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Ausmus detects stalling loophole in walk rule

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — When Major League Baseball announced it was likely to change the intentional walk rule, allowing teams to simply put a hitter on without throwing four pitches, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus sent a text to commissioner Rob Manfred.

“I said, ‘So if a new pitcher comes in, he could throw no pitches and we could take him out?’ ” Ausmus said. “The answer was, ‘Yes.’ ”

That would seem to negate the commissioner’s initiative to speed up pace of play. As ESPN’s Buster Olney pointed out, there could be a pitching change, an intentional walk and another pitching change. A manager could use the rule as a stall tactic when a pitcher suddenly gets into trouble before a reliever can get ready in the bullpen.

A manager could just use a starting pitcher to come in, after a light warm-up, and intentionally walk the hitter while the reliever heats up.

“Is the rule going to be in place this year?” Ausmus said. “I honestly don’t know. One minute there is a rift between the players and MLB, and the next minute we have some new rules. … Until I get a letter or phone call telling me it’s a rule, I am going to pretend it’s last year’s rule book.”

Castellanos ill

Nick Castellanos, who was slated to start at third base and bat sixth, was sent home Friday morning. He was fighting flu-like symptoms. Omar Infante got the start at third base.

The Tigers lineup card for Saturday’s game showed Andrew Romine at third, so they are expecting Castellanos to need another day to convalesce.

Around the horn

Justin Verlander will start and pitch two innings against the Braves Saturday. Blaine Hardy, A.J. Achter, Mark Lowe, Alex Wilson, Shane Greene and Justin Wilson are also expected to throw.

… There was an upset in the team’s annual Rag Ball tournament — a contest in which the pitchers line up in front of a screen and try to field hot grounders from Omar Vizquel and Matt Martin. Lefty Kyle Ryan beat Daniel Norris in the individual finals. In the team competition, Verlander’s crew prevailed.

Twitter.com: @cmccosky