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Nathan starts long-tossing, Rondon still on hold

Joe Nathan wasn’t expected to pick up a baseball for at least a week after his elbow flexor strain. A week has passed. So after Justin Verlander threw his simulated game at PNC Park early Wednesday afternoon, Nathan was spotted in the outfield long-tossing, up to 120 feet.

“It’s nothing to write home about,” Nathan said, “but for the first time playing catch, it came out of my hand better than I thought. The ball was really carrying today. It felt easy, too. I wasn’t trying to jump on anything. It was just kind of floating through and getting there with ease.

“Not getting too excited about it, but the first session went according to plan.”

That puts him on a path towards a return, though that’s still a little ways out. He’ll continue playing catch this week with the possibility of a mound session at some point this weekend, then more work next week. That, in turn, puts Nathan on a path towards returning to the Tigers bullpen, where Joakim Soria has filled in skillfully at closer.

Asked if Nathan will retake the closer role upon return, manager Brad Ausmus said, “That’s the plan. We’ll see what happens, but that’s the plan. The most important thing, obviously, is to get him back. Our bullpen is stronger with Joe in it.”

Bruce Rondon, meanwhile, is not throwing again yet. He was playing catch at some point last week, then was held back for treatment over the weekend. He has not yet resumed throwing.

“He’s scheduled to pick up a ball Friday,” Ausmus said of Rondon, who opened the season on the 15-day DL with biceps tendinitis.

Asked what that might entail, Ausmus said, “They told me he’d pick up a ball, so I can’t tell you. He might pick it up and put it right back down.”

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Pirates

Verlander 001

Though Alex Avila has some decent numbers against Francisco Liriano (4-for-10 with a double and a triple), the Tigers are going with the right-handed hitting James McCann against the former Twins and current Pirates lefty. In fairness, three of the four hits came in 2011, and Avila is 1-for-6 with four strikeouts against him since. Rajai Davis, meanwhile, gets his second straight start in center field.

tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers against Liriano)

  1. Rajai Davis, CF (6-for-20, 3 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-17, 2 doubles, HR, 4 walks, 4 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (9-for-32, 3 doubles, 2 HR, 8 walks, 8 K’s)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (1-for-2, HR, walk, K)
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (1-for-10, K)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-3, K)
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Alfredo Simon, P (0-for-2, K)

pirateslogo3PIRATES (career numbers off Simon)

  1. Josh Harrison, 3B (4-for-13, double, 2 K’s)
  2. Gregory Polanco, RF (1-for-3, walk)
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF (5-for-20, HR, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
  4. Neil Walker, 2B (3-for-17, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  5. Starling Marte, RF (6-for-20, double, walk, 3 K’s)
  6. Pedro Alvarez, 1B (1-for-10, double, 3 walks, K)
  7. Francisco Cervelli, C (0-for-3, K)
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS (3-for-14, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  9. Francisco Liriano, P (1-for-2, K)

Verlander throws 45-pitch simulated game

Verlander 005

Justin Verlander threw 45 pitches over three innings in a simulated game Wednesday afternoon at PNC Park. What it means for his chances of pitching in an actual game soon remains to be seen. 

Manager Brad Ausmus said a day earlier that Verlander was expected to throw four innings of about 15 pitches each, possibly longer if he felt good. Verlander said the session ended earlier due to shoulder fatigue, not pain.

Verlander threw all his pitches, including the curveball early, though he didn’t throw any in his third and final inning once he felt fatigue. The curveball was the pitch on which he strained his right triceps nearly three weeks ago, and he didn’t resume throwing it until his last bullpen session Sunday in Cleveland.

Verlander 002Between simulated game work, long-tossing and warmups, Verlander estimated he threw the ball about 80 times. Whether it’s fatigue or something else, it would seem unlikely that the outing would be his final hurdle before rejoining the Tigers rotation.

Kyle Lobstein filled Verlander’s rotation spot Sunday against the Indians, pitching five innings of three-run ball despite eight hits. Detroit pushed back that rotation spot for this weekend’s series against the White Sox at Comerica Park, moving up Anibal Sanchez and Shane Greene to pitch on normal rest this weekend.

