Lobstein cherishes another chance with Tigers

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Kyle Lobstein

Detroit -- Kyle Lobstein wasn't the last cut by the Tigers this spring, but he was a late cut.

And at the time, manager Brad Ausmus called it unfair, given how Lobstein had so greatly helped the Tigers win the American League Central last season.

But Lobstein knew where he stood all along -- the Tigers had five set starters, and they decided early this spring that Lobstein would not be a candidate for the bullpen. The reason was simple: They had depth in relievers, but not as much in starters.

Lobstein on Thursday called that decision "bittersweet," because he knew his best chance to make the Tigers was as a reliever.

But, now, here is, back in Detroit. He was called up Wednesday when Justin Verlander went on the disabled list. He's scheduled to start Sunday in Cleveland.

"I could have hung my head and taken in negatively," Lobstein said of being cut this spring. "Right now, I'm going to try and seize the opportunity and enjoy it while you can. It's going by very quickly (your career). Just enjoy it."

Lobstein, 25, made six starts late in the season with Detroit last year, and the Tigers won four of them.

His performance was a huge deal for a Tigers team that only won the division by a single game.

Still, he acknowledged there was work to do -- specifically with the curveball, which he says is a better weapon for him. How'd that happen?

"Just playing around with it," he said before Thursday's scheduled game against the Twins. "It's all a matter of how it feels. Try different grips and mindsets."

Lobstein also is toying around with a cutter -- a lower-velocity fastball that has some sharp yet subtle break at the end. It's a pitch that's in vogue these days, thanks in large part to legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who rarely threw anything else.

The Tigers will need Lobstein, a left-hander, for at least the one start and maybe more.

Verlander, on the DL for the first time in his career, was to throw long toss again Thursday as he tries to work past his triceps strain. He also threw Wednesday with "minimal discomfort," Ausmus said.

Quiet side

President Calvin Coolidge was a man of few words. He was known as "Silent Cal."

A woman once went up to him and said she had bet a friend she could get him to say more than two words. His response: "You lose."

The Tigers might have their own version of "Silent Cal" in center fielder Anthony Gose, who hasn't said much more than he's happy to be here, he's trying to help the team win, and so on.

"He's on the quieter side," manager Brad Ausmus said. "There are some topics that can get him going.

"I'll let you guys figure out what those are."

Fans, of course, don't care what Gose says. They care what he does.

And so far, he's off to a great start, with a triple, double and single in his Detroit debut, Wednesday's 11-0 win over Minnesota.

The Tigers acquired him in the offseason for second baseman Devon Travis, who, according to some publications, was the Tigers' top prospect at the time. Travis was the Blue Jays' Opening Day second baseman, and he homered in his first major-league game.

Around the horn

Ausmus said he brought in Joakim Soria with two outs Wednesday because Soria hadn't pitched in several days, not because he was trying to get him in a ballgame before his first save situation. Soria, the closer in Joe Nathan's absence, retired the one batter he faced to end the game.

... Blaine Hardy is back with the team, with Nathan on the DL. Ausmus said he was first on the pecking order for a call-up, just ahead of fellow lefty Kyle Ryan, because of how he pitched last season.

... James McCann will get at least one start at catcher during the three-game Cleveland series, probably Sunday against left-hander T.J. House.

... The Tigers play on three Opening Days this year. They played theirs Monday, and will play in the Indians' on Friday and the Pirates' on Monday.