LAKELAND, Fla. -- The collective gasp took some of the warm Florida air out of Joker Marchant Stadium as the pitch from Yankees right-hander Bryan Mitchell hit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler around the base of his left hand. The timing of it on Friday afternoon, less than 24 hours after Tigers outfielder Cameron Maybin was diagnosed with a fractured left wrist that will cost him four to six weeks, raised the fears.
In Detroit's 3-0 victory, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand emerged from the dugout so quickly he could've met Kinsler at first base. After a few steps, a wave of Kinsler's hand let Rand know he didn't need to.
Like Kinsler, the pitch that essentially ended Maybin's Spring Training came from a Yankees starter. That was a mid-90s fastball from Luis Severino. By contrast, the Vinnie Pestano pitch that hit Anthony Gose in the third inning was such a glancing blow that no one seemed to notice it hit him until plate umpire Jerry Layne told him to take his base.
"I don't think, obviously, either one of them were on purpose, nor was mine," said Verlander, who hit Yankees right-handed-hitter Cesar Puello with a 90-mph fastball in the second inning Friday. "You've got early Spring Training, guys are trying to pitch in and you're not quite locked in yet, so it tends to get away from you a little bit. Obviously, it's a little bit of a higher-tension situation when you have a guy who breaks a hand and gets injured."
Still, Gose took the fourth hit-by-pitch in two games between the clubs, and the eighth hit-by-pitch suffered by the Tigers in five spring games. The Tigers understand the importance of working on command in Spring Training, but Maybin's injury injected a twinge of frustration.
"You have a guy get hurt, obviously tensions are there," Verlander continued. "And if Kinsler gets hurt there, you're risking seasons, franchise seasons. You get a little upset."
Said Ausmus: "Obviously there's no intent by these guys to hit our players. You have to certainly take that into account. But we've been hit quite a bit. I understand guys are coming off the offseason and they're not as sharp as they'd normally be, but we certainly won't take kindly to it if it continues."
For his part, Kinsler shrugged off the pattern, much like the pitch that hit him.
"Guys always get hit in Spring Training. It's just something that happens in spring," he said. "You see more hit-by-pitches in Spring Training than you'll see in the regular season. Guys are still trying to command their pitches, trying to work inside, especially guys that are trying to make teams. They're going to pitch in a little bit more. They're not just going to lay a fastball out over the plate.
"It's really just part of Spring Training. You see it every year. It just so happened that Cam was in the dugout and it was the Yankees. Everyone understood what was going on."
Verlander and Ausmus both pointed out that if a pitcher can't throw inside with command early in spring, he'd be better off working on holding off pitching there until he can.
"Hey, if you can't pitch in, stop pitching in," Verlander said. "You need to control it a little bit better. But that's the game."
Kinsler pointed out the obvious.
"Eventually, if you can't throw inside and you're hitting guys, you're not going to make it," he said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.