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Ausmus raises three-lefty bullpen idea

At some point Wednesday afternoon, as Kyle Ryan was providing the Tigers one of their few pitching bright spots in a 9-2 loss to the Nationals, manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones raised an idea.

“Jonesy and I, during the game while [Ryan] was pitching, were talking about the idea of maybe having three left-handed pitchers as being a possibility,” Ausmus said. “So yeah, we like what we’ve seen from him and he’s pitched well.”

That was a surprise, and one that the math doesn’t seem to support. But it seems to suggest they’re still considering the idea that Bruce Rondon, who is scheduled to make his first game appearance in nearly a full year Thursday, might not be ready for Opening Day.

Ryan’s performance gives him four scoreless innings on two hits this spring with two walks and a strikeout. In a spring where the Tigers bullpen has had a rough afternoon or two, Ryan’s relative consistency is starting to stand out.

Three of Detroit’s seven pitchers Wednesday posted a scoreless inning. Two of them were lefties in Ryan and Tom Gorzelanny. In the case of Gorzelanny, his spot in the bullpen is already pretty well secure, having signed a guaranteed one-year contract.

Add in Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Al Alburquerque, Joba Chamberlain and Bruce Rondon — if Rondon is healthy — and six of the seven bullpen spots are claimed.

“Yeah, I’m already counting those guys as kind of in,” Ausmus said.

So why is the three-lefty idea being discussed?

“It does give us a little more length in the bullpen, because Ryan can go multiple innings and Gorzelanny can go multiple innings,” Ausmus said. “[Blaine] Hardy could go multiple innings. [Ian] Krol to me is more of a four-out guy, but he probably could go two. And if it was a righty, he’d probably be more of a one-inning guy if you look at the righties who are kind of in play for a bullpen spot. So it lengthens your bullpen a little bit.”

The reliever potentially in play could be Rondon, probably for health reasons. His return Thursday gives him as long as three and a half weeks to prepare himself before camp breaks.

“Theoretically, it’s enough time if everything goes well,” Ausmus said. “We just have to wait and see.”

It also assumes no setbacks. And after the setbacks Ausmus saw players endure last season, he seems to be preparing himself for that possibility this year.

Beyond that, there’s the abundance of cautiousness Ausmus seems willing to exercise with a young reliever capable of shutting down a big-time hitter in a big situation. Detroit hasn’t had that the last two postseasons. The Tigers’ bullpen struggles in both years reflects a desperate need for that type of reliever.

“I mean, the same thing we’ve said about Miggy and Victor applies to Rondon,” Ausmus said. “The important thing isn’t having them ready for Opening Day. The important thing is having them for the bulk of the season, or as much of the season as you possibly can.”

More from Scherzer on Detroit, free agency and dogs with dichromatic eyes

Max Scherzer caught up with Detroit area writers for about 10 minutes today. A lot of it was a reiteration of previous interviews, though his advice for Price (see previous post for Wednesday’s lineup) was new. Also, he and his wife Erica also adopted a couple of shepherd dogs. One of them, like Scherzer, has dichromatic eyes. He has photographic proof. Also like Scherzer, both are capable climbers, having climbed Camelback Mountain with him.

Scherzer did slightly amend what he said to Matt Shepard on WDFN after his signing, about knowing the breakup was coming for the Tigers rotation. He said he meant it would be impossible to keep the entire team together.

“But guess what? It’s like that in every club,” he said. “You start looking at guys and their service time and when their free agency is coming, and you realize that not everybody gets to stay together. What I was alluding to was that a couple years ago in Detroit, you could see it coming. The way everybody’s service time [coincided], the whole team wasn’t going to stick together that we had in 2012 and 2013. Pieces were going to be moved, guys were going to get signed back and some guys weren’t. That’s just the reality of baseball — and really the reality of professional sports.”

Did that mean Scherzer knew his days in Detroit were numbered when Justin Verlander signed his extension a couple years ago?

“No, not at that point,” he said. “I knew there was still a chance to be there. I never thought the door was officially closed until it was, just because I know the Tigers with [owner Mike Ilitch] there, there’s always a chance. Mr. I does a great job of providing for the city of Detroit, so it was just one of those things where you knew the whole team couldn’t stay together.”

More baseball-related quotes from Scherzer …

On his Tiger tenure: “My time in Detroit was awesome. That’s what happens in this game. Sometimes these things have to happen. It’s unfortunate, but the way the team was constructed, I wasn’t able to stay around. But at the end of the day, my time in Detroit, I enjoyed it, enjoyed everything about it. Some of the best moments of my career were there. I’ll always think of it very highly.”

On fan reaction in Detroit: “I don’t know. I can only worry about himself. I can’t worry about what other people think. If I get caught up on that type of train of thought, I’ll run myself crazy.”

