One of my favorite things about Spring Training is the split squad games. In case you are not familiar, here’s how it works. This afternoon, the Yankees make the trip to Lakeland to take on roughly half of the Tigers. Meanwhile, the rest of the Tigers team travels to Port St. Lucie to take on the Mets at the same time.
Let’s tackle the Mets game first.
Right hander Max Scherzer gets the start today, his third of the Spring, and looks to right the ship after getting roughed up in his first two appearances. This shouldn’t be cause for concern yet, but if Scherzer continues to be knocked around as the season draws closer, the Tigers might have bigger questions in the rotation than previously thought.
Joining Scherzer on the road trip are only a handful of regulars, as is the norm for road games during camp. Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, and Ramon Santiago are the only three players on the trip assured of making the club. Don Kelly will also play, as will Alex Avila, if those two continue to hit as they have so far, they could very well go north when camp breaks. Full lineup at the end of the post.
Meanwhile, the marquee action will take place back at Joker Marchant Stadium, where Brandon Inge is set to make his Spring debut. Inge will play three innings in his initial Grapefruit League contest and if all goes well, will work toward being ready to play full-time by Opening Day.
There is some curiosity in the way the lineup was constructed for this game, full details below, but the odd parts are that Austin Jackson is batting third and Inge is hitting eighth. On it’s face, Inge in the 8-hole is not shocking, but he is obviously going to need as many at bats as possible to get ready for Opening Day. Batting him at the bottom of the order makes it likely he gets just one in his three innings today.
And if you are grooming Jackson to be the lead-off man, a role he really has never had, why drop him to third in the order? Like Inge, Jackson will need as much time as possible to make whatever adjustments are needed to be successful as a lead-off hitter. Moving him down in the order could affect the way he approaches his at bats and might ultimately be detrimental to his development. I just don’t see the logic with either move.
Apart from the return of Inge, the main attraction today will be on the pitcher’s mound. Dontrelle Willis faces his toughest test to date as he tries to comeback from an anxiety disorder and a lack of control. The Yankees are a notoriously selective group, so Willis will have to throw strikes in what is his first start of camp. In two relief outings, Willis has allowed only one hit and no runs, but has walked three in four innings. If Willis can take another step forward in his recovery, he could solidify his chances to make the team.
Joining Willis today will be two other competitors for the rotation in Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson. Bonderman didn’t make it out of the first inning in his last appearance, but was much better in his first start. Robertson struggled in his first effort, but came back with three scoreless innings last time out. Provided each stay under their pitch limits, all three are scheduled to throw three innings versus the Yankees today.
If you want to take in the action today, the Yankee game will be broadcast on the radio on 97.1 FM and 1270 AM, start time is 1pm for both games.
Lineup vs Mets in Port St. Lucie
SS Ramon Santiago
LF Carlos Guillen
DH Magglio Ordonez
1B Ryan Strieby
RF Brennan Boesch
2B Don Kelly
CF Casper Wells
C Alex Avila
3B Audy Ciriaco
P Max Scherzer
Lineup vs Yankees in Lakeland
2B Scott Sizemore
DH Johnny Damon
CF Austin Jackson
1B Miguel Cabrera
RF Clete Thomas
LF Ryan Raburn
C Gerald Laird
3B Brandon Inge
SS Adam Everett
P Dontrelle Willis