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Iglesias confirms stress fractures in both shins

Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias confirmed reports Monday morning that he has been diagnosed with stress fractures in both of his legs.

The diagnosis came late last week from a specialist Iglesias visited for additional opinion.

“This is small fractures in the legs,” Iglesias said. “I was able to play through it last year, but that’s not going to happen this year.”

Iglesias said he won’t know how long he’ll be out until he visits another specialist, Dr. Thomas Clanton, on Tuesday in Colorado to determine the best course of treatment. He expects to play at some point this season.

“Absolutely,” Iglesias said. “I’ll get a better idea when I see the doctor in Colorado. But for now, my goal is to get healthy, get rid of this, because the pain is really bad. I just want to get rid of it and come back 100 percent.”

Iglesias said he has been playing through pain in both shins since last Spring Training, when he was a member of the Red Sox. Not until the last few days, however, did he know how severe the issue was.

“I just felt it from the very first moment of [last] Spring Training,” Iglesias said. “I just told myself to play through it, because I never expected something like that. I just feel pain, but Stephen Drew had a concussion at the time and that was an opportunity for me to start with the team. And I was like, ‘You know what, you’ve got to play through it.’ And I did it.”

The pain was severe enough at times that he had to sit occasionally, both before and after his midseason trade to Detroit.

“Last year I played through the pain all year long,” Iglesias said. “Sometimes [Red Sox manager John] Farrell had to give me some days the same as [former Tigers manager] Jim Leyland here. He had to give me some days or take me out of the game because the pain was so bad. And I was like, ‘Man, I don’t know what to do to get rid of it.’ And I never found out until right now that it was a fracture.”

Iglesias missed time at points last year with the Tigers while dealing with shin splints, but returned in time for the postseason. He said an offseason of rest was expected to take care of the issue, but the pain returned this spring.

Iglesias hasn’t played since Feb. 26. He was originally diagnosed with stress reactions in both shins, similar to shin splints but different in severity. He has tried to work his way back, hitting in batting practice and taking ground balls in the field, but continued to feel pain while running.

The Tigers announced Sunday that Iglesias will open the season on the disabled list, but did not announce a diagnosis pending Tuesday’s report from Dr. Clanton.

After a full year of pain, Iglesias said he feels relieved simply to have a diagnosis what’s going on in his legs.

“It’s bad news for me and bad news for the team as well,” Iglesias said, “but at the end of the day, it’s good as well, because I know what’s going on now. It’s something that I’ve got to deal with, but something that will go away with time.”

Monday: Tigers vs. Nationals

spring training 001

The forecast is not very good for this afternoon, and it gets worse as the day goes on. The fact that the tarp was already on the field this morning probably wasn’t a good sign. Still, I would expect they’re going to wait out the forecast to see what the weather is actually like around game time.

Hernan Perez is next up at shortstop, getting the start today. Brad Ausmus invoked an 0ld Leyland phrase yesterday in describing Perez: He’s a baseball player. He likes Perez’s instincts and awareness, and he sees Perez as somebody who can handle the bat. The question will be how well he handle shortstop, which for him is a secondary spot. He was good there at Erie, though not as good as Suarez at his best. If Ausmus does decide to go with two shortstops going into the season, it’s pretty easy to see where Perez fits in.

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Alex Avila, C
  5. Austin Jackson, CF
  6. Don Kelly, 3B
  7. Tyler Collins, DH
  8. Hernan Perez, SS
  9. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B

P: Anibal Sanchez, Ian Krol, Al Alburquerque, Blaine Hardy, Luke Putkonen

On Jose Iglesias, the next Tigers shortstop, and defense

In the wee hours at Comerica Park on the night of July 30, as Dave Dombrowski put together the deal that brought them Jose Iglesias from Boston in exchange for Avisail Garcia, one of the things he mentioned was the importance of shoring up the position defensively. They had a lot more offense around the lineup at that point, but they also had a much better offensive player they were preparing to replace, and they felt Iglesias fit in with what they wanted to do long term.

“We’ve had some other people throw some names at shortstop for us that we didn’t see fitting in for us,” Dombrowski said.

As Dombrowski talked about the position Sunday morning at Space Coast Stadium, and how to fill the void left by Iglesias’ injury, that emphasis on defense was there again. They’re trying to shore up the void at shortstop, Dombrowski emphasized, not the void at the bottom of the lineup.

“I think we need to keep it in perspective,” Dombrowski said. “There’s no question [Iglesias is] a very fine player but for us, from an offensive perspective, it’s the bottom of our order. It’s not the middle of our order. I think it’s very important that whoever we have catches the ball, plays defense. That’s extremely important for us.”

They were already prepared to go into the season with Iglesias at the bottom of their lineup, producing some offense but not having to be a catalyst. With Iglesias out, that’s the void.

If they go after another shortstop, Dombrowski does not seem inclined to trade defense for offense. With a rookie third baseman still adjusting back to the corner after spending the previous season and a half in the outfield, with a team built around pitching and defense, they can’t afford to comprise fielding there.

“You have to catch the ball at shortstop to play defensively on our club,” Dombrowski said. “We have a good pitching staff, we think we’re going to score enough runs. It’s a very important part, and we think we have some guys that can do that.”

There’s a lot of question whether Eugenio Suarez will hit enough to stick as a Major League shortstop, questions that have followed Danny Worth during his career, questions that have been asked about Hernan Perez as well. Defensively, though, they think a lot of what they have. None are as good as Iglesias, none are likely as good defensively as Stephen Drew for that matter, but there’s enough talent there to try to fill the gap on defense without worrying as much about offense.

When the Tigers look around at the trade market, or if the Tigers do end up making a run at Drew, it’ll be with defense in mind. They’ll have to figure out whether Seattle’s Nick Franklin is a Major League caliber shortstop or, realistically, a second baseman/utility type, as some evaluators say. And they’ll have weigh whether the upgrade on Drew defensively is big enough to make it worth the price in contract or draft compensation. Same goes for Jimmy Rollins in any trade speculation, for that matter, unlikely as that possibility seems.

Drew would not be a major presence offensively. His recent numbers, and especially his numbers away from Fenway Park last year (.222 average, .687 OPS) make that clear. He had a very good 2013 season against right-handers (.284/.377/.498) but under .196 against lefties. If you bring him in, it’s not going to be for offense.

Again, part of the debate hinges on Iglesias’ timetable, as well as how confident they can be that his shins will finally be healthy for good when he returns. Will Carroll of Bleacher Report pointed out that the foot-and-ankle specialist Iglesias has been set up to visit Tuesday — Dr. Thomas Clanton at the Steadman Clinic in Colorado — is an expert in chronic conditions.

Iglesias will start to DL, seek more opinion on shins

Jose Iglesias will open the season on the 15-day disabled list, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed Sunday morning. How long he’ll miss, and the exact details of his shin condition, is still to be announced.

Iglesias, who has missed the last two weeks with what has been termed as a stress reaction in both shins, will visit another foot and ankle specialist, Dr. Thomas Clanton of the Steadman Clinic in Colorado, for another opinion on his injury Tuesday. The Tigers will reserve comment on the injury until then.

Dombrowski did not comment on a Sunday morning report from ESPN that Iglesias will be out until midseason with stress fracture. Likewise, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand did not have an update.

Still, the Tigers are clearly preparing themselves for the possibility that Iglesias will miss a significant chunk of the season.

Dombrowski did not rule out the possibility of bringing in another shortstop. For now, the team plans to look internally at prospects Hernan Perez and Eugenio Suarez along with utility infielder Danny Worth.

Iglesias saw a Lakeland-based foot and ankle specialist last week and received an adjustment in his orthotics that he has been wearing since at least last year. The initial adjustment, adding extra cushion under the foot, made an immediate difference according to Iglesias. From there, the doctor analyzed video of Iglesias’ running stride.

