Notes: Mesa suspended two games
Verlander inpressive in final spring appearance
TAMPA, Fla. -- Add another Tiger to the list of the missing on Opening Day. But at least Jose Mesa will be back in a few days.
Mesa will actually be in uniform when the Tigers open their season on Monday, but he can't pitch. He'll miss the first two games as a result of a suspension handed down by Major League Baseball for intentionally throwing at a player last September while he was pitching for the Colorado Rockies.
Mesa hit Giants batter Mark Sweeney on Sept. 20 after Giants starter Matt Cain hit Mesa's Colorado teammate, Matt Holliday, earlier in the game. Mesa wasn't ejected, but he received a three-game suspension a couple days later.
Mesa immediately appealed the ruling, saying he was simply trying to pitch inside. The case wasn't scheduled to be heard until this month. He ended up settling about a week ago before a scheduled hearing to reduce the suspension by a game, but the agreement required him to serve the games to start the season.
Not exactly the start Mesa wanted to make with his new team.
"No question about it," Mesa said Saturday morning. "You come to a new team, and you're starting the season with a suspension? But there's nothing we can do about it. Thank goodness we have Opening Day and then a day off the next day."
That was the bright side of the move. Not only should the Tigers have their other six relievers ready to go for Monday's opener, but they won't have to pitch on consecutive days to fill in.
"They're not going to need me for those two days," Mesa said. "They're going to have a day off and be fresh. And they've got [Joel] Zumaya and [Fernando] Rodney. They'll take care of that."
And as manager Jim Leyland put it, if they exhaust their other relievers in the first two games, "we're probably 0-2."
Mesa has a history of throwing at batters, usually one in particular. He was suspended two games last April for hitting former teammate Omar Vizquel, continuing a well-chronicled feud that dates back to the late 1990s, when Vizquel wrote a book that criticized Mesa for his work in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series against Leyland's Marlins. Mesa has hit Vizquel with pitches several times over the last decade or so.
Fortunately for Mesa, Leyland and the Tigers, they're in a different league than Vizquel now.
Roster finalized: The Tigers formally reached their final 25-man roster Saturday by purchasing the contract of Bobby Seay from Triple-A Toledo. To make room on the 40-man roster, they placed shortstop Tony Giarratano on the 60-day disabled list. He underwent surgery on his right shoulder a month ago.
Pitchers Edward Campusano and Roman Colon were placed on the 15-day disabled list, where they join Kenny Rogers and Vance Wilson. Campusano is out for the season following Tommy John surgery, so he could be moved to the 60-day DL if the Tigers need more room on the 40-man roster.
No worries for Verlander: Lost in the news surrounding Kenny Rogers' surgery, Vance Wilson's injury and Carlos Guillen's new contract, Justin Verlander quietly answered concerns his pitching might not be ready for the season.
Not that he or the Tigers were concerned about it, but his five scoreless innings and six strikeouts against the Yankees on Friday gave him a nice bonus of momentum heading into the season. After trying to get a feel for his mechanics for much of March, Verlander settled into his game.
"I was right where I wanted to be yesterday," Verlander said Saturday. "I said earlier that I wasn't really worried about the results, that it was more about how I felt. I ended up being that I felt great and the results were really good. I really couldn't ask for more out of yesterday being my last start before the season starts."
For Verlander to say that isn't just small talk. It was his own frustration after a start against the Pirates a week and a half ago that prompted concern about his comfort level. If the Tigers were concerned before, they certainly don't seem to be now.
"He was tremendous yesterday," Leyland said. "He turned it up yesterday, had everything going, threw the ball extremely well. That's as good as I've seen him throw."
Setting the lineup: Leyland has an idea what his Opening Day lineup will be, but as of Saturday afternoon, he hadn't set it yet. He planned on thinking it out on the flight to Detroit on Saturday night. Though Leyland hinted that leadoff man Curtis Granderson and ninth hitter Brandon Inge were settled, the spots in between were in flux.
"I think I know what I want to do," he said, "but I want to look at a couple last-minute things, just to be sure."
Just because the Opening Day lineup will be finalized, though, doesn't make it a lineup Leyland will stick with for a while against right-handed pitching. More than last year, it appears Leyland will take his batting orders on a game-by-game basis.
"I think with this team, it'll probably be a little bit different," Leyland said. "Probably look at the matchups a little bit more than you'd normally do."
Coming up: The Tigers head to Detroit after their final spring game. They'll work out on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at Comerica Park to get ready to work on defenses and finalize preparations for Monday's home opener against the Blue Jays.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.