On free agency: “Players before me fought really hard to get the game where it’s at now. The reason I was able to sign the contract that I did was because everybody before me fought to put players in the future that position. I respect that. A lot of guys have had to do a lot of sacrifices to allow players to be fortunate to get really big contracts in free agency, and I’m very thankful for what they’ve done. For giving that, I wanted to continue to be one of those players who continue to fight for the rest of the players in the league.”

On whether he was surprised contract offer was made public last spring: “Tread water here. I’ll just say yes.”

Alex Avila leaves with lower back stiffness

The back issues that sidelined Alex Avila earlier this spring appear to have flared up again. He left Wednesday’s game against the Nationals after one inning at Space Coast Stadium with lower back stiffness.

Avila returned four days ago from paternity leave, having joined his wife in south Florida for the birth of their daughter Zoey. He made his third start in five days Wednesday, striking out in the opening inning while catching one inning of David Price, before Manny Pina replaced him.

Avila missed a few days of workouts with similar symptoms. He returned in time to start last Wednesday.

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Nationals

Good to see Max Scherzer before the game, who had some advice for David Price as he begins the same contract-year situation Scherzer had last year. Scherzer’s advice: Don’t let the contract or anything else become a distraction from winning.

“Obviously it’s something you have to address,” Scherzer said. “You only get one shot at this, to sign a big deal, and he’s going to be in a position to be able to do it, whether he does it now or in the offseason. That’s his choice, but you have to do it right, and it’s something you have to be comfortable with. The biggest advice I can give is that when you come to the park, it has to always be about winning. There’s no room for anything else, any other motivation. The motivation is to try to go out and win every single time. That really worked for me.”

You know who else is in that contract-year situation? Jordan Zimmermann, who starts opposite Price today. Zimmermann will face a lineup that includes Rajai Davis up top, Anthony Gose at the bottom, Alex Avila hitting second and Hernan Perez at short. Price gets to face a pretty strong Nationals lineup, including Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos in the middle of the order.

A reminder that today’s game is on MLB.TV.

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Alex Avila, C
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  4. Tyler Collins, DH
  5. Jordan Lennerton, 1B
  6. Hernan Perez, SS
  7. Jefry Marte, 3B
  8. Josh Wilson, 2B
  9. Anthony Gose, CF

P: David Price, Tom Gorzelanny, Josh Zeid, Kyle Ryan, Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, Luke Putkonen

NATIONALS

  1. Wilmer Difo, 2B
  2. Ian Desmond, SS
  3. Bryce Harper, RF
  4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
  5. Wilson Ramos, C
  6. Tyler Moore, LF
  7. Dan Uggla, DH
  8. Kevin Frandsen, 3B
  9. Derrick Robinson, CF

P: Jordan Zimmermann

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Phillies

Jose Iglesias is definitely in the lineup this time, as is Ian Kinsler. Nick Castellanos, J.D. Martinez, Steven Moya and Daniel Fields make the trip over against a Phillies squad that will start a lefty in Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

TIGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS
  3. Tyler Collins, LF
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Steven Moya, DH
  7. Daniel Fields, CF
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Aaron Westlake, 1B

P: Alfredo Simon, Blaine Hardy, Buck Farmer, Joba Chamberlain, Angel Nesbitt, Joe Mantiply

PHILLIES

  1. Ben Revere, CF
  2. Odubel Herrera, 2B
  3. Dominic Brown, RF
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Darin Ruf, DH
  6. Grady Sizemore, LF
  7. Carlos Ruiz, C
  8. Freddy Galvis, SS
  9. Cord Phelps, 3B

P: Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Sean O’Sullivan, Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, Neifi Ogando

Monday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Blue Jays

After some deliberation, Jose Iglesias is not in the Tigers lineup. He wasn’t in the original lineup, but Brad Ausmus had considered putting him in after he missed yesterday’s game with the bruised right shin. He’s in the tentative lineup for tomorrow’s game against the Phillies at Clearwater.

With Iglesias not playing, Ian Kinsler is no longer in the starting lineup either. He was looking to get the start at second base to work alongside his double-play partner. Instead, Andrew Romine moves from shortstop to second base, and Dixon Machado enters the lineup at short. With Hernan Perez at first base today, there’s a trio of middle infield types in the lineup.

Originally, the Tigers were scheduled to face Marcus Stroman. However, he’s now starting the home end of the Jays’ split-squad set. Daniel Norris gets the roadie. Toronto’s lineup includes former Tigers Ramon Santiago and Ezequiel Carrera plus ex-Tigers prospect Devon Travis, as well as Dalton Pompey, the center fielder who made Anthony Gose tradeable.

