Yankees split-squad falls short against Tigers

Murphy, Heathcott each have pair of hits

Yankees split-squad falls short against Tigers

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nick Castellanos' two-run single fueled a three-run fourth inning, supporting nine innings of five-hit ball for the Tigers bullpen, as Detroit pulled out a 3-2 win over the Yankees on Thursday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The victory gave Tigers manager Brad Ausmus nine innings to watch relief candidates as he tries to sort out his bullpen, now with two more spots to fill with Justin Verlander and Bruce Rondon slated to start the season on the 15-day disabled list. Detroit relievers made their case against a Yankees split-squad lineup that led with Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira.

Starting pitcher Angel Nesbitt, a strong candidate to fill Rondon's spot, hit 95 mph consistently on the Joker Marchant Stadium radar gun with a fastball that topped out at 96. He needed just 10 pitches to retire the aforementioned Yankees trio in order in the first inning before escaping trouble with a double play in the second.

Tom Gorzelanny retired two batters in his second straight day of work after retiring all five batters he faced Wednesday. Joba Chamberlain overcame a pair of walks with a fourth-inning double play.

Add in a trio of slick-fielding plays from shortstop Jose Iglesias, and the Tigers' relief parade proved stingy. The only Yankees runs came on a Kyle Roller sacrifice fly off Blaine Hardy in the fifth inning and a Slade Heathcott ground-ball single through the hole as Iglesias rushed to cover second base in the seventh.

By then, the Tigers had their advantage, having capitalized on their one real opportunity in the fourth inning against hard-throwing Yankees hurler Bryan Mitchell. Miguel Cabrera's leadoff walk and back-to-back singles from J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes loaded the bases with one out.

Mitchell struck out Alex Avila on an offspeed pitch, but Castellanos sent a ground ball through the right side to score Martinez. Cespedes came home on a wild pitch that catcher John Ryan Murphy blocked but had to run down in front of him, leaving home unoccupied.

Up next: The Yankees conclude their Grapefruit League schedule on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, hosting the Nationals in a 1:05 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV (Free Game of the Day). Left-hander CC Sabathia makes his third and final start of the spring for New York, tuning up for his April 9 season debut against the Blue Jays. Right-hander Stephen Strasburg will be on the hill for Washington..

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.