LAKELAND, Florida -- The Detroit Tigers topped the University of Florida Southern Moccasins, 7-2. It was the first exhibition game for the Tigers and there were no injuries to either sides on Monday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Florida Southern starter Brady Arenson said, “As soon as [Upton] came up, I got visions of him hitting a HR.”
Arenson, however, struck out Justin Upton, who started in left field and hit second in the lineup. Arenson finished 1.0 innings and gave up one run on two hits and two walks, while punching out two Tigers hitters.
Nick Castellanos, the starting third baseman, knocked in the first run of the season with a single scoring Ian Kinsler in the bottom of the first. Miguel Cabrera drew a walk and advanced, but never scored. Mitch Reeves countered for Florida Southern with an RBI single in the top of the fourth inning to knot the game at one each.
Left-handed pitcher Kevin Ziomek toed the slab for the Tigers. Across two innings of work, the Ziomek gave up just one hit while recording a strikeout.
“The biggest thing going in was to establish the fastball, but the off-speed was feeling good so I worked the changeup in,” Ziomek said. “It’s been a big pitch for me the last couple of years. It’s something I want to keep developing.”
Zomiek was drafted in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Vanderbilt University. The left-handed pitchers fast ball tops out at 94 miles per hour on a downhill plane, which allows him to get a ton of ground balls. If the organization wants to push him, Ziomek could find himself in the back of the rotation by the end of the season.
“He’s funky, he’s sneaky because of his delivery,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s got a big curve and the changeup looked good today. But, not knocking the Florida Southern kids, but there is a big difference between them and Major League hitters.”
The Tigers took back the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning on a home run off the bat of Austin Green to left center field against Alex Marzilli.
“I think he [Green] has a real chance to be a Major League catcher,” Ausmus said. “He’s got a strong arm, he’s getting better behind the plate and he’s got some power at the plate. I think he needs to refine some things and develop some things, but he’s got a chance, he really does.”
Believe it or not, the Moccasins tied the game, 2-2, with a home run from Sam Machonis in the top of the sixth. Joe Jimenez gave up the home run, but followed with three straight strikeouts.
Lightning struck in the bottom of the seventh inning as JaCoby Jones juiced a three-run home run off Stephen Brooks into left field to score Dominic Ficociello and Mike Gerber.
“It was just one at-bat,” said Jones. “But going from that, you know, it’s good, something that can carry over. First at-bat in Detroit’s spring training, hit a home run, it’s exciting.”
Jones worked out at third base on Monday, but will primarily serve as a shortstop. The third round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft still has to serve the final 38 games of his suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. Jones was traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Tigers for Joakim Soria in late July of 2015.
“Jones has made a good impression,” Ausmus said. “He’s worked hard. He’s a strong kid and he’s got the ability to play a number of positions. I don’t know that we really know which one would be best for him, or if it would be best to move him from position to position.
“That decision will be made over the course of spring training.”
The Tigers added two more runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 7-2 lead in the ball game. Thomas Fields and Ficociello both recorded RBI doubles against Chase Pilato of the Moccasins.
Dallas Britton picked up the win for Detroit and Brooks of Florida Southern took the loss on Monday afternoon.
At 1:05 PM ET on Tuesday, the Tigers will battle against the Pittsburgh Pirates to open Grapefruit League play at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida.