Ausmus: No closer competition

The strongest statement from Brad Ausmus didn’t involve words, at least not initially. It was a shaking of the head to indicate the Tigers’ closer job is not up for grabs, though the Tigers closer has an issue with his grip.

Joe Nathan paid for a hanging slider with a game-tying home run to Jayson Nix on Thursday, his second of back-to-back outings. Ausmus said afterwards that Nathan was dealing with a thumbnail that had dug into his skin, opening a cut above the nail.

“He was bleeding,” Ausmus said. “He had it all over his pants, so he must have been wiping it off the whole time. Certainly, that was an issue.”

That wasn’t the only question for Ausmus. With Joakim Soria pitching a perfect ninth for the save — his seventh shutout inning this spring — following Victor Martinez’s go-ahead homer, the inquiry came up: Is there a competition for the closer job?

That’s when Ausmus shook his head.

“The answer is no,” Ausmus said later. “I guess it’s tough to quote, so I’ll say no.”

Thus, Soria is set to enter the season as the setup man. It’s the defined role he didn’t have after coming over from Texas in a trade last July, but it’s not the back-end role he had for most of his career.

“That’s what I was doing my whole career,” he said. “It’s something that I know. I’m not excited about it, but being setup is not that different. I love this game and I love it anywhere I pitch.”

Farmer optioned to Toledo, Dolis to minor-league camp

The Tigers bullpen competition is down two more contestants. Granted, Buck Farmer and Rafael Dolis looked like they were on the outside looking in, especially in recent days. But the latest round of cuts from Tigers camp provides a little more clarity on the competition.

Farmer will go back to starting pitching duty, heading to Triple-A Toledo, where he made two starts late last season. He also made just two starts at Double-A Erie, giving rise to the thought that he might go back to the SeaWolves to get more seasoning. However, the Tigers are going to give him a push. That decision came from the front office, not from manager Brad Ausmus or his staff.

“We think he has a very bright future,” Ausmus said of the 24-year-old. “He’s quite a bit ahead of schedule, if you look at his career path.”

Farmer joins Kyle Lobstein, Drew VerHagen, Tim Melville and Thad Weber in a potential Mud Hens rotation. The bullpen has enough depth that some guys will either have to be dropped or sent back to Erie.

Dolis figures to head to the Hen pen. The 27-year-old right-hander gave up seven runs on nine hits over 8 1/3 innings with three walks and seven strikeouts, but showed power stuff.

“He actually has great stuff,” Ausmus said. “He has a lot of movement on his fastball. He throws in the mid-90s with a good split. We were really considering him for a while.”

With Farmer and Dolis out, the Tigers are down to 10 relievers in camp for a seven-man bullpen, including six right-handers for what will likely be five spots: Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Al Alburquerque, Bruce Rondon, Joba Chamberlain and Angel Nesbitt. Nathan, Soria and Alburquerque are safe. Chamberlain should be, though he has struggled this spring. If Rondon is healthy and gets enough innings, he should be there, leaving Nesbitt as the odd man out.

Do the math, and that leaves four lefty relievers for two spots. Tom Gorzelanny, despite his spring, is believed to be in, leaving Ian Krol, Kyle Ryan and Blaine Hardy competing for the other role.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Orioles

Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are back in the lineup after playing yesterday. Alex Avila gets back behind the plate, while J.D. Martinez is in right field. In fact, other than Rajai Davis in center field, this is pretty much a regular lineup for the Tigers’ second Fox Sports Detroit broadcast in as many days.

Meanwhile, the former Tiger reunions keep on coming at Joker Marchant Stadium. One day after Don Kelly batted cleanup for the visiting team, it’s Delmon Young’s turn. Also on Baltimore’s travel roster is former Tigers reliever Pat McCoy, claimed off waivers by the O’s last fall.


  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. Alex Avila, C
  8. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: David Price, Joe Nathan, Joakim Soria, Angel Nesbitt


  1. Manny Machado, 3B
  2. Dariel Alvarez, CF
  3. Jimmy Paredes, DH
  4. Delmon Young, RF
  5. Nolan Reimold, LF
  6. Ryan Lavarnway, C
  7. Christian Walker, 1B
  8. Jayson Nix, 2B
  9. Paul Janish, SS

P: Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Tommy Hunter

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Marlins

  The original plan was for Miguel Cabrera to play across the street in a minor-league game at DH today and play first base tomorrow. Instead, Cabrera felt good enough that he talked with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and got clearance to play first base. Thus, Cabrera and Victor Martinez are in the same lineup, giving the Tigers close to a regular lineup for their first Fox Sports Detroit broadcast of the spring.

Cabrera isn’t the only return to first base today. Don Kelly not only makes his return to Lakeland, he’s batting cleanup.