Iglesias resumed workouts since then, taking batting practice and fielding ground balls at shortstop. However, he continued to feel pain while running, specifically while slowing down.

Iglesias tried running as recently as Thursday, but continued to feel pain.

“He can run,” Rand explained earlier this week, “but slowing down is where he has the biggest issue. And then the problem is that as he progresses, it gets a little worse.”

That prompted the Tigers to consult with Dr. Rick Smith, a Winter Haven-based chiropractor. He provided Iglesias with “a microcurrent machine with biofeedback,” for pain management.

Iglesias has been bothered by shin issues since last season in Boston, before he was traded to Detroit at the July trade deadline. When Iglesias was sidelined two weeks ago, the Tigers were hoping to figure out the cause once and for all and get rid of it.

Whatever the timetable, Tigers preparing for potentially long spell without Iglesias

The Tigers had no medical update Saturday on Jose Iglesias, which seemed somewhat significant after he spent Friday trying out a device for pain management. Now that reports cite peers and ex-teammates saying Iglesias expects to miss a half-season or more, the Tigers aren’t commenting on those reports, either.

“At this time, I do not have anything to discuss on Iglesias’ situation,” Dave Dombrowski wrote in an email. “Will have more in a few days.”

Coincidentally, Iglesias’ agent, Scott Boras, said late Saturday night that Iglesias will visit two specialists in the coming days to determine the best course of treatment.

Whether it’s a half-season (Jon Heyman’s report), most of the season (Jim Bowden’s tweet), or something else, however, the Tigers are preparing for the increasing possibility they’ll be without their gifted young shortstop for a significant amount of time. The fact that all this comes after Iglesias saw another specialist in Florida earlier this week for additional opinion on his injury point to a more significant injury to his shins.

Saturday was the first time manager Brad Ausmus talked about filling in for Iglesias on more on a short-term basis. He had no new medical info to share, but he had thoughts on what they might face.

“Depending on how long he’s going to be out, we may or may not need two shortstops,” Ausmus said.

Roster math suggests the Tigers shouldn’t need two shortstops if Iglesias faces a minimal stint on the disabled list.

When asked whether they’re waiting on medical results or a timetable, Ausmus didn’t give a specific answer.

“We want him to be healthy is the primary goal,” Ausmus said, “but we’re kind of at that point where with every passing day, it’s becoming extremely more difficult for him to get the number of at-bats ready to prepare for a season. In relatively short order, we’ll be past that tipping point, where we’d essentially have to open up the season without Jose.”

Whether that points free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew to Tigers camp remains to be seen. Nothing is believed to be imminent, and it’s unclear just how serious the Tigers’ interest would be. Drew is represented by Boras, who also picked up Iglesias as a client last summer. But the Tigers are about to face the tough decision between long-term and short-term outlooks.

If the Tigers make a serious run at Drew, they’ll do so knowing they’d have to give up a first-round draft pick (23rd overall) for a short-term fix. If they pass, they’re going to have to be confident in their alternatives, either an in-house mix of youngsters and utility infielders, or somebody off a trade market one AL scout said “stinks.”

The Diamondbacks could have an extra shortstop in their battle between Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings, but both are young talents in their early 20s, not veterans, and likely wouldn’t come cheap. Other clubs are likely to have serviceable utility infielders become available as rosters whittle down, but not necessarily deserving of regular playing time.

Drew has served as a shortstop for a World Championship team, having held down the job for Boston last season over Iglesias and Xander Bogaerts. He hit .253 last year with 13 home runs, 67 RBIs and a .777 OPS. He finished strong with an .837 OPS after the All-Star break, but he also hit just .222 with a .687 OPS away from Fenway Park.

The Tigers were believed to have interest in him for at least a brief flirtation last offseason before they recommitted to Jhonny Peralta. They know what they’d be getting. The debate will be what they’d give up.

