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Ortega starts spring ready to secure bullpen job

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jose Ortega came out throwing to hitters Tuesday like he was trying to make the Opening Day bullpen in the first days of camp. That wasn't quite his intention, he said Wednesday, but he was trying to make a point.

After short stints in Detroit in each of the past two seasons, Ortega wants to make a push to stick.

The numbers from Ortega suggest he's perfectly capable. The 25-year-old allowed just 28 hits over 48 1/3 innings last year at Triple-A Toledo, striking out 56 batters and posting a meager 1.86 ERA.

The problem was the walks, 33 of them with the Mud Hens to go with six -- one of them intentional -- over 11 2/3 innings with the Tigers. So when he returned to Venezuela to pitch in winter ball, he made command his priority.

"I worked in Venezuela on my location," Ortega said. "I work on that every day -- location, location, location."

He had relative success at that in Venezuela aside from a Nov. 27 outing in which he walked two batters without recording an out. For the winter campaign, he allowed 14 hits and five walks over eight innings, striking out seven.

His first live pitching session reflected the advantage of extra work. His fastball had closer to regular-season velocity, while his slider had enough bite to leave Austin Jackson shaking his head at one pitch. New Tiger Ian Kinsler put the barrel of his bat on one pitch, but that was about it.

In the end, it means little in player evaluation. Still, it reflected Ortega's seriousness about competing for a spot.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
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