Sarasota, Fla. — This could happen.
It’s late April. J.D. Martinez, attempting to work his way back into game shape after the foot injury, steps to the plate in an extended spring training game. The pitcher 60 feet, 6 inches away is, gasp, left-hander Anthony Gose.
Gose, who was the Tigers’ starting center fielder at the beginning of last season, has taken the first step in his transition to pitcher. He threw a 20-pitch, all-fastball bullpen session on Tuesday. It was, to all who watched, impressive.
“His delivery was smooth, not a lot of effort was involved,” said manager Brad Ausmus, one of the witnesses. “The ball came out of his hand good with real good finish to it.”
Purposely, there was no radar gun.
“We weren’t going to gun him,” Ausmus said. “He would just try to light up the radar gun and we don’t want him to get hurt. Let’s just say I was very impressed. It’s certainly something worth exploring.”
Ausmus said most likely Gose would begin the season in Lakeland, competing in extended spring training – which is where Martinez could start his rehab if he stays on the three-to-four-week timetable.
But Ausmus cautioned, the process will be long for Gose.
“There are a lot of things you’ve got to do when you are transitioning like this,” he said. “Everybody thinks all you do is pitch, which you have to do. He has to throw bullpens. He probably won’t throw a breaking ball until his third or fourth bullpen. He’s got to face live hitters, then he’s got to get in games – which he will do in extended spring.
“But he also has to learn to field his position. He’s got to learn to cover first base, to field a bunt. He’s got to learn how to pick guys off and control the running game. He’s not just throwing. There are other things that go into it.”
He will need to adapt to a new conditioning program with different shoulder exercises. There is also the added responsibility of continuing to play outfield and getting in his batting practice.
“It’s still ultimately his decision, whether he does it or not,” Ausmus said. “He doesn’t want to give up on center field. He feels there’s a possibility he will be forgotten as an outfielder.
“I think what we will do is have him throw his bullpens and continue the pitching program, then maybe DH and play outfield some in extended spring. There is no confirmation on that, but I believe he’s going to do that.”
The Tigers liked what they saw of left-handed reliever and Rule 5 draftee Daniel Stumpf, and they are hopeful he will remain in the organization. But that may end up being Stumpf’s call.
As a two-time Rule 5 draftee, he has the right to opt for free agency. If he clears waivers in the next 72 hours, he will be offered back to the Royals. He doesn’t have to go back there if he chooses not to.
“We will just see what happens in this three-day period,” Stumpf said. “I have an option to elect free agency. I definitely liked it here, but we have some things to talk about. We will see what the interest is out there.
“It would be nice to stay with the Tigers, but we’ll look at everything.”
Omar Infante continues to showcase his age-defying skills. He not only hit a home run Thursday in the Tigers’ 7-3 win over the Orioles, he made an incredible defensive play, turning what looked to be a single up the middle into a double play.
He ranged to his right, made a brilliant backhand stop behind second base. Then in one motion flipped it from his glove to shortstop Brendan Ryan who turned the 4-6-3 double play.
“He’s had a good spring, we just don’t have a spot for him — simple as that,” Ausmus said. “He’s hit the ball well, he’s played good defense, he’s run better than I expected. He’s been good all the way around.”
The Tigers re-assigned him to the minor-league camp earlier this week, but Infante is hopeful he will get a call from another big-league team.
“We will see what happens,” he said. “I feel good. If I don’t get a call, I will go to Toledo and keep playing.”
Around the horn
Although the roster seems set — Stumpf and Steven Moya have both been exposed to waivers, so the club is down to 26 players including J.D. Martinez who is bound for the disabled list — Ausmus said he would not reveal the exact order of the rotation beyond Justin Verlander until Saturday.