Split-squad action a chance for young Tigers

Split-squad action a chance for young Tigers

Split-squad action a chance for young Tigers
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nick Castellanos sounded a little bit like a kid when he talked about being in the same clubhouse as Miguel Cabrera, his favorite player as a kid growing up in South Florida. Of course, Castellanos doesn't turn 19 until Friday, so he isn't that far separated from his childhood.

"I think I was like 9 years old when [Cabrera] was a rookie on the World Series team," Castellanos said. "So this is really funny that I'm in a locker room with him right now, because I was sitting right behind his dugout when he was playing the Yankees [in the 2003 World Series]. That's a little bit exciting."

Daniel Fields has spend a lot more time here, having grown up following his dad around in Spring Training before spending his first pro season here last year in Class A ball. But Tuesday, the 20-year-old was wearing his father's old No. 29 as a player, not as a kid.

"I remember a lot," Fields said. "Every year, we would come down here, my brother and my mom and I. We'd always come down here every year. I'm definitely very familiar with this place, especially spending all last year down there, too."

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For both of them, Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays was big. It was a one-time appearance brought on by the Tigers' split-squad rosters, but it's something they're probably not going to forget.

Castellanos was the Tigers' top Draft pick last year, which was a dream come true for his Michigan-born mom and her family. He was here last fall for instructional league play and came up early for a Minor League minicamp. Once he put on the Old English D with the No. 44, though, it was a different feeling.

"It was actually my mom's birthday," he said. "She was like, 'Oh, this is the best birthday present you've given me so far.' And my dad was just like, 'Good luck.'"

Castellanos found a chance to talk with Cabrera before the game, but he didn't approach him as a fan.

"I said hello to him and all, but now it's business," he said. "I talked to him a little bit about hitting."

Fields received plenty of Major League hitting instruction growing up around this same clubhouse. His father, Bruce Fields, served as hitting coach from 2003-05 after playing in the system in the 1980s and managing at West Michigan and Toledo in the '90s. He was a sixth-round pick in 2009, passed up a scholarship to the University of Michigan, and spent all last year here in the Florida State League.

Wearing a Detroit uniform, even for a day, meant something.

"It means a lot, especially being able to play for the hometown team," Fields said.

Fields entered the game in center field and hit a line-drive single in the eighth. Castellanos flew out as a pinch-hitter and finished out the game at third base. They left their potential future manager impressed.

"There was some talent out there we brought into the game late," Jim Leyland said. "That's pretty impressive."