Porcello enjoying spring command performances
Tigers right-hander has allowed no walks in a span of 24 Grapefruit innings
JUPITER, Fla. -- Even amidst a remarkable spring -- command-wise, at least -- Rick Porcello is finding things to fine-tune.
The right-hander, competing as the incumbent for Detroit's fifth starter spot this season, has now gone all six outings without walking a batter following Monday's start in a 6-3 win over the Marlins. That spans 24 innings for a pitcher who has averaged 2.3 walks per game over his four-year big league career.
"It's definitely a good sign -- staying inside the strike zone," Porcello said after earning his fourth win of the Grapefruit League season. "You want to throw quality and effective strikes, not just throw strikes. But the command's been pretty good as far as walks."
There have been reports and rumors about Porcello being possible trade bait as the Tigers look to solidify their closer situation before Opening Day. Whether he pitches this year for Detroit or another club, it's shaping up to be one of Porcello's best springs.
"When you have the combination of what he's done this year -- worked on his breaking ball, which has been much more successful for him in the spring -- I think it helps you with a little something," manager Jim Leyland said. "It's not the season, but it gives you a little more confidence."
Porcello scattered four hits and three runs over six innings against the Marlins on Monday, tying his high-water mark for runs allowed in an outing this spring.
Porcello struck out three, and gave up a home run off a tough 2-1 changeup that Rob Brantly went down and got to hit out of the ballpark, perhaps with the help of a little bit of Florida wind. Porcello threw 86 pitches, 59 for strikes.
"I think, as far as being prepared to go into the season, I'm as prepared as I ever have been and have all my pitches working as well as I have at any point in my career coming out of Spring Training," Porcello said. "Preparation-wise, I'm definitely ready to go."
Kelly looking to seize opportunity with Tigers
JUPITER, Fla. -- Don Kelly didn't take the sure thing this spring, but he took the comfortable thing.
With other options on the table, Kelly chose to re-sign with the Tigers as a free agent in January, coming into camp as a non-roster invitee.
He's performed well -- hitting .244 with two doubles, a triple, three homers and six RBIs to go with a .915 OPS -- while demonstrating the usual versatility that makes him valuable. Kelly's famously seen time in his career at every position on the field.
"The guys, it's the familiarity with Lakeland [Fla.], Detroit, and just knowing everybody in the organization," Kelly said of what factored into his decision to re-sign with the Tigers. "There is a comfortability there. But ultimately it comes down to playing on the field, and I knew that coming here I was going to get an opportunity to play."
Kelly noted the opportunities he saw when Miguel Cabrera left for the World Baseball Classic and, of course, the battle for Tigers bench spots.
"I had some other opportunities where they tell you, you have a good chance to make their ballclub or whatever, but you don't know what's going to happen when you go to a different situation," Kelly said. "Coming here, I knew that Miggy was going to play in the World Baseball Classic. I knew I'd get some at-bats there, I would get some looks."
The question with Kelly typically comes at the plate, where he's a .167 hitter against lefties. But he's improved those marks this spring, batting .267 against southpaws and .231 against right-handers. Still, it figures to pose a challenge for him this season as he tries to contribute at the Major League level.
"He's had a good spring," Leyland said. "He was really doing good until he ran into some tough left-handers, too. And you can't control that really in Spring Training, but he's done very good."
Leyland opts to keep Dirks out against Marlins
JUPITER, Fla. -- Andy Dirks was out of the Tigers' lineup on Monday, but manager Jim Leyland said it was more of a precautionary measure than any setback Dirks sustained from a knee injury.
Dirks played his first game since March 19 on Sunday against the Mets, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. With lefty Wade LeBlanc starting Monday for the Marlins, Dirks wouldn't have likely started and Leyland said he wasn't interested in bringing him off the bench late.
"I don't think Dirks will play today," Leyland said. "I would not say a setback, but they've got the lefty going and rather than have him sit around -- if they had a righty going -- I probably would have played him. But rather than have him sit around and wait to go in the game, I'm not sure that's the ideal thing."
Dirks is a career .288 hitter against southpaws, compared to a .294 average against righties. This spring, he's hitting .200 against left-handers and .290 against right-handers.
Matt Tuiasosopo batted cleanup and started in left field in Dirks' place. Dirks missed time last week after crashing into the outfield wall and bruising his right knee.
Tigers send Lobstein to Double-A; trade Casali
JUPITER, Fla. -- The Tigers on Monday outrighted left-hander Kyle Lobstein to Double-A Erie, and traded catcher Curt Casali to Tampa Bay to retain the rights to Lobstein.
Lobstein, was selected by the Mets from the Rays in the Rule 5 Draft last year, before he was traded to the Tigers in exchange for cash considerations following the Draft.
"We liked him," president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "It was apparent he wasn't going to make our club over the last few days, but we like what we've seen. We have a tough club to make, based on what we're trying to accomplish at this point, for a young guy."
The lefty has given up 12 runs (10 earned) in 12 innings for the Tigers this spring (seven appearances). He went 8-7 with a 4.06 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 27 starts last year with Double-A Montgomery in the Tampa Bay organization.
"He knows how to pitch," Dombrowski said. "He's got an average fastball. He can spot his fastball and he's got some movement on it. He knows how to change speeds. His breaking ball, which we know that he has, hasn't been consistent for us. But our staff likes his breaking ball. He probably needs a little more development time, is what he needs."
Casali hit .288 with 12 doubles, eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 48 games with Class A West Michigan last year, and .250 with 13 doubles, a homer and 18 RBIs in 46 games with High-A Lakeland.