Detroit Tigers minor league report: Opening week fireworks

(From left) Tigers pitchers Garrett Hill, Logan Shore, director of pitching Gabe Ribas, Ty Madden and Jackson Jobe run to the next drill at the spring training minor league minicamp Thursday, Feb.17, 2022 at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida.
(From left) Tigers pitchers Garrett Hill, Logan Shore, director of pitching Gabe Ribas, Ty Madden and Jackson Jobe run to the next drill at the spring training minor league minicamp Thursday, Feb.17, 2022 at Tiger Town in Lakeland, Florida. /
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West Michigan Whitecaps (2-1) – T1st in Midwest League East

Detroit Tigers
Tigers pitcher Dylan Smith throws live batting practice during Detroit Tigers spring training on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, at TigerTown in Lakeland, Florida. /

The West Michigan Whitecaps took a two-hour bus ride to Midland to kick off their season against the Great Lakes Loons, and they returned home with two wins for their trouble. Three spectacular starting pitching performances led the way for the ‘Caps, beginning with Carlos Guzman on Friday.

West Michigan got RBIs from five different players in their 5-1 victory, including a double from Trei Cruz and Parker Meadows‘ first home run of the season. Saturday saw the pro debut of Dylan Smith, the Detroit Tigers’ 3rd-round draft pick in 2021, and he was outstanding, allowing just one hit over three innings. The Whitecaps also got big games from Colt Keith (2-for-5, 2B, 3B, 2R) and Austin Murr (3-for-3, BB, 2 RBI) and a superb bullpen performance from Dario Gardea (2IP, 5K), but they ultimately lost 5-4, despite outhitting the Loons 9-4.

Sunday’s finale saw another exciting debut, this time from Detroit’s first rounder from 2021, Ty Madden. He didn’t exactly get off to a hot start, allowing a home run to the first batter he faced, and snagging a screaming liner near his ear from the next batter, but he settled in quickly.

Madden’s final line (4IP, H, ER, BB, 6K) was strong, but his new pitching mechanics might have been the most promising development. Madden was generally considered a top-12 talent in the draft last year, but he slid to the Detroit Tigers at pick 32 because teams were concerned about his fastball getting hit hard when he left it up in the zone. But Madden’s arm slot seems to have dropped slightly from his college days, and in the video above you can see him throw about 20 elevated fastballs, and generate no fewer than 8 swings-and-misses with the offering.

Also promising on Sunday was West Michigan’s offense, which went bonkers over the final two innings to plate 11 runs and register a 14-4 victory. Five different players knocked in a pair of runs, Andrew Navigato picked up three hits, and Meadows hit his second home run of the early season.

The Whitecaps head home this week for a six-game set with in-state rival Lansing.

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