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Prospect VerHagen starts Tigers' spring schedule

LAKELAND, Fla. -- While Tigers manager Brad Ausmus doesn't have a season-opening rotation order yet, his rotation for the first few games of Spring Training is set. It begins with up-and-coming pitching prospect Drew VerHagen, who will start the team's traditional opening exhibition with Florida Southern College on Tuesday at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The Tigers have often turned to prospects for the Florida Southern game. Former Tigers top pitching prospect Andy Oliver started against the Mocs two years ago, the last time the exhibition led off the Spring Training slate.

From there, the projected Major League rotation begins to slot in. Drew Smyly, back in a starting role, will lead off the Tigers' Grapefruit League schedule against the Braves on Wednesday at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, followed by Rick Porcello in the back half of the home-and-home set against the Braves on Feb. 27 at Lakeland.

The Tigers' first split-squad day on Feb. 28 will feature the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and an insurance starter. Max Scherzer will face the Yankees in Lakeland, Fla., while Jose Alvarez makes the trip to Clearwater, Fla., to face the Phillies.

Ausmus had already ruled out Justin Verlander from the first turn through the Spring Training rotation as he builds up his workload following core muscle surgery. Alvarez, who filled in for Anibal Sanchez while Sanchez was on the disabled list last summer, could provide insurance if Verlander suffers a setback and isn't ready for the start of the season.

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