February 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Will Rondon or Chamberlain emerge as Tigers' prime set-up man?

Lakeland, Fla. – Brad Ausmus always leaves himself wiggle room.

The closest he’s come this spring to saying that anything is 100 percent, for instance, is that Miguel Cabrera will hit third and that Victor Martinez will hit fourth.

But even those plans are only “95 percent” certain, the Tigers’ manager said.

What that translates into, of course, is that they’re 100 percent unless something unforeseen occurs.

Ask Ausmus who will be his eighth-inning pitcher, however, and there seems to be a 50-50 choice.

Both Bruce Rondon and Joba Chamberlain will be looked at this spring as candidates for the role – and Ausmus isn’t sure which one will emerge with the job.

“I don’t know yet,” Ausmus replied on Saturday when asked how he’ll use Chamberlain. “The only thing that really is sure is Joe Nathan (will close).

“I hope (Chamberlain) can close the eighth inning out, which means he’ll be pitching well, but there are no assigned roles at this point.

“In my mind, he’s set for somewhere in the seventh or eighth inning, if everything goes according to plan.”

Rondon, of course, would bring velocity and potential to the set-up role, but Chamberlain counters with velocity and experience.

Right now, it appears to be a toss-up.

“They are the two guys I’m thinking about as eighth-inning guys,” said Ausmus. “I hope one of them grabs it.

“Performances will actually determine who it will be – and that being said, it could change going into the season.

“I’m not locked into one over the other,” Ausmus added, “but in my mind, one of the two hopefully ends up in that eighth-inning role and the other one slots in front of whoever throws the eighth.

“If they both grab it -- and pitch equally well -- then there’s a decision to be made. But at this point, I don’t know.”

Camp updates

Rondon (allergies) missed a second consecutive workout but the Tigers aren’t concerned that one day stretched into two.

Nor are they concerned that with “a little bit of a sore back,” according to Ausmus, Alex Avila was held out on Saturday.

“Just being cautious early in camp,” the manager added.

... Left-hander Duane Below, a former Tiger who’s back in big-league camp as an invitee after a season that included the majors (Miami), the minors (Toledo and New Orleans), plus a stint in the Korean League, missed the workout because of elbow soreness.

“We just pushed him back a day,” said Ausmus.

Around the horn

After two days of taking workouts to 1:30 p.m., Ausmus has made a conscious effort to keep them shorter.

“We cut it back by 45 minutes the third day,” he said. “After the first two, I felt they were going too long.”

... The Tigers have signed a former prospect of theirs, Kevin Whelan, to a minor-league contract.

Whelan, a right-hander they traded to the Yankees in 2006 as part of the package for Gary Sheffield, appeared in two major-league games for New York in 2011.

Now 30, he has spent most of the last five seasons at the Triple-A level. Last year at Louisville, in the Reds’ organization, he was 3-3 with six saves and a 4.97 ERA in 47 appearances.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler backhands a ball during the Tigers' workout on Saturday. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News