Saturday: Tigers vs. Astros

Victor Martinez gets his first game behind the plate today, albeit only for a few innings. Brad Ausmus said this morning that Martinez will catch three innings. By batting leadoff, Martinez will be able to squeeze in two at-bats in that time.

“You don’t have to catch nine innings to be ready to catch nine innings,” Ausmus said. “That sounds like a Yogi-ism.”

Steve Lombardozzi, meanwhile, gets his first game action in left field. Ausmus wasn’t planning on doing that this spring, but with Andy Dirks currently limited to couch potato duty following back surgery, Ausmus is now viewing Lombardozzi as an outfield option — maybe not platoon duty, but spot duty and late-game versatility.

Max Scherzer and Lucas Harrell pitch opposite each other for the second time this spring. They played against each other and sometimes on the same team while growing up in Missouri — Harrell in Springfield, Scherzer in the St. Louis area.

TIGERS

  1. Victor Martinez, C
  2. Tyler Collins, CF
  3. Torii Hunter, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  6. Austin Jackson, DH
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Danny Worth, SS
  9. Steve Lombardozzi, LF

P: Max Scherzer

ASTROS

  1. Jonathan Villar, DH
  2. Dexter Fowler, CF
  3. Jose Altuve, 2B
  4. Marc Knauss, 1B
  5. Jesus Guzman, 3B
  6. Robbie Grossman, LF
  7. Carlos Corporan, C
  8. L.J. Hoes, RF
  9. Carlos Correa, SS

P: Lucas Harrell

Iglesias sees a pain management specialist (updated)

The seemingly day-to-day saga for Jose Iglesias and his ailing shins took another turn Friday, when the Tigers shortstop saw a chiropractor to try out a device for pain management on his ailing shins.

Iglesias also could see another specialist to try to address the tibial stress reactions — similar to shin splints — that have sidelined him from the past two weeks. Manager Brad Ausmus mentioned an additional specialist who was traveling through the area.

Nothing else has changed in Iglesias’ status, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said. With two weeks before the Tigers break camp, there are no signs that Iglesias’ return is imminent.

“We’re trying to manage his pain right now and get him some relief,” head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Friday, “because our feeling is if we’re able to get him some relief there, then he’d be able to resume his activity.”

Iglesias saw a Lakeland-based foot and ankle specialist last week and received an adjustment in his orthotics that he has been wearing since at least last year. The initial adjustment, adding extra cushion under the foot, made an immediate difference according to Iglesias. From there, the doctor analyzed video of Iglesias’ running stride.

Iglesias has resumed workouts since then, taking batting practice and fielding ground balls at shortstop. Other than light jogging, however, he has not done any running that would suggest a return to game action is close.

“The orthotics seemed to give him some relief,” Rand said. “We addressed it from the ground up, so to speak, and I think we’ve done a good job with that. Obviously he’s been able to do more activity. We’ve got him on the field defensively and he moves fairly well. As far as hitting is concerned, there was no problem.

“So we kind of got him back to some of those activities. We just haven’t gotten that last bit of activity. That’s what we have to get.”

Iglesias tried running as recently as Thursday, but continued to feel pain.

“He can run,” Rand explained, “but slowing down is where he has the biggest issue. And then the problem is that as he progresses, it gets a little worse.”

That prompted the Tigers to consult with Dr. Rick Smith, a Winter Haven-based chiropractor. He provided Iglesias with “a microcurrent machine with biofeedback,” for pain management.

Iglesias will wear the device all day Friday and into evening. If he feels improvement, he’ll try running again.

Iglesias has been bothered by shin splints since at least last season in Boston, before he was traded to Detroit at the July trade deadline. When Iglesias was sidelined two weeks ago, the Tigers were hoping to figure out the cause once and for all and get rid of it. The longer this goes, the more they’re hoping to at least manage the pain first.

