6/17/2014 8:31 P.M. ET
Adjustments helping rookie Castellanos adapt at plate
By Jason Beck and Matt Slovin / MLB.com
DETROIT -- The transition to life in the Majors hasn't always been an easy one for Tigers rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos, who has had to make adjustments.
For example, at the end of May, during a road series in Oakland, the 22-year-old worked with hitting coach Wally Joyner to come up with some solutions to the pitches that had been giving Castellanos the most trouble. For the most part, these were breaking balls low in the zone that Castellanos simply lacked the plate discipline to lay off of.
"It's difficult to hit well when you're swinging at bad pitches," said Castellanos, who debuted last season, but still has his rookie status.
Joyner and Castellanos also worked on the placement of his hands and feet.
There's more to it than just positioning and knowing which pitches to ignore. Pitchers at this level are far better equipped to take risks in crucial counts.
"This isn't the Minor Leagues -- you're not always going to get a 3-1 fastball, you're not always going to get a 3-2 fastball," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "These guys throw strikes with multiple pitches. A 3-2 count is no longer a fastball count. Not at the Major League level."
The adjustments have helped -- since that Oakland series, his batting average has risen from a season low of .229 to .274.
Tigers finalize deals with 24 draftees, including Hill
DETROIT -- The Tigers made their first batch of official signings on Draft picks Tuesday, and it was a big batch. Detroit finalized deals with 24 selections, including its top three and six of its top 10.
Many of the early-round deals had already been reported, including top pick Derek Hill, second-rounder Spencer Turnbull and third-rounder Grayson Greiner. Several other deals were just announced Tuesday, including Kansas City outfielder Ross Kivett (sixth round), South Carolina third baseman Joey Pankake (seventh) and Dallas Baptist right-hander Paul Voelker (10th).
Among the four unsigned picks in the top 10 rounds, three of them are pitchers playing in the College World Series: Vanderbilt's Adam Ravenelle (fourth round), Virginia's Artie Lewicki (eighth) and Mississippi closer Josh Laxer (ninth). The other, fifth-round pick Shane Zeile, has been finishing his exams at UCLA.
Davis' shoulder still a little sore, but 'playable'
DETROIT -- Rajai Davis paused and smiled Tuesday afternoon when asked how his left shoulder, the one he injured a couple weeks earlier on a diving catch in Oakland, was feeling.
"It's very playable," he said with a laugh.
It's still sore, he admitted, but not a deep soreness. It's better than it was going into last week, before he was out of the starting lineup for all three games against the Twins.
Davis returned to the Tigers' lineup Monday, taking his usual spot in left field, and went 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. Afterwards, he had the shoulder iced.
"It's actually a lot better than it was," Davis said.
Since it's his non-throwing shoulder, it's not going to bother him on many activities. He can try to avoid more diving attempts, leaving his swings at the plate. It's more noticeable when he swings and misses than when he makes contact.
Hunter continues to rest after hamstring cramp
DETROIT -- Torii Hunter was walking around the Tigers' clubhouse slowly and carefully Tuesday afternoon after leaving Monday's game against the Royals with a right hamstring cramp. It was more tightness than pain, but it was still significant.
"It just knotted up really bad," Hunter said. "We're just kind of icing it, treating it, trying to get the blood flowing in it."
Though he's listed as day to day, it's a severe enough injury that he sounded less than optimistic for a return for either of the remaining games of the Royals series.
"Hopefully by the Cleveland series, I'll be ready to go," Hunter said.
Hunter said he first felt the hamstring over the weekend series against Minnesota, starting with the long game Saturday and continuing into the Sunday afternoon game on short rest. It tightened on him when he went from first to third base on Victor Martinez's ninth-inning fly ball that Oswaldo Arcia dropped at the right-field fence.
Once he singled on Monday, he said, "I was trying to go two [bases] and right out of the box, I pushed it too hard."
It was a severe enough cramp, he said, that Miguel Cabrera carried him up to the clubhouse.
Ausmus, Jones working alongside struggling Verlander
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had his share of struggling pitchers to handle over 17 years as a Major League catcher. He's now directly involved in the ongoing process to get Justin Verlander back to an effective form.
For the most part, Ausmus has left the business of tweaks and adjustments with Verlander to pitching coach Jeff Jones, who has worked with him to some degree since 2007. After Verlander allowed seven runs on 12 hits over six innings with help from badly located fastballs in his last outing, Ausmus provided another set of eyes on the matter.
Ausmus joined Jones and Verlander in the Tigers' video room Tuesday, looking over footage from his last two seasons of starts to try to detect what's different in his delivery now.
"All three of us looked at video together," Ausmus said Tuesday afternoon. "As a catcher, I've seen pitchers go through those types of things. Mechanically, I understand what's being talked about, what can go wrong. So I actively joined those two."
The video sessions are nothing new, but they're the first Verlander has had in a little while. At some point this season, Jones said they had agreed to take some time off of video work to avoid the risk of over-tweaking. Monday's outing brought them back.
And while it sounds familiar, Ausmus believes they found some adjustments to make.
"We definitely saw something different between a couple years ago and yesterday," Ausmus said.
Ausmus wouldn't specify, but said the difference is "easily correctable."
Ausmus has been consistent in saying it's not a velocity issue, but command. He also doesn't believe it's the start of a long-term transition for Verlander as he enters the back half of his career.
"I think that's premature," Ausmus said. "I don't think he needs to reinvent himself. I don't think he needs to start throwing a knuckleball. We're talking about a guy who still throws 96. He hit 98 a few times in Chicago. We're not talking about someone who's gone from throwing 100 to 91. This guy still has it in him. I don't think he's at the point where he needs to reassess his approach to getting hitters out that drastically."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.