  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  6. Rajai Davis, RF
  7. Hernan Perez, 3B
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Alfredo Simon, Bruce Rondon, Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain


  1. Dee Gordon, 2B
  2. Christian Yelich, LF
  3. Marcell Ozuna, CF
  4. Don Kelly, 1B
  5. Donovan Solano, SS
  6. Reid Brignac, 3B
  7. Reed Johnson, DH
  8. Jordany Valdespin, RF
  9. Jhonatan Solano, C

P: David Phelps, Sam Dyson, Aaron Crow, Preston Claiborne, Nick Masset

Tigers open contract discussions with David Price

The Tigers have opened discussions with David Price and his agent, Bo McKinnis, about the potential of a contract extension. At this point, however, they’re basically talking about concepts. No numbers have been mentioned, Price said this morning.

“I wouldn’t even call it groundwork,” Price said. “I wouldn’t even say that groundwork is being laid.”

In other words, talks are exploratory at this point. The two sides are “feeling out” each other, as Price said.

Price met with McKinnis Tuesday night after McKinnis talked with the Tigers earlier Tuesday. Price is generally staying out of talks at this point. He’ll get involved if something gets close. That’s a long way off at this point.

Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski has said repeatedly that he’s not going to comment on any talks, other than to say that they’re interested in keeping Price in Detroit long term. The Tigers took some reaction around this time last spring when a press release said that Max Scherzer had turned down a contract offer and the two sides had agreed to table talks until after the season. As it turned out, there were no serious talks after the season.

Price has not ruled out contract talks during the season.

Jose Iglesias’ classic car and its cultural statement

Photos 034

The Tigers parking lot at Joker Marchant Stadium can resemble an auto show some mornings. Justin Verlander’s rotation of sports cars is dizzying. Alfredo Simon’s chrome-painted Mercedes and Yoenis Cespedes’ black Lamborghini have been well-documented.

In that crowd, a classic car can look completely out of place. But then, a baby blue 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible doesn’t have to blend in. If it seems like a surprise in a Major Leaguer’s collection, consider the player who owns it.

“Always been my favorite car,” said shortstop Jose Iglesias, who is 35 years younger than his car.

Photos 033The car also predates the Castro revolution in Cuba and the embargo between the Island nation and the United States. Between the severing of economic ties and restrictions on new car purchases, classic American cars, bought before the revolution, were vital transportation and maintained for years. Those that lasted, despite a lack of replacement parts, became valuable commodities.

Iglesias bought his car this offseason in Miami.

“My dad likes it,” Iglesias said. “When I saw the car, I said, ‘This is it.’ Convertible. And it’s really rare. It’s different.”

It’s something he could only dream of when he was growing up in Cuba.

“Now I have the money to have it,” Iglesias said. “In Cuba? No chance.”

Will he drive it to Detroit this season? He’s not sure. The early-season weather might lead him to keep it at home.

Sunday’s lineups: Cabrera, VMart both batting third

The Tigers’ final set of split-squad games Sunday will also mark their first games with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Both will make their Spring Training debuts after spending most of camp rehabbing from their respective offseason surgeries.

Cabrera will bat third as the designated hitter for the Tigers’ home game against the Nationals at Joker Marchant Stadium. Martinez will be the DH in the Tigers’ road tilt against the Braves at Disney World, also batting third.

Both are expected to get three plate appearances, manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning. They’ll be off on Monday, the Tigers’ only scheduled off-day of the Grapefruit League schedule.

From there, the Tigers will have to find at-bats on both sides of camp for a few days until Cabrera is cleared to play first base, though Cabrera said Saturday he’d like to play first base to keep his ankle loose. One of them will then play Tuesday night against the Yankees in Tampa, while the other will get at-bats in a minor-league game.

One way or another, they’ll have close to two weeks of at-bats to get ready for regular season pitching before the Tigers open the season April 6 against the Twins at Comerica Park. It would be fewer at-bats than they’re used to in a typical camp, but should be enough to get their timing down at the plate as long as they feel healthy.

“It’s good that they’re able to partake in the games,” Ausmus said Saturday, “but this does not mean that come April 6 they’ll be ready.”

Even so, their return to Spring Training allows Ausmus to tinker with batting orders. Catcher Alex Avila, for instance, will bat in front of Cabrera for the first time Sunday, following through on an idea Ausmus has been considering with batting Avila second.

“I’m sure I’ll see a lot of curveballs,” Avila deadpanned Sunday morning.

Here are the lineups for the Tigers’ split-squad games Sunday:

1. Rajai Davis, CF
2. Alex Avila, C
3. Miguel Cabrera, DH
4. J.D. Martinez, RF
5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
7. Jordan Lennerton, 1B
8. Hernan Perez, SS
9. Josh Wilson, 2B
P: Justin Verlander, Joe Nathan, Joba Chamberlain, Joakim Soria, Blaine Hardy

1. Michael Taylor, CF
2. Derrick Robinson, RF
3. Dan Uggla, 2B
4. Mike Carp, 1B
5. Tyler Moore, LF
6. Ian Stewart, 3B
7. Sandy Leon, C
8. Emmanuel Burriss, SS
9. A.J. Cole, P

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Jose Iglesias, SS
3. Victor Martinez, DH
4. Tyler Collins, LF
5. James McCann, C
6. Aaron Westlake, 1B
7. Jefry Marte, 3B
8. Andrew Romine, RF
9. Anthony Gose, CF
P: Kyle Lobstein, Al Alburquerque, Buck Farmer, Alberto Cabrera, Bruce Rondon

1. Eury Perez, RF
2. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
3. Kelly Johnson, 1B
4. Jonny Gomes, LF
5. A.J. Pierzynski, C
6. Todd Cunningham, CF
7. Pedro Ciriaco, SS
8. Phil Gosselin, 2B
9. Shelby Miller, P

Cabrera, Martinez could return as soon as Sunday

Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez could be a few trips around the bases away from returning to the Tigers lineup as soon as Sunday.

