V-Mart lifts Tigers with homer in pitchers' duel vs. Rays
By Jason Beck and David Wilson
MLB.com |@beckjason |
ST. PETERSBURG -- In a Spring Training finale devoid of much offense, a solo home run by Victor Martinez to lead off the second inning was enough to give the Tigers a 1-0 win against the Rays on Saturday.
Tampa Bay welcomed Detroit to Tropicana Field as both teams prepare for Opening Day on Monday. Alfredo Simon, who is lined up as the Tigers' fourth starter and will take the mound on Friday at Cleveland, limited the Rays to just one hit in five innings while striking out three.
Aside from the solo home run Erasmo Ramirez allowed to Martinez, the first batter he faced in a Rays uniform, the righty was spectacular in his debut. Ramirez surrendered just one more hit in 3 2/3 innings while striking out six batters.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Victor-y through power: Martinez said earlier this week that his home run total (32) might be the toughest standard to meet from last season, but he was more concerned with run production. He flashed his power Saturday, working a full count off Ramirez before lining a ball into the right-field seats for his second home run of the spring.
"It was nice to see," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of the home run, "because it looked like Victor. When he first started getting back into games, he didn't really look like himself, and part of that is just getting your timing. The last three days, he has really started to swing the bat like Victor. That home run is very indicative."
Big Pasta serves up cheese: With Rays hitters swinging aggressively in the spring finale, Simon took advantage with five innings of one-hit ball in just 50 pitches, 37 of them for strikes. He struck out three, walked none and induced eight ground-ball outs. After a rough three-start stretch of 13 runs on 17 hits over 11 2/3 innings, Simon finished with 11 innings of one-run ball on six hits over his final two outings.
A new Ray of light: Ramirez entered the game in the second inning to make his first -- and last -- spring audition for a starter spot. Tampa Bay's rotation has been ravaged by injuries this spring, and the back end is a still a competition. The Rays acquired Ramirez from the Mariners on Tuesday to provide depth. With his outing against the Tigers, Ramirez positioned himself well for the No. 4 job.
"I missed one pitch, and [Martinez] made me pay for that, but after that pitch, I just realized what I had to do," Ramirez said. "Just be myself and follow the catcher." More ���a>
Cash's Opening Day preview: The Rays' lineup on Saturday provided a preview of manager Kevin Cash's plan against right-handed pitchers. The only changes during the season will be positional: John Jaso, who hit leadoff and started in left field to practice under Tropicana Field's roof, will serve as the designated hitter on Monday, and Desmond Jennings will take his usual place in left. More ���a>
Safe call stands: Ausmus challenged a safe call when the Rays' Brandon Guyer stole second base in the bottom of the ninth, but the ruling on the field stood. It would have been Tampa Bay's second out of the inning.
"Just trying to get out of there. If he calls him out, we get out of there quicker," Ausmus said.
Ausmus said there was confusion with the umpiring crew on whether he was signaling from the dugout to challenge or play on, and that he hoped to talk with MLB executive vice president Joe Torre about possible challenge signs.
? "The coin fell on Rajai [Davis] starting." -- Ausmus on why Davis started back-to-back games in center field to end Spring Training
? "He's in a spot where he's got some good hitters coming up for him. We anticipate [Steven] Souza's going to be right in the middle of everything we do offensively." -- Rays manager Kevin Cash on why Souza will bat second in the lineup
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: The Tigers fly back to Detroit Saturday night ahead of their Opening Day matchup with the Twins on Monday afternoon at Comerica Park. David Price will become the first pitcher other than Justin Verlander to start the Tigers' season opener since 2007, taking the mound opposite Tigers nemesis Phil Hughes. Game time is 1:08 p.m. ET.
Rays: The Rays get Sunday off before opening their season against the Orioles at Tropicana Field. Chris Archer will be on the mound for Tampa Bay against Baltimore's Chris Tillman. First pitch is slated for 3:10 p.m. ET.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. David Wilson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.