LAKELAND, Fla. -- While most of the Tigers enjoy their lone off-day of the spring, Rick Porcello will be on the back fields of the Tigertown complex, getting in his scheduled work against Minor League hitters in an intrasquad game. It's becoming an annual routine for him, the way the schedule falls.
The Tigers always schedule an off-day in Spring Training for the Wednesday of the next-to-last week of camp, giving them just over a week to ramp up workouts and make final player evaluations and roster decisions before heading north. In turn, the Tigers line up their Spring Training rotation in large part based on how their schedule falls to open the regular season.
For the fourth time in five years, Porcello's spot in the rotation falls on the off-day. Rather than change his start-to-start routine, the Tigers have him pitch in a Minor League game. It's not that common for Major League starters to do; some teams will move a big league starter or two over there for a spot start instead of have him face a division rival late in Spring Training.
The catch for Porcello, though, is that his Minor League start seems to always cost him an off-day. Instead of sleeping in, Porcello will be on the mound for an 11 a.m. ET contest against a lineup of Tigers farmhands.
Anibal's shoulder inflammation not major concern
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Manager Brad Ausmus wasn't worried about the status of Anibal Sanchez on Tuesday, a day after the right-hander was scratched from a scheduled start because of inflammation in his right shoulder. Sanchez's schedule for the rest of this week, however, appears to be on hold.
"We've kind of mapped out a schedule," Ausmus said. "Sanchie doesn't seem concerned about it."
Sanchez told Venezuelan reporter Wilmer Reina on Tuesday morning that he received a cortisone shot in the shoulder to relieve inflammation around a nerve. He won't throw for a few days.
Sanchez's next turn in the Spring Training rotation would have come up on Saturday, but he's now on track to start Monday against the Pirates barring any setbacks. If he makes that outing, as well as next Saturday's exhibition against the Nationals in Washington, he should be on track to remain on turn for the third game of the regular season on April 3 against Kansas City.
"We can still get him around 100 pitches in his last start if everything goes according to plan," Ausmus said.
The inflammation is believed to be similar to the strain in the shoulder that sidelined Sanchez last June. Sanchez had to go on the disabled list at that time so the Tigers could fill his spot in the rotation.
Ausmus giving Davis more time to heal
LAKELAND, Fla. -- After spending most of Spring Training getting his legs ready for the regular season, speedster Rajai Davis is being slowed down for a few days, and he will sit until Friday to allow his sore right hamstring some time to heal.
The decision came down to manager Brad Ausmus, who scratched Davis from the lineup for Tuesday's home split-squad game against the Blue Jays. The Tigers are off on Wednesday, and Davis already was scheduled to skip Thursday's trip to Viera, Fla., to face the Nationals.
"We just decided with the off-day [to] give him the three days," Ausmus said. "He'll come in and do some baseball work on Thursday.
"I didn't even ask him. I just came in and made an executive decision. With the off-day tomorrow, there's no reason to play him today. The outfield's still a little bit wet. He's got 35 at-bats or something. We can get him more at-bats in the last 10 days. I just pulled the plug on him."
Smyly carves up Blue Jays with cut fastball
LAKELAND, Fla. -- While Drew Smyly has made steady progress all spring in bringing a changeup back to his repertoire, his cut fastball has been a work in progress. He didn't have it at all against the Marlins last week and struggled, but Smyly had faith he'd find it again like he has in two previous camps.
On Tuesday, he found it, and he cruised through five shutout innings in the Tigers' 18-4 win over the Blue Jays.
"My tempo was better, my control was better, and my cutter was finally cutting," Smyly said. "All around, I think I was a lot sharper than I was the last few games."
Smyly doesn't know why it came back; he's just glad it did.
"You just kind of wake up one game and it's there, going for you," Smyly said. "It can still get better for sure, but today it at least had the action that it's supposed to have. That was good to see. For me, that kind of changes the whole dynamic."
Smyly had some encouragement on the pitch from Alex Avila, who caught him for just the second time this spring.
"Sometimes for pitchers, some pitches they don't have a feel for it and you keep throwing, keep throwing, keep working on it and it comes back," Avila said. "Today, I made sure I called a lot of cutters to make sure he threw it. He had it going today."
Smyly's velocity took a step up along with his command. His fastball ranged from 89-93 mph, according to manager Brad Ausmus, and topped out on a pitch at 95.
• Though the Tigers made three outs on the basepaths early in Tuesday's 18-4 win over the Blue Jays, Ausmus said he was impressed with two reads that his baserunners made on pitches in the dirt. In particular, Hernan Perez scored from third on a third-inning wild pitch by Ricky Romero that didn't skip far past catcher Dioner Navarro, allowing Perez to dash home as Navarro tried a no-look toss behind his back. Torii Hunter took second base on the same pitch.
• Ausmus, who has talked about trying out some ideas on shifts this spring, experimented with a two-strike shift for the first time, moving Danny Worth from third base to short right field on Blue Jays left-handed hitter Colby Rasmus in the fifth inning. Ausmus waited until two strikes to shift Worth because he didn't want to leave the left side of the infield open for a bunt. "That's the first time we've done that this spring with a guy who can bunt a little bit," Ausmus said. "I don't think he really falls into the category of a hitter that tries to direct the ball the other way with two strikes. There won't be many of those."