LAKELAND, Fla. -- Virtually a month to the day after Victor Martinez reported to Spring Training with catching gear in tow, he finally had the chance to put it to work in a game. He might not have to wait long into the season to do it again.
While Max Scherzer continued to build toward defense of his American League Cy Young Award, he was the second biggest story of the Tigers' pitching battery. Martinez caught Scherzer's first three innings -- his first catching work in a game this spring -- as he prepared himself to catch some games in Interleague Play, which begins for the Tigers in the season's second week.
"He actually did a pretty good job," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I talked to him afterwards, he said he felt fine. It was really more about getting him back there. He held his own. One ball, he blocked really nicely."
It was the first time Martinez has caught Scherzer since 2011 -- Martinez's first season in Detroit and his last season catching semi-regularly. A sprained knee late in that season, followed by a season-ending knee injury during workouts that offseason, ended those days.
"I like him back there," Scherzer said. "He's got a good, creative mind how he wants to sequence [pitches]. He really wants to know what your pitches are. He wants to know what your strengths are."
Scherzer and Martinez worked together to mix in some sliders to left-handed hitters in different counts.
"For the last couple days, he was real excited to catch me," Scherzer said. "We were throwing jabs with each other. He's great behind the plate. He's very intelligent with the game. And because he's such a good hitter, he also knows what the hitters are trying to do. So you kind of respect what he's thinking.
"When he's behind the plate, even though he hasn't caught much over the past three or four years, he's right there at everybody's level with his thinking on how he wants to approach calling a game."
Lombardozzi gets in outfield work
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Steve Lombardozzi spent most of this spring working as a middle infielder, as he prepared to serve as the backup shortstop to Jose Iglesias. With the Tigers now prepared for the possibility Iglesias will miss significant time with his ailing shins, Lombardozzi now has to prepare for a new role: outfielder.
It's reverse thinking, but there's a reasoning to it.
"Depending on how long [Iglesias is] going to be out, we may or may not need two shortstops," manager Brad Ausmus said. "If we need two shortstops, you probably can't carry an extra outfielder."
In other words, carrying two shortstops -- whether for a platoon or a true starter-and-backup situation -- would fill Iglesias' roster spot and a bench spot, which otherwise would go to an extra outfielder. It also would drastically reduce the need for Lombardozzi to play short, except in an emergency scenario.
Under that scenario, Lombardozzi and Don Kelly would be the backup outfielders -- not only in left field for Rajai Davis, but for center fielder Austin Jackson and right fielder Torii Hunter, as well.
Lombardozzi played the entire game in left field during Saturday's 14-3 win over Houston, going 1-for-4 with two RBIs. He is not scheduled to play on Sunday.
Collins making case for spot in outfield
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Most of the Tigers' outfield prospects went across the street to Minor League camp earlier this week. Tyler Collins is still on the big league side.
The more he hits like he did on Saturday, the better chance he has to stick around -- possibly long enough to contend for a share of playing time in left field.
His manager isn't ruling it out.
"There's a little bit of danger in his bat," manager Brad Ausmus said on Saturday, after Collins fell a double shy of the cycle in a 3-for-5 performance in Detroit's 14-3 win over Houston. "You saw it today, his ability to drive the ball. He's certainly been talked about quite a bit."
In the Spring Training world of small sample sizes for reserve players, Collins' day boosted his numbers for the spring to a .286 average (8-for-28). Six of his eight hits have gone for extra bases -- two doubles, two triples, two home runs. After striking out in five of his first seven at-bats, he hasn't fanned since March 3.
It's a similarly good stretch to the way he started out last Spring Training. He carried it into his regular season at Double-A Erie, then seemingly fell into a big-swing approach, finishing with a .240 average (112-for-466), 21 home runs, 79 RBIs, 51 walks and 122 strikeouts.
His approach this spring is a little different.
"Last year, I kind of fought myself," Collins said. "I was trying to do too much -- and the worse I got, the more I tried. So I've just kind of matured as a player. I'm going to be able to make that adjustment better next time."
Some of that comes from the new coaching staff.
"I could fill up a whole other brain with information I've taken from these guys," Collins said. "Wally Joyner and Darnell Coles, they break everything down to where you don't even have to think twice about what they're saying, because it's so simplistic and makes so much sense. Everything they're spitting out, I'm trying to soak in."
Collins' second home run in six days was a no-doubt drive to right-center field in the seventh inning. His triple was an opposite-field gapper in the second inning that made it to the wall in left-center field off righty Lucas Harrell.
Collins singled up the middle off Harrell in the opening inning. He just missed another home run when he flew out to the right-field warning track in the third.