February 14th, 2014

Ausmus: V-Mart could catch in NL parks

Remember when Victor Martinez was trying on catching gear Thursday and said he was ready to do whatever the Tigers needed or asked? Well, turns out they had asked him about catching.

“I actually called Victor — this must have been January, right after New Year’s — and asked him about catching,” Brad Ausmus said. “He was thrilled about it. He was excited. I asked him if he wanted to come down with pitchers and catchers.

“There is a reason behind it. We play 10 games in National League parks and the first road trip of the season is L.A. and San Diego. We can’t not have Victor play for five straight games. This gives us another option. I wouldn’t want to just ask Victor the first week of the season, ‘Hey, get some catching gear. You might catch on the next road trip.’ So I told him, ‘Listen, I was hoping you would be open to the idea of catching a little bit.’ So when we get to LA and San Diego and we face a tough left-handed pitcher or maybe Alex Avila needs a day or something, whatever the case may be, we can stick Victor behind the plate possibly. Now, I don’t know if it will happen or won’t happen, but it gives us an option.”

Thus, Martinez was behind the plate Friday morning for the first round of bullpen sessions in Tigers camp. He caught Rick Porcello’s session with relative ease.

As mentioned Thursday, Martinez started three games at catcher last season, two of them against the Mets at Citi Field during Interleague Play in August. He was on a hitting tear, and with Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder at the corners, the Tigers had nowhere else to put him. He didn’t catch at all that spring, not while he was working back into game shape with surgically repaired knees, but Jim Leyland acknowledged he could end up catching later in the year.

This year, Interleague Play comes much earlier. That plus Martinez’s health over the past year make a start or two in Spring Training a much more sensible option.

The Tigers face five more games in NL parks after that — three in Arizona July 21-23, then two in Pittsburgh Aug. 11-12.

Another option Ausmus confirmed is to play Miguel Cabrera at third for some of those games and move Martinez to first.

“It’s been talked about,” Ausmus said. “Again, there will be some things, we have to see how they play out, but it’s been discussed. I actually even mentioned it to Miggy. You know, Miggy is a team guy and he told me, ‘Listen, I still have two gloves. Whatever you need.’ So at the end of March, if you see Miggy play third for a game, you don’t have to immediately say that [Nick] Castellanos is in trouble or [Steve] Lombardozzi’s in trouble. It might be that we’re setting up to have options for these National League games where we want to keep our big bats in the lineup.”

Cabrera mentioned Wednesday that he brought his third-base glove with him.

Scherzer mum on contract front, open-minded on new manager

If you were expecting some sort of new revelation from Max Scherzer on his contract situation or his situation in general when he reported to camp on Friday, it wasn’t happening. Scherzer reiterated his previous remarks from TigerFest: He wants to remain a Tiger, the Tigers are interested in keeping him, and he doesn’t want to negotiate once the season begins. However, he didn’t want to get into questions about contract talks, to the point that he didn’t answer whether contract talks were taking place.

“I’m not discussing negotiations with the media,” Scherzer said. ‘Those are private.”

Asked if he feels like he’ll be a Tiger a year from now, Scherzer said, “I just can’t answer that. I can’t even speculate like that. I hope it does, but in reality, you can never dictate whether these things happen or don’t. If it does, great. If not, we’ll hopefully resolve it in November. For me, now that I’m here in Spring Training, my focus right now is all about getting on the field and trying to win.”

Come Opening Day, that focus will have no room for contract issues.

“If it’s not done by Opening Day, then I’m not going to negotiate during the season,” he said. “This can be a major distraction. I understand I have a chance to secure my future here with the team. I want that to happen. But at the same time, I’m not going to drag negotiations out into the season. That’s unfair to the team, unfair to me and my teammates. They don’t need to have that type of thought process going on. For me, I’m all about [being] here to win.”

More from Scherzer:

  • On expectations coming off last year’s Cy Young season: “My mindset is that you never stay the same, as a pitcher, as an athlete. You either get better or you get worse. Those are the only two options that go on. And so my mindset going into Spring Training this year is I’m going to get better. I’m going to find ways to be better than I was last year. I might not have the record or some of the numbers I was able to accomplish last year, but I can be a better pitcher than I was last year. And that’s my goal.”
  • On opening message from new manager Brad Ausmus: “Same stuff: We’re here to work. Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s exactly what every manager says at this time of year. Obviously we believe we have a chance to win. It’s going to take hard work to get there, and there are no shortcuts.”
  • On whether there’s a culture change: “When you have a team that’s made it three times to the ALCS, you don’t need a culture change. Skip was great. We appreciate everything that he did. He gave everything he could, all the way to the end. Obviously his time has come. I think Brad is going to pick up where he left off and add new stuff and make us even better.”