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Castellanos keeping it simple in transition to RF

After 21 games in outfield last year, 25-year-old making full-time move
Special to MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nicholas Castellanos enters Spring Training knowing exactly what his position will be -- right field.

With late-summer acquisition Jeimer Candelario expected to become the Tigers' starting third baseman, the team moved Castellanos to the outfield hoping to take presssure off him defensively and increase his offensive output.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nicholas Castellanos enters Spring Training knowing exactly what his position will be -- right field.

With late-summer acquisition Jeimer Candelario expected to become the Tigers' starting third baseman, the team moved Castellanos to the outfield hoping to take presssure off him defensively and increase his offensive output.

"It's kind of the way it worked," Castellanos said. "Because of all the trades and the way the team was going, and getting rid of this and building for the future and acquiring other infielders, it's kind of the way it worked."

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General manager Al Avila believes that Castellanos can produce bigger numbers with his bat in the heart of the order. Last season, Castellanos batted .272/.320/.490 with 26 home runs and 101 RBIs.

"Hitting is the hardest thing to teach in baseball," Avila said. "And Castellanos has everything you want in a bat in the middle of the order, and we want him to continue to get better there."

Video: Outlook: Castellanos should remain productive

Castellanos still describes himself as an infielder that can play outfield, but manager Ron Gardenhire sees the 25-year-old as a full-time outfielder, as the organization has a surplus of infielders in development.

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Gardenhire would not rule out Castellanos playing third in a pinch, but the manager wants him to focus on being in right. Castellanos has responded positively to the change.

"It's game on with Nick," Gardenhire said. "He's got it going on. He came in and told me what he's going to do and how comfortable he is. He's going to be that guy for sure.

"He's going to be our right fielder, and he's going to be doing all of his work there. We made that decision as an organization. I think this is going to be a great fit for him. He's comfortable there, and I don't want to see him bouncing back and forth."

Video: Nicholas Castellanos sees his role as a leader in '18

Castellanos said he was receptive to the move because he wants to do what he can to make sure the Tigers put their best team on the field.

"I'll do whatever they need me to do," Castellanos said. "Right now, they've just asked me to go out there and catch flyballs, so that's what I'm doing. What happens if your boss was like, 'Hey, we need you to go over here, that's going to benefit the company.' ... Same thing."

Castellanos played shortstop when he was younger and didn't begin playing third base until his professional career. He is looking at this move as another part of his career progression.

As for the defensive adjustments Castellanos will need to make, he said he wants to keep things simple.

"I just look at it like run fast, catch the ball and throw it in and try to win baseball games," Castellanos said. "Everything has its adjustments. All the surfaces and all the different fields play differently. Some are fast, some are slow. Some are bumpy. Some are wet and stay low to the ground. So every field and every position has its things to get used to.

"All the atmospheres are different. Everything is different. So that's why I don't try to control anything, just go out and play."

Ralph Long is a contributor to MLB.com.

Detroit Tigers, Nicholas Castellanos

Norris clears hurdle, ready to add to workload

Tigers lefty throws bullpen session as he recovers from last year's groin injury
Special to MLB.com

LAKELAND -- Left-handed starter Daniel Norris threw a bullpen session Tuesday, a day after he traveled to Philadelphia for a follow-up visit with Dr. William Meyers, who examined Norris following his midseason groin injury last year.

Norris said he is ready to ramp things up this spring.

LAKELAND -- Left-handed starter Daniel Norris threw a bullpen session Tuesday, a day after he traveled to Philadelphia for a follow-up visit with Dr. William Meyers, who examined Norris following his midseason groin injury last year.

Norris said he is ready to ramp things up this spring.

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"Everything is good, structurally everything is great," Norris said. "I feel good, threw a bullpen today, and I'll throw [batting practice Wednesday]."

Norris said he felt soreness in his groin during his final start of last season, and he wanted to go back to Dr. Meyers to make sure everything was a go.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Last year, Norris struggled, going 5-8 with a 5.31 ERA in 22 games (18 starts) while dealing with several lower-body injuries. Norris had previously suggested part of his struggles came from trying to rush back from the disabled list too quickly.

"We're all athletes, every guy in the big leagues is fighting something," Norris said. "Y'all just might not hear about it, but if it's bad enough to go on the DL you do hear about it. Second half of the season, I was hurt the whole time. I wanted to pitch through it. I fought to pitch through it. It was tough."

Video: Norris discusses learning from 2017, building for '18

Norris said he expects to be ready for Opening Day.

"We got great news [Monday]," Norris said. "I haven't thought about that to be honest."

SHOWING OFF THE BASICS

Manager Ron Gardenhire is relying on some of the veterans to help the younger players improve their knowledge of the basics during the spring. Shortstop Jose Iglesias is one of those veterans Gardenhire wants to lean on, and for the former All-Star it means performing basic fielding drills to set an example.

"I just know him, and I know what he can do with the ball," Gardenhire said. "He's a magician. But during these drills I don't need a magician. I just need for him to show us what he learned as a kid growing up because he's far past all that stuff.

"So rolling balls to him might be a little ridiculous, but I want those kids to understand what they're doing. Catch the ball, bury it in your glove, use your feet, shorten the distance, follow your throws, all the little things that can take a lot of pressure off you by controlling the baseball."

Despite how basic the drills are for Iglesias, he says he's more than happy to share knowledge and is excited at the prospects of working with the younger talent.

"It's an honor for the manager to show that sort of confidence in me, and I'm blessed to be here and be part of this team," Iglesias said. "The young players are excited to learn, and they want to get better. I want to help them get better any way I can."

Iglesias said that he's having a great time around Gardenhire, pointing to the little changes the new manager has made that have brought a fun atmosphere to camp.