“Our goal is eventually to get him pain-free,” Rand said. “Right now, it’s to get him to be able to manage the pain, to get him back to what he does. And obviously the long-term goal is to get him pain-free, if it all possible.”

Manager Brad Ausmus said earlier this week that Iglesias might be running out of time to get the at-bats he needs to be ready for Opening Day. He isn’t saying he’s out of time yet, but he acknowledged increasing concern.

“We’re not there yet, but it’s getting more and more tenuous by the day,” Ausmus said. “If he comes in the next few days and says, ‘I can play,’ we can always use the minor-league games. We’ll just wait and see.”

Unlike Grapefruit League contests, the minor-league games can be tinkered to allow a specific player to bat out of order, getting him more at-bats in a shorter amount of time.

“You can do whatever you want down there. He could lead off every inning and not play the field. He could lead off and play the field in the first, lead off in the second and not play the field and alterate for a few innings, get five at-bats but only play three innings in the field. You can control it there, which makes it doable, so he’s not standing on his feet the whole time.”

If a DL stint becomes inevitable, the Tigers can backdate it so that he doesn’t have to miss first 15 days of the season. With minor-league spring training going a bit longer after big-league camp breaks, Iglesias could cram in at-bats near the end and be ready for the second week of the season.

Ausmus has always delineated backup plans for Iglesias between a day-to-day injury situation and a DL stint. Utilityman Steve Lombardozzi has been playing semi-regularly at shortstop with Iglesias out the past couple weeks so that he can get accustomed to the position, which he has played just sparingly in his pro career. If Iglesias had a day-to-day injury, Lombardozzi would be the likely fill-in.

If Iglesias went on the DL, the Tigers could use the roster spot to call up prospects Hernan Perez or Eugenio Suarez. Danny Worth would also be an option, but he’d have to be added back to the 40-man roster.

With Iglesias’ situation getting murkier, Ausmus acknowledged another plan Friday. Even if Iglesias didn’t have to open the season on the DL, they could use the last positional spot on the roster to carry an extra infielder such as Perez or Suarez.

“It’s possible, yeah,” Ausmus said.

Doing that would cost them an extra outfielder. With both Lombardozzi and Don Kelly capable of playing the outfield, however, the Tigers would still have some depth there.

Tigers sign Nate Robertson to minor-league contract

The last time Nate Robertson was in Tigers camp, he was on the verge of being traded to the Marlins. That was at the end of Spring Training in 2010, which is also the last year Robertson pitched in the Major Leagues.

So maybe it was fitting that word leaked during the Tigers game against the Marlins that Robertson was working out across the street in minor-league camp. He agreed to a minor-league contract last week.

The deal does not include any invite to big league camp. He’s slated to pitch for a spot at Triple-A Toledo.

Robertson lasted pitch in the big leagues in Philadelphia in the summer of 2010, and has been bouncing around trying to get another opportunity since. He spent 2011 in the rotation at Triple-A Tacoma in the Mariners organization, split the 2012 season between the Cubs and Blue Jays systems, then pitched 50 1/3 innings out of the bullpen at Triple-A Round Rock in the Rangers system. He returns back to his roots with the Tigers looking for some left-handed pitching depth in their system.

Robertson is now 36 years old and pitches a little differently. He lowered his arm angle in his delivery before last season to give his pitches more movement and his delivery more deception. He had some respectable numbers in the Pacific Coast League last year, going 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA and allowing 45 hits over 50 1/3 innings. He walked 23, struck out 40 and didn’t allow a single home run. He held left-handed hitters to a .213 average (17-for-80) with eight walks and 23 strikeouts, compared with a .267 (28-for-105) clip against righties.

No idea whether that ratio translates to the big leagues. Even with some uncertainty in the Tigers bullpen, it’s not going to be an immediate issue. The Tigers have their candidates for lefty relief going into the season, with Ian Krol, Phil Coke, Blaine Hardy, Jose Alvarez and Kyle Lobstein competing. Meanwhile, Detroit just optioned Casey Crosby to Toledo, where fellow ex-Tiger Wil Ledezma also just signed.

