There’s a lot to build on that first inning.

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Left-hander Tyler Alexander, the Tigers’ starter, allowed a home run on the second pitch to Adam Haseley (86.4 mph cutter) in the top of the first inning, but he calmed down. He allowed two runs in two innings, with three hits, zero walks and one strikeout.

Alexander used 30 pitches (22 strikes).

“Hoping to get a title role,” Alexander said. “The starting guy hits a home run with a cutter. I left him up a bit and allowed another double on a 0-2 slider. Other than that, I thought my speed off speed was pretty good. Most importantly, I wanted out. And attack early, get ahead of the guys with my fastball. “

The Tigers travel to Tampa on Monday for a 1:05 pm matchup with the New York Yankees. Right-hander Kyle Funkhouser is starting. On the other hand, the Detroit Bats will face right-hander Gerrit Cole, a three-time All-Star.

Entrance ends, fans boo

After 27 pitches by Nova and 23 more by Jonathan Hennigan, resulting in a combined five walks and six runs allowed, Phillies manager Joe Girardi finished the first inning, even though the Tigers they had the bases loaded with two outs.

The crowd booed the Phillies as they left the field.

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Castro’s mistake

The biggest concern of Castro staying at shortstop is his defense. One side of the debate is that you need more experience to develop. (He only has 66 games in parts of two seasons.) The other side of this dilemma explains that Castro is a much better fit at second base, where his arm accuracy is not tested as much.

At the top of the third, Castro moved to his left and attempted a backhand to second baseman Harold Castro covering the base down the middle. But Harold wasn’t ready for Willi’s pitch and assumed he would pitch to first base. Lack of communication resulted in an error.

Receptors start out strong

Three of the four receivers vying for the backup spot played: Grayson Greiner, Dustin Garneau and Eric Haase. Each of them received a hit, with Haase hitting a home run in the sixth inning and Greiner adding a walk.

Jake Rogers is the other competing receiver.

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Line up

Here’s how the Tigers started the game: Willi Castro (SS), Jeimer Candelario (3B), Christin Stewart (LF), Wilson Ramos (DH), Harold Castro (2B), JaCoby Jones (CF), Akil Baddoo (RF) , Daniel Pinero (1B) and Dustin Garneau (C).

Pinero started because the team doesn’t have another first baseman to use, considering Hinch wants to keep Candelario at third base for now. The team’s number one prospect, Spencer Torkelson, would have played first or third base in this game, had he not cut his finger last week.

Miguel Cabrera, another option at first base, did not play. Your workload, especially in early spring games, will be closely monitored.

Five players from the minicamp portion of spring training were activated for Sunday’s game: right-handers Nolan Blackwood, Drew Carlton, Robbie Ross Jr. and Logan Shore, along with wide receiver Brady Policelli.

The Tigers used six pitchers: Alexander, Derek Holland, Alex Lange, Ian Krol, Ross Jr. and Carlton. NEW: After Alexander allowed the only two runs, the relievers held the Phillies to one hit and two walks the rest of the way.

Prospects play

The first lineup change came in the second inning, when Haase replaced Ramos as a pinch runner. Two of the team’s prospects, outfielder Riley Greene and second baseman Kody Clemens, entered in the later innings.

Greene struck out on a swing on a 95.8 mph fastball from Enyel De Los Santos in his first at-bat of the spring, then grounded out on a pick play in the sixth. Clemens singled off pitcher JD Hammer’s glove in his only at-bat.

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Welcome fans

For the first time in 353 days, dating from March 12, 2020, the Tigers welcomed fans to watch their team play a baseball game. Tickets went on sale on February 18, with a limited capacity of 2,000 fans per game, and sold out within three hours.

“It was definitely really nice, a nice change,” Stewart said. “It was reassuring to know that people are out there and that they still come to the games. It was a totally different atmosphere.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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