Video: MIN@DET: Iglesias makes great over the shoulder catch

"[Gardenhire] is a very energetic person with great character," Iglesias said. "This is just the beginning. A lot of great things are coming."

NO SCREENS NEEDED

Left-handed reliever Travis Wood isn't about to let a protective pitching screen or a finger injury from an offseason crossbow accident stop him from throwing.

Wood threw live batting practice without a screen Tuesday, drawing the concern of pitching coach Chris Bosio.

"He just didn't want a screen, that's who he is," Gardenhire said. "I mean he could have been behind the L-Screen at least. And [Bosio] is yelling at me, 'Go over there and tell him not to try to catch a ball'. ... Well what if it's coming at his lip?

"I don't think I can really tell a guy don't try to catch the ball when the ball is hit at your face."

WILSON WILL MAKE EXHIBITION START

Gardenhire said that right-hander Alex Wilson will start the Tigers exhibition spring opener against Florida Southern College on Thursday. He said he was not ready to name a starter for Friday's Grapefruit League opener against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Wilson's pitch count Thursday will be up to Bosio.

"If he tells a guy he's throwing 25 pitches he's going to throw 25 pitches," Gardenhire said. "If that's three innings, it's three innings. If it's two innings, it's two.

"It sounds like [Bosio] is going to have me going to the mound quite a bit. Maybe if I make him walk out there with that foot, maybe he won't make us change pitchers so often."

Detroit Tigers, Daniel Norris

V-Mart enters camp healthy, ready to play

Veteran designated hitter was slowed by heart issues in '17
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez isn't ready to call it a career just yet.

Physically, he said, his heart is fine following an ablation procedure last September to correct an irregular heartbeat that hospitalized him twice in 2017. As for his heart for the game, the 39-year-old said he's ready to get back to the plate with a team that has become drastically younger since his last at-bat.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez isn't ready to call it a career just yet.

Physically, he said, his heart is fine following an ablation procedure last September to correct an irregular heartbeat that hospitalized him twice in 2017. As for his heart for the game, the 39-year-old said he's ready to get back to the plate with a team that has become drastically younger since his last at-bat.

"I'm just trying to have fun this last year and help the way I can with these young guys," Martinez said before the Tigers' first full-squad workout on Monday. "Not a lot of people get the opportunity to play every day in the big leagues. I hope they get that and make the most out of it."

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Martinez has had that opportunity for more than a dozen seasons. He was the everyday DH last year, trying to show he still had enough power in his surgically repaired legs to be a run producer in the cleanup spot, when an accelerated heartbeat hospitalized him in June. After two weeks on the disabled list, he returned to action, but he struggled to get back to form. His heart raced again during an August game in Chicago, leading to another trip to the hospital and a season-ending procedure.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Considering Martinez lost his father to a heart attack when he was young, the situation was admittedly scary.

"I took it one thing at a time, and I let the doctor check things out and do his job," Martinez said. "He told me that a lot of professional athletes like basketball players get that a lot, so I was going to be able to come back and play."

Martinez was cleared to resume training early in the offseason. He was on medication until the holidays.

"I did pretty much what I [usually] do in the offseason," Martinez said, "just that it took a little longer than usual. But nothing special. I was able to do the regular stuff that I usually do every year."

Martinez had a couple of well-struck drives during batting practice on Monday morning, taking teammate Alex Wilson deep. Martinez did not do much field work, though manager Ron Gardenhire said on Monday afternoon that he's good with whatever Martinez wants to do.

"I don't think he's going to do too much work on the infield," Gardenhire said. "I don't expect him to. I want him to hit. I want him to stay healthy and hit for us. I'll talk to him as we go along and see what his thoughts are. If he's feeling good one day and he wants to get out there at first base, I know he's done it, I've watched him do it against us, and maybe so. But right now, I just want him to get through Spring Training healthy."

Such is reality for a player who had knee surgeries before his heart issues, and turns 40 years old in December.

"When I came into the big leagues, I was 22, 23 years old, and I used to see the veteran guys going into the hot tub," Martinez said. "And they were like, 'Yeah, wait till you're 30.' Now I thank God, and I'm really thankful that God let me get to this point and give me the opportunity, because now I know what they were talking about. It just doesn't get any easier."

Martinez is under contract for $18 million in the final season of the four-year contract he signed after his MVP runner-up effort in 2014. He's not thinking beyond that, and hasn't stated any retirement plans other than tending to his cattle ranch in central Florida whenever he's done.

Shorter-term, Martinez said he has every intention to play this season. If the Tigers decide otherwise, it's up to them.

"The only thing I can do is just go out and give my best," Martinez said. "I'll let them make the decisions. It'll never be on me."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Victor Martinez

All clubs to don Douglas caps for ST openers

MLB.com @_dadler

All 30 Major League teams will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps before their Spring Training games this weekend to show support for the Parkland, Fla., community and the Stoneman Douglas student body after the tragic shooting at the school on Feb. 14.

Players across MLB will then be signing the caps and auctioning them to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which will benefit the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting, including 14 students and three staff members.

All 30 Major League teams will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School baseball caps before their Spring Training games this weekend to show support for the Parkland, Fla., community and the Stoneman Douglas student body after the tragic shooting at the school on Feb. 14.

Players across MLB will then be signing the caps and auctioning them to raise money for the Broward Education Foundation, which will benefit the official Stoneman Douglas Victims' Fund. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting, including 14 students and three staff members.

"It's a tragedy. It was a tragedy that hit the state of Florida, where we have two teams, but obviously has very specific baseball connections," Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "Really a very strong sentiment among the clubs that this was the appropriate thing to do immediately."

MLB teams will wear the caps pregame on Friday and will also be allowed to wear them during their games. Since they're off on Friday, the Royals and Rangers will don the hats on Saturday.

The Commissioner approved the use of the caps during all games on Friday, the Spring Training openers for most of the clubs.