Thursday: Tigers vs. Marlins

Spring Training 012

It’s not a completely regular lineup for the Tigers today for the chilly, snowbound local TV audience, but there are some interesting guys worth watching beyond the three guys in the middle. Rajai Davis gets a day in the leadoff spot, while Steven Moya gets another start in right field. Again, Moya is not going to make the team, but if this spring serves as a confidence boost that carries him into Double-A Erie, it could do wonders for his development.

This lineup will take its cuts against former Tiger Jacob Turner, who gets the start for the Marlins.

Today’s game is on Fox Sports Detroit back home and on MLB.TV online.

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Steve Lombardozzi, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Torii Hunter, DH
  5. Austin Jackson, CF
  6. Steven Moya, RF
  7. Danny Worth, 3B
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Drew Smyly, Blaine Hardy, Joba Chamberlain, Joe Nathan, Jose Alvarez, Justin Miller

MARLINS

  1. Jake Marisnick, DH
  2. Christian Yelich, LF
  3. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
  4. Garrett Jones, 1B
  5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  6. Casey McGehee, 3B
  7. Marcell Ozuna, CF
  8. Ed Lucas, 2B
  9. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS

P: Jacob Turner, Andrew Heaney, Adam Conley, Sam Dyson, Arquimedes Caminero

First round of Tigers cuts: Marte released; Crosby, Mercedes to Toledo, others to minor league camp

Luis Marte had made the Tigers’ Opening Day roster two years ago. He was on the team. And then he pulled his left hamstring pitching in the final game of Spring Training. It has been a downhill slide for him ever since, culminating in the abrupt end of his Tigers tenure Wednesday.

Detroit outright released Marte on Wednesday morning as part of their first round of camp cuts.

“He wasn’t going to make the big-league club, and it was a situation where there really wasn’t a spot in Triple-A for him,” Brad Ausmus told reporters this morning, including MLB.com’s Adam Berry. “You never want to tell someone that you’re releasing them, but the truth is it’s better now than later when you have an opportunity to catch on with somebody else.

“He’s a great kid, a classy kid. Worked hard. It just wasn’t going to work here. Hopefully he can catch on in another organization.”

Marte was coming back from shoulder surgery which cost him most of last season. The Yankees roughed him up for four runs on three hits in 1 1/3 innings Feb. 28 and he never really rebounded.

The fact that there wasn’t a spot in the Mud Hens bullpen for Marte was a bit of a surprise. Among was the Tigers’ other moves Wednesday was Melvin Mercedes being optioned to Toledo, where he has a good chance to win the closer’s job. The expectation had been that Mercedes would return to Double-A Erie, where he spent the second half of last season.

By promoting Mercedes to the Mud Hens, the Tigers open up the closer’s job at Erie for high-rising Corey Knebel — if not at season’s start, then soon after. That gives Knebel a chance to position himself for a shot at the big leagues during the season if he pitches well.

The one other surprise was that Casey Crosby was among the first round of moves. Two days after he made his first outing of the spring, the lefty is headed back to Triple-A Toledo. This time, however, he’s expected to pitch in relief. That takes a promising contestant out of the lefty relief and long relief contests, at least for Opening Day. I’d be shocked now if a move comes on Phil Coke, who pitched better Tuesday against the Blue Jays. No reason to whittle down the competition now if Coke isn’t going to be around to the end.

Also headed to Toledo is Robbie Ray, whose breakout season last year in the Nationals system was split between high A-ball and Double-A Harrisburg. Ray had a non-roster invite, so he was assigned to minor-league camp, as were Drew VerHagen, Duane Below and catcher James McCann. Right-handed reliever Jose Valdez was optioned to Erie, as was catcher/DH Ramon Cabrera.

The moves leave 46 players in Major League camp with 16 days to go.

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