LAKELAND, Fla. — Be careful when you read spring training numbers.
Some, like Zach Duke’s linescore from today’s 8-5 loss against the Tigers (3 2/3 innings, nine hits, eight runs, one walk, three strikeouts) might not have much bearing on the regular season. Once the games start to count, pitchers pitch differently. Balls aren’t carried over the fence by stiff winds off the Gulf of Mexico.
Examine Duke’s stats from his five Grapefruit League outings. The lefty went 0-2 with a 6.27 ERA. Not good. But in 18 2/3 innings, he allowed 19 hits and — especially encouraging—- he had more strikeouts (13) than walks (eight). Breathe easier, folks.
“He had a solid spring,” manager John Russell said. “He’s ready to go. I know he’s looking forward to the season. He did some really good things this spring.”
That’s true, Russell said, of the rest of the starting rotation: “You can see it their last few starts with all of them. (Ross) Ohlendorf struggled a little bit, but he’s back on track. He threw a great side (Tuesday). They’re all where they need to be.”
— Here’s a statistical trend Duke wouldn’t mind seeing in the regular season: in four at-bats this spring, he has three hits — all doubles. Today, he mashed an RBI double to center off Justin Verlander.
— More happy stats: Andrew McCutchen extended his hitting streak to seven games. He’s batting .340 (17 for 50) in 17 games. Aki Iwamura is batting .295 and has hit safely in six of his past seven games. Lastings Milledge went 2 for 4 today to bump up his average to .289 — although only two of his 13 hits have gone for extra bases. Reliever Jack Taschner has notched 14 strikeouts in 11 innings.
— Rule 5 pick John Raynor went 0 for 1, dropping his batting average to .238. He’s 0 for 16 since hitting a home run March 19 against the Red Sox. Raynor is one of three guys — joining Steve Pearce and Ramon Vazquez — fighting for one open roster spot.
“He’s still trying to keep a pretty good approach, but he’s facing some pretty good pitchers,” Russell said. “Some of them have been pretty good tough on us. He’s still fighting, still working hard. We’ll see where we go. With a spring training evaluation, you take into account who they face and how things go. We’ll continue to take a look at it.”