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With Brad Ausmus pitching, Cameron Maybin takes batting practice in the cage for the first time since his wrist injury.

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Lakeland, Fla. – The Tigers have bulked up their depth this offseason with the idea of needing it later in the season to cover the normal attrition of a 162-game season.

They did not expect to need it this soon.

“Yeah, we kind of knew the depth was there, but we’re already tapping into it,” manager Brad Ausmus said before the game Thursday against the Yankees. “Hopefully it pays dividends immediately.”

The Tigers are expected to start the season with six players on the disabled list – centerfielder Cameron Maybin (wrist) and pitchers Daniel Norris (back), Blaine Hardy (shoulder), Alex Wilson (lat), Angel Nesbitt (ankle) and Jeff Ferrell (shoulder).

The first four were expected to make the 25-man roster.

“I am confident in this team, but the health issue is always a concern, especially on the pitching side,” Ausmus said. “That’s always a concern for me.”

There were some encouraging medical updates Thursday:

* Maybin took batting practice Thursday and didn’t seem to have any issues. The real test will be how the wrist feels Friday. If all is well, he could play in a minor-league game. It would be his first live at-bats since he was hit on the wrist in his first spring at-bat.

“He’s going to need 40 at-bats or so,” Ausmus said. “And we will slowly extend him in the outfield. He will switch between playing the outfield and DHing.”

Barring any setback, it will be at least a two-week process to get Maybin back up to game speed.

“It’s like it’s the beginning of spring training for him,” Ausmus said.

* Norris has been throwing and working out with no residual pain from the fractures in his spinous process in his lower back. He has extended his throwing out to 90 feet.

“I threw the last two days and I worked out and then throughout the day I totally forgot about it,” Norris said. “That is a good sign for me because prior to that it was all I could think about because I could feel every time I did something.

“It’s kind of like my oblique injury last year – I just woke up one day and it wasn’t there.”

No timetable has been set yet for his throwing program. It is expected he will make a couple of starts in extended spring training and then possibly be sent to Toledo.

“It’s going to take some time,” Ausmus said. “He’s got to get back on the mound and build his pitch count up.”

He was at 60 pitches before the injury.

* Hardy and Wilson have been throwing and both are trending toward a quick recovery. Because of the amount of innings both pitched last season, and because both experienced arm fatigue at the end of the year, the Tigers will be very cautious.

Nesbitt and Ferrell, once they are cleared, are expected to start their seasons in Toledo.

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