Porcello perfect in Grapefruit League opener
FEB 22, 2013 5:03p ET
He’s not going to win or lose the fifth spot in the rotation on one outing, but it certainly was all he and Tigers manager Jim Leyland could’ve hoped for in his first outing.
“He threw the ball well and had good hair on the ball,” said Leyland, referring to the midseason velocity of 94 and 95 mph he attained. “He threw the ball extremely well.”
Porcello struck out Freddie Freeman (fastball) and Dan Uggla (changeup), and induced Jason Heyward and top shortstop prospect Andrelton Simmons to ground out. Brothers Justin Upton and B.J. Upton, making their Atlanta debuts, flew out.
“For the first time out, it was a good building block,” Porcello said. “You get butterflies and you get excited to compete, but today was the calmest and most relaxed first outing (in spring training) that I’ve had.”
Porcello couldn’t pinpoint why that was the case.
“Porcello had a couple good changeups, a couple good breaking balls,” Leyland said. “He’s confident. He’s been around awhile. Throwing it 94-95 is pretty good.”
Slider consistency is a key for the right-hander, but he didn’t care to discuss any particular pitch or the breakdown on how many he threw.
“I was looking to establish all my pitches,” Porcello said, “and I was pleased with all my pitches. There is always room for improvement, and I didn’t want to get too excited.”
Drew Smyly, who also is competing for the last rotation spot, pitches Monday in Clearwater against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Porcello was asked about the pressure of this spring, but Leyland also is taking past performances into strong consideration.
“I’m just trying to go about my business,” Porcello said, “and focusing on the task at hand.”
Martinez excited about playing again
Victor Martinez had gone 16 months without playing in a baseball game after having left knee surgery. His unbridled joy for partaking again was something the veteran designated hitter did not attempt to hide.
In his first at-bat, Martinez took a pitch from Tim Hudson off his right shin guard that he said was no problem. He lined out to center in his second at-bat and hit a liner off the pitcher before being thrown out in the seventh inning. But he was ecstatic about his 0-for-2, and getting a chance to slide into second even though it ended up being a double play.
“I think I did great for what I was expecting,” Martinez said. “I never was so excited, so happy for a spring training game. It was like I was getting called up to the big leagues.”
Sitting out a whole season was so hard on Martinez that he found it difficult to watch the World Series. Was he thinking about the knee at any point in the game?
“I’m not thinking about that,” Martinez said. “I’m like I used to be. I got to run to first and to second and to slide. I did not tell even a bit.”
Still, he plans to wear a left knee brace until nearly the conclusion of spring training.
He was pleased with making “good contact” and having “good at-bats” in his return game. He even got a nice round of applause for a road game.
“They made me feel great and real, real happy,” said Martinez, who lives nearby in Orlando. “It’s nice that people recognize what you do.”
Martinez batted .330 with 103 RBI in 2011, his first season with Detroit after signing a four-year contract for $50 million.
Collins, Kobernus provide all-around punch
Right fielder Tyler Collins tripled to lead off the eighth inning of a scoreless game, and scored when the next batter, left fielder Jeff Kobernus, tripled. They got the big hits off Ryan Buchter, a non-roster invitee who pitched mainly in Double-A ball last year. But the speed and outfield defense Collins and Kobernus showed were of undeniable major league quality.
Collins is a player to keep an eye on in an organization overflowing with outfield prospects. He’s a non-roster invitee who hit .290 last year for Class-A Lakeland, and added a double and a diving catch coming in at the right-field foul line. He received a nice hand from the fans and plenty of high-fives in the dugout.
“On a normal night,” said Leyland, “his uniform will be dirty. ... “(Collins) is a real A-type prospect to me. He can run throw and has got power.”
Detroit drafted Collins, the National Junior College Player of the Year at Howard College in Texas, in the sixth round in 2011.
“I only have one speed, guys, and that’s full speed,” Collins said. “I’m honored for the chance to represent a big league name, and could not ask for anything more.”
The Tigers are playing Kobernus, a Rule 5 draft second baseman from the Washington Nationals, in left to see if he could be a versatile 25th man on the roster. He tagged and slid home with ease for the second run in the eighth inning. He scored on a sinking liner to left — not the easiest fly to tag on.
On defense, he calmly caught a ball hit to the left-field wall for the Braves' first out in the ninth. Kobernus played outfield as a freshman at Cal-Berkeley and looked comfortable in left.
“I know I have an opportunity,” Kobernus said, “and that’s all I can ask for.”
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