In the bottom of the ninth Thursday, Nick Castellanos paced around the Tigers' dugout with a bat in his hands.

This was remarkable for two reasons: the Tigers were nine runs ahead, and Castellanos had been out of the game since the sixth inning.

"I'm bored," Castellanos said, explaining that final-inning scene in the dugout. "Even when I'm watching TV, I have a bat in my hand. That hasn't changed since I was able to hold a bat."

In the batter's box, he's not bored or boring. Castellanos on Thursday became that best kind of spring-training story, the big prospect off to a hot start.

Castellanos started in left against host Tampa Bay and went 3-for-3, all singles. He has a hit in each of his last five at-bats. Toss in a walk, and he has reached base his last six times up. For the week-old exhibition season, he has six hits in nine at-bats.

That performance gets people wondering how fast Castellanos can get to the majors and how much he can accomplish there.

Even as he raises his batting average, Castellanos at the moment probably doesn't do much to lower his odds for making the Tigers' Opening Day team. Someone his age -- he turns 21 on Monday -- probably should play full-time, and there are no full-time openings on this year's Tigers. All along it has seemed likely he'll open this year in the minors, and manager Jim Leyland didn't offer any revision of that reality on Thursday.

But for now, with Opening Day still a month away, Castellanos is a sight to enjoy.

"This kid is tearing the cover off the ball -- that's good stuff," Leyland said. "He's making a hell of an impression. He's got a great swing, I'll tell you that."