2/27/2014 5:40 P.M. ET
Porcello goes right to curve in first spring outing
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rick Porcello had adrenaline flowing in his first outing of the spring, evidenced by the 94-mph fastballs he was tossing. A two-out walk and an RBI double in the first inning left him regretting some of that.
Porcello gathered himself between innings, came back out to the mound for the second and struck out the side -- all on different pitches.
His curveball, the pitch he honed last spring as a counter to left-handed hitters that have punished him for several years, caught lefty Minor League slugger Mark Hamilton looking for the first out. His changeup induced a swing and a miss from Edward Salcedo, dispensing him quickly. Finally, after Jordan Schafer barely stayed alive fouling off a breaking ball, Porcello came back with a fastball that froze Schafer for strike three.
It was not the teeth of the Braves' order, but the point remained that the young sinkerballer -- who is supposed to benefit most from a defensively improved infield -- got through his second inning without a ball put in play after three groundouts in the first.
"Obviously, I didn't care for that two-out walk in the first," Porcello said, "but other than that, I felt pretty good, threw some good curveballs. The changeup's not quite there yet, but it got better in the second inning. It was pretty good overall."
Of those pitches, the curveball could be the biggest point of improvement for Porcello, even after vast improvement last year. It was a project at this point last spring, something he dusted off as an alternative to his slider. After strong results last year, it's a key part of his arsenal. With no job competition to press him this year, Porcello wants to push himself on improvement.
"Last year, I felt like the curveball was a big pitch, and I want to get it going early, to continue to get more confident and consistent with it," he said.
Porcello had one believer in the other dugout. A year ago at this point, Braves catcher Gerald Laird was forecasting a big improvement from Porcello -- if he could focus on one breaking pitch and get consistent with it. The curveball, a pitch Laird called for Porcello while catching him two years ago, became that offering for him.
"He's starting to mature," said Laird, who grounded out against Porcello in his lone at-bat before leaving the game with back problems. "People tend to forget this is his fifth year, and he's just  years old. He's been in the league so long. He's a special player and he has the stuff to be really good. You can tell he's starting to put it all together. I expect to see him have a pretty good year."
Joba focuses on command in Tigers debut
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Joba Chamberlain wasn't looking to light up scouts' radar guns in his first outing as a Tiger. He wasn't looking to strike out the side, either. All he wanted was a little velocity and a lot of command.
In that sense, Chamberlain was generally happy with his inning of work Thursday against the Braves, having recovered from a leadoff single to retire the side in order. He threw first-pitch strikes to all four batters he faced, including to Ryan Doumit before the outfielder lined a single into right-center.
"Just to be able to throw my slider early for a strike, and then to be able to put it where I wanted to at the end of the at-bat [was big]," Chamberlain said. "My fastball command was really good and got some swing and misses and got some ground balls."
Chamberlain's fastball ranged from 90-92 mph, according to a scout in attendance. That's down from last year's average of just under 95, but it's also his first outing of the spring. The goal, he said, is to build velocity as the spring moves along.
"I want to go out and throw 92-93 in my first couple outings," he said. "Every pitch I think was around 92, which for me is great. When I'm younger, you can kind of go out and let your emotions get the best of you, because you're in a game situation. But I've learned to slow the game down and get what I need to get done, which for me is just fastball location and getting my slider to be back where it needs to be. Those two things I really wanted to focus on."
Reliever Sanchez out with stress fracture in elbow
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Eduardo Sanchez's Spring Training is on hold after just four pitches. The Tigers right-hander is out indefinitely with a stress fracture at the tip of his elbow.
The fractured olecranon is a relatively rare injury, but it might sound familiar in Tigers circles. Former reliever Joel Zumaya suffered a similar injury four years ago. Zumaya needed season-ending surgery to repair his injury, but the Tigers say no determination has been made yet on whether Sanchez will need the same.
Either way, Sanchez's Spring Training could be over after only one appearance. He entered Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener against the Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex and gave up a leadoff hit before requiring attention from the trainer.
The Tigers signed Sanchez as a Minor League free agent over the winter, bringing him to camp as a non-roster invitee. The 25-year-old Venezuelan pitched parts of the last three seasons in the big leagues with the Cardinals and Cubs, and he was expected to be part of the bullpen at Triple-A Toledo.
Wristband system to help streamline ticket sales
LAKELAND, Fla. -- With single-game tickets going on sale Saturday morning, the Tigers will be trying to accommodate fans looking to get early spots in line at the Comerica Park box office by handing out wristbands to the first 1,000 fans to show up Friday afternoon.
Fans can pick up a numbered wristband beginning at 3 p.m. ET Friday in the Tiger Club lobby off Witherell Street. Those fans can then return to the park Saturday morning, when the starting number will be determined.
A fan will randomly draw a number around 8:15 a.m. The fan whose wristband matches that number will serve as the starting point for the line. From there, fans will line up by wristband number from that point through 1,000, then from 1 to the number, followed by fans without wristbands. Fans with wristbands must be line by 9:30 a.m., or they will need to go to the end of the line.
Wristbands are one per person and do not guarantee tickets. Fans in line must have a valid form of payment, either cash or a credit card with valid ID.
• Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was originally scheduled to hit the road for Friday's split-squad set, but he will now manage the home game against the Yankees. Bench coach Gene Lamont will manage the split-squad on the road against the Phillies so he can travel home to Sarasota after the game.
• Bruce Rondon hit 95-97 mph on his fastball, according to a scout in attendance, on his way to retiring the Braves in order in the ninth inning for a relatively easy spring debut. He threw five out of his six fastballs for strikes, the one ball bouncing in the dirt. He also threw an offspeed pitch in the dirt.
• The Tigers announced that all 162 regular-season games will be televised locally, including 150 on FOX Sports Detroit, five on FOX Sports 1, up to four on ESPN and three on FOX Saturday Baseball. All but one will be shown live, with the July 12 game at Kansas City shown on tape delay at 10 p.m. ET because it falls in the FOX Saturday blackout window.