Originally created 04/01/04

Tigers put hurting on Braves



LAKELAND, Fla. -- Detroit Tigers right-hander Jason Johnson expects to be ready to start opening day despite leaving Wednesday's game after two innings because of a blister on his right middle finger.

Johnson, making his final spring start, gave up two hits and one run in two innings in Detroit's 6-3 win over Atlanta, which snapped the Braves' five-game winning streak.

The blister, which formed underneath a callus on the tip of his finger, opened up in the first inning.

"If this was Monday, I would've kept pitching," he said. "But it's spring training, so why keep pitching it with it? That's why I came out. I'll be ready for Monday."

Johnson said he's had trouble with the callus before but it's never forced him to miss a start.

"It's been there for almost three years," he said. "It cracks open once in a while."

Tiger manager Alan Trammell said Johnson was taken out for precautionary reasons.

"We just didn't want to take any chances. He'll be fine," Trammell said.

Detroit's Bobby Higginson hit a grand slam in the fifth off Braves starter Jaret Wright to put the Tigers up 5-1.

Wright, fifth in Atlanta's rotation, gave up six hits and five runs in five innings.

"I thought he was outstanding. The home run was a popup. It just blew out of the park," said Cox, referring to a 10 mph wind blowing out to right. "It wasn't even a routine fly ball."

Tiger reliever Danny Patterson, bothered by headaches his last three outings, threw one inning and said he felt better.

Trammell said part of the problem is "sinus related" but trainers have also been treating Patterson for a sore neck.

"It felt a lot better," Patterson said. "I think we're on the right track."

Notes: The Tigers optioned LHP Eric Eckenstahler to Triple-A Toledo and reassigned infielder Jason Smith and outfielder Andres Torres to their minor league camp Wednesday. ... Trammell said reliever Ugueth Urbina, who signed last week, has agreed to be optioned to the minor league camp and pitch in a few games with Class A Lakeland of the Florida State League next week before joining the Tigers. ... Wright, who will make his first regular-season start on Saturday, April 10, will pitch Monday at the Braves' minor league complex in what Cox called "a makeshift game."