Detroit will need a fifth starter no later than next Tuesday against the Yankees, also at Comerica Park. Assuming Verlander isn’t ready, Lobstein would most likely fill the spot once again.

Verlander seemingly had his velocity going against a trio of Tigers hitters — utility infielders Andrew Romine and Hernan Perez, along with bullpen catcher John Murrian. He also threw a decent number of sliders.
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Verlander had been sitting down between innings to simulate the game process of cooling down and warming up again. After striking out Murrian to end his third inning, however, he went back in without a wait.

No Verlander, no Lobstein for White Sox series this weekend

The Tigers announced their starting pitchers for this weekend’s three-game series against the White Sox at Comerica Park. As expected, the list does not include Justin Verlander, who throws a simulated game today at PNC Park to see how close he is to rejoining Detroit’s rotation. It also doesn’t include Kyle Lobstein, who pitched in Verlander’s spot three days ago in Cleveland.

David Price stays on turn to pitch Friday’s series opener opposite Jeff Samardzija. Price gets an extra day of rest thanks to Thursday’s off-day, which also allows manager Brad Ausmus to push back Lobstein and pitch Anibal Sanchez and Shane Greene on Saturday and Sunday. Sanchez starts opposite Chris Sale. The White Sox have not announced a starter for Sunday, though Jose Quintana is expected to get the call.

The Tigers can pitch Alfredo Simon on Monday on regular rest before needing a fifth starter for Tuesday night against the Yankees, whether it’s Lobstein or Verlander. We might have a better idea about that later this afternoon.

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Pirates

Pittsburgh 003

A.J. Burnett has a two-sided history against Detroit, a 6-2 record despite a 5.19 ERA in 11 career meetings. He has been much better in recent years against the Tigers than he was from 2006 to 2008, when he had the pressure of the big contract on him. He could’ve been a Tiger about a decade ago, ironically, though the Tigers were never going to match what the Blue Jays offered him.

Burnett knows the soft spots of former Marlins teammate Miguel Cabrera, as the stats below reflect, but he has struggled against Rajai Davis, and he has struggled a lot with speed on the bases, averaging more than 30 stolen bases allowed last year and two steals from Billy Hamilton last week in Cincinnati. The way this Tigers team has worked the basepaths so far, it’ll be very interesting to see if they try to test him and catcher Francisco Cervelli.

UPDATE: Since some folks were asking, Brad Ausmus said starting Davis and Anthony Gose in the same outfield tonight was never a consideration. “I love stolen bases,” Ausmus said, “but I love home runs better.” Thus, Gose sits.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB Network (outside Detroit and Pittsburgh), MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

tigerroarlogoTIGERS (career numbers vs. Burnett)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (4-for-9, 2 doubles, triple)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-26, HR, walk, 6 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-25, 2 doubles, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-10, 2 K’s)
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C (1-for-10, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Shane Greene, P

pirateslogo2PIRATES (no numbers against Greene)

  1. Josh Harrison, 3B
  2. Gregory Polanco, LF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Neil Walker, 2B
  5. Corey Hart, RF
  6. Pedro Alvarez, 1B
  7. Francisco Cervelli, C
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS
  9. A.J. Burnett, P

Monday’s lineups: Tigers at Pirates

Cleveland and Pittsburgh 015

The third and final home opener of the season for the Tigers is in Pittsburgh, where it’s looking like a postcard type of day with high temperatures in the mid to upper 70s. They’ll see a Tigers lineup that’s rolling (check out the AL batting leaders after one week of play), but one that will not have Victor Martinez in it with the designated hitter slot unavailable. Everyone else moves up, which means J.D. Martinez will bat cleanup.

With no DH, it also means Tigers pitchers are batting in April for a second straight season. They’ve been taking batting practice for the last week or so as prep work, but that likely won’t help much with Sanchez, a career .091 (22-for-241) hitter from his days with the Marlins. That said, he did hit an RBI double last April at Dodger Stadium.

