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Tigers can't wait to start Grapefruit slate

After exhibition win vs. Florida Southern, club hosts Pirates on Tuesday
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Anthony Gose and Justin Verlander had a little bit of fun Sunday on the final day of live batting practice at Tigers Spring Training. Verlander lost a pitch up and in and said he was sorry; Gose hit the next one out and did the same.

At that point, it was time for the Tigers to face someone other than themselves.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Anthony Gose and Justin Verlander had a little bit of fun Sunday on the final day of live batting practice at Tigers Spring Training. Verlander lost a pitch up and in and said he was sorry; Gose hit the next one out and did the same.

At that point, it was time for the Tigers to face someone other than themselves.

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"I think guys get tired of the monotony of running drills and taking batting practice without the game competition," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's not comfortable to face your own hitters."

They got a taste of game action Monday in a 7-2 exhibition win over Florida Southern College. They'll get Major League competition on Tuesday, when the Pirates pay a visit to Joker Marchant Stadium to open Grapefruit League play in a 1:05 p.m. ET start.

Matt Boyd, who made 10 starts for the Tigers down the stretch last season after coming over from Toronto in the David Price trade, gets the start Tuesday. It'll be a chance for him to test out his slider, a pitch he honed in the offseason to try to add a swing-and-miss offering. It's also a chance for him to make an opening statement in the Tigers' fifth-starter competition, where the contestants include Daniel Norris, Shane Greene and Michael Fulmer.

Fulmer, the Tigers' top-rated prospect in MLB.com's rankings released last week, is scheduled to pitch in relief Tuesday. Others slated to pitch include Angel Nesbitt, Kyle Ryan and Logan Kensing.

The opposing arm should look familiar. Former Tiger Kyle Lobstein, an offseason waiver claim by the Pirates in December, will start for Pittsburgh. The Tigers wanted to keep Lobstein, who opened last season in their rotation as an injury replacement for Verlander, but had to clear space on their 40-man roster amidst a flurry of December signings.

Ausmus was still working on a starting lineup Monday evening, but he expected most of the regulars to start. They'll have their first set of split-squad games Wednesday, both on the road, with afternoon matchups against the Pirates in Bradenton and the Yankees at Tampa.

"We have a bit of a difficult schedule here in the first few days," Ausmus said Sunday. "It's going to be hard to not use guys three days in a row. You don't really want to use them three days in a row, but because we have that split-squad, it's challenging."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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