February 24, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Seven Tigers sign contracts

Lakeland, Fla. — The Tigers reduced the number of unsigned players on their 40-man roster to eight Monday by coming to terms with seven players.

Five were pitchers.

Signing contracts for this season were pitchers Drew Smyly, Luke Putkonen, Evan Reed, Kyle Lobstein and Jose Ortega.

Also signing were third baseman Nick Castellanos and outfielder Steven Moya.

Tuesday's lineup

Manager Brad Ausmus unveiled his starting lineup for today’s exhibition against Florida Southern College.

■ Ian Kinsler, 2B

■ Torii Hunter, RF

■ Miguel Cabrera, 1B

■ Victor Martinez, DH

■ Austin Jackson, CF

■ Andy Dirks, LF

■ James McCann, C

Castellanos, 3B

■ Jose Iglesias, SS

But ...

“Don’t read anything into Jackson batting fifth,” Ausmus said.

Drew VerHagen is scheduled to start for the Tigers, with Robbie Ray following him.

Most of the starters, especially the established players, will be removed after one at-bat.

Catcher Alex Avila isn’t starting because of the back spasms he experienced last weekend. He didn’t run the bases Monday, but returned to the other drills. It’s uncertain, however, if he’ll play in the first exhibition against major league competition (the Braves) on Wednesday.

“There’s a chance, but I’m leaning against it because of what he went through the last two days,” Ausmus said.

Around the horn

Tuesday is the day former manager Jim Leyland designated as the one on which he’ll return to the Tigers camp.

“I won’t pick him up like I did in the postseason,” Hunter said. “But I’m going to give him a big hug.”

... Ausmus replied with his first no comment of the spring, but it was done so jokingly.

That said, Ausmus didn’t like it when the coaching staff lost its first game in the team’s basketball shooting competition to the Dominican Republic team captained by Al Alburquerque, who loudly celebrated his victory in the clubhouse.

Even when Cabrera came into his office saying, “Excuse me, sir, what happened?” Ausmus said, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

.... It turns out managers can challenge a play after the sixth inning, after all, if they still have a challenge. It’s not just up to the umpires after the sixth.

Drew Smyly was one of five pitchers to sign contracts. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News