TAMPA, Fla. -- On the first day of Tigers workouts, new manager Brad Ausmus had his pitchers working on pickoff throws, including the little-used pickoff to third base. Given Ausmus' focus on preparation all spring, it was surely going to come into play in a game this spring.
Ausmus just didn't want it in this game. And as he walked out of the dugout Friday night, having seen reliever Luis Marte called for a balk that brought in the Yankees' winning run in a 3-2 Tigers loss, Ausmus was struggling to figure out why Marte tried a pickoff in the first place.
Then it hit him.
"We have a play where you pick to third, and I unknowingly gave it," Ausmus said. "Really, as I was walking up the runway, I realized that I had given it to him. Don't blame the player for that one. Blame the manager."
For all the praise heaped on Ausmus for his intellect and his focus on preparation, he was bound for a miscue. This was the first noticeable one, although he might have gotten away with it and left Marte with the blame had he not fessed up after the game.
"It was my fault," Ausmus reiterated. "The player didn't screw up. I actually ended up giving a sign by accident, and realized after I walked off the field that I had given a sign. You can chalk that one up to me."
Marte had runners at the corners and one out in the bottom of the ninth. Third baseman Francisco Martinez apparently did not pick up the accidental sign, because he wasn't at the bag when the throw came in. That brought the balk call, which brought in the game-ending run.
Joba escapes unscathed against old friends
TAMPA, Fla. -- Joba Chamberlain has thrown to Francisco Cervelli for years. Pitching against him was something altogether different.
As Chamberlain stared toward the batter's box and saw his former teammate waiting to swing, he had his Spring Training test.
"He's caught me for a long time, my whole career," Chamberlain said of facing Cervelli in his return to Steinbrenner Field in a Tigers uniform. "To be able to get that at-bat and see the swings that he was taking and to get him to swing on a slider was a good sign."
Chamberlain retired Cervelli with the pitch the batter probably knew was coming once he got to two strikes. Chamberlain eventually got out of the inning with that pitch, making it through a scoreless seventh with two runners stranded. He fell behind with his fastball, struggling to command his heater, then rescued a potential disaster of an inning with the sharp-breaking slider he wanted to regain.
"Today was a big key for me, as far as my slider," Chamberlain said. "I wanted to come in and make sure I felt confident with it, because it was something that was going to get me back over the rubber and to the plate. I got a couple strikeouts on it. I've got to continue to locate my fastball and pitch off that, and to know that I still have my slider there is a good sign."
Chamberlain didn't get an immediate reception from the sellout crowd when he entered, but only because it was the seventh-inning stretch and "God Bless America" was playing. Once he was introduced, the crowd reaction was mixed but muted.
For some of them, Chamberlain's struggles had to look familiar. He threw 12 balls and 12 strikes for the inning. Many of the balls were fastballs early in the inning, putting him behind in the count against his first three innings. Several of the strikes were sliders late.
He retired the first two batters he faced after 2-0 counts, then fell behind on a 3-0 count to Jose Gil, who lined a single to left off a fastball. Chamberlain put Dean Anna in a 1-2 count before missing with a couple sliders and losing him to a walk.
Up came Francisco Arcia, who took a couple strikes to fall behind and set up the slider. He took one for a ball, but Chamberlain spotted the second for a called strike and an escape.
"He got into a little bit of trouble, and got himself out of it," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I'm sure he had a little bit of mixed emotions coming back and playing against the Yankees, but he threw a couple sliders that looked really good. When his slider is on, it's a swing-and-miss pitch."
Chamberlain wasn't making much of the emotions. He said hello to many of his old teammates before the game, he said, but wanted to focus on his work.
"It's another game," he said. "It's one of those things where you have to be able to slow it down a little bit, and I wasn't able to do a good job of that today. It's something to work through."
Crosby to see game action Monday vs. Cards
TAMPA, Fla. -- Casey Crosby now has a timetable for his attempt to win a spot in the Tigers' bullpen. The lefty prospect is tentatively set to make his first outing of the spring on Monday against the Cardinals in Jupiter.
Crosby missed a week and a half with soreness around his left elbow. He was cleared for game action after throwing a 35-pitch session of live batting practice Friday at Tigertown.
If Crosby stays on plan, that gives him about 2 1/2 weeks to try to win a bullpen spot out of a crop of lefty relievers that includes veteran Phil Coke, trade acquisition Ian Krol, swingman Jose Alvarez and Blaine Hardy, who has looked good early. Given his starting history, Crosby could provide some flexibility as a multi-inning reliever, rather than as a specialist.
Rondon pushed back one day with minor issue
TAMPA, Fla. -- Add another injury to the Tigers' list. Bruce Rondon's back issue, however, appears to be minor, enough so that the team only pushed him back a day from the pitching schedule.
Rondon suffered what manager Brad Ausmus called a "non-throwing-related back tweak" while warming up in the bullpen before his last outing, Tuesday against the Pirates. Rondon went ahead with his inning of work, giving up a run on two hits while striking out the side.
Rondon was originally on the pitching list for Friday's game against the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field, but was moved back to Saturday's home game against the Mets.
The 6-foot-3, 275-pound Rondon was sidelined for a few days earlier this spring with allergies.
Tigers bring back Ledezma on Minors deal
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tigers' ties with their 2003 team that lost an American League-record 119 games seemingly ended when Ramon Santiago and Jeremy Bonderman weren't re-signed, but they have been loosely renewed. Wil Ledezma, who pitched parts of five seasons in Detroit, signed a Minor League contract to pitch for Triple-A Toledo.
The deal does not include an invite to Major League camp. The 33-year-old left-hander is expected to serve as relief depth in the organization.
Ledezma was one of three Rule 5 Draft selections to make the Tigers' bullpen in 2003. He made eight starts in 2003 and 2004, made a brief run in the rotation in 2005, then served as a valuable swingman on the 2006 team that reached the World Series.
Detroit traded him to Atlanta the following summer in exchange for Macay McBride. Ledezma bounced around six Major League teams over the next five years, last pitching in the Majors with Toronto in 2011. He spent last season pitching in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines.
• Miguel Cabrera earned his first extra-base hit of the spring Friday with a first-inning double off the right-field fence. It was kind of hit he would've had trouble stretching beyond a single while he was playing hurt down the stretch last season.
• Jose Iglesias was expected to take batting practice at Joker Marchant Stadium on Friday as he continues his recovery from shin splints. Iglesias, who has been out of action for little more than a week, hit in the indoor batting cases Thursday and felt fine. He has yet to run the bases or take infield work.
• Ausmus confirmed that Justin Verlander will make his first Spring Training start, weather permitting, on Tuesday against the Blue Jays at Joker Marchant Stadium. Verlander's spring debut had been scheduled for Thursday, but the rainout forced Verlander into the batting cage for a side session instead.