Asked if Sanchez will be allowed to swing, Brad Ausmus said, “Out of his shoes.”

As for the bullpen, Ausmus might have a decision to make if the Tigers take a lead into the ninth. Joakim Soria pitched all three games in Cleveland, and four out of the last five days. However, his Friday appearance lasted just eight pitches and a third of an inning. Soria said he thinks he can pitch today, and Ausmus wasn’t ruling it out, though he wanted to check with Soria first. It’s mid-April, and there’s 155 games left after this one.

tigerslogoTIGERS

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-3, K off Gerrit Cole)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (1-for-3 off Cole)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS
  9. Anibal Sanchez, P

pirateslogoPIRATES (career numbers off Anibal Sanchez)

  1. Josh Harrison, 3B (0-for-3)
  2. Gregory Polanco, RF
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF (4-for-14, walk, 5 K’s)
  4. Neil Walker, 2B (3-for-14, double, HR, walk, 4 K’s)
  5. Starling Marte, LF (1-for-4, K)
  6. Pedro Alvarez, 1B (4-for-12, 2 doubles, HR, 5 K’s)
  7. Francisco Cervelli, C
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS (2-for-6, double, 2 K’s)
  9. Gerrit Cole, P

Verlander throws bullpen session, batters up Wednesday

Justin Verlander threw a 45-pitch bullpen session Sunday morning at Progressive Field, putting him on track to throw a simulated game Wednesday and possibly a return to game action during the Tigers’ next homestand.

Verlander’s session Sunday was his second off a mound in three days. This time, he threw all of his pitches, including the curveball that was the source of the triceps soreness that sidelined him a couple weeks ago.

“Really good,” Verlander said when asked how he felt, “about as well as I could’ve expected. I didn’t really feel anything at all, so just keep moving forward. It’s a day-by-day thing, has been this whole time. Today I was able to throw a good bullpen. I didn’t feel anything. So next step is a simulated game.”

That will take place in Pittsburgh while the Tigers wrap up their six-game, two-city road trip. He’ll throw 15 pitches, sit down, and then throw 15 more, simulating the sitdown portion between innings. How many times he’ll sit down and get back up remains to be seen.

It’ll be Verlander’s first session against hitters since he left his Spring Training start March 27 against the Blue Jays.

The Tigers return home Friday to face the White Sox, starting a 10-game homestand. With an off-day Thursday, Detroit could go with just four starters until Tuesday, April 21 against the Yankees. More likely, however, the Tigers would give Kyle Lobstein another start if Verlander wasn’t ready.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Indians

  The Tigers face a left-handed starting pitcher for the first time this season, meaning James McCann gets his first start of the year behind the plate. Rajai Davis also starts in center field, batting leadoff. They’re also facing Indians lefty T.J. House for the first time ever.

On the injury front, Victor Martinez is in the lineup at designated hitter, as Ausmus said he expected. Yan Gomes, however, is headed to the disabled list for the Indians after suffering a knee injury on Rajai Davis’ slide into home plate yesterday.

A reminder that today’s game is on FSD Plus again. If you watched yesterday, go back to the same channel today. It’s also on MLB Network outside of the Detroit and Cleveland markets.

tigerslogoTIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. James McCann, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Kyle Lobstein


INDIANS
(career numbers vs. Lobstein) clevelandlogo2

  1. Michael Bourn, CF (1-for-6, double, 3 K’s)
  2. Mike Aviles, SS (1-for-2, double)
  3. Jason Kipnis, 2B (1-for-4, walk, K)
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B (1-for-4, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  5. Jerry Sands, LF
  6. Brandon Moss, RF
  7. Ryan Raburn, DH (1-for-2, walk)
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (1-for-4, K)
  9. Roberto Perez, C

P: T.J. House

Romine works on quieter swing, has louder impact

At some point during spring training, Brad Ausmus talked about Andrew Romine and his bunting work. The goal, Ausmus said at the time, was for Romine to try to reach base safely in any way possible.

