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07/20/12 7:45 PM ET

Alburquerque close to rehab assignment

DETROIT -- It appears Al Alburquerque is close to heading out on a rehab assignment.

The Tigers reliever, who has spent the season on the disabled list after undergoing elbow surgery in December, threw the first of two live batting practice sessions Tuesday and is scheduled to throw another on Saturday, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said.

Rand said the first session was about 25 pitches. The right-hander will amp it up to 35 pitches for the second.

"We'll actually throw him based on [two] innings. He'll throw one inning, and then he'll sit down [before throwing another]," Rand said.

Once Alburquerque gets through his two innings Saturday, the team will have a better picture on when he can head out on a rehab. It's not guaranteed that will happen directly after Saturday's session, but it's clear he's close.

"When he gets through live BP and responds well to that, then the next step would be at some point facing hitters in a game situation ... once he's cleared on that," Rand said. "Whether that will be after this one [session] or it'll take a couple more, we don't know yet at this point."

Alburquerque was a strikeout specialist for the Tigers as a rookie last season. He struck out 67 over 43 1/3 innings and went 6-1 with a 1.87 ERA in 41 appearances.

Smyly getting restless with slow recovery

DETROIT -- Drew Smyly, on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to July 7 because of a right intercostal strain, won't be ready in time for his rotation spot Sunday against the White Sox, and it's far from certain he'll be ready the next time that rotation spot comes around next weekend in Toronto. But he's trying to sound optimistic about his situation.

He's doing most of his exercises pain-free, he said. The only time he feels pain in his right intercostal muscle, he said, is when he "crunches" on his delivery.

"I can twist and turn fine," Smyly said Friday afternoon.

As long as he has pain, though, he isn't going to be cleared to throw.

"We're doing everything exercise-wise," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said. "As long as there's no discomfort, we'll do activities. If there's any movement where he's feeling discomfort, we'll shut that down. He'll begin playing catch once he can tell me that through all movements, both sides feel the same. But he's making progress."

It's slow progress, though, and it has Smyly getting restless. He has never been through this type of injury before, where it's persistent and hard to move without feeling it. Now that he's close, the fact that one movement is keeping him off the mound is frustrating.

Once he starts throwing, he expects to progress quickly. But it's not progressing that way now.

"It won't go away," Smyly said. "It stinks."

Smyly's progress likely won't affect trade talks one way or another. The Tigers, from all reports, remain interested in adding a veteran starting pitcher, and could do so by the time Smyly is ready to come back. An addition could make the question of a Smyly return moot, but if the Tigers acquire a veteran right-hander, they could face an interesting dilemma whether to bump the rookie or keep him as the lone lefty.

Extra eyes on hitters paying dividends

DETROIT -- Debate all you want whether the Tigers' experiment with two coaches for hitting is showing results in the way they've been hitting lately. It sure hasn't hurt.

Moreover, both manager Jim Leyland and the hitters like the difference.

The change came during the Tigers' trip to Texas and Tampa Bay in late June, when the team asked roving instructor Toby Harrah to hang around the club for a while and provide another coach for hitting cage work and extra batting practice.

At the time, the Tigers were averaging 4.25 runs per game while hitting .262 with a .735 OPS. Since then, they're averaging 5.6 runs with a .289 average and an .813 OPS.

To say Harrah has come in with new ideas would be too simplistic. In many cases, it's another set of eyes the Tigers haven't had watching more hitters who have wanted to do extra work.

"They got two cages going down there and he helps," Leyland said. "That's a big job. A lot of guys need attention and that's great. A lot of clubs have done that."

Leyland said he and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski talked about it before the season but didn't go with the idea. Leyland did not want to get into the question of whether they could do it next season.

"I'm not worried about next season, to be honest with you," Leyland said.

Fielders to host charity event Aug. 2

DETROIT -- Prince Fielder and his wife, Chanel, will be hosting Uncork for a Cause, a special event on Thursday, Aug. 2 at Townsend Hotel to support two local non-profit organizations critical to the Detorit area.

They will team with Common Ground, a group dedicated to helping more than 50,000 people in Michigan -- youths, adults and families -- dealing with crisis for more than 40 years. And Ele's Place, an organization that provides a strong support system for families coping with losses of loved ones.

Guests will get the opportunity to meet the Fielders as well as purchase autographed bottles of his new wine, called 2010 Prince Fielder Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It's a limited product as only two barrels were made.

Admission is $75 and includes food and drinks. For more information and to purchase tickets visit UncorkforaCause.com.


• Tigers reliever Daniel Schlereth, sidelined since late April with left shoulder tendinitis, appears to finally be close to pitching again. He's scheduled to throw a mound session on Saturday in Lakeland, Fla., where he has been working out for much of this month.

"He's responded well," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said. "He's at a point now where it's time to find out."

• Former Tigers reliever C.J. Nitkowski officially began his comeback attempt Friday when the Mets added the left-hander to their Double-A Binghamton roster.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.