- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
Friday's home opener for the Atlanta Braves against the Detroit Tigers was a quick-moving, if not terribly eventful spring training game, with the JV squad in the game by the sixth inning and a handful of prospects, mostly on the Tigers' side of the aisle.
• Rick Porcello sat at 92 mph and touched 94 in his two-inning stint as Detroit's starter, throwing mostly fastballs; the pitch didn't have a lot of life, but he was around the zone with it. His 76-78 mph curveball had good depth and some angle with an 11-to-5 break, with one hanger that he got away with, and his changeup at 83-84 had good fading action.
Porcello has always been worse from the stretch, and porous defense behind him has never helped, but there are things he could improve: He added a slider that has never been even an average pitch, and his fastball command has been a problem even though his control is fine.
If the three-pitch mix he showed Friday is what he'll use going forward, junking the slider, there's still some hope here that he can at least make his ERA line up with his peripherals, even if it doesn't quite measure up to the impressive raw stuff he had out of high school.
• Luke Putkonen came in first out of the Tigers' bullpen and was the surprise guy of the day, working 94-96 mph and throwing strikes. Putkonen works with an average fastball as a starter, but last year was his first with significant work in the 'pen and he showed some of that increased velocity in a brief stint in the majors in 2012. A plus fastball with good command and control usually adds up to at least a middle reliever, and Putkonen has the third pitch (a splitter) to avoid becoming a specialist if he's given the opportunity to face some lefties.
• Four rookie hitters appeared for the Tigers, with none distinguishing himself at the plate, although center fielder Daniel Fields made a very impressive catch on a ball hit deep into the left-center gap after he came in to replace Quintin Berry. Unfortunately, he was overmatched in his one at-bat the next inning. Outfielder Tyler Collins showed a really sound swing with good balance and upper-body strength, although as a corner guy, the bar will be high for him to profile as a regular, and it looks as if he can get tied up inside because he loads so deep.
Nick Castellanos was over-rotating at the plate, perhaps trying too hard to crush the ball, not something I've seen from him much in the past. Avi Garcia was also pretty rotational but doesn't have the same kind of hand acceleration as Castellanos; he's a below-average runner, so, like Collins, he's going to have to rake to profile in a corner.
• Atlanta rolled out the A lineup for the home opener, then used mostly 4A types to finish the game. Craig Kimbrel's outing earned some notice because he was all over the place, although he's notorious for looking bad early in spring training and I wouldn't read anything into just one outing.