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Notes: Maroth aims to secure job

Notes: Healthy Maroth aims to secure job

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Mike Maroth expected to be healthy heading into Spring Training, no matter what others expected of him. Still, even he was surprised to some extent how well he felt on Sunday.

As the Tigers went through their second and final day of live batting practice, pitting pitchers against hitters, Maroth said his time on the mound seemed to fly by. What probably helped it seem short was that he didn't feel tired at the end, which was unusual for him even when he wasn't coming off an injury.

It's a good sign as the now-veteran left-hander heads into real games hoping to sew up the final spot in Detroit's rotation.

"That eight minutes, I thought before I started that it was going to be a long time out there," Maroth said. "But it actually turned out to be a lot quicker than I thought. Obviously if you get tired, it's going to seem like a long time."

Maroth stuck mostly to fastballs and changeups, but mixed in some movement pitches as he went along. He threw what he called a couple of cutters and curveballs to see how it felt.

"I was pleased with it," Maroth said of the session. "I located the ball well. Everything felt good."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland has said he has Maroth penciled in for that starting spot as long as he's healthy. Leyland did not watch Maroth's session. No matter how well the session would've gone, he'll place more emphasis on how Maroth looks health-wise in the actual Spring Training games. The Tigers haven't officially announced their Spring Training rotation yet, but Maroth's first such performance is expected to come with two innings Thursday at home against the Phillies.

This wasn't Maroth's first session against live pitching since his surgery last summer to repair bone chips in his throwing elbow. He came back to make a handful of rehab starts last August for Triple-A Toledo before lingering discomfort in the elbow helped prevent his return to Detroit's rotation. He has said he proceeded this winter as if it were a normal offseason, especially since he didn't pitch in games in October.

"I'll just continue to get ready for the season," Maroth said. "I'm anxious for that to happen, but obviously we have several weeks to get ready. And I'll have plenty of time to get ready, just like everybody else here."

Injury updates: Shortstop prospect Tony Giarratano, who was expected to challenge for a starting job at Triple-A Toledo after missing the tail end of last season with knee surgery, is back on the shelf for a different injury. An examination of his right shoulder revealed what the team is calling instability, requiring surgery.

The procedure will be performed on Thursday by Dr. Peter Millett, the Vail, Colo.-based doctor who examined Giarratano's shoulder. The Tigers aren't announcing a timeframe on how long Giarratano could be out, at least until after the surgery.

It's the fourth major injury in as many years for Giarratano, who has ended the last three seasons on the mend. A fractured hamate bone in his right hand prevented a September callup in 2005, the year in which he made his Major League debut in the summer as an injury replacement for Carlos Guillen. He had season-ending surgery in August 2004 to tighten his left shoulder capsule after the shoulder popped out of place earlier that summer.

Adding to the hard luck is the fact that Giarratano worked hard over the past six months to rehab his knee to health in time for the start of camp.

The news was better for reliever Craig Dingman, who is expected to resume activity in a week after an exam revealed no major damage in his right shoulder. Dingman felt shoulder fatigue last week and traveled to St. Louis for a visit with Dr. Robert Thompson, the surgeon who performed the arterial bypass on the shoulder last spring.

Minor scare for Hooper: One thing scarier than stepping into the batter's box against Joel Zumaya and his 100-mph fastball is being hit by one. Fortunately for Kevin Hooper, it was a Zumaya curveball that hit him in his right elbow during a BP session Sunday morning.

Zumaya has been working on his secondary pitches this spring and unleashed some curveballs during his Sunday session, his first action against live hitting. But he lost grip on one curve against Hooper, who turned away but still couldn't avoid it. As Hooper explained, even Zumaya's curveball is pretty fast.

Hooper was shaken a little, but said he was fine after practice was over.

"Get it over with now, I guess," he said.

Not necessarily a left-handed approach: Felix Heredia was the last of the candidates for a potential second lefty relief spot to throw on Sunday. But much as Leyland might like to take two southpaws for his bullpen, he cautioned again that it's not automatic.

"I'm not saying he's not going to be left-handed," Leyland of his final reliever chosen, "but I'm a long way from saying he will be left-handed. It would probably be better for the staff if he was left-handed, but it's not mandatory."

That pick rules: One candidate, Edward Campusano, adds to the complication of being a Rule 5 Draft selection. If the Tigers want to keep him, he must remain on the 25-man roster for the entire season unless he's injured.

Leyland is not known for keeping Rule 5 Draft picks unless they can contribute. He had future championship starter Miguel Batista on his roster as a Rule 5 pick as a 21-year-old with the 1992 Pirates, but Pittsburgh ended up returning him to the Expos in late April that year after just one appearance. However, it would be six years and three more team changes before Batista emerged as a full-time big-leaguer, this time back with the Expos organization for a third time.

"I don't know if I'm right or not," Leyland said about Rule 5 picks, "but I say [with a Rule 5 pick], maybe you don't think he's quite ready, but maybe you think he might really be something down the road. Then you might have a tendency to say, 'I might take my shot and carry him.' If you make a judgment call and say, 'Yeah, I think he might pitch in the big leagues but I think he'll just be ordinary,' then you might not do it at the expense of this year. I guess that's the way I've always tried to judge Rule 5 Draft picks."

Identity theft: A week and a half into camp, the Tigers have already played plenty of jokes on each other while passing the time before games begin. On Sunday, Jordan Tata and Preston Larrison decided to get the fans in on the act.

As they walked back to the clubhouse from the practice fields, the two decided to switch jerseys before walking past the line of autograph seekers. Considering Tata is taller and skinnier with longer hair, the switch was soon spotted.

"We're just trying to have a little fun with the fans, see if they're paying attention," Tata said.

Coming up: The Tigers have a shortened workout on Monday morning before hitting the links in the afternoon for an annual charity golf scramble with members of the Cleveland Indians.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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