Notes: Tigers optimistic on Porcello

Notes: Tigers optimistic on Porcello

DETROIT -- Tigers scouting director David Chadd said he's optimistic that they will sign top Draft pick Rick Porcello and fifth-round selection Casey Crosby. All the same, he's planning on a long night Wednesday.

That's the last day teams have to sign their picks under Major League Baseball's new Draft format, with midnight ET as the deadline. At this point, it's looking certain to come down to that evening.

"I'm sure it'll go down to the final hours," Chadd said.

While the Tigers aren't close to contracts with either of the highly-touted high school pitchers, both sides have heated up negotiations. Both were expected to be difficult signings, which is the reason they were available as late as they were, and they haven't disappointed. Yet progress has been made on both fronts.

"Both sides are diligently working towards a deal," Chadd said. "And when you have that, that's when you're optimistic."

Porcello is the more publicized situation. Though he is regarded by many as the most talented high school pitcher in the Draft, he lasted until the Tigers' selection in large part because of the contract expectations and Scott Boras serving as his advisor. Boras has compared Porcello to Josh Beckett, whom Chadd and president/general manager Dave Dombrowski drafted second overall for the Marlins in 1999.

In past years without a deadline, Boras' Draft clients have often lingered as long as possible before signing, using as leverage the option of going to college, going back to college, or going into next year's draft. In Porcello's case, he has a commitment to attend the University of North Carolina if he doesn't sign. Crosby, meanwhile, will attend the University of Illinois if he doesn't go pro with Detroit.

The new Draft rules allow teams that don't sign their first- or second-round picks to receive a compensation pick in the same general area of next year's Draft order. The Tigers don't want to have to use that option with Porcello, probably because it's unlikely they'll find someone of that talent level that far down again.

"We took these players to sign them," Chadd said.

The Tigers also are in talks regarding sixth-round pick Cale Iorg, who played one season at the University of Alabama before spending the last two years on a Mormon mission tour not playing baseball. If he doesn't sign, he'll go to Arizona State, where he would technically be a sophomore.

Zumaya faces hitters: Joel Zumaya's simulated game against hitters Friday went about as well as expected, putting the hard-throwing right-hander on track for a Minor League rehab session next week.

Zumaya threw 25 pitches against Mike Rabelo and Ryan Raburn, who were there to stand in the batter's box and not swing. He threw some low fastballs and put one up and in against Rabelo, but overall was happy with the location and feel of his pitches.

"I could've been a lot more wild," he said. "But I did [pick it] up a couple times and it went where I wanted it to. Right now, it's just [a matter of] trying to find a little bit more on my breaking stuff, and I should be fine."

He snapped off a few breaking balls in the dirt to gauge the flexibility in his surgically repaired middle finger. It's not the same as it was before, but Zumaya estimated it at about 98 percent strength, enough for him to throw curveballs with his usual grip. The only issue now seems to be a callous that formed on his right thumb, and that's not expected to hamper him.

Zumaya said he feels ready to pitch in a Minor League game now. If he still feels good over the next day or two, once his arm recovers, he's expected to go on assignment Monday. The likely plan would have him pitch three one-inning appearances with a day of rest in between each. If all goes well, he could be ready to be activated when the Tigers return home for their next homestand Aug. 21, a week from this coming Monday.

"He's throwing the ball excellent," manager Jim Leyland said.

Rogers update: Kenny Rogers is slated to play catch on Saturday as he tries to come back from the elbow tendinitis that forced him onto the disabled list two and a half weeks ago and has proven pesky to heal.

He feels like his elbow is improving, but he won't know for sure until he unleashes some harder throws. It's not so much a matter of velocity, but location. He's confident that it'll be there.

"I'm going to get back. There's no doubt about that," he said. "I would just like it to be sooner for all the reasons."

Inge back Saturday: Third baseman Brandon Inge will likely rejoin the team Saturday after wife Shani gave birth to their second son.

Coming up: Justin Verlander (11-4, 3.60) will try to break his personal four-game winless streak Saturday night when he gets his rematch against Dan Haren (13-3, 2.46) in the second game of this series against the A's. Game time is 7:05 p.m. ET, moved back from an afternoon start once FOX dropped the game from its televised slate.

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