Tigers ready for Strasburg

Casper Wells won’t soon forget his first encounter with baseball uberprospect Stephen Strasburg. It came last October in the Arizona Fall League.

“He threw a fastball 98 [mph] on the black, first pitch, actually shattered my bat,” Wells recalled Monday morning. “First pitch I ever saw from him. So I was like, ‘All right, maybe I’ll see a pitch next at-bat, just to gauge the timing a little bit.’ Someone throws an easy 98 in on your hands, you know, it gets there quickly. Maybe I’ll see the ball over the plate.”

Next time up, he somehow saw a hanging curveball and pummeled it for a grand slam, part of a three-homer drubbing the Peoria Javelinas handed Strasburg. He could be in for a rematch on Tuesday, depending on how the matchups turn out.

Strasburg’s first Spring Training start will come against the Tigers, turning an otherwise routine Tigers trip to Space Coast Stadium into a national event. Most likely, he’ll be facing a starting lineup comprised primarily of Tigers regulars, such as Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen, Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson. Every pitch will be judged somehow towards his ability to pitch in the big leagues right now.

Wells came to a pretty positive judgment when he saw him last October, despite the damage he gave up.

“He was pretty poised out there on the mound,” Wells said. “That’s one thing I remember. After he gave up home runs, I want to see how he reacted, because our team hit him pretty well. We went out there like, ‘Let’s see what this guy’s all about,’ and our team hit him pretty well. He gave up I think back-to-back home runs, and I wanted to see how he reacted on the mound.

“He was still calm, like he never even gave up a home run, which is good. That shows a lot for his character, especially coming right out, starting your professional career and acting like that. That speaks highly of how you can handle yourself out there, just able to brush it off and his quotes that he made a couple of mistakes, which he did and we were able to capitalize. He’s a good pitcher, from what I saw. I’m sure he’ll be very successful in the big leagues very shortly.”

Wells wasn’t the only Tiger in that game. So was Scott Sizemore, but he wasn’t in there long. He was due up to face Strasburg in the opening inning, but he was injured on a double-play slide that broke his left ankle.

“I’m looking forward to facing him,” Sizemore said. “I can’t wait to see what everybody’s talking about.”

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