LAKELAND, Fla. -- Pitchers are ahead of hitters this early in Spring Training, without question. Dmitri Young doesn't care.
Young was in right field to watch Justin Verlander battle Magglio Ordonez, Curtis Granderson and Kody Kirkland. Once Verlander finished, Young snuck onto the adjacent practice field and watched Joel Zumaya, whom he had never seen pitch.
Asked what he thought about Zumaya, Young said, "The same thing I thought about Bondo three years ago."
Young's thoughts on Jeremy Bonderman are well known. He said around this time last year that Bonderman was a 20-game winner in the making after Bonderman made him look silly in one of these live hitting sessions. Young faced Bonderman again Friday but politely took his pitches, walked out of the batters box and smiled.
"I'm not swinging against him," Young said later. "I'm not putting myself in an early slump."
Others took their swings. Magglio Ordonez received an accidental brushback pitch when no one told him Verlander was starting off with a breaking ball that started inside. After everyone had a laugh, Ordonez stepped back in and laced a liner to right.
Overall, though, Verlander had his way with hitters. He sent Chris Shelton swinging in the dirt on one pitch.
"I had a little bit more adrenaline than I had in the bullpen [sessions], first time seeing hitters," Verlander said. "I was a little bit more up than I would've liked, but that's something I can work on."
Zumaya battled with Placido Polanco and others, though Vance Wilson tagged him for a home run off a two-seam fastball.
"I felt really good," Zumaya said. "Everything was on. I was throwing strikes. I was putting the ball where I wanted to put it. It was a real good day for me today. I wasn't actually nervous at all."
Wilson may have gotten the best of Zumaya on one pitch, but he wasn't taking anything away from him.
"[Troy] Percival said it best: He's kind of got that 'wow' factor where behind the cage, you're [thinking], 'Wow, that's impressive,'" Wilson said. "He's got a lot going for him. He's a bulldog. He has that intimidating look about him, hides the ball, throws all his pitches."
Wilson caught Verlander in both of his spot starts for the Tigers last season, and he caught him again Friday. Given his choice of pitcher to face as a hitter, he wanted to see Zumaya, whom he has yet to catch. Both he and Young raved about his poise.
"The thing Zumaya has going for him," Wilson said, "is he's just one of those guys that comes along every once in a while who's so polished, so young."
Many of Detroit's other young arms had their chance against live hitting, too. Even lesser-known Humberto Sanchez, who has battled with his command early on, fooled hitters with his curveball.
Leyland didn't want to make much about the first live hitting session, but he has raved more than once about the crop of young pitchers in camp. Young said some of the same things after watching Friday.
"Knowing where we were at this time in 2002, when I first came over here, to now," Young said, "the biggest difference is the Minor League system. When I came over here, I remember you guys talking about the Minor League system being the absolute worst in baseball. I'd have to say [now] we're one of the best. That's what Dombrowski's gig was in Florida. They were always able to find those arms. No different over here. They know what they're doing in that scouting department."
Leyland was more guarded. He did not spend much time behind the batting cages for a reason.
'I was watching somewhat, but not a lot," Leyland said. "You're only going to get excited if you watch that stuff. I don't put much stock in that. There's no question there's some arms, but I knew that before they threw batting practice. To be honest with you, it's a matter of time for some of these guys. But when they pull the cage away in a couple weeks and David Ortiz and Gary Sheffield are standing up there, then you find out what you've got."
Verlander and Zumaya.