McVaney And Others Live Major Dream

Tigers prospects leave instructional league for scrimmage





DETROIT—Jeff McVaney found himself living out his dream.

The 22-year-old first baseman stepped into the batter's box at Comerica Park on an October afternoon, just four months after he was drafted in the eighth round out of Texas State. He stood in against righthander Rick Porcello and lefty Drew Smyly during two at-bats as Tigers instructional leaguers took on the American League champions.

"It was really just pumped to step into the box at Comerica and see what a big league pitcher's stuff looks like," McVaney said in an e-mail. "Of course the goal was to give the guys a good look, to keep them ready for the (World) Series, but in the process all of us got to learn a lot by watching how to be the ultimate professionals."

McVaney was part of a group of Tigers instructional league players called up to Detroit as the big league club tried to stay sharp while dealing with a layoff of nearly a week between clinching the American League pennant and playing the first game of the World Series game against the Giants.

Detroit had faced a similar situation in 2006, when that team waited nearly a week before losing in the World Series to the Cardinals. So this year manager Jim Leyland ordered a pair of scrimmages on the Sunday and Monday before the World Series.

Righthander Drew VerHagen, a fourth-rounder out of Vanderbilt, got to face Alex Avila, Brennan Bosch, Avisail Garcia (who's younger than VerHagen) and Danny Worth in his stint. He gave up a home run to Avila on his 22nd birthday. "It was a really cool way to end a long season," VerHagen said. "It was almost like a reward coming after instructs, which is very repetitive."

The scrimmages would not be confused with a game. For example, there were no umpires, with the catchers calling balls and strikes. Some half innings were completed after just two outs, depending on whether the pitcher had reached his pitch count, and lefty Phil Coke got for a four-out inning during one of his appearances—actually, he also requested a fifth out, which was denied.

TIGER TALES

• The instructional league roster also included 19-year-old righty Endrys Briceno and lefthander Joe Rogers, a fifth-round choice from Central Florida.

• The Tigers hired Scott Bream to be their pro scouting director. Bream was with the Tigers from 1999-2010 before spending two years with the Padres as a scout and special assistant.