LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander didn't feel he was operating at maximum efficiency on Friday afternoon during his start against the Braves at Champion Stadium.
But that was OK with Verlander, who tossed 84 pitches over five innings in his second-to-last start before he takes the ball in the Tigers' season opener on March 31 against the Royals in Detroit.
"I needed that," he said. "You don't want to go through all of Spring Training and just have everything be a breeze. You want to be able to grind and work through some innings."
Verlander still didn't allow a run in his third spring start, keeping his Grapefruit League ERA at 0.00 through his first 13 2/3 innings. He gave up five hits, walked one and struck out four.
The Braves did manage to threaten Verlander multiple times. Jason Heyward led off with a hit in the first inning, and Atlanta put runners at first and third with one out in the second before Tyler Greene was caught stealing and Ramiro Pena fouled out.
Verlander then put up consecutive one-two-three innings and got the first two outs in the fifth before loading the bases on a double, a single and a walk. But he finished his outing by getting out of the jam on a B.J. Upton fielder's choice grounder.
"I feel like my stuff is getting a little better every time out," Verlander said.
Verlander hopes to go six or seven innings and throw about 95 pitches in his final spring tuneup next week.
Tigers not planning to slot Jackson at leadoff
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Austin Jackson has hit almost exclusively in the leadoff spot during his Major League career, but it seems that his new manager has other ideas.
Asked on Friday if Jackson will hit somewhere other than first, Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus said that is "more than likely."
Jackson made all 127 of his starts as a leadoff man last season, and 542 of 544 in four big league seasons. In 2011, he spent one game hitting second and another hitting ninth.
However, the Tigers acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Rangers this offseason, and Ausmus has been using him as a leadoff man. In Friday's game against the Braves, Kinsler hit first, while Jackson hit seventh.
"It's more about where I think he'll be most successful and contribute the most," Ausmus said.
Last season, Jackson hit .272/.337/.417 with 12 home runs, 129 strikeouts and a career-low eight stolen bases in 12 attempts. His steals have declined each season since he swiped 27 as a rookie.
After going 1-for-3 on Friday, Jackson is still batting .442 this spring, with eight extra-base hits, 12 RBIs and two steals.
"He's swung the bat well," Ausmus said. "Even his outs have been hard-hit outs."
Tigers take 'precautionary measures' with Davis
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As of Thursday, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had left fielder Rajai Davis penciled into his lineup for Friday's game against the Braves at Champion Stadium. But those plans had changed a day later, as Davis was replaced by Ezequiel Carrera.
Davis, who has been battling a sore right hamstring, also isn't scheduled to play against the Blue Jays on Saturday in Dunedin, Fla. He hasn't made a Grapefruit League appearance since this past Sunday, but he said the hamstring is "doing well."
"It's not really bothering me, it's just a little tight," Davis said. "Precautionary measures. I think the season's more important. Going into the season healthy, I think that's more important."
Davis is 12-for-31 (.387) with three doubles, five steals and a .941 OPS this spring, after signing a two-year deal with Detroit in the offseason. The 33-year-old believes that if this were the regular season, he would be playing.
Ausmus said Davis could play on Sunday or Monday and should be fine for the start of the season.
"He actually feels good, but we wanted to test him, running-wise," Ausmus said. "Leg injuries, you just want to make sure it's gone, especially with a speed guy."
• Victor Martinez is set to start at catcher for only the second time this spring in Saturday's game against the Blue Jays. His other opportunity came on March 15, when he was behind the plate for three innings against the Astros.
Martinez caught three games last season while spending most of his time at designated hitter.
• Ausmus said Anibal Sanchez (right shoulder inflammation) played catch from 120 feet on Friday and remains on track to pitch in a Minor League game on Monday.
• The Tigers announced several new menu items that will debut this season at Comerica Park, including four new hot dogs: the slaw dog, the pork & beans dog, the late night dog (which includes a fried egg, bacon and cheese) and the poutine dog (with French fries, cheese curds and beef gravy).