ST. PETERSBURG -- Will Rhymes was playing for the Rays' Triple-A affiliate when Tampa Bay visited Detroit in April, so his first game against his old club came Friday night with an unenviable matchup with Justin Verlander.
He didn't get a hit, but he arguably did his job nonetheless. At the very least, he might have helped Desmond Jennings do his job.
Rhymes had a nine-pitch at-bat against Verlander, fouling off five pitches, before striking out swinging on a fastball. It capped a 20-pitch second inning for Verlander, giving him 49 pitches entering the third. He was thinking pitch conservation when he tried to sneak an 89-mph "fastball" past Jennings, who lined it out to left.
Rhymes battled Verlander for 11 pitches leading off the fifth inning, fouling off five two-strike offerings before he grounded out to short. Again, Verlander fell behind Jennings after that and tried to attack him with a fastball that Jennings charged and sent out to left.
Catcher Gerald Laird tipped his cap.
"Rhymes did his job," Laird said. "He may not have showed it, but those two at-bats ... those are just tough at-bats. That's like an inning right there sometimes. He battled him right there. He shortened his swing. We were throwing him quality pitches. He just kept kind of fouling them off.
"We tried everything, and he just kept battling. We were able to get him out, but he pretty much did his job when Verlander took 20 pitches in two at-bats."
They were two long at-bats for Rhymes in a season when his at-bats have actually been shorter than when he was a Tiger. He averaged 4.09 pitches per plate appearance during his month-long stint in Detroit last year, compared with just 3.6 this year, according to baseball-reference.com.
Verlander rediscovers changeup against Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- The bad news for Justin Verlander, and the downfall in his matchup with the Rays and David Price on Friday, was his struggle to command his fastball. The good news Verlander got out of the outing was the rediscovery of his changeup.
It's a pitch that was good to Verlander during his Cy Young and MVP Award-winning campaign last year, as well as the two seasons before that, but he said he hasn't had a feel for the pitch for most of this season. He has thrown it as much or more than last year, according to pitch-type numbers on fangraphs.com, but hasn't gotten the results he wanted out of it.
Verlander induced nine swings and misses out of 32 changeups he threw Friday, 18 of them for strikes, according to data from MLB.com's Gameday application and brooksbaseball.com.
"My changeup has been absent for a couple months now," he said. "It was nice to get a good feel for that again with good depth. I've been able to throw it for strikes, but it hasn't had much action on it. Tonight was better, so that's a positive that I'm looking forward to working with down the road."
Verlander has one more start left before the All-Star break, a July 4 matchup with the Twins at Comerica Park. The Tigers have not announced their rotation after the All-Star break, but with consecutive series against the White Sox and Indians looming in late July, it wouldn't be a surprise if they tweak their pitching order to allow Verlander to face both teams. He can't do that if he pitches the first game out of the break in Baltimore.
Prospect Castellanos heating up at Double-A
ST. PETERSBURG -- After a rough adjustment to Double-A pitching, Nick Castellanos appears to have caught up with the Eastern League. The Tigers' top hitting prospect, one of the younger players in his league at age 20, had his third straight two-hit game for Erie on Friday night, raising his Double-A average to .313.
Both of Castellanos' hits Friday night were doubles, giving him six in 20 games to go with a triple, three home runs and 13 RBIs. His OPS is now up to .828, while he has twice as many hits (26) as strikeouts (13).
Castellanos is batting .395 (17-for-43) over his last 10 games entering Saturday, with more than half of his hits going for extra bases.
Castellanos will be one of three Tigers prospects at next Sunday's MLB All-Star Futures Game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. The game will be broadcast at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
Tigers sign pair of right-handers from Draft
ST. PETERSBURG -- The Tigers announced the signings of two more picks from their First-Year Player Draft. Right-handers Hudson Randall and Hunter Scantling have both agreed to terms, bringing the Tigers' signings to 31 out of their 39 picks.
Randall was the Tigers' seventh-round pick out of the University of Florida. He opted to bypass his senior year with the Gators for a chance at pro ball. He helped lead Florida to the College World Series after going 9-3 with a 2.59 ERA as a junior.
Scantling, the Tigers' 14th-round pick, brings his huge 6-foot-8, 270-pound frame to pro ball after going 5-1 with a 3.81 ERA out of the Florida State Seminoles' bullpen.