The effort started with a few Grapefruit League teams, which wanted to wear the caps pregame, and it quickly spread across camps in Florida and Arizona. Soon all 30 teams had decided to join in the support and fundraising effort for the school community.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo attended Stoneman Douglas, and spoke at a prayer vigil at Pine Trails Park the day after the shooting. 

"It was the hardest thing I've ever had to do," Rizzo said Monday about meeting with families of the victims of the shooting. "You don't know what to say, there's nothing you can say. When people get shot, you're grateful they're alive. When they pass away, you're grateful you knew them. Just to see how real it is, it's sad and it's why I'm so proud of what they're doing back in Parkland and how everyone is coming together. They're going to turn this tragedy into something positive.

"The caps made for the fundraising effort will be provided to all players, coaches and umpires."

The Stoneman Douglas High School caps are reminiscent of how the Mets wore NYPD and FDNY caps following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001. The Mets donned the caps to honor the first responders in their first game after the attacks, in Pittsburgh on Sept. 17, and again in their return to New York four days later. In that memorable game at Shea Stadium, Mike Piazza hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth inning to lead the Mets to an emotional win over the Braves.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

MLB announces pace of play initiatives for '18

MLB.com @_dadler

Major League Baseball will implement new pace of play rules for the 2018 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday, but there will be no pitch clock this season.

After consulting with the MLB Players Association and all 30 clubs, MLB announced its slate of rules changes, among them a limit on mound visits per game.

Major League Baseball will implement new pace of play rules for the 2018 season, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Monday, but there will be no pitch clock this season.

After consulting with the MLB Players Association and all 30 clubs, MLB announced its slate of rules changes, among them a limit on mound visits per game.

•  Pace of play rules FAQ

A pitch clock -- giving the pitcher a certain amount of time to deliver the ball -- had been one of the major proposals considered. MLB decided to defer implementation of a pitch clock, as well as a between-batter timer, in order to give players an opportunity to respond to the new rules and positively affect pace of play throughout the 2018 season.

"I am pleased that we were able to reach an understanding with the Players Association to take concrete steps to address pace of play with the cooperation of players," Manfred said in a statement. "My strong preference is to continue to have ongoing dialogue with players on this topic to find mutually acceptable solutions."

New phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout will be installed and monitored, limiting the ability of teams to steal signs, which is viewed as a contributing factor to the increasing number of mound visits. Rules governing when players can and cannot leave the batter's box between pitches, instituted during the 2017 season, remain in effect.

•  Players, managers react to new rules

"Players were involved in the pace of game discussion from Day 1, and are committed to playing a crisp and exciting brand of baseball for the fans, but they remain concerned about rule changes that could alter the outcome of games and the fabric of the game itself -- now or in the future," said Tony Clark, the MLBPA executive director.

Here is a breakdown of the new rules:

• Mound visits: Mound visits will be limited to six per team per nine innings. Teams will receive an additional visit for every extra inning played. Any manager, coach or player visit to the mound will count as a mound visit. Visits to the mound to clean cleats in rainy weather, to check on an injury or potential injury or after the announcement of an offensive substitution are excepted. Also, normal communication between player and pitcher that do not require either to vacate their position on the field do not count as a visit. If a team is out of visits, the umpire will have discretion to grant a visit at the catcher's request if he believes there has been a cross-up between the pitcher and catcher.

Video: Hot Stove on mound visits regarding pace of play

• Between-inning breaks: As has been the case since the start of the 2016 season, a timer will count down between innings from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised games, from 2:25 in nationally televised games and from 2:55 for tiebreaker and postseason games. The difference now is that at the 25-second mark, the umpire will signal for the final warmup pitch and the pitcher must throw it before the clock hits 20. The batter will be announced at the 20-second mark and the pitcher must begin his windup to throw the first pitch of the inning within the five seconds before the clock hits zero. Another important change is that a pitcher is no longer guaranteed eight warmup pitches between innings. However, he can take as many as he wants within the countdown parameters noted above. The timer will start on the last out of the inning, unless the pitcher is on base, on deck or at bat, in which case the timer shall begin when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If the final out of the inning is subject to replay, the timer begins when the umpire signals the out.

• Timing of pitcher changes: The timing clock -- as listed above -- also applies to pitching changes, and it will begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track.

Video: Hot Stove on batter's box rule, replay review changes

• Instant replay: All club video review rooms will now receive direct slow-motion camera angles in order to speed up challenges and the resulting review. New phone lines will connect the rooms to the dugout and will be monitored to prevent their use for sign stealing.

Summary of 2018 Rule Changes

I) Mound Visits 
1. Number
A. 2018 Championship Season. Mound visits without a pitching change shall be limited to six (6) per team, per nine innings. For any extra-innings played, each Club shall be entitled to one additional non-pitching change mound visit per inning.  
B. OBR 5.10(l). Official Baseball Rule 5.10(l), which governs mound visits by a manager or coach, remains in effect (i.e., a pitcher must be removed on the second visit by a manager/coach in an inning). 

2. Definition of Mound Visit. A manager or coach trip to the mound to meet with the pitcher shall constitute a visit. A player leaving his position to confer with the pitcher, including a pitcher leaving the mound to confer with another player, shall also constitute a mound visit, regardless of where the visit occurs or the length of the visit, except that the following shall not constitute mound visits:
A. Discussions between pitchers and position player(s) that (i) occur between batters in the normal course of play and do not require either the position player(s) or the pitcher to relocate;
B. Visits by position players to the mound to clean spikes in rainy conditions;
C. Visits to the mound due to an injury or potential injury of the pitcher; and
D. Visits to the mound after the announcement of an offensive substitution.

3. Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a "cross-up"), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team's total number of allotted mound visits.

