DETROIT -- Jim Leyland made well over a thousand visits to the mound at Comerica Park to change pitchers over the course of his eight-year career as Tigers manager. On Saturday, May 10, he'll be heading out there to actually throw a pitch.
The Tigers will honor their former manager in a special on-field ceremony ahead of their 1:08 p.m. ET game against the Twins, including the ceremonial first pitch. It'll be an on-field salute to a 50-year career baseball that began as a Minor League catcher in the Tigers organization and ended in the Tigers' dugout for the native of nearby Perrysburg, Ohio.
As part of the celebration, all fans will receive a commemorative Jim Leyland art piece.
The 69-year-old Leyland finished his career with three straight division titles, two American League pennants and a third-place standing on the team's managerial wins list. He's the only Tigers manager to lead the team to the postseason four times, comprising half of his eight postseason appearances over a 22-year Major League managerial career.
Leyland retired as Tigers manager at the end of last season, but he remained in the organization as a special assistant. He currently ranks 15th in wins all time among Major League managers.
Worth's wait pays off with start vs. White Sox
DETROIT -- Danny Worth spent Spring Training hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. That included the final couple of weeks of camp, when the Tigers were searching for a replacement for injured shortstop Jose Iglesias.
It's a business, he told himself, not personal. Don't get emotionally involved. Just play. He had enough emotions last year, from being the final cut of that camp to being taken off the 40-man roster last fall.
He didn't have to wait long this year to get a call back to the big leagues, his contract purchased once Detroit released Alex Gonzalez. But as he waited to see how the Tigers divide up the playing time at shortstop, he kept his emotions out of it.
"You just can't worry about it. That's what I've learned," he said. "Guys who worry about it, it just drags them down. It's more mental stress than the game already brings. You just don't think about that."
On his fifth day back, Worth got his first start at shortstop, giving Andrew Romine a day off on Thursday against White Sox southpaw Jose Quintana after six consecutive starts. Though the Tigers were seeing their fifth left-handed starter in six days, a situation that would seemingly favor the right-handed-hitting Worth, the switch-hitting Romine was on a good enough stretch to stick.
At this point, at least, it's not a platoon situation at short. Manager Brad Ausmus all but stopped that speculation Thursday morning.
"I don't know for sure. I'd say right now, the way Romine's playing, both offensively and defensively, he's kind of earned the bulk of the time right now," Ausmus said.
Romine's 0-for-3 performance was his first hitless game since taking over shortstop duties, though he sent a fly ball to the track in left-center field. He still went 6-for-17 with four walks and four strikeouts over that six-game stretch, and made a case for regular playing time.
With three right-handers scheduled to start for the Twins during the Tigers' visit to Minnesota this weekend, Romine is likely to continue getting the bulk of the time. Worth, meanwhile, is keeping out of it.
"You just play," he said. "Whatever happens, happens."
Ausmus: Pine tar use 'isn't a big deal'
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus saw the highlights of Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda with pine tar on his neck. He also has heard the stories about catchers helping pitchers use pine tar to get a better grip on the ball, though he said he has never been a part of that.
If there's a huge controversy about the impact pine tar makes for a pitcher, however, Ausmus doesn't see it.
"I do think pitchers using pine tar isn't as big a deal as it's being made out to be," Ausmus said Thursday morning. "It's more about getting a grip. It's not really about altering the movement of the ball. It's about getting a grip on the ball, just like pine tar on the bat is to get a grip on the bat. It's becoming overblown, really."
Especially in cold weather, when it's tough for a pitcher to get a grip on a pitch, Ausmus said hitters aren't as likely to mind it.
"Especially if he's a hard thrower," Ausmus said. "It's not like a spitball where it's dancing all over the place, or sandpaper that scuffs it and makes it move abnormally. This is just allowing pitchers to get a grip on the ball. It's overblown."
That said, Ausmus agreed with the idea there's a limit. He had never seen a pitcher putting pine tar on his neck, or any part of his body where it was that much in the open.
"I guess if it was blatant, you certainly would have to address it as part of the rules," Ausmus said. "But again, I don't think its impact [is that vast]. He did seem to have quite a bit of it, but I'm not going to get worked up about that."
Tigers' shift strategies beginning to evolve
DETROIT -- For every piece of strategy in baseball, there's a counteraction to try to address it. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who brought the increased use of infield shifts to Detroit with him, expects the same to happen to that.
In fact, he has talked with his left-handed-hitting catcher, Alex Avila, about doing just that to the shifts he has encountered.
"I think it's happening so often, there's going to be a little bit of a bounceback where players start bunting and getting on base," Ausmus said. "Then you're going to see shifts more based on counts or the score. We've talked about it with Alex."
Avila said the same earlier in the week, and squared around to bunt against the White Sox infield shift in an at-bat Wednesday.