LAKELAND, Fla. -- Fu-Te Ni entered Spring Training on the outside of the Opening Day roster looking in after being designated for assignment over the offseason. After four outings and five innings, however, it's safe to say he has potentially worked his way into the Tigers' bullpen mix.
"He's had a very good spring, quietly," manager Jim Leyland said, "and we're watching him closely."
Ni reported to camp having gained weight from last year, by design. It isn't going to make him a power pitcher, but so far, he's a more consistent hurler with his command. He had allowed a hit and a walk over 3 1/3 spring innings until he gave up a run on a hit and two walks over 1 2/3 innings Monday against the Mets.
One point Leyland wants to see is a more consistent breaking ball to throw against left-handed hitters.
"He's got to have a weapon for a left-hander," Leyland said, "and it's got to be something tempting."
As long as Daniel Schlereth is healthy, he appears to have the inside track for a spot on the team as a lefty specialist. Brad Thomas, too, has a good chance to make the squad, but mainly as a long reliever. The Tigers could take three lefty relievers, especially given their predominantly right-handed pitching rotation.
Scherzer puts shaky outing in perspective
LAKELAND, Fla. -- No Tigers starter has had to say this spring that he was just getting his work in, regardless of the results. Max Scherzer wasn't about to say it, either, not when he tries to take a regular-season intensity into his Spring Training outings.
Simply put, he threw a changeup at the Marlins on Tuesday, and couldn't make it work.
"I was just trying to throw offspeed early in the count, wasn't able to throw strikes with it," Scherzer said. "[I] fell into hitters' counts, and they made me pay for it."
The toll was 2 1/3 rocky innings, during which he gave up more hits (eight) than he recorded outs (seven). He labored enough over the first two innings, trying to find his right mechanical form, that he went into the third inning with just 10 pitches before he hit his pitch limit for his third Spring Training start. A double, a single and a Matt Dominguez three-run homer later, he was handing the ball to manager Jim Leyland.
"He just couldn't find a slot," Leyland said afterwards. "He just couldn't get in a rhythm at all."
2010 Spring Training - Detroit Tigers
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The five runs charged to Scherzer were the first five he has allowed this spring, coming off five scoreless innings in his previous two starts. When he struggled in spring outings last year, he grew increasingly flustered. But while he was clearly not happy with Tuesday's outing, he also was able to put it into context. Last year's struggles, he said, came later in camp.
"It's always tough when you're trying to work on something, but you got burned trying to do it," he said. "You never want to fail, but sometimes you have to take this with a grain of salt. ... As bad as it is, it's also good that I get to go through something like this in Spring Training -- have to battle through a hard inning early and try to recuperate after that. It's good preparation for the season."
The changeup accounted for just under a fifth of Scherzer's pitches last year, according to research on fangraphs.com, a marked increase from his two seasons with the D-backs. By contrast, 65 percent of his pitches were fastballs, down from 71 percent in 2009.
Leyland confirms Kelly for Tigers' roster
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Don Kelly had to wait until the final cuts of Spring Training before he could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing he had made the Tigers' Opening Day roster. This year, the news came three weeks early.
"He's going to be on this team," manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday morning.
Leyland is still trying to figure out his outfield mix, but Kelly is going to be a part of it. Between his left-handed bat and his ability to play virtually any position but pitcher, he's too valuable to keep off the roster.
Leyland used to say those super utility players were National League types of players. He said it about Omar Infante once upon a time, and he once said it about Ryan Raburn. The last few years, though, Kelly's versatility has been useful to this American League team.
"There's something to be said for guys like Don Kelly," Leyland said. "First of all, he's a better player than people think. He did very well when he got a chance to play a little bit more last year. He got some big hits, played all over. He can play second base, turned two or three nice double plays [Monday against the Mets], made a couple nice plays. He's a real valuable guy. He's really a good fit on our team."
Kelly was flattered, and certainly glad to hear his roster spot was official. But he said that isn't going to change the way he goes about this camp.
"I'm not going to approach anything any differently," he said. "You can't approach it any differently than last year, when you're fighting for a spot. I still have a lot of work to do to get ready for the season."
Schlereth's BP session goes off without hitch
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Daniel Schlereth threw a bullpen session Tuesday without any problems from his strained left hamstring, giving the left-handed reliever hope that he can return to game action this weekend.
Schlereth estimated he threw about 40 pitches, a pretty long session for him.
"Pitches were down for the most part," Schlereth said, "which was a good sign."
Most likely, Schlereth will get one more mound session before he's cleared to pitch. He's also likely going to have to show he can run all-out without problems.
Running bases sign of progress for Guillen
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Carlos Guillen is one step closer to a return to action, and potentially quite close after running the bases without trouble Tuesday morning.
The move was a key gauge for head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, who said last weekend that he wanted to see how Guillen handled cutting around the bases on his surgically repaired left knee. He had been running fine straight ahead without turns.
Guillen indicated he will need a couple more times doing that, including at least once at full speed. After that, though, he could be close to game ready. That would put him on track to meet his original timetable. Tuesday marks three weeks left before camp breaks, and the timetable projected Guillen to be game-ready with two weeks left.
If Guillen returns with enough time to get his timing back at the plate and in the field, manager Jim Leyland said he'll "most likely" open the season as the starting second baseman. If not, the position goes to a competition between Will Rhymes, Scott Sizemore, Danny Worth and Ramon Santiago.
Manager Jim Leyland said he expects to make his first round of roster cuts next Tuesday, after the Tigers' final set of split-squad games and their first trip across the state to Viera, Fla., for a game against the Nationals. ... Lost in light of Max Scherzer's rough start were the 2 2/3 scoreless innings tossed by left-hander Charlie Furbush, who has battled his command. Leyland said Furbush will eventually have to be stretched out as a starter, the task he appears ticketed to do at Triple-A Toledo. ... Former Tigers catcher Mike Heath threw out a ceremonial first pitch Tuesday as part of the celebration of the Tigers' 75th Spring Training in Lakeland. Heath was born and raised in nearby Tampa, Fla.