ATL@DET: Scherzer strikes out six over 6 2/3 frames

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Max Scherzer walked off the mound at Joker Marchant Stadium with two outs in the seventh inning, laughing with new manager Brad Ausmus about he wanted to face Braves catcher and ex-teammate Gerald Laird. As Scherzer walked toward the Tigers dugout, the crowd stood and cheered -- not just the fans in the first-base stands behind the dugout, but all over.

That's not particularly unusual, even in a Spring Training game. After four days in which Scherzer's contract situation has become public info -- scrutinized, defended and second-guessed -- it's not mundane. Thursday finished Scherzer's prep work for what could be his final season in Detroit, and the fans seemed to voice their appreciation.

"It was great," Scherzer said. "The fans care what we've done here in Spring Training. They come out to the park, they want to see us compete, see us win. Anytime I can go out and throw the ball well, I always realize I've got tons of fans behind me."

Scherzer is not taking public opinion on the reaction since contract talks ended until next offseason, but he is mindful of how it was perceived. To that effect, he said he met with team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski earlier this week to clear up some things about Sunday's announcement and the accompanying reaction.

"We talked about how things were handled," Scherzer said. "He said he regretted kind of how things went down, how things were depicted. He told me he wanted to make sure that he conveyed to fans that he was doing his job and could see how some things were putting me in a negative context. That's wasn't his intent, but that's just how it came across, and he apologized for that."

That extended to the later release of contract terms on the proposal.

"Obviously, he said he didn't release numbers," Scherzer said. "He said he didn't, but he was upset with whoever did within the organization. It's something we addressed and something we could move forward on."

Dombrowski later confirmed that they met.

"Sometimes things don't work out. That's a player's right," Dombrowski said. "But I think the world of Max and his wife Erica May. He's a wonderful person, and I'm very glad he's going to be taking the mound for us this season."

Roster at 25 after Hardy, Marinez assigned to Minors

DET@PHI: Hardy gets the save with tying run at third

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Barring a trade or a waiver pickup, the Tigers' 25-man roster appears to be set. Detroit finalized its bullpen Thursday by assigning non-roster invitees Blaine Hardy and Jhan Marinez to Minor League camp.

The moves mean that Evan Reed and Luke Putkonen will take the final two spots in the Tigers' bullpen -- assuming no further moves are made.

"We have 25 people, but it's not the official 25 yet," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Anything can happen in 48 hours."

Hardy made a very good case to give the Tigers a third lefty reliever alongside Phil Coke and Ian Krol, taking the momentum he built from last summer's stretch run at Triple-A Toledo. He threw nine scoreless innings to start out camp before giving up four unearned runs March 18 against the Jays and three earned runs March 20 against the Nationals.

"Blaine was a guy who kind of worked his way into the discussion as being one of the possible left-handers," Ausmus said.

The 27-year-old went from a non-roster invitee to one of the final cuts of camp. Asked if the news was tough to take, Hardy smiled.

"It's not that tough, considering I came to Spring Training without having much of a chance," Hardy said. "I came to Spring Training really not expecting to make the team. That's what happened. The best part was that I actually got to show them how I pitch, and they're able to have that in their back of their heads when they're going down the Triple-A roster looking for someone to call up.

"The opportunity was there and I was able to seize it."

Hardy is expected to open the season with the Mud Hens, working out of the bullpen. He had been a starter down the stretch in Toledo last year.

Marinez, signed over the winter as a Minor League free agent, gave up 10 runs (seven earned) on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings this spring. He walked seven and struck out six. He had a rough opening outing, allowing six runs in two-thirds of an inning on Feb. 28. The right-hander then followed that with a great middle run before struggling near the end, walking five batters over his final three outings to lead to four runs.

"He actually has a good arm," Ausmus said. "He throws hard and has the potential to have a wipeout slider. I just think it's more about commanding the ball in the strike zone, getting ahead of hitters."

Kelly on track for regular season after workout

DET@WSH: Kelly's RBI groundout opens the scoring

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Don Kelly took batting practice and infield work with the Tigers on Thursday morning, putting him on track to return to game action Friday and make the active roster when the regular season opens on Monday.

The plan for Kelly is to use him as a designated hitter Friday morning in a Minor League camp game, according to manager Brad Ausmus. That would allow him to get four at-bats in a short amount of time.

Kelly hasn't played since Sunday, when he strained his right hamstring fielding a bunt.

Quick hits

Andy Dirks, who underwent back surgery earlier this month, returned to the Tigers' clubhouse for the first time Thursday, wearing a brace to keep his back in position to heal. He has not yet resumed any physical activity, Ausmus said.

• With Interleague Play coming in the second week of the schedule, Tigers starting pitchers -- with the exception of Thursday starter Max Scherzer -- began taking batting practice in the cages Thursday after three days working on bunts with coach Omar Vizquel.

"Today was the first time they swung the bat," Ausmus said.