LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers have six pitchers fighting for five spots in the starting rotation.
Rick Porcello got his second chance to audition for Tigers manager Jim Leyland on Wednesday in a 5-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves and gave up three runs in three innings, his longest outing of the spring.
Porcello, however, didn't make the impression he wanted to make.
The Tigers' first round pick in 2007 (27th overall) started out by giving up a single, hitting a batter and allowing a long home run to Juan Francisco.
The homer came on a fastball that Leyland said four times in his postgame press conference was the wrong pitch to throw.
"He knows better than that," Leyland said. "It was a judgment mistake. It won't happen again."
Porcello settled down after the long ball and gave up only one more run. He knew the fastball with runners on second and third was a mistake.
"That was just a bad fastball and a bad idea," Porcello said. "I was trying something and it didn't work."
Porcello was considered one of the sure things in the Detroit rotation, but he struggled in 2012, going 10-12 with a 4.59 ERA. He pitched out of the bullpen in the postseason after starting 31 games for the Tigers, but he might be left out this year.
Former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander is the ace and Max Scherzer and Doug Fister round out the top three, leaving Drew Smyly, Anibal Sanchez, and Porcello to compete out for the final two spots.
Porcello said he isn't getting down on himself. At 24, he knows he is still developing.
"I am still working on everything, so a bad fastball isn't going to bother me," Porcello said. "I feel good and there's no extra pressure fighting for a spot in the rotation. I have never taken a spot in the rotation to be something for granted and I never will. I just have to do my own job."
Leyland said he appreciates Porcello's confidence and isn't ready to make judgments based on one long home run.
"He made a mistake that I know he won't make during the season," Leyland said. "He's got it all figured out and he's confident. He just made a mistake.
Leyland was asked if he spoke to Porcello about the fastball that got away.
"It's already handled," Leyland said, ending the discussion.
Tim Hudson started for the Braves and went three innings, allowing two runs in his longest outing of the spring. He gave up a long homer to Prince Fielder, but said he felt fine.
"There are things I still need to work on," Hudson said. "Prince hit a cutter that didn't cut. Every spring is about getting ready and it is really just a process of getting ready for the season. I don't care how I do right now, it's all about being ready four weeks from now."
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez wasn't concerned about the home run or anything else when it came to Hudson.
"I saw a lot of good things," Gonzalez said. "It was a good outing. He wants all shutout innings but he'll be ready when it is time."
Jordan Schafer, Chris Johnson, Joey Terdoslavich, and Francisco all had two hits for the Braves. Don Kelly homered for the Tigers.
NOTES: Sanchez, Trevor Bell,. Luis Marte, Jose Alvarez, Kenny Faulk, Ryan Robowski, and Darin Downs are set to pitch for the Tigers on Thursday at Tampa Bay. . Paul Maholm will start for the Braves on Thursday against the Phillies in Clearwater. . Tigers OF Brennan Boesch is still sidelined with a oblique strain. OF Andy Dirks is still day to day with an intercostal strain, and OF Quintin Berry was scratched with soreness in his left knee. . The Tigers played their expected opening-day lineup with the exception of their injured left fielders.