Tigers getting early start on camp
Many pitchers, position players in Lakeland ahead of reporting date
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Officially, Tigers pitchers and catchers report to camp on Thursday. For many Detroit hurlers, however, their Spring Training workouts are well underway.
While new manager Brad Ausmus gathered his coaching staff for meetings that took up most of Wednesday morning, several Tigers pitchers were going to work. Justin Verlander threw his latest session and joked with catcher Alex Avila about hitting triple digits.
Phil Coke, who has been in Lakeland since shortly after Christmas, threw off the mound for a fourth time as he builds up his arm strength. New Tigers relievers Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan arrived in camp Wednesday and promptly began their throwing programs by playing catch. Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello have both been in camp throwing.
Formally, it all begins Friday with the first team workout. Many pitchers, however, will have thrown off a mound well before that.
Even a handful of position players have been getting in early work. Miguel Cabrera, who usually times his arrival close to full-squad workouts, has been around the complex all week, getting in his core training regimen.
A big reason, Cabrera said, was a desire to get in and get everything organized beforehand. But there's also a sense around the team that it's time to get going. From a new coaching staff to a roster makeover, there's a sense around camp that it's time to get to business.
"I think we're going to have a good team this year," Cabrera said Wednesday. "We want to win a World Series. We want to win a division championship. I think we're going to be interesting."
Cabrera is one of those interesting storylines, shifting back from third base to first. His new boss, too, will be worth following, as Ausmus makes the adjustment to managing for the first time at any level. Nick Castellanos, another early arrival to camp, takes over at third base. He has been working with new infield coach Omar Vizquel since arriving in Lakeland.
"I've had four months to think about this. I'm not nervous about being here," Ausmus said. "I'm excited about being here."
On the pitching side, Drew Smyly -- also an early arrival in camp -- is taking his newly bulked-up frame back into the rotation to fill the spot left open from the Doug Fister trade. Nathan takes over at closer to try to stabilize a bullpen that wore down over the stretch run. Bruce Rondon, another early arrival, returns from elbow inflammation to take over setup duties, while Coke and Ian Krol become the main lefty options.
The one roster battle on the pitching side, and possibly on the entire roster, will be the back end of the bullpen, where long reliever Luke Putkonen, Minor League addition Justin Miller and converted starter Casey Crosby will battle for a big league job. The main roles, however, already have their players.
"When you look at our positional players, they're pretty well set, unless somebody jumps up and grabs a spot," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said last week. "Really, to me, the starting rotation is pretty well set when you look at the five guys we have. Hopefully, they're healthy. And then it really comes down to the battles in the bullpen. You've got a lot of names that are in that equation, guys like Putkonen, [Jose] Ortega and Miller. But I think a lot of the biggest questions, if we're healthy, will be in the bullpen."