05/18/12 8:43 PM ET
Lions wideout Johnson tosses first pitch
By Anthony Odoardi and Jason Beck / MLB.com
Johnson, who played baseball up until his senior year in high school before deciding his future would be in football, took batting practice at Comerica Park on Friday and threw out the ceremonial first pitch. And the 6-foot-5 receiver showed he still had skills.
He took about 30 pitches from third base coach Gene Lamont, didn't swing and miss once, and pulled a ball over the left-field fence into the Tigers' bullpen.
"I told Delmon Young I'm going to keep on coming back until I hit one out," said Johnson after his session. "And I happened to hit one out. ... My hands were kind of hurting at the time, but to see it go out, that was fun."
When Johnson finished his session, he signed a football for Jim Leyland, who immediately dropped back and did his best Matthew Stafford impression. Johnson then played catch with Alex Avila to warm up.
Fellow wide receivers Nate Burleson and Titus Young also joined in, and Johnson said it was a good way to bring the teams together.
"We just all wanted to get out here [and] meet the guys on the team," Johnson said. "It's always cool to go meet the guys on the other teams and have a little fellowship and we're doing that right now."
The trio donned Old English D's for the night and for Johnson, it brought back high school memories of playing center field. The 26-year-old said he drew interest from Major League teams in high school, but when asked if he could've made it in baseball, he quickly said he never considers "what ifs".
"I picked my road," he said. "But if I did anything [else], it would be baseball."
Jackson, Valverde remain day to day
DETROIT -- The news was an improvement for Tigers leadoff man Austin Jackson and closer Jose Valverde. It was not a return.
"They're both day to day," manager Jim Leyland said Friday afternoon. "Neither one of them will perform today."
Jackson was walking about the Tigers clubhouse with his abdominal area wrapped to try to promote healing of the strain he suffered on his final swing Wednesday night.
Valverde was in noticeably good spirits in the clubhouse, and said he felt good. However, he wasn't quite ready to return yet. Friday marked his third straight game out since leaving Tuesday's ninth inning at Chicago with a lower back strain.
In both cases, the injuries are the type the Tigers don't want to aggravate. If they do, they could lose two key cogs for quite a while.
Marte doing well in rehab, sent to Triple-A
DETROIT -- The Tigers transferred Luis Marte's minor league rehab assignment to Triple-A Toledo on Friday. The way manager Jim Leyland sounded in talking about it, Marte could be activated from the disabled list and brought back to Detroit a week from now.
Marte is scheduled to throw 45-50 pitches for the Mud Hens on Monday. If he gets through that fine, then the Tigers have a decision to make.
"If everything goes right, he would still probably not be available up here until Friday," Leyland said. "So I don't know how that's going to play out. But that's the course for him right now. His next step is Toledo, and that's a big step."
It's an aggressive track, but it's clearly one with the goal of getting Marte back to a struggling bullpen.
Marte was slated to make the Tigers' Opening Day roster before he strained his left hamstring in the final game of Spring Training. It was a bad enough strain that it basically sidelined him for a month before he could pick up his throwing program in earnest.
The 25-year-old has been lights out in his rehab outings. On Monday, he tossed two scoreless innings for Class A Lakeland, allowing one hit while striking out three batters.
Leyland frustrated by rocky start
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland isn't going to yell and scream at his players to show frustration over their start. If fans want to be frustrated, though, he completely understands it.
"We have to take that," Leyland said. "We have it coming right now. You'd better have broad shoulders. Does anybody like it? No. But do we expect it? Yes, I expect it. We got it last year, and we turned it around and that changed it.
"It's one of those things basically that if things don't get better, it heats up even more, but if you start winning games and you get back into that, people start feeling good again about the Tigers, and that changes as well. I've been around long enough to know how that works. That's part of this business."
Leyland added, "I'm a grown man, and I'm a realist, and I think that if you've seen me over the six years that I've been here, I get a little snippy once in a while when I think that people are unfair. They're not being unfair right now. I can take it. I'm a man. We have to take it. We're not performing well. We haven't performed well."
He understands the emotions involved, because he's gone through some of them. But as a manager, he said, the most important way to approach struggles is to "stay the course," as he put it.
"Oh, I'm ticked off, believe me," he said. "I've been ticked off a few times this year. But I can tell you this: It's changed. The yelling and screaming and throwing stuff like I did 20 years ago, that doesn't work anymore. Forget it. It's a whole different society, whether it's your kid, my kid, ballplayers, whatever, that doesn't work anymore.
"You talk sensibly and you make your points, and you get firm when you make your points, normally in a private conversation. But that doesn't work anymore, all that rah-rah stuff and throwing stuff, that doesn't affect guys at all. That doesn't help anybody hit a slider. That doesn't help anybody throw one over the plate. So you grind your butt off."
ESPN has picked up the Tigers' June 10 game at Cincinnati for its Sunday Night Baseball package, which moves the game time from a 1:10 p.m. ET start at Great American Ballpark to an 8:09 p.m. start.
The Pirates called up former Tigers prospect Gorkys Hernandez from Triple-A Indianapolis prior to Friday's game. Hernandez was part of a group of young outfielder prospects in the Tigers system before the Tigers dealt him to Atlanta in the Edgar Renteria trade after the 2007 season.
The Tigers announced they've signed right-hander David Kopp to a minor-league contract. The former second-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals spent five years in the Cards system, splitting last year between Double-A Springfield and Triple-A Memphis. He'll report to extended Spring Training.
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.