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Tigers' Iglesias eager to get back into action

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — Iggy is itching — to get back, that is.

The Tigers shortstop was back in Detroit on Friday afternoon, though he won't be activated off the disabled list until before Saturday's game.

He's expected to be in the lineup for Game 2 of the series against the Angels, but any guarantees beyond that aren't happening, manager Brad Ausmus said.

Iglesias and Erick Aybar, acquired from the Atlanta Braves earlier this month, will split the shortstop duties, with the hot hand getting the majority of the starts.

"Whoever plays better is gonna play," Ausmus said matter-of-factly — and not surprisingly, given what's at stake every night for a Tigers team that remains on the outside looking in on the playoff picture, even if it made up ground nicely with a three-game sweep against the Minnesota Twins. "Simple as that."

Iglesias, out since Aug. 10 with a hamstring injury, played four games during his Toledo rehab stint, and had six hits, including a home run.

Timing doesn't appear to be an issue

Aybar has had seven hits in eight games since joining the Tigers. He's a former Gold Glove winner, but that was in 2011, and the skills aren't what they used to be. He's capable on defense, however.

The Tigers have talked about playing Aybar possibly at third base on nights Iglesias plays shortstop. That would allow the Tigers to have a couple guys in the lineup who can do some different things, like hit-and-run and lay down a bunt.

"You can do it with those guys," Ausmus said during his pregame chat with reporters. "I'd rather have a guy hitting three-run home runs."

Iglesias could actually play some third, as that was his position in Boston before joining the Tigers in July 2013, and he played some third with the Tigers upon joining them, before Jhonny Peralta was suspended.

Aybar has only played one major-league game at third and is more comfortable at second, but the Tigers need no help there. He has been taking some grounders at third.

There's no word on a corresponding move for Iglesias' activation Saturday.

In other injury news, Jordan Zimmermann (neck/side) got his first of probably three rehab starts with Toledo on Friday night, and he went 3.2 innings, allowing no runs on two hits and a walk. He struck out one. Mike Pelfrey (back) might only get a couple rehab starts.

Nick Castellanos (broken hand) still is "a ways away" from returning, Ausmus said.

Looking out for the rookie

The Michael Fulmer Protection Act keeps on keeping on.

Fulmer, a leading contender for AL rookie-of-the-year honors, will start Saturday against the Angels, then will get at least one extra day before his next start.

The Tigers will use Thursday's off-day to allow him the extra day. He might get more than that. Ausmus didn't lay out the exact plans.

"We'll use the off-day to his advantage," Ausmus said. "He won't agree with it, but we think it's to his advantage."

Ausmus said Justin Verlander is one starter who is almost certain to pitch every fifth day the rest of the season.

Verlander is having a resurgent season that has put him in the Cy Young discussion. It all began the second half of 2015, and his performance actually was a big reason the Tigers decided to stay in win-now mode during the offseason, Ausmus said.

We went into the offseason thinking, 'All right, we have Verlander back,'" Ausmus said. "'We can compete for the division again.'"

In Ausmus' corner

Peter Gammons suggested Ausmus should be in the manager-of-the-year discussion. Ausmus' dry response. "Thanks Peter."

Gammons' rationale is that Ausmus has a rotation with three kids, Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd.

Fulmer has really impressed, but Boyd and Norris have looked like big-time pieces for the future, as well, especially lately.

"Both of them just have to get more consistent with throwing (the slider) where they want," Ausmus said. "They've done well, but they're still learning.

"They're learning themselves, they're learning the league, they're learning how to pitch in front of 35,000 people."

Around the horn

The Kirk Gibson Foundation's mission has included efforts to raise money for research into Parkinson's Disease, which the Tigers broadcaster was diagnosed with last spring. It also will raise money for other neurological disorders, like Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS), dementia and Alzheimer's.

The inaugural Kirk Gibson Foundation golf outing is Monday at Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc. For details, visit:  kirkgibsonfoundation.org.

... Tigers starters have a 3.35 ERA since the All-Star break, second in the AL, behind only the Tampa Bay Rays (2.91).

... At 1,002, Miguel Cabrera is one RBI from moving into the Tigers' top 10. At No. 10 now, Alan Trammell.

TIGERS VS. ANGELS

First pitch: 7:10 Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Scouting report

LHP Brett Oberholtzer (3-2, 5.27), Angels: First start of the season for Oberholtzer, who was claimed off waivers by the Angels from the Phillies earlier this month.

RHP Michael Fulmer (10-4, 2.58), Tigers: The AL rookie-of-the-year front-runner is coming off his toughest start of the season, allowing six runs on two hits to the Red Sox.

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