February 18th, 2009

Knapp adds drill to Tigers pitching regimen

For the most part, Rick Knapp hasn’t tried to make a whole lot of
changes in the Spring Training routine of Tigers pitchers. They take
fielding practice and throw bullpen sessions much like they have the
last few years. Today, he brought in a new wrinkle.

After the
scheduled pitchers threw their side sessions, Knapp brought one more
group of pitchers to the mound — including Justin Verlander, Edwin
Jackson, Bobby Seay and Fu-Te Ni, and had them do some light pitching
to catchers. This wasn’t meant as another bullpen session, but meant
for location work.

Knapp calls them “knee-to-knee” drills,
Verlander and Jim Leyland said. The point is to have the catcher spot
his glove at either knee and have the pitcher try to hit the spot.

“It’s a concentration tool, really,” Leyland said. “You can see if your mind and your arm are [in sync].”

teams do it, but it’s something new for the Tigers. Some teams will
have the pitcher do it off flat ground, but with the bullpen mounds
available, doing it there allows them to get the feeling and the
repetition of spotting from the mound.

Thursday starts a more
traditional Spring Training drill — pitchers throwing batting practice
to hitters. Expect pitchers to be well ahead of hitters at this point.
Though the gap between reporting days for pitchers and position players
wasn’t as big as in previous years, most of the Tigers pitchers were
throwing off of a mound well before formal workouts began.

Other notes of interest today:

  • Not
    a whole lot of high pop-ups to the outfielders today, but a lot of
    chasing down deep drives. That, too, was an adventure. The outfielders
    who went through that drill were rewarded when they were able to take
    batting practice with the wind blowing out. Some Tigers were supposedly
    launching shots that not only cleared the outfield fence on the back
    fields, but also the road beyond the fences.
  • So far, Spring
    Training single-game ticket sales are down only slightly from last
    year, according to Director of Lakeland Operations Ron Myers.
  • Leyland
    said he would like to get Joel Zumaya “20 innings or so” this spring in
    order to get him ready for the season. Remember, the Tigers plan to
    stretch him out to pitch 2-3 innings at a time down here, so they could
    get to that point in maybe 10 outings.
  • Others who are probably
    going to be stretched out include Brandon Lyon, with a one-time outing
    probably midway through the spring, and Zach Miner, who will be
    stretched out as a starter.
  • Interesting question: How do you
    get a left-handed specialist ready for the season when opposing teams
    are probably going to react with right-handed pinch-hitters when he
    enters a game? Leyland’s thinking about that, and he said he could
    stack up a series of left-handed hitters from the Minor Leagues and put
    them against Seay or other lefty relievers in a simulated game on the
    back fields.
  • The last Tigers position player to report checked in this morning. That was Timo Perez, who was in the clubhouse super early and was in outfield drills by mid-morning.
  • Ryan Perry wasn’t the only Tigers prospect in camp about which Leyland raved. He also had strong compliments for infielder Cale Iorg. “You look at this Iorg kid and everything, that’s a prospect. I’m not talking about a fringe prospect. I’m talking about a top-notch project.

Perry makes an impression

Sorry about the lack of updates the last couple days. Had some connection issues, but we’re back on now.

Now, before you read on, remember that games haven’t started yet and pitchers haven’t faced hitters. Still, a few days into camp, Ryan Perry is making an impression on the Tigers. Jim Leyland has described him as a “big arm,” and while he isn’t saying anything about the roster, he has pointed out — rightly — that he hasn’t been afraid to take young arms in the past.

“I’m not saying Ryan Perry is going to make the team,” Leyland said. “But I’m saying it makes you stop and look.”

Perry, for his part, said he doesn’t expect to make the team.

“It would be an honor to make it,” Perry said, “but I’m not getting my hopes up.”

It’s a sunny, windy day down here in Lakeland — slightly cool (relatively speaking, I know) but expected to warm up as the day goes on. It’s a good day for coaches to torture some outfielders with high fly balls.

“If you can catch a fly ball here,” Al Kaline said, “you can catch them anywhere.”