LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Justin Verlander now has a date for facing actual hitters other than his own. He'll make his first start of Spring Training on Thursday against the Phillies at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Verlander's last hurdle before being cleared came Sunday morning with a 30-pitch bullpen session at Joker Marchant Stadium. He wanted to work through some mechanical issues he had noticed on his throwing progression back from core muscle surgery, but team officials wanted to see how his arm responded after two live batting-practice sessions over the past week.
Verlander fills the rotation spot that Kyle Lobstein held down Saturday against the Astros. That spot gives him plenty of time to make the five starts he said he wanted coming into Spring Training.
If he makes all five starts on his regular four days' rest, he'd also be in line to start Opening Day on his regular turn if manager Brad Ausmus picks him. Ausmus hasn't yet announced an Opening Day starter between Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, though Sanchez's current rotation turn would not seem to lend itself to Opening Day on regular rest.
At this point, Ausmus is simply glad to be moving forward with Verlander in his rotation on any day.
"I'm certainly happy," Ausmus said, "a lot happier than I was on Jan. 9 when I found out he had surgery. The feeling from the get-go was that, because of the type of shape he kept himself in, this is a guy that might have the ability to be back in time to start the regular season. It seems like he's on track for that right now."
Ausmus to try out different infield shifts
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Much like with baserunning, the Tigers will spend Spring Training trying out some aggressiveness on the defensive side with infield shifts, more so than manager Brad Ausmus plans for the regular season. Again, the goal is to build the mentality of getting infielders accustomed to their responsibilities.
"We might shift in situations we normally wouldn't during the regular season," Ausmus said, "just so guys like the third baseman get comfortable in short right field. Pitchers have to understand that when there's a runner on first, their job is to cover third if there's a stolen base."
Ausmus has already been playing some left-handed pull hitters with his third baseman in short right field, preferring to keep his shortstop in normal position for double-play turns and rangy plays to the left side. On Sunday, he shifted second baseman Ian Kinsler up the middle for Dan Uggla. Kinsler fielded Uggla's fifth-inning grounder on the other side of second base and threw him out.
"Just run it so that the players become aware of what their responsibilities are, since they've changed with that shift," Ausmus said.
Worth getting some starts with Iglesias out
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- No, the Tigers haven't forgotten about Danny Worth. For the next few days, it's certainly going to be tough to miss him.
Worth went from oft-used utility infielder last Spring Training to the final cut of camp, then was mired at Triple-A Toledo while Hernan Perez picked up playing time in Detroit filling in for Omar Infante. By year's end, he not only was taken off the 40-man roster, but cleared waivers.
The Tigers' offseason acquisition of Steve Lombardozzi seemingly all but eliminated Worth's chances of making the team out of camp this year, too. With shortstop Jose Iglesias down for most of this coming week with shin splints, though, Worth is getting more starts.
Worth started at third base Sunday against the Braves to give Nick Castellanos a well-deserved day off. Worth will start at shortstop on Monday against the Cardinals.
"Good hands, good fielder," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I talked with [bench coach] Gene Lamont and [former manager] Jim Leyland. They both like him. He's a good option if something should happen to an infielder. He can play anywhere in the infield."
Worth went 1-for-3 Sunday, making him one of four Tigers with double-digit at-bats so far this spring.
• Detroit Symphony Orchestra music director Leonard Slatkin and a brass ensemble will be in Lakeland, Fla., on Monday to perform the national anthem prior to the game against the Cardinals. The DSO is currently on a tour of Florida, and Slatkin was previously the music director for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, giving him loyalties to both teams.
• Joba Chamberlain hit 95 mph on the Champion Stadium radar gun Sunday in his second outing of the spring, a reading that was confirmed by a scout in attendance. It was an uptick from his 90-92-mph fastballs earlier this week, and matched his average velocity last regular season. Chamberlain said earlier he's looking for command first and foremost, then trying to build velocity as spring goes on.