We’ve reached the point in spring training where most eyes are starting to drift toward the regular season. You could see it in the lineup the Yankees wrote up today, as it was definitely a spring travel squad they sent to Lakeland to face the Tigers. Double-A catcher Rodolfo Durán was behind the plate, journeymen Wilmer Difo and Billy McKinney were batting sixth and seventh in the lineup, and the likes of Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo were left behind in Tampa.
Yet in a way, these kinds of games almost offer more intrigue than your typical exhibition matchup. There’s no ambiguity about the statuses of Judge or Rizzo, or even DJ LeMahieu or Giancarlo Stanton and the like. Those veterans will start when healthy. Instead, the players that featured prominently today were the ones whose roles are yet to be determined, the ones who still have something to prove at this later stage of spring training.
For one, Domingo Germán was on the mound for the start. While he and Clarke Schmidt are no longer locked in a battle for the fifth starter spot, both are still competing to show they deserve an indefinite placement in the rotation. Germán had some work cut out for him, with Schmidt having fired five stellar innings Thursday against Pittsburgh.
Elsewhere, Isiah Kiner-Falefa got his first ever start in center field, as he attempts to bolster his bona fides as a utilityman. And the top two players on the lineup card are perhaps the two most interesting figures remaining in camp, at least in terms of the volatility of their major league roles, in Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza.
Volpe’s at-bats might be the most exciting part of camp now, particularly with Jasson Domínguez reassigned to the minors. The top prospect’s been red hot, though he was a bit cooler today. He faced Matt Manning to lead off the game, and did a good job dropping the bat head to square up a low fastball, but didn’t get enough of it to do anything more than lineout to center. Volpe had a chance to do damage in the second, but popped out with the bases loaded and two outs, and struck out to lead off the fifth en route to an 0-for-4 day.
On the other end, Germán did nothing to bolster his case for keeping a rotation spot if/when Carlos Rodón recovers from a forearm strain. In the bottom of the first, Germán allowed a single, hit-by-pitch, and an RBI single to Andre Lipcius to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. The Tigers doubled their advantage when Germán left a fastball meant to be down and away out over the plate, one which Colt Keith crushed for a long solo shot:
In the next inning, Germán left another fastball up and over the plate, this one to former top prospect Riley Greene, who hooked it just inside the left field line for another solo shot. After a single to Nick Maton, Germán then badly hung a curveball, which Akil Baddoo hit it out for a two-run dinger and a 5-0 lead:
Two batters later, Germán gave up another dinger, a two-run shot to Andrew Knapp. After one more single, Aaron Boone mercifully pulled Germán, after 2.2 innings, nine hits, and seven runs yielded. Quite the contrast from Schmidt’s 15-up-15-down outing last night.
It should be said, Germán was a little hard done by on the Greene and Baddoo homers; neither was really crushed, with Statcast assessing each with having less than a 30 percent chance of going for a hit. He also should have been out of the third inning before the final homer, if it wasn’t for an odd misplay by Aaron Hicks in left. Regardless, Germán’s command was poor today, and when his command is poor, he’s hittable. That much was made evident by an unimposing Tigers lineup putting good swings on him all afternoon.
The Yankees got a couple back on Estevan Florial’s two-run single in the fifth, though the Tigers struck back in the bottom half when Knapp smacked his second homer, this one a solo job off Matt Krook. The left-handed Krook, known for his sweeping slider, is in the mix to contribute as a depth pitcher with the injuries that have hit the Yankee pitching staff, though he didn’t put his best foot forward.
Deivi García also got some work in, and looked much as he has throughout spring. He pumped gas in a short outing, sitting 96 and touching 98 across two shutout innings, but not without control issues, with almost half his pitches going for balls.
While García was navigating the late innings, the Yankee backups’ backups made a game of it, with Difo hitting a two-run homer as part of a three-run seventh, and infielder Benjamin Cowles smashing a two-run dinger in the eighth to cut Detroit’s lead to 8-7. They left the tying run stranded at second in the ninth, however, giving the Tigers the narrow victory.
Other notes on the day: Peraza reached base twice and doubled, while Kiner-Falefa navigated his time in center without incident. Hicks had a solid day other than his defensive miscue, putting some quality swings on the ball from the left side and drawing a walk from the right, finishing 2-for-3. And 2022 first-round Spencer Jones subbed in and knocked a single late in the game.
The Yankees will travel again tomorrow, taking on the Blue Jays in Dunedin. That one goes off at 1:05 EST, though it won’t be televised. You can follow along by radio with WFAN 660/101.9 FM.