With six days left in camp, manager Jim Leyland has finalized his pitching staff and planned to meet with coaches and club officials Sunday evening to discuss the final opening on the bench. By Monday night, Leyland hopes to have his 25-man roster announced, leaving the final days of camp to prepare for the season instead of figuring out who's going to be on the team to open the season.
For Sunday, at least, the final position on the bench remained a battle between utility infielders Neifi Perez and Ramon Santiago along with first baseman Chris Shelton. When Spring Training began last month, Leyland was expected to carry two utility infielders, partly the reason Marcus Thames worked out at first base. That became more open to review as Shelton emerged as a hot hitter this spring, making him a viable option to get part-time at-bats behind Sean Casey.
"We just have to figure out how the club makes out the best with that last spot," Leyland said. "We have to figure out if we're better with Shelton, Perez or Santiago. Which way are we better?"
Santiago and Perez have enjoyed solid springs, too. Perez's performance of late, in fact, might well have salvaged his utility role, though his roster situation also works in his favor. He's out of options, and his $2.5 million salary this year is guaranteed, whether or not the Tigers keep him. Santiago has an option remaining, but he would have to pass through waivers in order to be sent to the Minors.
Leyland did not announce the pitching staff on Sunday. After Chad Durbin's four scoreless innings on Saturday against the Astros, the right-hander was expected to get the nod over Zach Miner and Bobby Seay for the last slot in the bullpen, leaving Detroit with one lefty reliever.
Durbin is out of options, and coming off his spring, his chances of passing through waivers aren't strong. Miner has an option left. Seay, who gave up a two-run eighth inning after giving up just one run in 9 2/3 innings this spring, can be sent to Minor League camp since he's not on a big-league contract.
Verlander throws across the street: Instead of facing the Yankees on television Sunday afternoon, Justin Verlander was facing guys who were camp teammates Sunday morning. Pitching in a Minor League intrasquad game for Triple-A Toledo, Verlander tossed six scoreless innings allowing two hits with three walks and eight strikeouts.
More important than the results, however, was how he felt. That ended up being an encouraging sign, too.
"The last couple innings, I felt like it was really a lot better for me," said Verlander, who threw 52 of his 85 pitches for strikes. "I just kind of slowed everything down and really felt like it was working well. The changeup came along great. It's the first time it's really been decent all spring."
The offspeed pitch, Verlander said, was the "polar opposite" of how it felt during his frustrating outing last Tuesday against the Pirates. That was the key; his curveball and fastball, by his account, have felt fine for much of the spring. So this was his first day to put that all together.
"The last couple innings, I felt like I was sync and felt pretty good," he said. "I just kind of want to log that in the memory bank and try to start there next start as opposed to working and finding it again."
Verlander remains on track to throw Friday against the Yankees in the Lakeland finale. If he can make a productive start by his standards, whether or not he's hit, he'll go into the regular season in good spirits rather than with that flustered feeling he had earlier this week.
"If I throw what I need to throw, I'll be satisfied," he said. "And that's because I know on most given days, if I throw what I need to throw, I'll be satisfied. I'm not looking for numbers. I'm looking for what I need to do, locate my fastball and throw my offspeed stuff for strikes."
The rundown: Once the roster is set, Leyland can spend the rest of the week focusing on preparation. In terms of fundamentals, that began anew today.
Instead of hitting right away, Leyland spent the first part of batting practice with his infielders working on rundown plays. He brought over Minor League players as baserunners so they could bring a game-type effort without Leyland worrying about injuring an outfielder trying to get out of the rundown.
"I wanted to do it [at] full speed," Leyland said, "because that's what happens in the game. They're not going to be running down a guy like me, obviously. So these kids were fantastic. We went through every possible rundown situation there was at live speed."
They'll be going through bunt plays and pickoffs as the week goes on. They went over these plays early in camp, but like last year, Leyland wanted to reinforce up the fundamental work late after the roster had been whittled to a more manageable number.
"We have a lot of that to do yet," he said, "but that's OK. That's the way we plan it out."
Injury updates: Carlos Guillen had his right shin heavily wrapped Sunday after taking a foul ball off it Saturday, but he's not expected to miss more than another day or so.
"It's feeling better," he said.
The Tigers had another injury scare in the afternoon when Curtis Granderson nearly hyperextended his wrist on a sliding catch to rob Robinson Cano of a base hit in the second inning. Granderson was shaking his wrist for a few minutes as he stood back up, and Leyland talked to him and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand once the inning was over, but he remained in the game.
"It surprised me right away," Granderson said. "Two or three pitches later, it was a little bit better. Got it taped up for precautionary reasons."
Granderson had it treated with ice after the game, but that was expected to be the extent of it.
Joel Zumaya left the team Sunday and was expected to remain out for at least another day. He has caught a flu bug that is making its way through the clubhouse.
Up next: The Tigers host the Nationals on Monday in a 1:05 p.m. ET start at Joker Marchant Stadium. Mike Maroth will take the mound opposite Jason Bergmann.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.