LAKELAND, Fla. -- While Rick Porcello got in his work pitching in a Minor League intrasquad game on the back fields at Tigertown, Nate Robertson was quietly standing near the opposite field. Perhaps it was fitting.
While Porcello works on finding the next step in his career toward becoming a front-line starter, Robertson is back where his career took off eight years ago on the 2006 American League championship team, now trying to see if he has enough left to get back to the big leagues one more time.
"Some guys think I'm a coach," Robertson joked, noting that ex-teammate Mike Maroth is the pitching coach for the Class A team in Lakeland.
Four years and seven teams after the Tigers traded him to the Marlins at the end of Spring Training in 2010, Robertson returned to his old organization two weeks ago on a Minor League deal. It's not really a comeback attempt, because he pitched last year in the Rangers' farm system. It's more like a homecoming for his potential last stop.
"I reached out to Detroit," Robertson said. "I know there are a lot of factors involved. With that being said, I wanted at least these guys here to get their eyes on it, just to look at it. And I'm fortunate and thankful for them just to take a look. And I'm having fun."
Robertson is a sidearming reliever now, having lowered his arm angle after coming back from another elbow surgery in 2011. The change put some movement back on his pitches, as well as some extra velocity.
Robertson had some respectable numbers in the Pacific Coast League last year, going 4-4 with a 3.04 ERA and allowing 45 hits over 50 1/3 innings for Triple-A Round Rock. He walked 23, struck out 40 and didn't allow a home run. Robertson held left-handed hitters to a .213 average (17-for-80), with eight walks and 23 strikeouts.
The Rangers had enough bullpen depth, including Neal Cotts and Robbie Ross from the left side, that Robertson never got the call. He's not in big league camp, but he's hoping to work his way back.
"You have to ask yourself if you think it plays with a big league lineup and a big league hitter's approach, and I think so," Robertson said. "But the biggest thing is I'm back here where it feels like it's home, and I'm glad to be back. I'm just having fun with it. I'm in a good place with it, and we'll see where it goes."
Tigers await answers on Iglesias, explore options
LAKELAND, Fla. -- While trade winds began to build around the Tigers in their search for a fill-in at shortstop, the team did not yet have a definitive answer or a rehab timetable on its starting shortstop, Jose Iglesias.
A Tigers spokesperson said the team would not have an update Wednesday on the status of Iglesias, who visited with foot and ankle specialist Dr. Thomas Clanton on Tuesday in Colorado. Both team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and Iglesias' agent, Scott Boras, said this week that Iglesias could end up seeing one more specialist after the Colorado visit. However, there was no confirmation Wednesday whether that visit was taking place.
The Tigers are expected to wait for all medical input before announcing anything further on Iglesias. The last medical update came from Iglesias himself, who said he had been diagnosed with "small fractures" in both shins. He, too, was waiting for input from specialists on a rehab schedule. The Tigers have had no comment on what Iglesias said.
A rehab process for shin splints or fractures can involve much more than simple rest, extending into dietary and hereditary conditions. The list of possible factors could explain the extra time being taken.
While that process wore on, the search for Iglesias' replacement at shortstop continued. The in-house candidates were off on the Tigers' lone off-day of camp, but the search for potential options outside of camp rolled on.
ESPN's Jayson Stark tweeted Wednesday morning that several scouts said their clubs had been contacted by the Tigers asking about potentially available shortstops. A rival American League talent evaluator had a similar sentiment, saying Detroit is casting a wide net.
While Rick Porcello made his scheduled start in an intrasquad game against a lineup of mainly Double-A level hitters, Tigers teams at other developmental levels were playing on the rest of the back fields at the Tigertown complex. The audience included a handful of scouts, with the Cubs and Phillies among teams represented.
Meanwhile, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reported Wednesday morning that Tigers vice president of player personnel Scott Reid has been in Cubs camp scouting infielder Darwin Barney and outfielder Nate Schierholtz. Barney, a 28-year-old second baseman and shortstop with strong defensive skills, has been mentioned in Tigers trade rumors in the past, including last summer before Detroit traded for Iglesias. Schierholtz is a 30-year-old left-handed hitter who fits the profile of a platoon outfielder, similar to the role Andy Dirks was set to fill before he had back surgery earlier this month.
Rumors have swirled around Phillies camp regarding All-Star shortstop Jimmy Rollins and his future with the franchise, but he has a no-trade clause and has told reporters more than once he wants to remain in Philadelphia.
One option that has not been gaining traction is free agent Stephen Drew, either due to the Draft-pick compensation required to sign him or the multiyear deal he is believed to be seeking to avoid another round of Draft-pick compensation next winter.
Porcello at work on the mound during off-day
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rick Porcello is getting used to the feeling of a lost off-day and an empty clubhouse. He had it again Wednesday.
While the Tigers had their lone off-day of the Grapefruit League schedule Wednesday, Porcello had to pitch. It was his turn in the rotation, and unlike the regular season, the Tigers line up their starters to throw every five days when healthy in order to build up their arms and stay on turn for a regular-season assignment.
The Tigers always set aside the next-to-last Wednesday of camp for an off-day. And Porcello's day to pitch almost always seems to fall on it.
"I've done it three times," Porcello counted, no doubt noting the lost fishing time.
Thus, the Tigers put together an intrasquad game on the back fields of the Tigertown complex, giving Porcello a lineup of mostly Double-A level hitters to face. He mowed through the lineup the first trip through before giving up some damage the second time around.
Porcello allowed two runs on six hits over six innings, walking one and striking out three. He threw 53 of 84 pitches for strikes, but he was doing more than simply getting his work in.
"I'm definitely working on getting the ball down and being more consistent with my sinker," Porcello said. "I was able to do that today and made some mechanical adjustments to put me back on track with that."
The adjustments involved not leaving the pitching rubber too quickly and putting his body too far out in front of his arm in his delivery. Otherwise, Porcello leaves pitches up. It's an adjustment he might have struggled to make a couple of years ago.
"I think when I'm off, I'm able to recognize some things a little quicker now," Porcello said. "I know my delivery a little bit better. I think the adjustments are definitely quicker. The important thing is for me to be able to make those adjustments in the game and not after the game."