II) Inning Breaks and Pitching Changes
1. Time of Break. The timer will count down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised championship season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised championship season games, and from 2:55 for tie-breaker and postseason games as follows: 

Time Remaining | Required Action
25 seconds: 
Umpire signals pitcher to complete last warmup pitch.
20 seconds: Batter's announced and must leave on-deck circle, batter walk-up music shall begin, and pitcher shall complete last warmup pitch.
0 seconds: Pitcher must begin motion to deliver first pitch.

A. The pitcher may take as many warm-up pitches as he desires, but regardless of how many warm-up pitches he has thrown, he must deliver his final warm-up pitch at least 20 seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change. OBR 5:07 will be revised to reflect that pitcher is not guaranteed eight warm-up pitches. 
B. The umpire shall signal for the last warm-up pitch at 25 seconds, unless a special circumstance (as described below) applies. 
C. The batter must leave the on-deck circle and proceed directly to the batter's box when the pitcher throws his final warm-up pitch.  
D. The pitcher must begin his motion for the first pitch as soon as the batter steps into the box and is alert to the pitcher; provided, however, the pitcher cannot begin his motion for the first pitch more than five seconds prior to the end of an inning break or pitching change so that television is ensured to be back from commercial break. 

2. Special Circumstances. A Player will be excused from following the time limits set forth above if the umpire determines that any of the following special circumstances are present:  
A. There is a delay in normal warm-up activities during the inning break due to no fault of the Players (e.g., injury or other medical emergency, equipment issues, playing field or grounds crew issues);
B. The umpire believes the pitcher is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to throw warm-up pitches; 
C. The umpire believes the batter is at a legitimate risk of injury if he does not receive additional time to enter the batter's box; 
D. Any other special circumstances which, in the umpire's judgment, warrant allowing the pitcher to throw after the deadline. 

3. Start of Timer for Inning Breaks
A. Last Out of Inning. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break.   
B. Close Plays/Replay Review. The Field Timing Coordinator shall delay the start of the timer if the final out of the inning is a close play that may be reviewed by instant replay. If the final out of the inning is determined in instant replay, the timer shall start as soon as the out is signaled by the umpire.  
C. Pitcher or Catcher On Base/On Deck. If a pitcher ends an inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer shall reset when the pitcher leaves the dugout for the mound. If a catcher ends the inning on base, on deck, or at bat, the timer will reset when the catcher enters the dugout (and another catcher must begin warming up the pitcher). 
 
4. Start of Timer for Pitching Changes
A. Pitcher Crosses Warning Track. The pitching change timer shall begin as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens) to enter the game. In the case of a pitching change that occurs during an inning break, the timer shall reset if previously started as soon as the relief pitcher crosses the warning track (or foul line for on-field bullpens).  
B. Relief Pitchers Must Promptly Leave Bullpen. Relief pitchers shall leave the bullpen promptly following an appropriate signal by their manager or coach. During the playing of God Bless America, or any other extended inning event previously approved by the Office of the Commissioner, the timer will begin at the conclusion of the song or event. 
 
5. Enforcement. Umpires shall direct players and enforce the inning break and pitching change time limits on the field. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline for just cause by the Office of the Commissioner pursuant to Article XI(C) of the Basic Agreement.

III. Batter's Box Rule
The batter's box rule that was in effect during the 2017 season will remain in effect during the 2018 season.

IV. Video Replay Review
The following adjustments will be made to the video replay technology:
A. Install capability for all Club video review rooms to receive direct slow motion camera angles for the 2018 championship season; 
B. Install new phone lines connecting the video review rooms and the dugout, and monitor the communications over those lines to prevent their use for sign-stealing.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Tigers pitchers welcome Gardenhire with prank

New manager got up-close look at his players' sense of humor at first full-squad workout
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ron Gardenhire addressed Tigers pitchers and catchers prior to his first Spring Training workout as Detroit manager and warned them that he might take a while to learn their names.

"So, if I call you buddy," Jordan Zimmermann recalled Gardenhire saying, "when you go running off, I'll look at the back of your jersey and know who you are."

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Ron Gardenhire addressed Tigers pitchers and catchers prior to his first Spring Training workout as Detroit manager and warned them that he might take a while to learn their names.

"So, if I call you buddy," Jordan Zimmermann recalled Gardenhire saying, "when you go running off, I'll look at the back of your jersey and know who you are."

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That got Zimmermann's mind working. More importantly, it got his subtle sense of humor going. For the Tigers' first full-squad workout, he figured, he should wear a jersey that had "BUDDY" on the back where his name would go. He liked the idea so much, he told fellow Tigers pitchers Michael Fulmer and Alex Wilson, who have the lockers on either side of his.

"They thought it was a good idea," Zimmermann said. "So, we just rolled with it."

Thus, as Tigers players began their morning stretch Monday and Gardenhire tried to learn names, he had three pitchers with the name "BUDDY" on the back.

"It was fun," Wilson said. "He had a few choice words for me."

Said Zimmermann: "He was laughing. A few cuss words out there. It's all in good fun."

There was also a vow of revenge.

Tweet from @tigers: Last week: Gardy says he���ll use ���Hey Buddy��� until he has your name down.This week: pic.twitter.com/sljz91AzxS

Tweet from @tigers: Call it "The Buddy System." pic.twitter.com/3xuzq3Dac6

"Go ahead, play around, boys," Gardenhire said. "Just wait. If they throw a couple of good games in Spring Training, they may be wearing those Buddy shirts all year. We'll put Buddy 1, Buddy 2 and Buddy 3 on there. You know what, I'll take it if they start pitching well, that's OK."

Santiago showing off small glovework

When Ramon Santiago was an infield prospect in the Gulf Coast League, roving instructor Rafael Landestoy gave him a tool to help him work on his fielding. It was a very small infield glove, barely bigger than a normal hand. Landestoy wanted Santiago to work on fielding ground balls with that glove so that he could work on getting the ball in the right part of the glove every time rather than relying on the webbing for forgiveness.