Depending on how the two injured sluggers run the bases in drills, manager Brad Ausmus said they could get into a game Sunday, either one of the Tigers’ split-squad contests or in a minor-league game across the street at Tigertown.

Ausmus called it “an outside shot,” but acknowledged the possibility.

“We want to get them at-bats, but the final hurdle in terms of getting them into a game on the Major League side would be running the bases,” Ausmus said Saturday morning. “Once they can run the bases and we’re confident that they’re comfortable running the bases, that the re-injury risk is a minimum, then I think that’s the point where we can put them into a game.”

If they can do so Sunday, the schedule works in their favor. Sunday marks the Tigers’ final split-squad set of the spring, allowing the team to start both of them at designated hitter. The Tigers host the Nationals at Joker Marchant Stadium, but also travel to face the Braves at Disney World, close to Martinez’s Orlando home.

If the Tigers aren’t all that comfortable having Cabrera and Martinez run bases, the minor-league games present a viable alternative.

“If you do it on the minor-league side, you can put them into a game and they don’t have to run the bases,” Ausmus said. “They can just hit and the team takes the out. They can get some repetition of seeing pitches and swinging the bat without having to run.”

The Tigers can also tweak the lineup in a minor-league game to have them bat every inning if they want. While the Tigers are off on Monday, they have intersquad games scheduled on the minor-league side.

Cabrera and Martinez have spent camp rehabbing from offseason surgeries with hopes of being ready on or around for Opening Day. Cabrera underwent surgery in October to remove a bone spur from his right ankle and repair a stress fracture in his right foot. He was cleared for baseball activity around the start of camp.

Martinez had the more recent surgery on a torn meniscus in his left knee, suffered while playing catch at the end of January. His surgery, however, had a shorter timetable for recovery.

A return on Sunday would give Cabrera and/or Martinez close to two weeks of at-bats to get ready for regular-season pitching. It would be fewer at-bats than they’re used to in a typical camp, but should be enough to get their timing down at the plate as long as they feel healthy.

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Mets

The Tigers were in line to face Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard until he was optioned out on Friday. Instead, the Tigers will face left-hander Steven Matz, who has had a decent spring. He’ll face a decent number of regulars, including Alex Avila batting second in the DH spot.

The Mets lineup features Alex Castellanos at first base, where he could well end up retiring Nick Castellanos in an at-bat today. Both are from south Florida, but the two are not related.

Today’s game is available online at MLB Gameday Audio and over the air on 97.1 in Detroit.


  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Alex Avila, DH
  3. J.D. Martinez, RF
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Aaron Westlake, 1B
  7. Bryan Holaday, C
  8. Hernan Perez, 2B
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: David Price, Angel Nesbitt, Kyle Ryan, Ian Krol, Rafael Dolis


  1. Juan Lagares, CF
  2. Ruben Tejada, SS
  3. Lucas Duda, DH
  4. John Mayberry Jr., LF
  5. Eric Campbell, 3B
  6. Anthony Recker, C
  7. Alex Castellanos, 1B
  8. Daniel Muno, 2B
  9. Cesar Puello, RF

P: Steven Matz, Jeurys Familiar, Chase Bradford, Jack Leathersich, Dario Alvarez, Jenrry Mejia

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers at Nationals

After last night’s game in Bradenton featured the Tigers’ healthy regular fielders, their top four outfielders are all in the lineup for today’s trip to Florida’s other coast to face the Nationals. Rajai Davis will be the designated hitter. There’s also a pretty short pitching list, so look for Anibal Sanchez to get stretched out today.


  1. Rajai Davis, DH
  2. Anthony Gose, CF
  3. J.D. Martinez, RF
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  5. Aaron Westlake, 1B
  6. Hernan Perez, SS
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Josh Wilson, 2B
  9. Andrew Romine, 3B

P: Anibal Sanchez, Buck Farmer, Al Alburquerque, Blaine Hardy


  1. Michael Taylor, CF
  2. Ian Desmond, SS
  3. Bryce Harper, RF
  4. Ryan Zimmerman, 1B
  5. Wilson Ramos, C
  6. Ian Stewart, 3B
  7. Kila Ka’aihue, LF
  8. David Espinosa, 2B
  9. Gio Gonzalez, P

P: Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark, Matt Thornton, Manny Delcarmen, Matt Grace, Evan Meek, Aaron Barrett


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