"From some perspectives, it's a little better," he said of his club. "From other perspectives, it's not where we need to be."
Knowing the game and what's required in certain situations is one perspective. Learning signs for particular situations is another, and Leyland said he's found in some situations that players are "almost shocked" by a sign.
In general, Leyland called it the overall feel of a game. "Some of them haven't really thought about the entirety of the game and the important things it takes to win the game," he said. "But I think we're getting better at it."
Leyland made his remarks before Friday's game, which wasn't a good contest to judge. Beyond three Detroit errors, the Tigers had a couple of mental miscues, including Ivan Rodriguez holding onto the ball too long on a strikeout and wild pitch, looking back to Joey Gathright at second base instead of throwing to first base for the third out of the inning. Second baseman Ramon Santiago also was caught going to second base on contact, putting him out of position for Luis Ordaz's single through the right side.
That said, it was the next-to-last game of Spring Training.
"I don't think you brush it off," Leyland said, "but you hope it's just that we're ready to get out of here. That doesn't make it excusable, but that's how you try to look at it. That's one of those games you just turn the page and move on."
Leyland has talked about his willingness to brush off a bad game, knowing such ugly contests will happen. But he also reminded reporters the Tigers have finished last in fielding three of the last four years.
So when it came time to summarize his team's chances, he looked again to fundamentals.
"To contend for the division, we're going to have to do three things," Leyland said. "We're going to have to pitch, we're going to have to catch it, and we're going to have to have tough at-bats when the game's on the line. But I think a lot of other managers can say the same thing."
Injuries mounting, but minor: Carlos Guillen saw a chiropractor again on Friday to attend to his back, which is still occasionally sore. Leyland wants to play him seven innings in Saturday's spring finale and figures to have him in the opener, but he's also concerned that the soreness hasn't gone away.
"As we speak today," Leyland said Friday afternoon, "I totally expect him to play Monday. But again, I don't know how he's going to feel tomorrow."
The other half of Detroit's double-play duo was scratched, too, but Placido Polanco's back stiffness was unexpected. Leyland expects him to play six or seven innings Saturday and to be ready for Monday's opener.
Infante ready: On the bright side of the injury front was Omar Infante, who started at shortstop in Guillen's place and flashed stronger throws than he has all spring. He fired quickly across his body to retire Luis Ordaz on a high chopper in the third inning, had a strong throw from his normal position to retire Josh Paul in the fourth, and later went into the hole for another out in the ninth inning.
"I was very encouraged," Leyland said. "Two times today he had more on [his throws]. The ball carried well."
Infante has been bothered by shoulder tendinitis for much of Spring Training.
Grilli makes the club: Jason Grilli couldn't wait any longer to find out if he was on the club, so he talked to Leyland on Friday morning. He got the answer he wanted, making an Opening Day for the second time in his career, the last time being 2001.
"Hopefully, I can make a habit of it," he said. "The best way I can express my gratitude is hopefully prove they made the right decision."
Grilli will be the long reliever in Detroit's bullpen.
Coming up: The Tigers will close out Spring Training with one more game against the Devil Rays, this time a 3:05 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field. Mike Maroth will start, followed by Todd Jones, Jamie Walker and Bobby Seay. Casey Fossum is scheduled to start for Tampa Bay.