Ausmus: V-Mart will be a pinch-hitter in Pittsburgh

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Catcher James McCann congratulates relief pitcher Joakim Soria after the 9-6 win Saturday.

Cleveland – Here are some pre-game news bits:

■It's not very often a manager will rest a player as hot as shortstop Jose Iglesias, but Brad Ausmus has been consistent about his plan to rest Iglesias periodically throughout the season.

"He didn't complain about anything, I just felt we should give him a day," Ausmus said.

Iglesias, who went 3-for-4 Friday and is hitting .600 through four games, missed the 2014 season with stress fractures in both legs. He has not played more than four straight games since 2013.

"All guys need a rest, whether it's physical or mental," Ausmus said. "I am going to err on the side of caution physically with Iggy because he hasn't played as many games in a row and he's coming off missing a full season."

There is another side to it, as well. Players like Andrew Romine, who started at shortstop Saturday, hasn't had an at-bat since the team left Florida.

"We have a pretty deep, semi-set lineup, but the guys who aren't in the lineup every day are a big part of the season for us," Ausmus said. "We have to find spots to get them in and give them some at-bats so when we do call on them late in a game or later in the season, you do that knowing they have honed their skills prior to that."

■Speaking of getting bench players into games, Ausmus said James McCann would start behind the plate Sunday and Rajai Davis would start in center field against Indians left-hander TJ House.

■The Tigers open a three-game interleague series in Pittsburgh Monday, which means Victor Martinez will be on the bench.

Coming off meniscus surgery Feb. 10, Martinez is not ready to play first base.

"He won't play in the field in Pittsburgh," Ausmus said. "He will be a pinch-hitter. He will probably be the best pinch-hitter in the game."

■Justin Verlander, on the DL with a triceps strain, threw on flat ground before the game Saturday. He threw 30 pitches off the bullpen mound on Friday and said the arm "felt great." He only threw fastballs, sliders and change-ups. He did not throw the curveball.

Ausmus said the plan was still for Verlander to throw a full bullpen on Sunday, which would be between 40 and 50 pitches.

"He's moving in the right direction," Ausmus said.

■Last Tuesday, Tigers left-hander Kyle Lobstein packed his car in Lakeland and began heading north up I-75. He wasn't sure as he started out whether he was heading to Louisville, where the Toledo Mud Hens were opening the season, or coming all the way to Detroit to join the Tigers.

He had stopped outside of Atlanta when he got the news. Verlander was going on the DL and he was taking his spot in the rotation.

"It's always exciting being up here," said Lobstein, who will make his 2015 debut Sunday. "But really, I didn't take (getting sent down to Triple A) as a disappointment because I felt it was a positive exchange between the club and I, about this year and building off last year. I just took it in stride and tried to get ready for the season the same way I would've if I was up here."

Lobstein threw 89 pitches to High-A hitters last Tuesday, so the start Sunday comes within his normal routine. He started and got no decisions in two Tigers wins over the Indians last September. He allowed two runs his first outing against them and four the next.

He's a better pitcher now than he was then.

"I feel I have gotten better," he said. "I've been able to work on my curveball and I feel strong with it now. It's still a work in progress but it's been a lot more consistent for me. I am able to use it more effectively than at the end of last year when it was so inconsistent."

■Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand gave medical updates on three key players who are starting the season on DL:

--Right-hand pitcher Bruce Rondon, who has biceps tendonitis, is still not throwing, Rand said.

"He will resume throwing when he is asymptomatic," Rand said.

Rondon has not pitched since March 31.

* Outfielder Steven Moya, who has plantar fasciitis, is hitting off the tee and soft toss with "no complaints," Rand said. He is not running yet, though.

* Right-hand pitcher Drew VerHagen (back) was sent to California to see specialist Dr. Robert Watkins on Monday. Rand said VerHagen was asymptomatic and the exam was more of a final follow-up. If all goes well, he would begin a throwing program to rebuild his arm strength.