LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers reliever Fu-Te Ni reported to Spring Training with about 10 extra pounds on his wiry frame thanks to offseason training. He also came to camp looking to get his command going.
Now, with five innings and four outings under his belt, he's becoming a big presence in the Tigers' bullpen picture.
"He's had a very good spring, quietly," manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday, "and we're watching him closely."
2010 Spring Training - Detroit Tigers
News & Features
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- Quick hits
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Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
Through interpreter Steve Xiu, Ni said Wednesday morning that his biggest adjustment from last year was to simplify his approach and stop focusing on what hitters might be looking for from him.
"He said the biggest thing for him is that last year, he thought too much while he was pitching," Xiu said, "so this year, he's more focusing on just getting guys out."
Ni said that his focus has been on throwing his slider in the strike zone more consistently, not simply to get hitters to chase it out of the zone. He struck out 22 batters over 23 innings in Detroit last season but also gave up 19 walks. After being sent to Triple-A Toledo, he struck out 16 batters over 12 innings but also surrendered eight walks.
When he was on in 2009, however, he could sacrifice strikeouts for outs. Opponents batted just .187 against him that year, including just .202 on balls put in play. Those numbers rose to .290 and .357, respectively, last season.
It's hitting the low end of the strike zone that's most important for him now.
Leyland said Monday that Ni needed to locate the breaking ball against left-handed hitters in order to be effective against them.
No timetable yet for Guillen's return
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland indicated on Wednesday that nothing is set as far as Carlos Guillen's return to game action.
Leyland was asked Wednesday morning whether he hoped to have Guillen in games next week.
"Can't answer that just yet," Leyland said. "I mean, there will be a point that you reach where you say, 'Well, he can be ready or he won't be ready.' But I'm not sure exactly what that is. We'll come up with some time frame."
Next Tuesday will mark the two-week mark for what's left of Spring Training.
Leyland said they have a plan ready to get him as many at-bats as possible if and when he's ready. Since he likely won't be able to play the field for several days in a row starting out, they'll have days set up when he can serve as the designated hitter in Minor League spring games.
Porcello pleased with progress of slider
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The good news for Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello coming out of his start on Wednesday against the Phillies was related to his slider, a pitch that's crucial to complementing his sinker. The bad news was the overall results -- Porcello allowed four runs on six hits over three innings.
Most of that damage came on a three-run homer to Brian Schneider in the second inning. Porcello said he hung a sinker and paid for it.
"For the most part, I threw some good sliders, which I was happy about," Porcello said. "It was much better than the last game. [My] changeup was kind of inconsistent today, but really with the way that second inning, the third inning -- I was trying to get back to driving the ball down. I felt like I got it back a little bit there."
Porcello used a slider to induce a third-inning double-play grounder to second.
Tigers remember former PA announcer
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers held a moment of silence before Wednesday's game for Sandy Shaw, the public address voice of Spring Training at Joker Marchant Stadium for 18 years.
Shaw's low, booming voice became known to generations of Tigers fans who ventured to Florida each March, from his announcement of the game-time temperatures in Detroit to his growl of Dog Row. He also served as the official scorer for the Lakeland Flying Tigers of the Class A Florida State League, and he continued to work as a media-relations representative this spring after stepping back from the microphone.
Shaw passed away on Tuesday night at age 81. He's survived by Alice, his wife of 59 years, along with five children and 10 grandchildren.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland repeated on Wednesday that on nights when Alex Avila is catching and Victor Martinez is the designated hitter, he won't be afraid to replace Avila with a pinch-hitter or pinch-runner and move Martinez to catcher, thus losing the DH spot. "In the right game, I'll lose the DH," Leyland said. "In the wrong game, I'll use [Don] Kelly. I'll do what it takes to win the game." ... The Tigers will have just a handful of players spending both days in Jupiter, Fla., on the upcoming overnight road trip. ... Leyland said left-handed reliever Daniel Schlereth is expected to return to game action this weekend. Schlereth hasn't pitched since Feb. 28 with a strained left hamstring but threw a bullpen session on Tuesday.