Monday, April 6, 2015

Yoenis' legs, not his arm, turn in defensive gem

The Tigers hit the first two home runs of the Major League season Monday afternoon. Detroit left fielder Yoenis Cespedes became the first to take one back.
"I thought it was a home run," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Cespedes' highlight catch on Kurt Suzuki's third-inning drive. "Usually I don't watch the ball as much as I watch the outfielder. And I could tell that Cespedes had a bead on it, but I still thought it was going to get over the fence. Clearly I was wrong."
The catch allowed David Price to work a perfect first trip through the Twins' lineup in his Opening Day start for the Tigers, a 4-0 victory. It also defied the notion that Cespedes' defense is based almost entirely on his arm.
Price retired Minnesota's first seven batters in order with nary a hard-hit ball. He had Suzuki in a two-strike count before the catcher jumped on a 1-2 pitch and sent it deep toward left. Cespedes, making his Tigers debut, got a tentative early read, but had to make up ground near the fence, giving him enough momentum to make a leap for the ball.
Cespedes said through a translator that he wasn't sure whether he had a shot until he felt the wall. Replays showed he reached well over the fence to make the catch.
"He timed that thing perfectly," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It was a great play."
Price looked back, laughed and applauded. Asked what he was thinking, Price said, "Give me a new ball, Joe."
Price was referring to home-plate umpire Joe West. In other words, he thought home run.
"That's what I thought was going on," Price said. "I just saw him tracking it all the way to the wall and jumped up and made that catch. He just missed making a catch like that in my last start in spring training in Lakeland. It kind of just bounced off his glove. But that one, it was awesome."
Cespedes also showed off his power and speed. His triple to the deepest part of left-center field was a display of both, nearly putting a ball in the shrubs, then shifting gears when center fielder Jordan Shafer missed the ball on his leaping attempt.
"He's very athletic, he really is," Ausmus said. "He's a lot faster than I gave him credit for when he was in Oakland. I know he was hampered by some injuries there, some leg injuries. But we noticed it right off the bat in Spring Training. This is a very athletic baseball player."

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