Gardenhire: Norris, Fiers will get their turns this spring

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Lakeland, Fla. — Ron Gardenhire unveiled his early Tigers rotation Wednesday, a day before the Tigers were to meet Florida Southern in the customary start to Detroit’s preseason baseball schedule.

Two names were missing: Daniel Norris and Mike Fiers.

Don’t read into it, said Gardenhire, the Tigers manager. Norris is being treated gently because of some past dings and dents but will still take regular during-game turns once the Grapefruit League season begins, Friday at Tampa against the Yankees.

“Same with Fiers,” said Gardenhire, who Thursday will send Alex Wilson against Florida Southern as Wilson works to make the move from bullpen to Detroit’s rotation.

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Ryan Carpenter, a left-hander who was signed during the season as a minor-league free agent, will start Friday against the Yankees. Jordan Zimmermann will start in Friday’s home-field opener against the Blue Jays at Lakeland. Artie Lewicki and Matthew Boyd will each get a split-squad start Sunday (Pirates and Blue Jays), followed by Michael Fulmer in Monday’s game against the Orioles at Sarasota.

Norris pitched a batting-practice session Wednesday and felt fine, he said. Earlier this week he got a check-up in Philadelphia from William Meyers, a specialist in groin injuries, which Norris dealt with a year ago.

“The big thing here is making sure he’s coming out of his bullpens healthy,” Gardenhire said. “I think our pitching coach has a bead on him.”

That pitching coach, Chris Bosio, has already made a big impression, Norris said Wednesday. There have been mechanical adjustments, Norris said, with emphasis on maintaining “balance on the rubber.”

Norris came to the Tigers in the summer of 2015 in a whopping trade with the Blue Jays that sent David Price to Toronto. He has neither pitched with steady health, nor with steady success, since coming to the Tigers.

It’s a timeline Norris intends to change, for his and his team’s benefit, beginning in Florida and two months before he turns 25.

Road rules

Gardenhire understands big-league baseball’s intent. The game’s brass prefers that games in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues not resemble minor-league scrimmages.

There is a strong advisory that teams bring at least five name-brand players to any contest, which is always more challenging on the road.

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More than the fact veteran players aren’t big on long bus rides, those trips can be tough on a player’s back, which in the case of Tigers star Miguel Cabrera all but guarantees he’s not going anywhere outside the immediate area code as the Grapefruit League schedule unfurls.

“You try and be respectful of this whole thing,” Gardenhire said of a team’s daily preseason lineup. “You try and do the best you can. Home games are very important.

“And we do our best on the road.”

Tribute at Tampa

The Tigers and Yankees will join with their big-league cohorts Friday in paying tribute to the shooting victims from Parkland, Fla.

The teams will wear caps of the kind worn by baseball players at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, the site where 17 were killed last week by a teenage gunman.

It’s a single-day tribute, with teams in the Grapefruit League, and in Arizona’s Cactus League, participating in the memorial tribute.

Sound down

Gardenhire has been big in spring camp on music. All that practice-field silence during the team’s early workouts gave way this week to a parade of songs from myriad music genres: from Martha and the Vandellas, to the Beatles, to Johnny Cash, to some tame rap and hip-hop cuts.

Wednesday’s tunes, however, were noticeably low-volume.

“Some people were whining,” said Gardenhire, taking a playful poke at Joe Vavra, the team’s quality-control coach.

Gardenhire quoted Vavra as saying that a playlist that earlier had boomed “Ring of Fire” and “Dancing In the Streets” — among other classics — needed to be toned down.

“I have to tell ’em what relays are coming,” said Gardenhire, quoting Vavra as he sent a series of barbs Vavra’s way.

Gardenhire’s tongue nearly poked through his cheek when he said Vavra needed a “voice” rather than the soft Wisconsin lilt he customarily uses to direct players.

Gardenhire, with a wink, said the music would soon be back to higher decibels. And, that Vavra’s voice might need to adjust accordingly.