I went to the ballpark this morning fully planning to write about the Tigers’ stingy pitching numbers this spring and when they go from pitchers being ahead of hitters in Spring Training to some pitching staffs being ahead of other pitching staffs. I should have known better as soon as I saw Albert Pujols on the Cardinals travel roster.
Funny thing, though, is that I still ended up writing about the pitching, each step along the way until finding one of the few Tigers bright spots of the entire game.
Phil Coke said he felt good until his fourth and final inning, but realistically, he was pitching damage control for much of his day before losing it in the fourth with back-to-back walks. He made no secret of wanting another shot at Albert Pujols after retiring him twice already, but back-to-back walks to load the bases and force in a run took that opportunity away from him.
“I feel like if you leave me out there, I could’ve gotten Pujols again,” Coke said. “But that’s just me. That’s my competitive nature. His at-bats were the ones I physically felt best in. He’s a very dangerous hitter, but I was locked in.”
His walks put Adam Wilk in almost a no-win situation when he entered the fourth inning with the bases loaded and Pujols up, but it’s a test for a reliever. Two innings later, Daniel Schlereth’s four straight walks put a big blemish on his spring pitching line, but it created an opportunity the Tigers no doubt valued for testing ground-ball specialist Robbie Weinhardt.
Weinhardt didn’t get the ground-ball double play, but a strikeout and a ground ball allowed him to escape the jam without giving up an inherited runner. But he obviously never would’ve gotten that opportunity to prove himself without Schlereth’s control issues.
That’s how Spring Training outings can work out for players, whether they’re ready or not. One guy’s rough afternoon is another pitcher’s opportunity. And through it all, there always seems to be a story. It just might not be the story you planned on writing this morning.