LAKELAND, Fla. -- The storyline with Rick Porcello going into Spring Training was the slider he was working on with pitching coach Jeff Jones over the past month. Two starts into the Grapefruit League season, his curveball has been a bigger pitch for him.
If Porcello is going to throw one breaking ball, it might be his choice.
Among the mix of pitches Wednesday against the Braves was a steady collection of curveballs. One worked out well, freezing Dan Uggla for a called third strike with runners on second and third and one out in the opening inning. Another hit Reed Johnson on a three-ball count to create the jam in the first place.
Good and bad, they were hard to miss, much like his previous outing against the Braves last Friday. The slider hasn't been seen. One scout watching Wednesday's outing said he didn't see any sliders, only curveballs when Porcello chose to go to a breaking ball.
Porcello confirmed as much.
"Right now, I'm just working on one breaking ball," Porcello said, "just working on getting the command of one and establishing that, and we'll go from there."
That doesn't mean the slider won't show up later, but it's not a priority now.
Porcello flirted with both at various points last season, and he had success at different stretches with each. As a young pitcher, the Tigers have preferred him to focus on one, usually the slider in past years, but they've been open to him working on both.
Porcello gave up three runs on four hits over his two innings of work in Detroit's 5-3 to Atlanta on Wednesday. All three runs came in on a first-inning home run by Juan Francisco, who jumped on a 1-0 fastball.
In a regular-season situation, it wouldn't be a pitch manager Jim Leyland would favor in that count. In this case, Leyland said, he just made a point of it.
"He just didn't make a very good selection, but I don't think he would've done that during the season," Leyland said. "With first base [open], to get behind 1-0 and throw a fastball in that situation, he wouldn't do that during the season."
Scherzer cleared to start Sunday against Braves
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Max Scherzer is scheduled to make his first start of the season in Sunday's 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Braves on MLB.TV after getting through a lengthy session of batting practice without trouble.
Scherzer threw 50 pitches and said he felt fine. At this point, Scherzer is ready to approach Sunday like he would any normal Spring Training outing.
The debut at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, Scherzer said, will allow him to get six starts. The right-hander made seven starts last spring, but he believes six is enough for him to be ready for the regular season.
"I didn't want to increase my Spring Training load," Scherzer said. "We looked at last year, and there was no reason for me to take on extra starts."
Scherzer said the muscular soreness in his shoulder that he battled last fall is no longer a problem. The main concern is the wear and tear of his innings totals over the last couple years, topping 210 each time when postseason starts are included.
Berry scatched from lineup due to knee discomfort
LAKELAND, Fla. -- For the second day in a row, Tigers manager Jim Leyland had Quintin Berry written into his starting lineup. For the second consecutive day, Leyland had to scratch Berry's name when the speedy outfielder felt discomfort in his left knee.
This time, the Tigers are going to give Berry a few days for treatment.
An examination Wednesday by Dr. Sal Montenegro, including X-rays and an MRI, confirmed tendinitis in Berry's knee, where the patella meets the quadriceps. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Berry will be treated with physical therapy and medication for the next few days, then re-evaluated.
Rand confirmed that Berry was dealing with the condition at the end of last season.
"He rehabbed it through the offseason," Rand said, "then he made a move that re-aggravated it the other day."
If it's going to happen, it's better that it happen early in the spring, when there's enough time for Berry to rest and still be ready for the season as long as the treatment works. There's also less pressure to rush him, and for him to rush back.
That said, it leaves the Tigers thin in their outfield ranks for a while, even this early in camp before any cuts have been made. Andy Dirks worked out before Wednesday's game with the team, including batting practice, but he hasn't yet been cleared to play. Dirks said they're going to "play it by ear," though he wasn't on the initial travel list for Thursday's game against the Rays in Port Charlotte.
Meanwhile, Brennan Boesch continues to work his way back from the right oblique strain that has sidelined him for the past week and a half.
Leyland hosts Tigers manager for a day
LAKELAND, Fla. -- One of the first tips Chuck Gotberg received as the Tigers' manager for a day came from one of the players. After seeing Gotberg wearing high socks like Jim Leyland during batting practice, Prince Fielder came over and corrected him.
"Prince said, 'We want to have a cool manager,'" Leyland said.
The manager for a day promotion in Spring Training has become a big draw for the Tigers in their charity auctions, enough that the club has two scheduled for this spring. The guest manager gets to take the lineup card to the umpiring crew at home plate before the game, sit with Leyland in the dugout, discuss strategy and sometimes put a play on.
He also gets to sit with Leyland in his pregame and postgame sessions with reporters.
"When they boo me," Leyland said beforehand, "I'll say, 'Blame it on Chuck.'"
Gotberg actually did have an idea when the Tigers were trying to rally, suggesting a sacrifice bunt from Bryan Holaday once Kevin Russo and Danny Worth both reached base with nobody out. In a regular-season scenario, Leyland said he might have done it. In a Spring Training setting, when reserve catchers usually only get an at-bat or two in a game, Leyland would rather let them swing.
Holaday flew out to left.
Gotberg won the honor through an auction last August to benefit Ilitch Charities. Gotberg owns American Manufacturing in Toledo, Ohio, where the company makes steel containers for Michigan's auto industry. He called it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"There's nowhere else in the world you can get this," Gotberg said, "so I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time [at the auction]."