LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jason Heyward made his first spring training homer a memorable one.
The Atlanta Braves' 20-year-old right fielder almost cleared the batting cage behind the right-field wall Monday with a two-run homer off Max Scherzer in the first inning of a 12-4 exhibition victory over the Detroit Tigers."That's one of the longer ones I've seen hit in this ballpark," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who was much more impressed than Heyward."Home runs, I know they're going to come," Heyward said. "I know that's part of my game; I'm not worried about that. But I was just happy about having a good at-bat because he made some good pitches. It was a good at-bat, a good swing."Scherzer failed to get out of the first inning in his second spring start. The Braves scored five runs in the inning, then made it 8-1 in the second on David Ross' three-run double off Fu-Te Ni.Tim Hudson pitched three innings for Atlanta, giving up an RBI single to Jeff Larish while striking out three.The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Heyward, rated the top prospect in baseball in some circles, provided the highlight with a blast estimated at 450 feet."I've never been one to get excited about the distance. Anything hit over the fence counts a point," said Tiger manager Jim Leyland. "But obviously a young man with his size, with the strength he has, he looks like a really good looking young player. I was very impressed with his patience at the plate more than anything. He didn't chase any bad balls. (Albert) Pujols was the other guy who was like that."Heyward came back from an 0-2 count to draw Scherzer's 3-2 fastball."I saw what he was trying to do. That's what he was trying to do with the 2-2 pitch and he came back and tried to make the pitch again," said Heyward."I don't want to walk anybody in spring training," Scherzer said. "That's my goal, and he hit it, so I can turn that page. But anytime I'm taking the mound trying to get hitters out and I don't, it's frustrating."Eric Hinske went 3 for 4 for the Braves, and Troy Glaus singled and scored in each of his two at-bats. Mitch Jones added an eighth-inning home run off Enrique Gonzalez.It was the second straight game in which a Tiger starting pitcher failed to make it out of the first inning."In my career, I don't think I've ever taken pitchers out of spring training games two days in a row in the first inning. That's a first," said Leyland, who also removed Casey Cosby before the rookie got an out in the ninth inning.
Dontrelle Willis pitched two shutout innings for Detroit, but drew some concern on a pick-off attempt. Leyland said he "kind of hyperextended his elbow," but Willis said he was fine. ... The Tigers will be the opponents Tuesday in the exhibition debut of Stephen Strasburg, the 21-year-old right-hander chosen by the Washington Nationals with the No. 1 pick in the June draft. ... Jacob Turner, the Tigers' first-round choice in the same draft, will pitch in relief against the New York Yankees on Wednesday. ... New National Leaguer Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies is scheduled to face the Braves at Disney World on Tuesday night.