Nearly two decades later, as Santiago embarks on his first Spring Training as Tigers infield coach, he dusted off the glove to use with infielders in camp.

"I believe in this a lot," he said. "It helps you stay down on the ball and catch the ball in the right place."

Video: Al Avila on expectations for Spring Training

Santiago plans to have infielders try out the glove during extra fielding work. He would like to get similar gloves for infield prospects to take with them into the season at their various Minor League stops.

Former Tigers communications director dies

Cliff Russell, whose storied career in Detroit media included a stint in the Tigers' front office as the director of communications, passed away on Sunday at age 61.

Russell worked as the Tigers' senior director of communications in 2002 and 2003, the first African-American in the position in the club's history. The native Detroiter's storied career also included a tenure as press secretary for Detroit mayor Dennis Archer, a lengthy career in radio with WWJ and most recently a position as part of the radio team for University of Detroit Mercy basketball. He's a member of the Wayne State University Athletics Hall of Fame for his basketball playing career.

"The Detroit Tigers are saddened to learn of the passing of Cliff Russell," the team said in a statement. "We extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends during this time."

Quick hits

• Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris was excused from Monday's workout. He was in Philadelphia for a follow-up visit with Dr. William Meyers, who examined Norris after his midseason groin injury last year. Norris was cleared to ramp up his workouts and is expected back in camp on Tuesday.

• The Tigers' offseason-long pursuit of right-hander Chris Tillman ended Tuesday, when the free agent returned to the Orioles on a Major League contract. Tillman threw for Tigers officials on Saturday in Lakeland, a source confirmed, but the team was seeking a Minor League contract with a non-roster invite. Tillman reportedly will make a $3 million base salary with the O's, plus incentives.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers

Miggy arrives at camp with positive message

Veteran feeling healthy, says, 'We can be a good team'
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Miguel Cabrera reported to Spring Training on Sunday to play ball with the kids. In this case, it was a Miggy Ball youth baseball event on the field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

He'll turn his attention to the Tigers' rebuilding project and his young teammates on Monday. For Sunday, at least, the 34-year-old showed no intention of accepting a decline in the standings or at the plate.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Miguel Cabrera reported to Spring Training on Sunday to play ball with the kids. In this case, it was a Miggy Ball youth baseball event on the field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

He'll turn his attention to the Tigers' rebuilding project and his young teammates on Monday. For Sunday, at least, the 34-year-old showed no intention of accepting a decline in the standings or at the plate.

"The difference [this year] is everybody right now expects we're going to lose," Cabrera said. "Before, they expect we're going to win. So now, we have to change that. We have to change that to, 'We can be a good team, we can be underrated, we can go out there and compete.' In baseball, you never know what's going to happen. I'm not saying we're going to make the playoffs, but you have to try. You have to try, and you have to feel proud about trying to win."

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That includes Cabrera himself, coming off the worst season of his Major League career. After back issues hobbled him in the field and hampered his swing, leading to a .249 average, .399 slugging percentage and .728 OPS, Cabrera said he focused his offseason workouts on his core muscles to create more flexibility, rather than focusing on strength like past offseasons.

"This is an issue I've had for a lot of years. I think it affected me more last year because I was not able to move this part of my body," said Cabrera, pointing towards his core. "It was locked. I think it was a big issue for me because I lost a lot of power, I lost strength at home plate. I was not able to hit a ball like I'm used to, not even hit the ball in gaps. You can see my performance last year. I don't have any excuse, but it is what it is."

He feels good now, he said, and began swinging in the offseason earlier than he had in years to test it out. He felt good, but now he has to maintain it.

"I have to stretch every day," Cabrera said. "I have to move every day. Because if I don't do that kind of stuff, my back is going to be tight again like last year. So I have to keep working and never stop."

Video: Cabrera has been launching homers from 2003-17

Once he does that, bringing himself back to being an elite hitter, he can focus on being a leader.

"My first focus is to be healthy. The second one is to help these guys get better," he said. "And these guys are going to help me get better, too. It's going to be a combination: You help me, I help you. We're a team. We stay together."

Cabrera said he has talked with new manager Ron Gardenhire about his role and about the direction of the team.

"It was fun," he said. "At the same time, it was like, 'OK, it's time to get serious.' So I talked to him and said, 'What's the plan for this year?' We'll talk tomorrow again, and we'll move forward."

Gardenhire said Sunday he'll talk with Cabrera about where he feels comfortable in the lineup before putting together a batting order. He has batted third for most of his Tigers tenure.

As for his spot in the field, Cabrera said the back issues made it tough for him play day in and day out at first base last year. Asked if he can play every day at first base this season, he smiled.

"Let's see," he said. "I'm going to try."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Miguel Cabrera

Bosio wants unpredictability from Tigers

New pitching coach using unusual drills, technology to improve staff
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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Chris Bosio has spent a good chunk of his first few workouts as Tigers pitching coach working with individual pitchers on their mechanics and specific pitches. But he has some staffwide ideas in mind, too.

He wants pitchers working on tempo, varying their rhythm to make it tougher for hitters to get comfortable in the box against them. He has a drill with pitchers to try to throw six pitches in 60 seconds, and another where pitchers slow their windup and hold for a second. He has had catchers lining up at various spots behind the plate during bullpen sessions to give pitchers a different look.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Chris Bosio has spent a good chunk of his first few workouts as Tigers pitching coach working with individual pitchers on their mechanics and specific pitches. But he has some staffwide ideas in mind, too.

He wants pitchers working on tempo, varying their rhythm to make it tougher for hitters to get comfortable in the box against them. He has a drill with pitchers to try to throw six pitches in 60 seconds, and another where pitchers slow their windup and hold for a second. He has had catchers lining up at various spots behind the plate during bullpen sessions to give pitchers a different look.

