LAKELAND, Fla. -- If Tigers pitching prospects needed any inspiration for trying to battle for a roster spot, they can look to Brayan Villarreal, who broke out from the back of the pack last spring to claim the last spot in Detroit's bullpen.
His big league stint didn't last to Memorial Day, but he saw a few more days in the Majors around the Fourth of July before going to Triple-A Toledo for good.
He's back in camp, but with so few spots open on the pitching staff, he's in a much different situation. This has very much the feel of a learning camp for him.
"He's a very top-notch talent," manager Jim Leyland said. "He just has to learn the art of pitching a little bit more and refine his skills a little bit. But he's a tremendous talent."
AL opponents bracing for Fielder's impact
LAKELAND, Fla. -- John Farrell knows what a dynamic duo can mean to a Major League lineup. When he joined the Red Sox as pitching coach in 2007, he watched Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz help lead a balanced Boston attack to the team's second World Series in four years.
Now entering his second season as Blue Jays manager, Farrell sees Prince Fielder's arrival in Detroit as a potential difference-maker.
"It can have a huge impact," Farrell said. "Any time you can lengthen out a lineup -- particularly in our league, where offense is a premium -- they make a huge impact. It alters how you pitch accordingly to a given lineup, and that was a very good lineup to begin with.
"They're going to miss Victor Martinez a tremendous amount, but to have the ability to go out and add Prince Fielder -- not many teams are capable of doing that. They're very noticeable when their names are in the lineup, I can tell you that."
Farrell's final Major League stop in Detroit was also the last season for the Fielders there. Farrell made two starts for the Tigers that May. Detroit dealt Cecil Fielder to the Yankees at the Trade Deadline that July.
End of Tigers tilt leaves Hoffman bruised
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matt Hoffman's right knee looked a lot larger Monday thanks to Evan Gattis' line drive off it Sunday afternoon, but much to the Tigers' relief, he didn't have any structural damage. The only lasting impact was about as stellar of an ending as an 18-3 game could have.
Hoffman still managed to run down Gattis' liner on the first-base side and throw to first for the out.
"I almost fell twice running," Hoffman said. "I took two steps, almost fell, took another step, almost fell again. How that play was made, I have no idea."
He had even less of an idea about the last out, a behind-the-back grab on Josh Wilson's sharp bouncer back up the middle. He could've claimed that he practiced that, but he didn't try. The fact that he glanced out toward center field when the ball was in his glove was a bit of a giveaway.
"That was more like, 'Let's throw the glove out,'" Hoffman said. "I felt it hit, but I didn't think it went in."
It couldn't have come at a better time.
"Once I got hit [in the knee], it stung, and I know I had about five minutes left [before it ballooned]," Hoffman said.
Time appeared to be up by the time he limped into the Tigers' clubhouse. Hoffman was limping around the clubhouse Monday morning and was held out of workouts as a precaution, but he said he would be fine.
Tigers have different ways to get mitts ready
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Don't worry about the odor emanating from the Tigers clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium. It's just the smell of Ramon Santiago flashing leather.
Hopefully, he's not flash-firing it. But he has to soften it up somehow.
"I put it in the microwave for one minute," Santiago said. "If you leave it in for too much, you may burn it."
At that point, he quickly caught himself.
"Tell the kids: Don't try this at home," he said.
Spring Training isn't just time for players to work their arms and swings into game shape. For nearly every player in the clubhouse, there's a new glove, maybe two, to work into shape once the manufacturers make their annual visit.
It's not like a new toy or a new bat. There's a process to work the glove into shape. Some won't see a regular-season game until later in the year after last year's new glove wears out. Others get a crash course to get ready for Opening Day.
Brandon Inge has a new glove for second base, but he said he doesn't need to wear it too much to soften the leather. About the only thing he'll do, he said, is pound the glove in the middle to create a spot where he can expect the ball to settle each time.
Catcher Alex Avila won't break in his new mitt for a while, but he's already breaking one in. When he leaves the ballpark every night, he puts two baseballs into his new mitt and then tapes it shut.