It wasn’t just bunt work. For Romine, it was an overall approach.

“Did a lot of testing stuff out during Spring Training,” Romine said Saturday, “and tried to pick up where I left off from last year, because I had a good last month or two. I’m trying to get things going back that way and  just see more pitches and not get as jumpy. I was real jumpy last year.”

He wanted to be calmer at the plate, not just for strategic reasons but for physical ones. The quieter the approach at the plate, the more still the eyes would be, and the easier it would be to track pitches, and the easier the decision whether to attack a pitch or lay off of it.

“Just see more, kind of calm everything down a little bit,” Romine continued. “I was doing too much jumping, trying to step and hit at the same time, as opposed to step to hit.”

Not only did Romine have more strikeouts (60) than hits (57) last season, he had a 3-to-10 walk-to-strikeout ratio. That’s not going to work for an infielder who doesn’t hit for much power, even a switch-hitting one. That had to improve. That said, he batted .298 (14-for-47) with four walks and five strikeouts over the final month of the season.

The numbers in Spring Training weren’t pretty, batting .200 (10-for-50) with 13 strikeouts. But he also walked six times.

“I had a purpose,” Romine said. “I wasn’t taking [pitches] just to take them. I was taking them to use that to try and get my eyes a little more level and kind of more balance in my body.”

Saturday marked his first at-bats since Spring Training. He had an infield single his first time up, then walked in each of his next three plate appearances. Two of them helped spearhead rallies.

“I think that’s overlooked a lot, especially in a game like today, where there’s a lot of things that happened,” Ian Kinsler said. “He gets a tough assignment right off the bat. He’s gotta play shortstop. He’s gotta face last year’s Cy Young winner. And he had great at-bats all night, professional at-bats all the way to the last one. He struck out, but he’s 3-2, he’s working the pitcher. He had great at-bats all night, made a very good play in the first. To be able to have a guy like that, that can fill in, that’s huge for a team.”

Said Romine: “I wasn’t really focusing on [Kluber]. I was more trying to focus on myself and being balanced and seeing pitches, trying to stay level. To be honest with you, I was pleasantly surprised with how well I was seeing it, for it being the first at-bats of the season and not having hit in like a week or so.”

Asked how many at-bats his extra work helped him on, Romine said, “All of them.”

Saturday’s lineup: Tigers at Indians

 After eight hits over four games, Jose Iglesias gets a day off. Andrew Romine gets his first start at short. Yes, Brad Ausmus is sitting a hot bat, and Iglesias had a day off with the team Tuesday, but Ausmus has made a point to make sure Iglesias’ legs stay strong through the course of the season.

“He didn’t complain of anything,” Ausmus said. “It was just I felt like we should give him a day. And part of it is that you have to get these other guys in there.”

The day off plan will continue as the season rolls along, though there isn’t any sort of set schedule to it according to Ausmus.

“We’ll have to play it by ear,” he said.

tigerpitcherlogoTIGERS (career numbers vs. Corey Kluber)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-15, triple, walk, 3 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (17-for-30, 2 doubles, 4 HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-22, 3 HR, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (4-for-9, double, HR)
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (4-for-7, double, HR, K)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (5-for-12, double, 4 K’s)
  8. Alex Avila, C (3-for-17, 2 doubles, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
  9. Andrew Romine, SS (0-for-3, 2 K’s)

P: David Price

clevelandlogoINDIANS (career numbers vs. Price)

  1. Michael Bourn, CF (3-for-16, double, 5 K’s)
  2. Mike Aviles, LF (6-for-23, 2 doubles, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Jason Kipnis, 2B (2-for-9, 3 K’s)
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B (6-for-18, 4 doubles, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  5. Yan Gomes, C (0-for-6, 2 K’s)
  6. Ryan Raburn, DH (7-for-19, double, HR, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
  7. Jerry Sands, RF
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (4-for-9, double, HR, K)
  9. Jose Ramirez, SS (1-for-8, 4 K’s)

P: Corey Kluber

 

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