Spring Training information

He wants pitchers more comfortable being less predictable, and getting a little edge on hitters that way.

"In this day and age of scouting reports, hitters know what a pitcher is going to do," Bosio said. "I'm that guy that's going to flip the script. We are going to have a surprise element to us. We are going to be going against the curve, so we're not so predictable."

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The Tigers finished last season with a 5.36 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .282 batting average allowed and .811 OPS allowed, all worst in the Majors. There were several stretches during the season when pitchers, notably Justin Verlander, wondered if they were tipping pitches, having signs stolen or otherwise falling into patterns. Even at times when that didn't seem the case, hitters often seemed comfortable getting into the box against Detroit hurlers.

Verlander and Anibal Sanchez are gone. Mike Fiers is in. But the bulk of the pitching staff remains the same. If the Tigers are going to improve those stats, they'll have to improve from within. That's why Bosio is here.

It's also why the Tigers have invested in technology to help them in camp, from a high-speed camera to break down pitching motions frame by frame to portable Trackman devices that can record spin rate and vertical and horizonal pitch movements in bullpen sessions like in games.

"I'm kind of curious to see release point and finish, stuff like that," Michael Fulmer said. "I've never been a big guy in spin rate, but they're trying to encourage it. Hopefully I can get behind it."

Mahtook not getting comfortable

Mikie Mahtook reported to his second Spring Training as a Tiger this weekend, but it's his first camp in which he actually has a starting job. His breakout season in 2017 landed him a spot in left field heading into 2018. To Mahtook, however, the approach isn't any different.

"The main goal in Spring Training is to be ready for the season and be the best player you possibly can be, whether you're a starter or trying to compete for a spot," Mahtook said. "My mentality is the same. Yeah, it's nice to come in here knowing it's not as much pressure, but still, you put the pressure on yourself. You do things you think you need to do to improve and you go from there. It's a little different, but my mindset hasn't really changed."

Quick hits

• Free-agent right-hander Chris Tillman, whom the Tigers have tracked since the start of the offseason, threw for team officials on one of the back fields at Tigertown on Saturday, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun. Tillman is reportedly expected to sign with a team in the next few days.

• Designated hitter Victor Martinez and shortstop Jose Iglesias were the only Tigers yet to report to Spring Training as of Sunday afternoon. Both are expected to be present for Monday's first full-squad workout.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Mikie Mahtook

Catching prospect Rogers brings a lot to like

Lesser-touted prospect in Verlander trade has impressed Astros, Tigers alike
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LAKELAND, Fla. -- The news came in a hurry for Jake Rogers, just as he was wrapping up his season in the Astros' organization. A midnight phone call to say you've been traded will do that.

"There were a lot of emotions going on," he said. "It was very last-minute and when it happened, it was crazy when everything went down."

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The news came in a hurry for Jake Rogers, just as he was wrapping up his season in the Astros' organization. A midnight phone call to say you've been traded will do that.

"There were a lot of emotions going on," he said. "It was very last-minute and when it happened, it was crazy when everything went down."

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Rogers' boss, on the other hand, had been weighing it for a while. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow knew the team would have to give up good talent to convince the Tigers to trade Justin Verlander and pick up part of his salary. Their catcher of the future was part of the price tag.

Video: Beck on Rogers developing at catcher with the Tigers

"He has the ability in my opinion to be a frontline, everyday catcher in the big leagues," Luhnow said of Rogers this week. "And I think that opinion is shared by the Tigers' evaluators. We did not take it lightly, trading our catcher of the future. That was a difficult pill to swallow. But that was what it was going to take to get Justin Verlander, so we had to do it.

"But I can't say enough good things about him. He's not going to be a catch-and-throw guy only; he's going to hit. He receives well, he blocks, he frames. He has a chance to be a very complete catcher."

The Tigers already had some good young catching, with James McCann entering his prime seasons as a team leader in Detroit, Grayson Greiner approaching in Triple-A Toledo and two talented catchers just drafted in June. But if the Verlander trade was going to bring back impactful young talent, Rogers' potential justified being part.

Video: Road to Detroit - Jake Rogers

Rogers was the best defensive catcher in his Draft class in 2016 out of Tulane, and the third-round pick who played up to the billing last year, throwing out 46 percent of attempted basestealers. More surprising, he hit .261 with 25 doubles, 18 homers, 70 RBIs and an .817 OPS between A-ball levels.

"He was a very advanced college catcher," Luhnow said. "He came into our system and immediately demonstrated that he was going to be an advanced Minor League catcher. He worked with a lot of our young pitchers."

Now, as the Tigers stockpile pitching at the middle levels of their farm system, they have a catching prospect to parallel them. Rogers enters the season ranked fifth on MLB Pipeline's list of top catching prospects and seventh overall in the Tigers' system. His defense rated best of the bunch.

Before he gets to work with potentially Franklin Perez, Beau Burrows, Kyle Funkhouser and others, Rogers is trying to learn Alex Faedo and others in his first Major League camp while learning from McCann, Brayan Pena and other veteran catchers along the way.

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"I've met a lot of guys over these past couple days," Rogers said. "Just trying to get to know everybody, know their strengths, know their weaknesses and pick some brains and get after it."

The Tigers have put him to work, using him to catch prospects and veterans alike in early sessions. He has taken on the responsibilities new pitching coach Chris Bosio places on his catchers to work with and help develop pitchers.

"You cannot win without good catchers," Bosio said. "They're the guys that I rely on, probably more than the pitching staff, to help these guys. They're not a catch-net. They're a guide. They're a leader. They're the only player on the field with everybody in front of them."

