3/22/2014 5:40 P.M. ET
Ausmus looking to solidify middle of lineup
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- With right-hander Bruce Rondon set to undergo Tommy John surgery, the Tigers' bullpen is going to be a work in progress early on this season. Manager Brad Ausmus would like to see someone step up and take command of the late-inning setup roles.
The same thing could be said of the middle of the Tigers' lineup, Ausmus admitted before Saturday's 9-4 loss to the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Catcher Alex Avila and center fielder Austin Jackson figure to see most of their at-bats in those positions, and Detroit could use productive seasons from both players to back up Victor Martinez and reigning American League MVP Miguel Cabrera.
"That area of the lineup is probably most in flux, really. It may be a situation where it changes depending on who the opponent's starter is," Ausmus said. "I would prefer that be a situation where someone hits in that spot or in those spots and excels, and we can leave them there. But they're not etched in stone."
The recent onslaught of injuries has affected the Tigers in many ways, from the bullpen to their bench and overall depth, but it hasn't really affected their lineup depth. Jose Iglesias was expected to hit ninth, anyway. That's not to say Ausmus isn't concerned about getting production out of the bottom half of his batting order.
"We're certainly looking for a couple guys to return to form, which I think would be a huge relief," Ausmus said. "We'd like to see Alex bounce back. I think he's a much better hitter than he showed last year. He's had some good at-bats. He's had some normal Spring Training at-bats. He's had some good at-bats against left-handed pitchers, which is good to see. I'm hoping that Alex bounces back, returns to form."
Tigers want to see Romine in action at short
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Don't start throwing his name into the mix at shortstop, but the Tigers have talked about what it'd be like to have first-base coach Omar Vizquel return to the diamond.
They've been joking about it, at least. Well, mostly joking.
"But he could probably do it part-time, to be honest with you. But then, I'd have to go find a first-base coach," manager Brad Ausmus said with a laugh. "He could probably handle it. I don't know if he could play 150 games, but he could probably be a platoon shortstop if he got himself into shape. He certainly still has the hands."
There's no need for a comeback from Vizquel, though. After the Tigers traded for infielder Andrew Romine on Friday, their shortstop picture is starting to take shape. They want to see the 28-year-old Romine, acquired from the Angels in exchange for left-hander Jose Alvarez, work primarily at shortstop the rest of the spring even though he's also capable of playing second and third base.
Romine is slated to bat ninth and play shortstop on Sunday against the Marlins at Joker Marchant Stadium. When the regular season rolls around, he'll share time with either Danny Worth or Hernan Perez, who both played in Saturday's 9-4 loss to the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Eugenio Suarez has impressed the Tigers with his defense this spring, but given his lack of experience, he's viewed as a longshot to earn that spot.
But now, the Tigers have to figure out how to get Romine comfortable with Ian Kinsler, his new double-play partner, while also seeing as much as possible from Perez and Worth.
"It's not like Romine's been sitting at home. He's been playing. It's not really a concern where you have to get innings or at-bats. We'd like to have him out there with Kinsler as well as we'd like to get Perez and Worth out there with Kinsler. It's a little bit of an issue," Ausmus said. "Decisions are near, so in the next few days, maybe instead of four, we've got to deal with three or two [shortstops.]"
And no, those two or three don't include Vizquel.
"We're still joking about it," Ausmus said. "He was stretching today with the players and we told him, 'Relax, we got Romine.'"
Miggy, V-Mart positioning for Interleague Play
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Manager Brad Ausmus didn't wake up at 4 a.m. ET to watch the Dodgers play the D-backs in Australia, but the Tigers still started preparing Saturday for their first Interleague series. They'll continue to do so Sunday as well.
The Tigers' first road trip will be a five-gamer through Los Angeles to face the Dodgers and San Diego to take on the Padres. In an attempt to trot out the best possible lineup, Ausmus is working in Victor Martinez at catcher and Miguel Cabrera at third base. Martinez spent five innings behind the plate on Saturday, and Cabrera is scheduled to start Sunday's game against the Marlins at third base.
"It gives us the option depending on what starters we face going into those Interleague series," Ausmus said.
If Detroit has to face a tough left-handed starting pitcher -- like, say, Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw -- the club could start Martinez behind the plate with Cabrera at first base, Nick Castellanos at third and Alex Avila on the bench. If the Tigers are up against a front-line right-hander, they can start Avila at catcher, Martinez at first and Cabrera at third.
"It's just another option. I wouldn't want to put Miggy out at third base in the middle of the season without him having been over there at least a time or two," Ausmus said. "Not that he couldn't do it -- I'm sure he'd be fine -- but I'd prefer that he get a look over there, at least for a game or two, going in."
Martinez held up fine behind the plate in Saturday's 9-4 loss to the Blue Jays, and he had plenty of balls in the dirt to keep him busy. Cabrera started Saturday's game at first base, where he'll spend most of the season, and Ausmus has been impressed with what he's seen in Cabrera's return to the other side of the infield.
"He's been good. He seems pretty comfortable," Ausmus said. "He's got good hands, so I don't expect that it will be a problem. ... He seems comfortable. He hasn't complained one bit about it, and he always takes his ground balls. He's been a pro."
• Right-hander Anibal Sanchez threw a bullpen session at Joker Marchant Stadium on Saturday morning and felt good, Ausmus said. He is still on schedule to pitch in a Minor League game on Monday, but he likely will be on some sort of pitch limit given his recent bout with right shoulder inflammation.
"I'm sure it'll be different, more because he had that shoulder issue than anything else," Ausmus said.
• Outfielder Rajai Davis has been battling a sore right hamstring since Sunday, but he should return to game action soon. Ausmus said the speedy left fielder added running to his workout on Saturday after going through agility drills on Friday.
"Assuming everything goes well, it would be Monday at the latest," Ausmus said. "As far as the final determination, I've got to wait and see what transpires today with his running."
• Outfielder Andy Dirks (back surgery) told Ausmus recently that he was hoping to make it to Lakeland, Fla., to visit the Tigers before the club breaks camp.