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Tigers send catchers Salty, Norris to Minors

Detroit expected to open season with McCann, Hicks behind plate
Special to MLB.com

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was signed as a free agent on March 9, was reassigned to Minor League camp by the Tigers on Thursday.

Catcher Derek Norris, infielders Pete Kozma and Ronny Rodriguez, and outfielders Jim Adduci and Chad Huffman were also sent down. Left-handed pitchers Chad Bell and Blaine Hardy were optioned to Triple-A Toledo.

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CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Veteran catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was signed as a free agent on March 9, was reassigned to Minor League camp by the Tigers on Thursday.

Catcher Derek Norris, infielders Pete Kozma and Ronny Rodriguez, and outfielders Jim Adduci and Chad Huffman were also sent down. Left-handed pitchers Chad Bell and Blaine Hardy were optioned to Triple-A Toledo.

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Saltalamacchia had 25 home runs for the Red Sox in 2012. During a five-season span from '11-15, he had 75 homers with the Red Sox and Marlins.

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The Tigers, who have 28 players remaining in Major League camp, are expected to open the season with James McCann as the starting catcher and John Hicks as his backup.

"We're just trying to get people over there [Minors] so they can do their thing," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "A lot of the players we sent down, they need more at-bats. They've been coming in late in games. They did well over here and a lot of people showed us they can do some things. Some of the people we sent out, we really like."

Looks like a 12-man pitching staff
Gardenhire said all of the late-spring moves are being made under the premise of the Tigers keeping 12 pitchers to start the regular season.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"That's what we're trying to do and hopefully what we're going to do," Gardenhire said. "It might not last long, but we're trying to go with 12 pitchers. We'll see how that lasts.

"That's all going to depend on our starters. If we have some troubles early with our starting rotation and they get knocked out early, we might need more pitching. We're going to start this way. We feel pretty good about ourselves."

The Tigers are considering the last few spots in the bullpen, where Johnny Barbato, Buck Farmer and Warwick Saupold are among the contenders.

Stewart remains impressive
Tigers outfield prospect Christin Stewart, ticketed to start the season in Triple-A, went 3-for-5 during Thursday's 6-2 win over the Phillies to move to 7-for-10 in Grapefruit League games. Last season, Stewart batted .256 with 28 homers and 86 RBIs in Double-A.

Video: Top Prospects: Christin Stewart, OF, Tigers

"We elected not to bring him into [Major League] camp," Gardenhire said. "When I saw he was coming over [against the Phillies], we made a spot for him just to see him out there. It's fun for him. The kid is a heck of a baseball player. It's nice to get a look at him and run him out there. He's not here to sit the bench, not in my eyes."

Stewart is the No. 10 prospect in the Tigers' organization, according to MLB Pipeline.

Confidence in Mahtook
Gardenhire continued to express confidence in outfielder Mikie Mahtook, who is batting .152 (7-for-46) in Grapefruit League play. Mahtook went 0-for-4 against the Phillies, but had his first homer (and only extra-base hit) of the spring Wednesday against the Braves.

Video: DET@ATL: Mahtook belts first spring homer to tie it

"He told me he called that shot … about a week ago,'' Gardenhire said. "When he came off the field [Wednesday], he said, 'I told you I called that shot.' Only one week it took. He's going to entertain me all year.

"I like him. He's gung-ho. He comes busting his butt. He has a good smile on his face. He works hard. He's actually hit some balls hard, right on the nose. I don't foresee him being a problem. I think he can hit. He proved that last year a little bit. I'm just glad to see him finally hit a home run. I don't think I was the only one tired of hearing him say he was going to do it."

Up next
The Tigers will start left-hander Daniel Norris on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Braves, who will start former Tiger Anibal Sanchez. The game will be broadcast live on MLB.TV.

Joey Johnston is a contributor to MLB.com.

Detroit Tigers, Derek Norris, Jarrod Saltalamacchia