Video: Rogers has potential to win a Gold Glove Award in future

That's part of what drew Rogers to the position in high school after playing a lot of shortstop and center field as a kid. He had plenty of Major League catchers he could have idolized for the way they hit. He loved watching Yadier and Jose Molina for the way they caught, so he watched and learned.

As he takes in big league camp, he's still watching. The Tigers, meanwhile, are watching him. And so, too, might a few folks with the Astros.

"All the reports that we got from our roving catching instructors and our managers was that he's going to be a team leader in the big leagues," Luhnow said.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Jake Rogers

Tigers thankful for Anibal's wisdom, influence

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matthew Boyd was sitting in the clubhouse at Comerica Park after his final start of 2016, having just given up five Royals hits and four runs without recording an out, wondering what on earth he had done with the team in the American League Wild Card race. The first player to go into the clubhouse and say a word to him was Anibal Sanchez.

"'Don't let this consume you, because this isn't who you are,'" Boyd recalls Sanchez saying. "'Don't let your start five days ago that was eight innings consume you, either, because that's not who you are. You're still the same person regardless of the outing. If you play long enough, outings like this are going to happen. Keep your eyes straight.'"

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Matthew Boyd was sitting in the clubhouse at Comerica Park after his final start of 2016, having just given up five Royals hits and four runs without recording an out, wondering what on earth he had done with the team in the American League Wild Card race. The first player to go into the clubhouse and say a word to him was Anibal Sanchez.

"'Don't let this consume you, because this isn't who you are,'" Boyd recalls Sanchez saying. "'Don't let your start five days ago that was eight innings consume you, either, because that's not who you are. You're still the same person regardless of the outing. If you play long enough, outings like this are going to happen. Keep your eyes straight.'"

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As Tigers pitchers digested the idea of Sanchez as a division opponent, having just signed with the Twins, the prevailing sentiment was appreciation for what he meant to them as a teammate. Tigers players have gotten used to goodbyes over the past year, and they knew Sanchez wouldn't be back, but many remain thankful for what he did for them and their careers despite his own challenges.

"The last couple years aren't indicative of his pitching," Michael Fulmer said. "Plus, he's just a great human. He loves his teammates. He'll do anything for anybody. For him to just still be able to pitch, it's awesome."

Video: DET@KC: Sanchez fans six over six solid innings

While Justin Verlander was the face of the Tigers' veteran pitching leadership before his trade to Houston last summer, Sanchez was a quiet leader for many young pitchers. He would notice a pitcher doing something and ask him why he did it that way, not to correct so much as to ensure there was a purpose.

"He'd come up to me and mention something, or ask why I'm doing this," Fulmer said. "I'd tell him, and he'd be like, 'OK, just wondering.' He's trying to get an idea of the way that I do things and why, the reasoning. He's got a reason for everything he does, whether it's the weighted balls or the workout plan, the shoulder program. There's a reason why it works for him, so he's asking me why I do things and the reasons behind it."

Sanchez's Tigers tenure was up-and-down. He helped pitch the Tigers to the World Series after a midseason trade in 2012, then led the American League in ERA his first full year in Detroit in '13. Injuries and struggles crept in from there until last year, when he accepted an assignment to Triple-A Toledo to get his pitching in order so he could recapture a rotation spot down the stretch.

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"Being around him for the three years, to go through the struggles that he had and still be the same guy every day was something anybody can learn from," Shane Greene said.

Fulmer learned workout routines from Sanchez. Greene learned about preparation, from video work to game planning. Boyd learned about mental approach. All of them learned from his professionalism.

"Regardless of what was going on with him, he was always a constant presence," Boyd said. "It was quiet leadership, and that was something that not everybody noticed."

 Video: OAK@DET: Sanchez fans eight over six frames

Said Greene: "More than anything, he's just a good teammate. He likes to see other players succeed as much as he wants to succeed, so just having that environment with him around is good."

Quick hits
• Manager Ron Gardenhire got his workout music on the back fields at Tigertown on Saturday, setting up speakers between the four practice diamonds behind Joker Marchant Stadium. The music selection ranged from Motown to techno, Latin to country, to classic rock, mixed together by a production person at Comerica Park during the season. Noted Tigers fan and Detroit native Jack White made the playlist from his solo album. "The players were pretty excited. We had a little bit of everything for them," Gardenhire said.

• Among Tigers position players who have arrived early over the last couple days are Nicholas Castellanos, Mikie Mahtook, Ronny Rodriguez and Edwin Espinal. Reporting day for position players is Sunday, with the first full-squad workout set for Monday morning.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Anibal Sanchez

Faedo hopes to make most of spring invite

Tigers pitching prospect will spend time in camp observing, learning
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LAKELAND, Fla. -- The body frame and the delivery are unmistakable. They're just a little unusual to watch in action here on the back fields at Tigertown, in Major League camp.

"I feel like I throw pretty normal," Alex Faedo said. "But I don't know. I just pick up the ball and throw it. I never thought of myself having a weird delivery."

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The body frame and the delivery are unmistakable. They're just a little unusual to watch in action here on the back fields at Tigertown, in Major League camp.

"I feel like I throw pretty normal," Alex Faedo said. "But I don't know. I just pick up the ball and throw it. I never thought of myself having a weird delivery."

The last time Faedo put that delivery to work, he was starring in the College World Series, helping lead the University of Florida to its first national title in front of a packed crowd in Omaha and a worldwide television audience. That was eight months ago, just a couple of weeks after the Tigers drafted him with the 18th overall pick. The bigger Faedo pitched, the more Detroit officials had to bless their luck the draft was sooner rather than later.

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Now, Faedo is in their Major League camp. He's not competing so much as pitching and observing. The buzz of a must-win game has been replaced by the quiet of early spring workouts, the pop of the mitts echoing down the row of bullpen mounds.

