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Bazardo delivers strong start for Tigers

Bazardo delivers strong start for Tigers

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Yorman Bazardo is in a bit of Spring Training limbo as the Tigers enter their final days before breaking camp, but he did his best to make the case to break out of it.

With Jeremy Bonderman starting in a Minor League game on Sunday morning, Bazardo took the ball for the big league team in the afternoon and sent down the Indians lineup in order. His three perfect innings marked his strongest performance, statistically, of the spring.

Whether or not he opens the season in Detroit likely depends on factors he can't control -- specifically, whether the Tigers trade for another reliever. What he could control, he controlled well.

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"I think I did pretty well," Bazardo said. "Hopefully, [manager Jim] Leyland will keep me in mind and give me a shot."

The Tigers have one spot left in their bullpen that hasn't been officially filled, now that Leyland finally told reporters that Denny Bautista was on the club. He also told right-hander Francis Beltran that he would not make the club, though he will accompany the team to Houston next weekend to pitch some innings. With Clay Rapada shelved again with shoulder stiffness and Francisco Cruceta still in the Dominican Republic awaiting a work visa from the U.S. government, that leaves Bazardo and fellow righty Aquilino Lopez as the only pitchers in camp whose status is uncertain.

Bazardo had allowed five runs over 5 1/3 innings over two outings before collecting himself with two-thirds of an inning of perfect ball on Thursday against Atlanta. Sunday put him in a comfort zone.

"I felt a lot better than [last week]," Bazardo said. "My mechanics were kind of out of rhythm. I was just trying to make the adjustment."

Leyland noticed the difference.

"I thought he was a little better today," Leyland said of Bazardo. "He threw a couple good changeups, a couple good sliders. He was a little crisper than he's been."

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A day earlier, Leyland said he had a gut feeling that trade talks would intensify over the next few days in the Tigers' search for relief help, though no deal was close. That situation hadn't seemed to have changed on Sunday. The Tigers could use Bazardo as potential trade bait, and even if they didn't, they could give him up if they try to sneak him through waivers. He's out of Minor League options.

The extra spot came open when Fernando Rodney's shoulder tendinitis forced him to begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. Rodney was examined on Sunday by team doctor Stephen Lemos, who found no damage in his shoulder. With that peace of mind, Rodney restarted his rehab process, playing catch on Sunday morning.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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