Ausmus thrilled to have full-strength bullpen

April 19th, 2016

KANSAS CITY -- For the first time since at least 2014, and maybe for the first time in his managerial tenure, Brad Ausmus has a bullpen at full strength. With both Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy back from the disabled list, Ausmus has the bullpen combination he had been planning since the Tigers made their late-inning makeover last fall.

"It looks very close to what we would've envisioned in Spring Training," Ausmus said.

The late-inning trio remains the same, with Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson setting up closer Francisco Rodriguez. Hardy and Alex Wilson provide depth there, having filled setup roles for much of last season. Now in supporting roles, they also provide experience in situations, giving Ausmus options for key outs before the late innings.

With three left-handers in Hardy, Justin Wilson and Kyle Ryan, Ausmus also has the ability to play matchups while also covering innings with Ryan as a longer option.

"I think Kyle right now probably has the ability to pitch a little bit longer than Blaine, not that Blaine couldn't work up to that at some point," Ausmus said. "A lot of it will depend on who's available. Either one of them you could use to get a lefty earlier in the game if you had to, or a string of hitters where there's some lefties in there, that type of thing."

Hardy, who opened the season on the disabled list with a left shoulder impingement, said his shoulder felt fine as soon as he resumed his throwing program. His rehab assignment was essentially a process to build up innings he lost in Spring Training.

"Once I came back from four or five days off, everything felt good," said Hardy, who said he'll continue to do a strengthening program to try to avoid a recurrence. "It's just a matter of figuring out a routine to do out of the bullpen, make sure my arm's good and loose throughout the game."

Quick hits

• Ausmus said Cameron Maybin, whose rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo was interrupted by a hit-by-pitch on Sunday, should be able to return to action for the Mud Hens in a couple days. Tests on Maybin's wrist, which was fractured by a Luis Severino fastball in a Spring Training game vs. the Yankees, showed no structural damage from Sunday's impact.

• Daniel Norris' rehab assignment will shift to Toledo for his next start, the Tigers announced. Norris, on the disabled list since Opening Day with a left lumbar spinal fracture, made two starts for Class A Lakeland.

• Relief prospect Jeff Ferrell, out since late February with a right rotator cuff impingement, will begin a rehab assignment with Lakeland. He's eventually expected to be assigned to Toledo or Double-A Erie, where he split most of last season around a midseason callup to Detroit.

• The Tigers announced Tuesday they've signed veteran backup catcher Humberto Quintero to a Minor League contract. Quintero, who was released by the Blue Jays on Monday, will report to Toledo, where he's expected to fill the role Bobby Wilson filled before Wilson was called up to Detroit to fill in for the injured James McCann.