LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jordan Lennerton had just a couple of weeks between his last game of winter ball and his first day of Spring Training. But he has had years to think about making it to a Major League camp.
Now that he's here at last, he's not going to let the logjam ahead of him get the best of him.
"I'm not just here to go through the motions," Lennerton said. "I'm here to try to compete."
For a first baseman in the Tigers system, that's not an easy task. For a player who has fought his way to get to this point against nearly everyone's expectations, making it to his first big league camp at age 28, that's a mode of survival.
For a Tiger who thrived in winter ball, it's also not impossible.
Like Brennan Boesch and Andy Dirks in past years, Lennerton comes to camp with a hot bat, having spent most of his offseason tearing up winter ball. Except for the past two weeks of rest, and a brief break for the holidays, Lennerton has seen live pitching since early November.
For the most part, he was pounding it. His .340 average, 13 doubles, five home runs and 21 RBIs earned him MVP honors in the Puerto Rican League. He then made the jump to the Dominican League and helped get Leones del Escogido to within a game of a championship.
Add in a full season last summer at Triple-A Toledo, including a spot in the All-Star Futures Game, and Lennerton played about 200 games in a full-year stretch. Asked if he had to fight off fatigue, he shook his head.
"I love to play," Lennerton said. "That's what I live to do. I don't find it fatiguing. When you enjoy playing this game, you find a way to get yourself going."
That attitude carries him not only through a long stretch of games, but a cluttered path through Spring Training. Lennerton goes from looking up at Prince Fielder to looking up at Miguel Cabrera at first base in Detroit. He has the advantage of being a left-handed hitter on a team that could use one in late-game situations, but also the downside of not playing another position, limiting his versatility in a bench role.
The one thing he can do to help his cause is hit. He did enough of that over the past year that the Tigers chose to put him on the 40-man roster rather than lose him in the Rule 5 Draft. He did enough in winter ball, fighting off a heavy dose of cutters from pitchers in Puerto Rico, that he shouldn't have much trouble finding his timing at the plate. When hitters step into the box against pitchers Tuesday morning, no Tiger in camp not named Cabrera should feel more comfortable.
Even if he can't make an Opening Day roster, he can make the kind of impression that earns him a look if the Tigers have an early-season injury. It's the way Boesch and Dirks found their way to the big leagues in 2010 and 2011.
"It wouldn't be the first time," said Lennerton. "That's what I'm striving for."
No ragging Chamberlain for this championship
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The way Joba Chamberlain threw his glove in the air and tore off his warmup jersey, he looked like he had just won the World Series. In actuality, he only won the Tigers' ragball championship, and he was just playing around.
He was, however, a Cinderella story.
"Some may say he's the first 12 seed to win the championship," manager Brad Ausmus said.
Others would say he's the first Tiger to win the championship, period. The drill, in which pitchers try to field a sharply-hit comebacker from about 30 feet away, only became part of the team's Spring Training this year, having been brought over by Ausmus from his days as a Padres special assistant.
As a symbol of the Ausmus change, ragball became the most-chronicled workout in Tigers camp since pitchers fielding practice in 2007, following the Tigers' spat of pitchers' errors in the 2006 World Series.
It was not new to Chamberlain, who knew it from Yankees camp. The familiarity helped him outlast Phil Coke in a nine-round tiebeaker to win his group, then beat out a field that included Max Scherzer and Kyle Lobstein.
Ausmus turned it into a competition after seeing how players responded to it on the first day of workouts Friday, adding a prize for the winner.
Asked what he won, Chamberlain responded, "Pride."
Actually, he won a little more than that.
"Chamberlain wins the pot," Ausmus said. "Everybody chipped in some money."
Ausmus wants left-handers with right stuff
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has already stated his potential desire for two left-handed relievers in his bullpen, something the Tigers didn't always have in past years. That does not, however, mean he wants two lefty specialists.
If Ausmus is going to carry two lefties, he would like to count on one of them to be able to retire right-handed hitters in more than a one- or two-batter role.
"You'd like to have a lefty who can get both out," Ausmus said, "and then also have that lefty ideally that can get a big left-handed hitter in the eighth inning with the game on the line to get you out of that inning."
That thought process, Ausmus said, could also be flipped, providing use for a right-handed reliever who can retire left-handed hitters. Al Alburquerque and Joaquin Benoit fit that profile last year.
Tigers sign six to one-year contracts
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers began the process of signing their pre-arbitration eligible players Monday by announcing one-year contracts with left-hander Casey Crosby, right-hander Jose Valdez, catcher Ramon Cabrera, first baseman Jordan Lennerton, shortstop Eugenio Suarez and outfielder Daniel Fields.
None of the six are considered favorites to make the Opening Day roster, but just about all of them have the potential to reach the Majors at some point during the season depending on injuries or other circumstances.
The deals mean the Tigers have 25 players on their 40-man roster under contract. The remaining 15 are all pre-arbitration, meaning the Tigers can unilaterally renew their contracts at a set rate if the two sides can't reach an agreement on a salary in the next few weeks.
Tigers to hold Spring Training tryout camp March 3
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers will hold their annual Spring Training tryout camp on Monday, March 3 at their Tigertown minor league complex behind Joker Marchant Stadium.
The setup is the same as previous years. The tryout is open for players aged 18-23 or older players with previous professional experience.
No pre-registration or participation fee is necessary. Players most provide their own glove and workout equipment, while the Tigers will provide baseballs, helmets and wood bats.
Registration for the camp begins at 8 a.m. ET. The workout will begin at 9 a.m.
• Though Tigers pitchers are scheduled to begin facing hitters in live batting practice on Tuesday, Justin Verlander is expected to throw a regular bullpen session without hitters in place. The Tigers are bringing him along carefully as he works his way back from core muscle surgery.
• Ausmus will speak to the full Tigers squad for the first time on Tuesday morning. "I just have to be myself. I know what points I want to make," Ausmus said.
• Ausmus said he does not have any intrasquad scrimmage games planned before the Tigers begin their Spring Training schedule next Tuesday against Florida Southern College.