Why this exhibition means something
This has the potential to be a very interesting day.
The last time the World Baseball Classic rolled around in 2006, the Tigers had one exhibition against a national squad. That was a split-squad game against Italy, and to be honest, it was pretty sleepy. Joel Zumaya threw in the other split-squad game that day against the Indians in Winter Haven.
Venezuela is a much better squad, and there’s no split squad to divide up the talent. But how seriously are the players going to take this game? Fair question. It is an exhibition, after all, and several of these players are Tigers teammates. On the other hand, if you look at the Venezuelan batting order, it’s as good or better of a lineup than most Tigers pitchers are going to face all spring. Offense is the Venezuelans’ strength, and given that the team has just three games together to get ready for the opening round next week in Toronto, I doubt they’ll be taking a game off. If Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson and others don’t throw quality strikes, they could get rocked.
Oh, and did I mention that K-Rod is supposedly pitching in this game? After last Saturday’s game, he’s the best Mets pitcher the Tigers will see here this spring.
On a side note, word from one of the Venezuelan reporters is that Carlos Guillen is going to be the regular left fielder in their lineup. I ran into Guillen this morning, and he said he hadn’t heard anything.
On another side note, and more for entertainment purposes, here’s guessing that Armando Galarraga throws one of his eephus pitches against the Tigers today. I have no inside knowledge of this, but he talked early in camp about throwing a couple this spring. Facing hitters who know his game this well, this would seem to be a good time for it.