LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander is still looking for his first hit in a Tigers uniform. His younger brother, Ben, would've loved nothing more than to become the first Verlander to do that.
The way Justin was cheering him on as he stepped to the plate with the bases loaded Friday, he probably wouldn't have minded either.
"I think he's past the point of thinking he's going to get his first hit, before me at least," Ben Verlander said. "It's kind of become a joke between us now. I used to say something and he'd get mad at me."
Hours after Justin Verlander threw a live batting-practice session in what he hopes is the last step before his first start this spring, Ben Verlander made his first game appearance ever in a Tigers uniform. The Minor League outfielder, a 14th-round Draft pick by the Tigers last year, was called up from Minor League camp for the day as an extra player for Detroit's home split-squad game with the Yankees, a 7-4 loss.
So awesome to able to be on the same field as my brother verly32 today. http://t.co/vnkovMAPhW- Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) March 1, 2014
On most early Spring Training days, Justin is gone by the seventh inning. When Ben entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh, Justin was standing at the top of the dugout steps cheering.
"Justin had mentioned something to me, so I told him I'd try to get him in," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Ben seemed like he got as big of an applause as Justin."
When Ben stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom half, most of the stadium was cheering. The former Old Dominion University slugger was used to blocking out crowd noise, but he couldn't help but notice.
Verlander struck out swinging at a Brian Gordon breaking ball. He flew out to right field in the eighth against Chase Whitley, after which Justin came out and greeted him.
"He just told me he was proud of me," Ben Verlander said.
That leaves Ben Verlander 0-for-2 for the Tigers this spring. His older brother, however, is 0-for-26 in the regular season.
"Knowing a lot of these guys since Justin's been in the organization, and being able to take batting practice, to be able to come out here today and play with these guys, to this point is one of the best experiences of my life," Ben Verlander said. "To say there weren't nerves would be a lie. There were a lot of nerves. ... Just to be able to play with these guys on this stage in this atmosphere, it's really one step closer to my dream coming true."
Iglesias out roughly a week with nagging shin splints
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The shin splints that have bothered Jose Iglesias off and on throughout his baseball career have flared up again. The Tigers' shortstop will be sidelined for a week while the team tries to reduce the inflammation and keep it from coming back.
Technically, it's being called a stress reaction in both shins, but it's more a difference of severity. It's painful enough that it would be an issue even in the regular season. With four weeks to go before Opening Day, the Tigers' medical staff wants to use the extra time to find a long-term solution.
"It's a stress reaction of the shins, left and right, probably from moving on the different surfaces," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Friday morning. "The guy works out all winter and then comes onto the softer ground. And we just want to nip it in the bud. We don't want it to become an issue.
"Last year he had it when he came to us, and obviously in the middle of the season it's a little more difficult [to treat]. So we're taking the opportunity in Spring Training to try to find the program that works best for him."
Manager Brad Ausmus estimated Iglesias won't play for "in the neighborhood of a week." He was scheduled to start Friday's split-squad game against the Phillies; Hernan Perez took his place.
Iglesias started at shortstop Thursday and played well against the Braves, going 1-for-2 with a walk and an infield single he ran out to beat a throw. While his foot speed seemed fine, his shins were aching. At that point, Iglesias was trying to play through the issue.
The Tigers were aware of it. A bone scan taken Wednesday and an MRI conducted Thursday came back negative for any structural damage. The way Iglesias looked while moving Thursday was a concern.
Detroit officials were aware of Iglesias' shin issues when he came over last July. He had them while he was with the Red Sox and came down with similar issues last September. The fact that he's having them again is not a shock to the medical staff, even though it's early.
"He had some episodes late in the season with us. We treated him the rest of the year," Rand said. "He also did some offseason rehab for this to try to put it behind him as well. But a lot of times, once you come back onto the baseball surface and you put the spikes back on, occasionally you have those issues. We just have to find a way to get him by that, get a program that he feels comfortable with."
That includes preventative exercises, treatment, even orthotics and footwear. Rand said they even looked at his gait in his run. The problem may not ever be completely healed, but just lessening the frequency and the severity of the episodes could make a big difference over the course of his career.
"We're looking to find the right combination from a treatment perspective, from an exercise perspective, to kind of put this behind him. And we have that opportunity," Rand said. "This is the time to do that, in Spring Training. We have plenty of time to get him ready, so that's what we're looking to do."
Verlander advancing toward start with live BP session
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Verlander's second session against hitters went off without any issue Friday morning at the Tigertown complex. The next hitter he faces will be wearing an opposing uniform, most likely next week. The only question is when.
Manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones want to wait a couple of days to make sure Verlander, who has been held back a bit this spring following core muscle surgery in January, feels fine before writing him back into the Tigers' rotation. Verlander, though, is already starting to prepare, complete with mechanical tweaks.
"There's still some things that I'm working on," Verlander said. "One of the things isn't really an easy fix, so I'm going to have to get off the mound a little bit more than I would if it was just a normal bullpen [for] just fine-tuning. It's going to take a little bit of time. I'm going to try to throw a little bit more than I have."
Verlander and Jones both said he was less erratic in his pitching motion in Friday's session. He threw 55 pitches, according to Jones.
Tigers lefty prospect Kyle Lobstein is set to start on Saturday. If Verlander feels OK, it isn't difficult to envision him filling that spot the next turn through the rotation. If everyone makes their turn, it would come up Thursday.
Verlander will throw at least one bullpen session beforehand, possibly two if he wants to make a mechanical adjustment immediately.
"It was just something Jeff and I both saw, one of the things I really need to get back to the way I throw," Verlander said. "I think I kind of got out of whack a bit last year. That might have had something to do with the core muscle [injury], it might not have. I don't know. But I know I don't need to worry about that. That's healed up. I need to get back to the way I should throw physically, mechanically."
Tigers single-game tickets on sale today
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Winter weather is forecast to return to Michigan with a fury this weekend, but on the first Saturday in March, the race for Tigers tickets heats up. Single-game tickets for all Tigers regular-season home games go on sale at 10 a.m. ET.
Tickets will be on sale online at tigers.com/tickets or by phone at 866-66-TIGER for those trying to avoid the cold. Fans can also buy tickets in person at the Comerica Park box office on Witherell Street. Fans are not permitted to wait in line overnight, but they can pick up a numbered wristband Friday evening to reserve a spot in line.
Tickets on sale include the March 31 Opening Day contest against the Royals. Opening Day tickets purchases are limited to four per customer.
• Joba Chamberlain said the much-photographed smiley-face tattoo surrounding the surgical scar from his Tommy John surgery dates back to last year. "I thought about it and I'd seen what everybody else had done, so I wanted to do something different," Chamberlain said. "I always try to turn a negative into a positive."
• The Tigers used a unique defensive shift against some of the Yankees' left-handed power hitters Friday, shifting third baseman Don Kelly into short right field while keeping the rest of the infield as is. It was the first strong defensive shift for Detroit, which added a defensive coordinator this offseason as part of Ausmus' staff.