Tigers-Royals called because of rain
By NOAH TRISTER
AP Baseball Writer
DETROIT (AP) Brad Ausmus is hoping he'll have a chance to use every position player on his roster before too long - no sense letting backups become rusty at the beginning of the season.
"Yes, I'd like to get them in," Detroit's rookie manager said. "Mother Nature's going to have a say in that."
Sure enough, the Tigers had their game against the Kansas City Royals postponed because of rain on Thursday. The game will be made up June 19, when the Royals are back in town for what was initially supposed to be a three-game series followed by an off day.
Detroit will move on to a three-game series against Baltimore that's scheduled to start Friday - when the weather may not be much better.
The Tigers are planning to push right-hander Anibal Sanchez back to Friday's start after he was supposed to face the Royals on Thursday. Rick Porcello is now slated to pitch Saturday, meaning left-hander Drew Smyly will be skipped in the rotation.
Kansas City, on the other hand, will simply skip rookie Yordano Ventura, who was scheduled to pitch Thursday. Jeremy Guthrie will start Friday's home opener against the Chicago White Sox, as planned. Ventura will be available out of the bullpen.
The Tigers won their first two games under Ausmus, scoring the winning run in their last at-bat both times. The new manager made a big move in Monday's opener, sending rookie Tyler Collins to pinch-run in the ninth inning of a tie game. Collins ended up scoring the winning run.
Collins then started Wednesday's game in left field, but shortstop Andrew Romine's first start was put on hold by Thursday's postponement. Outfielder Don Kelly and backup catcher Bryan Holaday haven't played either.
Now the Tigers face the prospect of additional postponements, and they have scheduled off days April 7, 10 and 14. It has the makings of a choppy start to the season.
"You try to balance getting veterans rest and getting reserve players in, but when you have all these off days, the truth is the veterans probably don't need the rest," Ausmus said. "You still have reserves that need to get in, so it can be a little bit of a juggling act."
Ausmus says he's settling into the Detroit area. As manager of the Tigers, he'll have to deal with a certain celebrity status, and he says people recognize him.
"I haven't been around that much," Ausmus said. "I've gone out to eat, but other than going out to eat, I've kind of been holed up."
The Thursday afternoon game was called about an hour before the scheduled first pitch, amid temperatures in the 30s and with significant rain expected.
The decision to skip Smyly's spot in the rotation came as no surprise. It's an easy chance for the Tigers to manage his innings as he makes the transition back to the starting rotation after spending last season in the bullpen.
Detroit's talented rotation has been on display already. Justin Verlander pitched the opener and Max Scherzer worked eight scoreless innings Wednesday. That's part of the reason Royals manager Ned Yost isn't panicking over two losses in which Kansas City struggled to score.
"You've got to understand what you're dealing with," Yost said. "What we've dealt with here the last two days is Verlander and Scherzer. I mean, these are top-of-the-line pitchers in the American League, so they're on most days going to shut teams' offenses down."
At least the Royals were able to leave town without having to face Sanchez, too.
"He's nails, too," Yost said before the game was called off. "You just keep plugging until you start to get on track."
NOTES: The Tigers claimed LHP Mike Belfiore off waivers from the Orioles and optioned him to Triple-A Toledo.
Updated April 3, 2014