For Tigers, report date reason to celebrate

Beginning of Spring Training marks fresh start for Ausmus' crew

For Tigers, report date reason to celebrate

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers spent all offseason trying to put together a team for a turnaround. Finally, the chance to see that team -- or at least the pitchers -- on the field is here.

Though most Tigers pitchers and catchers have been working out on the fields behind Joker Marchant Stadium for several days, Thursday marked their official reporting date. The actual reporting part is done, but the first official workout comes Friday, allowing manager Brad Ausmus, new pitching coach Rich Dubee and the rest of the staff to take a look.

On Twitter, left-hander Daniel Norris compared it to a holiday.

For Ausmus, it's a milestone he has followed since he was a kid, before he became a professional baseball player.

"I've always liked Spring Training," Ausmus said. "Before I even played as a kid, I used to love Spring Training. Growing up in a cold-weather climate [in Connecticut], it meant spring was near. Forget Groundhog Day; it was the start of Spring Training."

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In a sense, it is like a holiday of renewal for Ausmus, who begins his third season in charge entering a contract year but armed with arguably his deepest, most balanced roster yet. After weeks of staring at an upgraded roster with more pitching, lineup and bench options than he had last year, he finally gets a chance to put his players to work, including nine new guys.

Jordan Zimmermann, Mike Pelfrey, Mark Lowe, Justin Wilson and Jarrod Saltalamacchia were all among the early arrivals, joining such stars as Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez.

"A lot of new faces," Verlander said, "but I really like all the acquisitions."

All of them, newcomers and veterans alike, will be working with Dubee for the first time, making this a very important camp.

"We haven't actually gotten in-depth about [pitching] philosophy yet," Verlander said. "We've been talking about mechanics here and there, but I think what he's doing right now is just sitting back, watching and assessing."

Among those to report Thursday was Bruce Rondon, the hard-throwing former closer whose season ended early when he was sent home last September. Rondon has been in Florida since January after his winter-ball season ended in Venezuela, but he had been dealing with a virus.

One veteran who has yet to report is closer Francisco Rodriguez, who is still trying to obtain a work visa and travel to the United States from his native Venezuela. The Tigers expect that to happen in the coming days.

The first official workout for pitchers and catchers is Friday. Position players officially report Monday, with the first full-squad workout scheduled for Tuesday. Spring Training games begin with the Tigers' annual exhibition against nearby Florida Southern College on Feb. 29. Detroit's Grapefruit League opener takes place against the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 1. Both games are 1:05 p.m. ET starts at Joker Marchant Stadium.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.