The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 24, 2014

Pirates rained out; Rodriguez start delayed until today

Bradenton, Fla. — The spring training game between the Detroit Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out Monday.

Starting time

Pirates: Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, who was to start Monday, was rescheduled for today against Toronto. Instead of facing the Blue Jays, left-hander Jeff Locke is to pitch in a minor league game.

Trainer’s room

Pirates: Francisco Liriano’s status as Pittsburgh’s opening-day starter could be decided Wednesday, when the left-hander is scheduled to throw off a bullpen mound in either a minor league game or simulated game. Liriano left his last start early due to tightness in a groin.

“I feel good now, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Liriano said.

Tigers: Outfielder Rajai Davis (hamstring) got at-bats as the designated hitter.

Honoring the past

Pittsburgh will honor Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner, who died in February, by wearing a No. 4 patch on their uniforms this season. “We are humbled to honor one of the game’s greatest power hitters by wearing Ralph’s number on our sleeve,” Pirates President Frank Coonelly said.

Pittsburgh retired Kiner’s number in 1987.

Position battles

Tigers: With Davis and Don Kelly nursing hamstring injuries, Tyler Collins has an opportunity to win some playing time in the outfield. “He’s in much better position than he was on Saturday,” Ausmus said. Collins, a sixth-round pick in the 2011 amateur draft, batted .256 in 19 games last season with the Tigers.

Adding and subtracting

The  Tigers think Alex Gonzalez is not too old to be a solution to their shortstop problem.

In need of a replacement for injured Jose Iglesias, Detroit acquired the 37-year-old from the Baltimore Orioles on Monday for infielder Steve Lombardozzi.

Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski said Gonzalez could get the bulk of the playing time, sharing the position with Andrew Romine, who was acquired Friday from the Los Angeles Angels.

“I’m not looking at 150 games,” Dombrowski said. “He’s an older guy. But we do think he can be a key guy for us.”

Gonzalez has a .246 average with six major league teams and was the starting shortstop for the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins.

Gonzalez agreed Jan. 31 to a minor league contract that calls for a $1.1 million salary in the major leagues. He had a .429 batting average during spring training with Baltimore and is to report to the Tigers today.

“He’s always had great hands, and I can’t imagine his hands have gotten any worse,” Tigers manager Brad

Ausmus said. “I’ve heard great things about him in spring training, as far as how he’s moving. And I think his experience is a huge advantage.”

Dombrowski said his office had been busy for the past week trying to find replacement shortstops. There even was joking speculation the team might try to talk first base coach Omar Vizquel, 46, into making a comeback.

Vizquel saw Gonzalez play winter ball in Venezuela and gave the Tigers a positive scouting report.

“He’s younger than Omar,” Ausmus said with a laugh. Two years ago Vizquel was the oldest shortstop in big league history.

The 25-year-old Lombardozzi hit .259 with two homers and 22 RBIs for the Washington Nationals last season and was dealt to Detroit in December for pitcher Doug Fister.

 

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