Blue Jays defeat Detroit after strong start by Richard

Dalton Pompey hit two singles and a double in Dunedin on Monday afternoon.

Clayton Richard pitched six strong innings, Brandon Drury hit two doubles, and Dalton Pompey had a three hit day as the Blue Jays defeated the Detroit Tigers 3-2 in Dunedin Monday afternoon.

Richard looks to be in fine form 11 days before the season begins and pitched quickly throughout the day. At the start of play Monday, Richard had pitched 4.2 innings with a 1.50 WHIP, three strikouts and a 3.86 ERA. Trouble appeared early when Gordon Beckham hit a one out bomb to put the Tigers up 1-0 with one out in the first. From there, however, Richard seemed to calm down. After that early misstep Richard proceeded to sit down the next 11 batters.

Not until the fifth inning did Richard appear even a little threatened. A walk to Brandon Dixon with no outs in the fifth resulted in a quick steal attempt. But after a strong throw by Luke Maile on a bouncing pitch, Dixon was called out at second. A double by Ronny Rodriguez and a single by Detroit’s catcher Grayson Greiner resulted in Richard’s second earned run. Richard then retired the next five batters before being pulled before the beginning of the seventh inning for Trent Thornton.  Over six innings, Richard struck out six, walked one and allowed two runs, both earned on three hits. So far this spring Richard holds a 3.38 ERA with nine strikeouts and a 1.03 WHIP over 10.2 innings. It was a split squad day for the Detroit Tigers with some of their better hitters playing Baltimore but Richard’s performance was encouraging with less than a week before the team heads north.

The Jays saw strong relief pitching from Trent Thornton, who pitched two clean innings in his first appearance since hitting Bryce Harper in the ankle on Friday and absorbing the wrath of Twitter. Bud Norris finished it off in the ninth with a one walk no run save to close out the day.

Despite the low scoring game, the Blue Jays’ offense also had some good moments. Teoscar Hernandez tied the game in the bottom of the first with his first home run of the spring. Hernandez also had some heads-up base running in the fifth, taking third on a wild pitch with one out before Tigers’ third baseman Pete Kozma robbed Drury of a hit to end the inning.

Dalton Pompey, who has been struggling a bit after a strong start, had a three hit day to help improve his numbers ahead of a season with a lot of question marks regarding his future with the club. If he’s going to impress other teams Pompey is going to need a couple more games like this one. 

But with all the talk of Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s injury and call-up date taking the attention that other Blue Jays third baseman is finding new offensive heights to climb. Brandon Drury had two doubles in his first two plate appearances of the day before being robbed by Kozma of a single in the fifth inning.  Drury currently is hitting .351 with two home runs, three walks, and 13 strikeouts in 37 at bats to go a long with a 1.049 OPS. His walk rate could certainly improve but it will be fun to watch how Drury’s season progresses.

Former Blue Jay Daniel Norris, who has been struggling this spring, started the game for the Tigers and was pulled after the third inning after allowing three earned runs, one walk, and six hits with two strikeouts. It’s been nearly four years since the Jays traded Norris to the Tigers in the David Price deal and he continues to struggle to find consistent success. Currently he sports a 5.06 ERA in 10.2 innings of work this spring. 

Weather permitting the Blue Jays (11-11) will travel to play Boston (8-15) tomorrow afternoon where Sean Reid-Foley will get the start against Eduardo Rodriguez.

Notes: Clay Bucholz and Marcus Stroman were both pitching in minor league camp today as Bucholz continues to build up his arm after a late start and Stroman prepares for opening day next Thursday. Toronto-raised third baseman Daniel Pinero entered the game late for Detroit but didn’t make it to the plate. Sogard who appears to be battling Richard Urena for an infield utility role went 0-3 with a strikeout.

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