LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brandon Inge sounded somewhat confident Monday morning that he could be healthy for Opening Day, but much less confident about getting into a game beforehand. That could be the difference in whether the Tigers put him on the 15-day disabled list to begin the season.
And to hear Inge discuss the matter, it will be entirely the Tigers' decision.
"It's something I just need a couple days," Inge said. "I've been getting treatment on it and feel good. I'm at the end stages on it, so I don't want to go backward. They're going to have to make their decision whichever way they want. I don't like going onto the DL, but it's not my decision. I left it in their hands. They can make those decisions."
Inge missed his fourth straight game Monday with a sore left groin. Manager Jim Leyland said afterwards that Inge will not play in Tuesday's spring finale, either, but that the roster will probably be finalized Tuesday anyway.
"I think we'll have everything etched in stone by tomorrow," Leyland said.
Leyland has said he would ideally like to have Inge play in a game before the season starts if he's going to be ready for the season. Inge doesn't sound positive that he could do that. His concern is an aggravation of the injury that could force him to miss significant time.
"It's just one of those things where I'm getting toward the end part of this thing, and I don't want to go backward," Inge said. "I don't anticipate it being a problem. I don't know. They're going to make their decision whatever way they want.
"I told them I thought I'd be ready by Opening Day, but I don't want to push it too much before, because I don't think it's a benefit to anyone to take a step backward."
At this point, Leyland indicated, Inge's health is the one issue left for the Tigers to solve rosterwise.
"We have to figure out the health issue," Leyland said. "We're not holding off for any other reason."
Leyland tests potential Opening Day lineup
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland spent the last week and a half looking for a chance to trot out a projected Opening Day lineup against a left-handed starting pitcher. He might have just gotten one in against Blue Jays lefty Brett Cecil.
"Depending on what goes on, you could be looking at my Opening Day lineup," Leyland said Monday morning.
By all appearances, the depending part is second base, which still has no clear answer. If it's anything like Monday, though, it's pointing to Ramon Santiago, the switch-hitter who was thought to take up the other side of the platoon.
Santiago has just 154 at-bats against left-handed pitchers over the last few years, including 50 last season, mainly because the Tigers have had right-handed hitters they could use in those games. Santiago has held his own off lefties, going 16-for-50 (.320) against them last year and 21-for-67 (.313) the year before.
Add in his defensive advantage, and he's far from a fallback option. His biggest limitation might be that the Tigers fear wearing him down by playing him every day.
Alburquerque could be cleared to throw soon
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Al Alburquerque, sidelined since surgery in December to insert a screw near the tip of his right elbow, might be just a couple days away from throwing again.
Alburquerque underwent a CT scan on his elbow Monday at Watson Clinic in Lakeland. Noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews will look over the results during his followup exam on Alburquerque on Wednesday in Pensacola.
If Alburquerque is cleared, he'll begin a throwing program in the coming days, the first step toward getting back on a mound in a game and getting the Tigers a high-strikeout reliever back in their bullpen.
Alburquerque is projected to be ready to return to action around the All-Star break. He has spent all spring on a strengthening and fitness program.
"He's worked very, very hard," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Monday afternoon.
Popup communication a concern for Tigers
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers nearly lost their backup catcher Friday, when Gerald Laird and Don Kelly couldn't hear each other running down a popup. They gained a morning workout on popups Monday during the Tigers' last day in Lakeland.
Realistically, the workout would've happened without the incident; it just made the timing fitting. But manager Jim Leyland said he has been concerned about their communication on fly balls for much of the spring.
"That's the one area that I haven't been satisfied with," Leyland said. "We talked about it this morning. It's more of a communication drill than a priority drill, and I wasn't satisfied with the communication.
"I've got some shy guys, to be honest with you. People think that sounds corny, but sometimes your nature is the same way [on the field as off]. The point I was trying to get across is to use your voice. Don't be afraid to use your voice, and don't be afraid to make a mistake."
There was another near-collision earlier this spring, with a ball into short center field that brought several players charging in that caused Leyland to cringe in the dugout.
"The freak one can't really be helped," Leyland continued, "but the ones we can help, I want to take care of that."
Laird returned to action Monday for the first time since spraining his left knee on the aforementioned impact from Kelly. He said he felt fine and should be ready to go when the regular season starts.
The Tigers drew 9,476 fans to their Lakeland finale Monday, finishing their record-setting attendance for the spring at 138,363.
Manager Jim Leyland went out of his way to praise longtime infielder Omar Vizquel, who made the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster as a non-roster invitee this spring. "He's the best shortstop I've ever seen when he was in his prime," Leyland said. "Best hands, just remarkable. And he got a lot of hits. If I had a vote, he'd be a Hall of Famer."
The pitching matchup is set for Wednesday's Tigers exhibition against Triple-A Toledo. Rick Porcello will start for Detroit opposite former Tigers reliever Fu-Te Ni.