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, RF
  2. Anthony Gose, CF
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  4. Alex Avila, C
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Hernan Perez, 1B
  7. Dixon Machado, SS
  8. James McCann, DH
  9. Andrew Romine, 2B

P: Anibal Sanchez, Jose Valdez, Ian Krol, Alex Wilson, Rafael Dolis, Joe Nathan, Kyle Ryan, Omar Duran

JAYS

  1. Ezequiel Carrera, LF
  2. Dalton Pompey, CF
  3. Jose Bautista, DH
  4. Dioner Navarro, C
  5. Caleb Gindi, RF
  6. Daric Barton, 1B
  7. Ramon Santiago, SS
  8. Devon Travis, 2B
  9. Munenori Kawasaki, 3B

P: Daniel Norris, Cory Burns, Matt West, Ryan Tepera, Greg Burke, Preston Guilmet, Juan Oramas

Iglesias scratched after being hit by liner on shin

For the second time in three days, Jose Iglesias has left a lineup with a bruised right shin. This time, it was a scarier incident, with the Tigers shortstop struck by a low line drive during pregame batting practice Sunday.

Iglesias, who left Friday’s game against the Mets with a right shin contusion suffered on a late slide into second base, was in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against the Astros. He was taking ground balls and working with Ian Kinsler when J.D. Martinez smacked a line drive that caught him. Kinsler said the liner seemed to catch him in the same spot as the bruise.

Iglesias immediately went to the ground in pain. He was helped off the field by Tigers assistant athletic trainer Doug Teter, but was able to put weight on the leg.

It was a scary incident for a young shortstop who missed all of last season with stress fractures in both shins. The Tigers emphasized that Friday’s injury was unrelated to the fractures.

Dixon Machado replaced Iglesias in Sunday’s starting lineup.

Cabrera begins taking ground balls

Miguel Cabrera took another step in his rehab from foot and ankle surgery, though it didn’t involve many actual steps at all. He began taking ground balls at first base Saturday.

The ground balls were hit directly at him, limiting the lateral movement he’d be tested to do.

“I watched him. Everything was good,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We hit some ground balls at him.”

It’s the first fielding work Cabrera has done since the end of last season. He underwent surgery last October to remove a bone spur from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture at the top of his foot.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Astros

Jose Iglesias returns to the lineup today. Several other regulars are in the lineup again today, including Ian Kinsler, Yoenis Cespedes and J.D. Martinez. James McCann is behind the plate for Shane Greene in his first start in a Tigers uniform.

The Astros, meanwhile, sent a pretty decent lineup to Lakeland for a split-squad game, including Evan Gattis, George Springer and Carlos Correa.

TIGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS
  3. J.D. Martinez, RF
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, DH
  5. Tyler Collins, LF
  6. Rajai Davis, CF
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Jordan Lennerton, 1B
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Shane Greene, Joakim Soria, Joba Chamberlain, Tom Gorzelanny, Drew VerHagen, Alberto Cabrera, Josh Zeid, Buck Farmer

ASTROS

  1. Robbie Grossman, LF
  2. Marwin Gonzalez, 2B
  3. George Springer, RF
  4. Evan Gattis, DH
  5. Luis Valbuena, 3B
  6. Carlos Correa, SS
  7. Jon Singleton, 1B
  8. Jake Marisnick, CF
  9. Max Stassi, C

P: Dan Straily

Fields flashes power in win over Braves

Daniel Fields is healthy, he emphasized. Considering the way his last season and a half have gone with wrist, hand and oblique injuries, that’s the biggest thing.

Get Fields healthy, and give him at-bats, and he has a chance to show his swing. He showed it Saturday when he crushed a home run to right-center field at Champion Stadium off Braves non-roster lefty.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus took notice.

“That was a nice swing,” Ausmus said. “He hit that ball a ton. That wind was kind of blowing across the ball, almost in a little bit. That ball was hit a ton to get out today.

“I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t know that Daniel Fields had that much power.”

His muscular, athletic frame — he’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds — would suggest it’s there. His minor-league numbers — 35 home runs and a .371 slugging percentage in 1922 career minor-league at-bats — would not.

It’s early, but he’s making the most of his at-bats so far. He followed up his home run with a bloop single, improving him to 5-for-11 so far this spring. Three of those hits have gone for extra bases. His only hitless game was his meeting with Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and the Mets bullpen Friday at Port St. Lucie.

Unless something crazy happens, Fields is ticketed for a second season at Triple-A Toledo. The early-season call-ups of Brennan Boesch, Andy Dirks and J.D. Martinez over the last five years show what a hot start can mean. In the cases of Boesch and Dirks, those hot starts came after very good Spring Trainings.

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