February 23, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Tigers' Brad Ausmus won't tip hat on who'll hit leadoff

Scenes from Tigers photo day
Scenes from Tigers photo day: Sunday was photo day for the Tigers at spring training.

Lakeland, Fla. — Tigers manager Brad Ausmus got to know many of his players this winter by flying to where they live and dining with them.

That’s how he first met Austin Jackson and Ian Kinsler in the Dallas area, for instance.

“I kind of made a small loop around the states,” Ausmus said Sunday. “I met with Justin (Verlander) in Richmond (Va.), went down to south Florida to meet with Alex. Miggy (Miguel Cabrera) was out of town.

“I also had lunch with Max Scherzer in Phoenix and met with Anibal Sanchez at the winter meetings (in Orlando).”

Of his meals with Kinsler and Jackson in Dallas, Ausmus was asked which one led off.

“Nice try,” he said with a smile, because he has not yet announced which of the two will hit leadoff for the Tigers. “I had dinner with Ian, and lunch with Austin the next day.

“I led off with Verlander, but that’s probably not going to happen (in the lineup).”

Ausmus said he’ll get many of his regulars one at-bat in the Florida Southern game Tuesday.

His lineup calls for Kinsler to hit first in the game, but since Jackson will bat fifth, the lineup doesn’t appear to be an indication of future lineups.

Kaline vs. the Tigers

That will be the case again on Tuesday when the Tigers play Florida Southern College.

Al Kaline’s grandson, Colin, played in that annual exhibition game more than once when he attended Florida Southern.

But then he signed as a 26th-round draft choice with the Tigers in 2011 and played two years in the minors — his tenure in the organization ending at Single-A West Michigan in 2012.

Wanting to stay in the game, though, Colin Kaline now is with Florida Southern as an assistant coach — and at age 24, appears to be on a career path of coaching.

“That’s what he wants to do,” granddad Al said.

“I think he’ll be a good coach because he’s always been a student of the game.”

More games

A spring that’s been known for intrasquad competitions — with the Rag Ball drill for the pitchers and a game for the catchers that was held the same day — has spread onto the basketball court for the Tigers.

No, they’re not choosing up teams and playing five-on-five against each other. They are choosing up teams and shooting against each other.

“It’s not actual basketball, just some friendly shooting and hasn’t actually begun yet,” Ausmus said. “There’s a starting pitcher team, two relief pitcher teams, an infield team, an outfield team, a catcher team, a staff team. And after the teams are chosen, Torii Hunter can select players off the scrap heap.

“We did the same thing in San Diego.”

Basically to put more fun into spring training.

Two, but not three

Alex Avila has missed the last two days of workouts because of back spasms, but based on how he felt Sunday, he anticipates he’ll be able to participate today.

If this were the regular season, Avila said he’d be able to play through the discomfort.

“I’ve done that numerous times before,” Avila said.

Around the horn

Bruce Rondon recovered from a bout of allergies that kept him out of workouts for two days and was able to throw Sunday.

... The Tigers have a split-squad day scheduled for Friday, with part of the team playing the Yankees in Lakeland and the other part traveling to Clearwater for a game against the Phillies.

Max Scherzer will start against the Yankees and Jose Alvarez against the Phillies. Ausmus’ current plans are to travel and see Alvarez, the young lefty, pitch in Clearwater.

... The Tigers’ annual spring golf outing is today, cutting the workout short. But Verlander still will throw batting practice.

Unlike Jim Leyland, Ausmus isn’t an avid golfer. He once tried to be, “but never got better,” he said. From a high of playing four to five times a week (during the strike in 1994), he doesn’t play at all anymore and doesn’t plan to play in the outing.

Ian Kinsler poses during photo day Sunday at Tigers spring training. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News