The Tigers already locked up their division and the Marlins clinched last place and triple-digit losses.
The final regular-season series between Detroit (93-66) and Miami (59-100) does not have much riding on it and feels awkward considering the Tigers have not played in South Florida in 11 years.
But for all it isn’t, the last three regular-season games at Marlins Park do have the makings of a nice homecoming for several Tigers — especially 21-year-old rookie Nick Castellanos.
A 2010 first-round pick out of Archbishop McCarthy High in Southwest Ranches, Castellanos grew up on Marlins baseball and is finishing up his first month in the big leagues, playing alongside childhood hero Miguel Cabrera.
Special series? You bet.
“It’s going to be awesome playing against the Marlins,’’ said Castellanos, who under the guidance of former Marlins pitcher Alex Fernandez (an assistant at Archbishop McCarthy) helped lead his school to its first of four state titles before Detroit plucked him with the 44th overall pick.
“To be honest with you I kind of wish they still played in the old stadium. I don’t really remember the 1997 series because I was, like, 4 years old, but I was there. I remember Bobby Bonilla lifting Jim Leyland up. I actually went to all the 2003 games. Alex Fernandez got me and my family tickets. I was there when Miguel [Cabrera] hit that opposite field home run against [Roger] Clemens and then Alex Gonzalez hit the game-winning home run in extras. I was there for all of them.’’
Expected to be a big bat for the Tigers in the future, Castellanos (6-4, 210) became a first-time father last month when his high school sweetheart and fiancèe Vanessa gave birth to a son named Liam. After spending two days with him, Castellanos was on the first flight back to Triple A Toledo (Ohio). Friday, his future wife, son, parents and friends all plan on being at Marlins Park to support him.
“In the beginning, my first spring training, I was 18 and it kind of didn’t feel real,’’ Castellanos said. “I saw Miguel play in the World Series when I was 11, and now my locker is next to his and I’m batting two or three spots behind him and we’re trying to win a game against the White Sox and Chris Sale.
“The only real challenge is not getting an at-bat every day and a start here or a start there. Besides that, it’s just a lot of fun.’’
Although he doesn’t expect to be on Detroit’s playoff roster, Castellanos (5 for 17 in nine games played) is hoping to be able to make road trips with the team to soak up the experience.
He said he has already learned a ton from Cabrera, who is making his first return trip to South Florida since the Marlins shipped him and Dontrelle Willis out of town following the 2007 season. It’s the same for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, two of the many pieces traded away by the Marlins last summer.
Another reason Castellanos is looking forward to coming home — he’ll get to see former Tigers teammate and current Marlins catcher Rob Brantly, who was acquired in that Sanchez-Infante trade. Brantly and Castellanos were taken in the same draft and hit it off as soon as they reported for duty in 2010.
They grew to be so close Brantly actually lived in Castellanos’ parents’ home for nearly a year after being traded to Miami.
“Such a great family. They took me in with open arms from the get-go,’’ Brantly said. “They just make you feel like you are legitimately part of that family. They came to my Marlins debut. To have them there was just as special as having my own parents there.
“When we saw the schedule and saw we were finishing the year against each other, it was the first thing we started talking about. Our original vision was we would both be in the same lineup. But what we’ve accomplished so far is pretty special.’’
Coming upFriday Saturday Scouting report