Key pitchers ready to make spring debuts for Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Brad Ausmus runs the bases  for Tigers players working on cutoff drills in Lakeland on Saturday morning. The Tigers then traveled to Walt Disney World for their game against the Braves.

Lakeland, Fla. – With Justin Verlander set to start Saturday against the Braves, it leaves four key pieces of the Tigers pitching staff that have yet to see live game action this spring.

But that's about to change.

Right-hander Shane Greene, acquired from the Yankees in a three-way swap with the Diamondbacks for Robbie Ray and Domingo Leyba, will make his first start in a Tigers uniform Sunday against the Astros.

Also expected to make their first appearances of the spring Sunday are right-handed relievers Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria.

That would leave one key pitcher without game experience – reliever Bruce Rondon.

"Bruce is going to throw one more live batting practice session on Monday," manager Brad Ausmus said. "If all goes well, he will pitch Thursday."

When Greene takes the mound Sunday, it will be seven days since he last threw to hitters.

"I don't think the anxiety level is rising, but I am getting anxious," Greene said. "It's been seven days since my last live BP, but I've just treated it like a normal five-day routine. I just added an extra workout day in there."

Greene and veteran Alfredo Simon are the new faces in the Tigers rotation, stepping into the voids left by Max Scherzer (Washington) and Rick Porcello (Boston). Ausmus on Friday was asked, again, about how the Tigers were going to replace Scherzer and Porcello.

"We've already done it," he said. "We have David Price for six months instead of two. So in terms of replacing innings, having for six months helps. And we have Simon and Greene. Ricky pitched outstanding for us and I am not expecting any of our new guys to match what Max did, necessarily.

"But we think those two are very good Major League pitchers. And quite frankly, in the younger Greene, we have a guy with a lot of upside."

Greene said he will have to work to keep himself calm, especially in his first inning.

"It's different when there are guys in the batter's box and you've got to get comfortable and get back into it," he said. "I just have to get back to my check points. The first one is always a little more hectic. You just have to get yourself back to you focus points."

Any additional anxiety making a first start with a new team?

"I don't know, maybe a little more anxious just to get out there with them," he said. "Other than that, nothing crazy."

Chamberlain didn't sign back with the Tigers until Feb. 24, which is why his first outing is later. As for Soria, he wanted to have an extra week of bullpen sessions before facing live hitters.

Rondon is coming off Tommy John surgery.