Tigers set early kickoff date for spring training

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Detroit — With more days off scheduled in 2018, and with Opening Day targeted for a record-early date, March 29, the Tigers are looking also at an early-bird kickoff to their 2018 spring-training schedule.

They’ll open Feb. 22 with their usual preseason goodwill game against Florida Southern at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Two days later, they play their Grapefruit League home opener against the Blue Jays.

The Yankees will visit Lakeland three times: March 6, March 17, and March 20.

The remainder of the Grapefruit League calendar will be released later. The Tigers, of course, have been training at Lakeland, Florida, since 1934. It’s big-league baseball’s longest alliance between a team and a spring-training town.

Serious matter

The Tigers say there are no immediate plans to add protective netting in the aftermath of Thursday’s accident at Yankee Stadium when a 4-year-old girl was hit by Todd Frazier’s line drive.

The Tigers follow the outline presented by Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office that requires netting from the foul screen to the dugout steps. Ten teams have netting that extends beyond the minimum.

Ron Colangelo, Tigers vice president of communications, said there is “ongoing communication” internally and with Manfred’s office on the fan-safety issue.

“The Tigers are looking at this closely, and have been,” Colangelo said.

Sunday switch

In a bid to make traffic and parking easier for customers on Comerica Park’s final baseball day of 2017, the Tigers and Twins will play at 12:10 p.m. Sunday.

The Lions will be busy against the Falcons at Ford Field and the side-by-side venues were never ideally designed to handle same-time events.

Thus, the Tigers will play an hour earlier, while the Lions and Falcons will kick off at 1 p.m.

As expected

Ausmus made official following Thursday’s game what seemed, by virtue of default, to be obvious.

Daniel Norris will start in Friday's rematch against the Twins.

Norris hasn’t started a game since July 5. Time on the disabled list, followed by bullpen stints in a bid to get him realigned, have led to the layoff.

But the Tigers are fresh out of fresh starters and Norris was Thursday’s necessary pick.

“We feel long-term he’s a starter, and he’s pitched a little better lately,” Ausmus said. “Let’s throw him in there.”

Twins at Tigers

Time: 7:10 p.m. Friday, Comerica Park

TV/radio: FS1/97.1

Starting pitchers

Twins, RHP Kyle Gibson (11-10, 5.07): He’s a former first-round Twins pick who hasn’t been flashing ace-grade stuff. Tigers have twice beaten him in 2017.

Tigers, LHP Daniel Norris (4-7, 5.38): Making his first start since July 5.