LAKELAND, Fla. -- For once in his Tigers tenure, commanding the strike zone and pitch efficiency wasn't at the forefront of Doug Fister's approach as he took the mound Sunday for the first time in eight days.
His return to the rotation was all about making sure his sore right middle finger felt fine for next Saturday, when he makes his regular-season entrance against the Red Sox at Comerica Park.
The fact that he felt fine in that aspect overrode any concerns about command.
"Felt good," Fister said. "It took a little while to get the rust off. But taking that into consideration, I felt pretty good."
Fister reported inning by inning with pitching coach Jeff Jones about how he felt, until he had gotten through six innings pain-free. He gave up a run on four hits, stranding the bases loaded in the fifth when Brian Bogusevic flew out on a 3-0 pitch.
"You can tell he's been off a little bit," manager Jim Leyland said, "but I'm totally pleased because he's healthy. He'll be fine."
Inge decision could take Tigers to the wire
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers had just told Drew Smyly he had won the fifth-starter job and named Luis Marte their last reliever Sunday morning, when Brandon Inge was summoned into manager Jim Leyland's office, the door closing behind him.
It had all the appearances of a potential move, or a roster decision. It turned out to be an injury update on his sore groin.
"He felt better," Leyland said after Sunday's win over the Astros, "but exactly what that means? This is a real tough one."
For now, it means the Tigers and Inge are caught in a roster limbo, and it doesn't sound like a situation of whether he'll make it. It's more about whether he'll be ready for it or open the season on the disabled list. That could hold up the Tigers' final roster decision until the end of camp.
Ideally, Leyland would like to get Inge into a game in the next couple days if he's going to be an active member of the Opening Day roster. The trick with that is that it would take away the Tigers' ability to backdate a move to the disabled list, and they apparently want to save those few days if they can.
So if the Tigers are going to play him in another game this spring, they want to feel confident it leads to him being ready. It's possible, though, that he could play in a Minor League game first.
Inge seemed to think Sunday morning that he could be ready.
"I did [the same injury] in the offseason," he said, referring to his winter workouts. "It was about four, five days tops in the offseason, and it felt about the same [as this]."
If Inge opens the season on the DL, the only player the Tigers would have to send out before breaking camp would be Smyly, who's expected to make a start for Triple-A Toledo April 7 before the Tigers need to call him up for a start five days later. His spot would go to another position player, and Inge's spot would go to someone else, meaning Andy Dirks, Clete Thomas and Danny Worth all could make the Opening Day roster.
If not, obviously, the Tigers have a decision to make. So until Inge's situation becomes clearer, the team isn't likely to make any more moves. That could be Tuesday, even Wednesday in the hours leading up to the 5 p.m. ET deadline for setting rosters.
Neck spasms keep Boesch out of lineup
LAKELAND, Fla. -- For the second time this spring, Brennan Boesch was scratched from a start with spasms. At this point, though, the Tigers aren't concerned about a pattern.
Boesch was in the starting lineup for a split-squad game against the Mets on Sunday, when he came down with neck spasms. Minor Leaguer Michael Rockett replaced him in the lineup as the Tigers set Boesch up with treatment in hopes of getting him back into the lineup Monday against the Blue Jays.
"He said his [trapezius muscle] tightened up back there," manager Jim Leyland said. "We just had it worked on and sent him to some massage place or something to get it worked out."
Boesch missed a couple days earlier in camp with back problems.
Asked if he expects Boesch to play Monday, Leyland said, "I would think so."
Turner to remain in Lakeland to build strength
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Shoulder tendinitis cost Jacob Turner any chance of contending for the Tigers' fifth starter spot a few weeks ago. Now, it'll apparently keep him from going north with Triple-A Toledo this week.
While Tigers fifth starter Drew Smyly makes a warmup start for the Mud Hens next Saturday, Turner will remain in Lakeland to stretch out his arm and make up for the time he lost getting his shoulder treated.
"Turner is going to be here for a while, only until he gets built back up," Leyland said. "He's fine, but he's going to need a couple outings. He needs to build it back up."
Essentially, Smyly will pitch in Turner's spot. Duane Below, optioned out on Sunday, will join Casey Crosby, Andy Oliver and Adam Wilk in the Mud Hens' rotation. Brayan Villarreal, optioned out along with Below, will pitch out of the Toledo bullpen.
Ramon Santiago left Sunday's split-squad game against the Mets with what manager Jim Leyland reported as allergies, but it doesn't appear to be a major concern.
Gerald Laird could be ready to play in a game before the Tigers break camp, according to Leyland. Laird sprained his left knee in a collision with Don Kelly on Friday, but has been moving around well since.
Michael Rockett wasn't scheduled to start Sunday's game against the Astros, but Brennan Boesch's neck spasms earned him a chance at a two-hit game in a Tiger uniform. "That was great. It's fun to play these kids and get them in a big league box score," said Leyland, who was still singing Elton John's "Rocket Man" after the game.