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Detroit — Brad Ausmus doesn't overly fret spring-training statistics, good or bad.

But when he saw lefty reliever Tom Gorzelanny getting hit around by minor-leaguers on the backfields in Tigertown, well, that was a bit eye-opening.

"We were," said Ausmus, "a little concerned about him."

Gorzelanny never has lit up the radar gun, but his velocity was down, his walks were up, and there was some debate —though not as serious as fans might've believed — whether the veteran would be coming north to Detroit.

Signed to a one-year, $1-million contract in the winter, he probably was always coming north — barring injury. The question was if he'd stay there.

Three weeks into the 2015 season, Gorzelanny actually has been one of the Tigers' most consistent relievers, with five scoreless outings out of seven, including 1.1 innings of scoreless relief in Saturday's 4-1 victory over the Indians at Comerica Park. That earned Gorzelanny his first hold as a Tiger, not that he's wrapped up in stats, either.

"Spring training is for getting ready," Gorzelanny said after a stretching session ahead of Sunday's series finale against the Indians. "It's not spring playoffs. It's not spring September. It's there to get you ready for the season.

"The season's what matters, not spring."

It should be noted Gorzelanny, 32, has had more bad springs than good springs, at least in terms of his ERA.

But Gorzelanny isn't a guy the Tigers knew a ton about, so there was reason to wonder what he'd bring to the table this season.

He also had shoulder surgery that cost him much of 2014, though in the 23 games he did pitch for the Brewers last season, he had a 0.86 ERA (WHIP still was high at 1.429).

"He is a veteran," Ausmus said of Gorzelanny, in his 11th season in the major leagues. I'm not a huge believer in spring training anyway, and I'm certainly not a huge believer in spring training when it's a veteran guy that's just getting ready. His velocity has jumped up a few miles per hour (to 90ish with the fastball), he's poised on the mound, he pitches like he's been there before, which he has. He doesn't seem to be affected by the situation."

Outside of closer Joakim Soria, Gorzelanny has been the Tigers' best reliever, so far.

He's jumped right ahead of Ian Krol and Blaine Hardy in the pecking order among left-handers Ausmus turns to first in tight games, as he did Saturday.

Gorzelanny entered the game in the seventh inning, with a runner on first base, two out and the Tigers leading 4-1, and he struck out Michael Bourn to finish the inning.

Then, after Michael Brantley doubled and Carlos Santana singled with one out, Gorzelanny got Tiger killer Brandon Moss — fresh off a seven-RBI game — to bounce into a double play to keep the Indians off the board, and to get the ball to Soria with the Tigers still up three. Soria closed it out, 1-2-3 style again, as the Tigers snapped their four-game losing streak.

Back in February and March, Gorzelanny probably wasn't the guy Ausmus was envisioning bridging the gap from the starting pitcher to the closer.

"You still have to keep your wits about you," Ausmus said of Gorzelanny's rough camp. "This is a veteran guy, and this isn't his first spring training."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984

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