Nesbitt thrilled for first taste of bigs in Detroit's 'pen

Righty, seen as Tigers' next great relief hope, worked on command in spring

Nesbitt thrilled for first taste of bigs in Detroit's 'pen

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers hadn't yet announced their Opening Day roster Friday morning when Angel Nesbitt emerged from the clubhouse with a smile on his face. If that wasn't enough of a hint of his fate, the thumbs-up sign he gave was.

As of Saturday, he still hadn't wiped off the smile.

A year ago at this point, Nesbitt was readying for a season in Lakeland with the Class A club, a gifted pitcher without a set role. On Monday, he'll be introduced to a sellout crowd at Comerica Park for his first taste of the big leagues as the Tigers' next great relief hope.

"Amazing," he said.

That's how the Tigers found his performance in his first spring camp.

"We like Nesbitt a lot," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He's a good young pitcher. How will he respond when you get to the big leagues during the season? Time will tell. But I'll tell you what: I have a lot of people from other organizations come up to me and say, 'Gee, I love Angel Nesbitt.'"

The 24-year-old does not boast the same fastball as Bruce Rondon, but he also doesn't harm himself by trying. After lighting up radar guns from 96-98 mph at the start of camp, Nesbitt made the adjustment to take a little bit off the velocity in order to gain some on command.

Just as Nesbitt seemed to be running out of momentum in his Major League case, having given up eight hits in a five-inning span from March 21-30, he turned in two scoreless innings on one hit with a walk and a strikeout Thursday against the Yankees.

"It's my first time starting in Spring Training," he said. "I feel great. I can't believe it. I tried to throw pretty good. I think I did. I feel good."

His regular-season situations will likely be more judicious. Still, with Rondon out for now to deal with biceps tendinitis, Nesbitt has a chance to fill his role of a power-throwing pitcher in strikeout situations. He fanned 72 over 66 2/3 innings last year between Class A Lakeland and Double-A Erie.

Nesbitt plans to approach regular-season hitters with the same intensity as he did this spring.

"It's the same," he said. "I don't know what's going to happen when I get up there, I don't know if I change, but I feel good."

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.