For many, this is where the season begins. For Faedo, this is where his pro career opens. He's a long way from Detroit, but he's in a good place to start.

Video: Top Prospects: Alex Faedo, RHP, Tigers

"Quite frankly, he's an advanced player," general manager Al Avila said. "It's not like we just drafted a high-school kid that's just turned 18 years old and doesn't know anything at all. This guy is a very advanced pitcher. He's been to the College World Series, so he is going to get a great experience being in camp, just being around some of the guys and seeing how they go about their work to get prepared for the season.

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"That experience in itself is good, plus get our Major League staff -- all of our Minor League staff here too -- it's a good time for them to get a feel for him, and him to them."

Faedo's not in a high-profile spot in the clubhouse, tucked amongst the rest of the prospects and non-roster invites. His jersey number, 75, reflects a similar status. As Faedo took the back mounds on Friday, however, he was throwing alongside Michael Fulmer, Mike Fiers and Matthew Boyd.

"I think it's a great opportunity, a great experience to work with guys who have been playing in the Major Leagues, coaches that have been coaching for longer than I've been alive," Faedo said. "I'm not going out there thinking anything besides learning and trying to get better."

The camp invite notwithstanding, the Tigers have shown an abundance of patience. After all Faedo's innings in Florida's title run, Detroit decided to rest him for the summer. He did not pick up a ball, he said, until after the fall instructional league, and even then he wasn't throwing.

"I wanted to throw," Faedo said, "but I understood where everyone was coming from on not throwing. It was just something I had to accept. I wasn't going to beat myself up over it. I knew I was going to throw again."

The invite is his reward. A Spring Training game appearance or two will likely be Faedo's next prize, making his first pro pitches in a Detroit Tigers uniform in front of friends and family from Tampa. After that, he'll head to Minor League camp, where player development officials will weigh where to send him in the system.

"I would say when he goes to Minor League camp, that will determine where he starts," Avila said. "I don't want to predict where he's going to start, but just knowing how we've done things in the past historically, we probably would want him to start in warmer weather. So it wouldn't surprise me that he might start in Lakeland. Maybe we decide to send him to West Michigan. But we haven't made any final decisions."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Alex Faedo

Tigers renew agreement with Triple-A Toledo

Mud Hens have been Detroit affiliate since 1987; Wood's finger healing; Greene likely closer
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LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers had a lot of traffic going between Detroit and Toledo last year, and figure to have at least as many moves back-and-forth between the Major Leagues and Triple-A this season. As the organization prepares to rebuild through the farm system over the next few years, it will keep the Glass City as the final step on the developmental path to Comerica Park.

The Tigers and Mud Hens announced a two-year extension to their player development agreement on Friday, keeping Toledo as Detroit's Triple-A affiliate through at least 2020.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers had a lot of traffic going between Detroit and Toledo last year, and figure to have at least as many moves back-and-forth between the Major Leagues and Triple-A this season. As the organization prepares to rebuild through the farm system over the next few years, it will keep the Glass City as the final step on the developmental path to Comerica Park.

The Tigers and Mud Hens announced a two-year extension to their player development agreement on Friday, keeping Toledo as Detroit's Triple-A affiliate through at least 2020.

"The relationship between the Tigers and Mud Hens dates back to 1987, making it the fourth-longest active Triple-A affiliate across baseball," Tigers vice president of player development David Littlefield said in a statement. "The Mud Hens play a significant role in developing our prospects for the Major League level and we're thrilled that Mud Hens fans will continue to have the opportunity to watch Tigers stars of tomorrow for the years to come."

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Though the extension had been expected, there was some urgency to complete it, given recent shifts in the International League. The Mets' move to purchase the Triple-A team in Syracuse left the Washington Nationals without their longtime Triple-A club beyond this season.

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Many organizations have been trying to build the close relationship -- distance-wise and developmentally -- that the Tigers have had with Toledo for the last 30 years. Thirty-two players spent time with the Tigers and Mud Hens last season, from rehab assignments like J.D. Martinez and James McCann, to rebound project Anibal Sanchez, to prospects Joe Jimenez and Jeimer Candelario.

"It's actually a really nice situation, where if something happens at a night game and you have a day game the next day, you can have a player join you really quick," new Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And Toledo's a great baseball town. We played plenty of games there through my Minor League career. I'm really excited about that."

The Hens are expected to see another influx of young talent this season. Slugging outfielder Christin Stewart, infielder Dawel Lugo and catcher Grayson Greiner could open with the club, while top pitching prospects Franklin Perez and Beau Burrows could be promoted during the summer if they open at Double-A Erie as expected. They'll have a Toledo native as manager, as Toledo-born Doug Mientkiewicz takes over.

"I just know Dougie," said Gardenhire, who managed Mientkiewicz in Minnesota and watched him as a manager in the Twins system. "I know he's a really good hitting teacher. I know how well the players in Minnesota responded to him. He voices his opinion, and he's really loud, but that's OK. I don't want people that don't voice their opinion. He's just a game-on guy, and he's very sure of himself and he is a knowledge baseball guy and a good teacher."

Quick hits:
• Though Gardenhire requested music for Spring Training workouts earlier this week, setting up the back fields with sound has taken longer than expected.

"Tomorrow, we might just have a regular boombox out there," Gardenhire said. "Eventually, we're going to get speakers."

• Left-hander Travis Wood had a follow-up exam on his injured right index finger Friday. Wood, who sliced open the finger in a crossbow accident last month, is hoping to have the pin removed from the finger shortly. The lefty has been throwing in camp, but hasn't been cleared to catch.

Shane Greene, who ended last season as the Tigers' closer following Justin Wilson's trade to the Cubs, comes into camp as the closer, according to Gardenhire. The closer's role is "his to lose," according to Gardenhire, "and we'll go from there."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers

Jimenez makes most of unplanned Fla. winter

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