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Brad Ausmus says Justin Verlander will start for Tigers on Opening Day

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It’s a little early for this sort of thing, but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was asked the question and gave the obvious answer Tuesday at spring training in Lakeland, Florida.

Justin Verlander will take the mound for the Tigers on Opening Day, April 5 against the Marlins. Ausmus only qualified his selection of Verlander with a “barring something unforeseen.”

Verlander got off to a late start in 2015, but he registered a cool 3.38 ERA and 1.09 WHIP across 133 1/3 innings after debuting in mid-June. It was the first time since 2006 that the veteran right-hander had not reached the 200-inning plateau.

Verlander, 33 next week, is owed $28 million per year over the next four years.

Report: Padres interested in Maikel Franco

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The Padres may have some interest in acquiring Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco, according to a recent report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It seems unlikely that the team would deal their starting third baseman with J.P. Crawford (fractured left hand) sidelined through July; to that end, however, they signed infielder Danny Espinosa as minor league depth on Friday and have reportedly been eying the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre, among other veteran options.

Franco, 25, entered Sunday batting .255/.297/.425 with nine home runs and a .721 OPS in 229 plate appearances this season. While he has yet to live up to the .280+ average, 1.9+ fWAR he posted during his rookie campaign, he’s been a solid 20+ home run producer over the last few years and shown some stability at the hot corner. He’s also under team control for the next three years and could provide some much-needed insurance behind the Padres’ current third base option, 27-year-old Christian Villanueva.

Rosenthal notes that the Phillies could strike a deal for one of San Diego’s relievers, though no one specific has been connected to the team yet — and the club probably wouldn’t be able to finesse a one-for-one deal given the quality of the Padres’ pitchers. The Phillies’ bullpen has looked downright abysmal over the last month, placing 11th-worst in the league with a collective 5.34 ERA and 0.3 fWAR. Their failure to procure a viable reliever beyond Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano and Edubray Ramos lends a certain urgency to any potential deal they make over the next few weeks, though the official trade deadline is still over a month away.