Justin Upton says he's 'fine' after ankle injury forces him from game

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Justin Upton left the trainer's room with no noticeable limp and did not seem concerned about his left ankle after an injury forced him from Wednesday's game against the Washington Nationals.

The Detroit Tigers' 28-year-old nearly collided with center fielder Anthony Gose during the second inning of the club's 11-5 win at Joker Marchant stadium and wound up getting his left ankle stepped on. This prompted the Tigers to remove him from the game for “precautionary reasons.”

Upton said Gose stepped on his ankle and it rolled “a little,” but that he wasn't too worried.

“I'm fine,” Upton said. “I'm flexible.”

Upton, who was originally slated to be the designated hitter on Thursday in Clearwater against the Philadelphia Phillies, said he would not be playing. Manager Brad Ausmus, however, left the door open for him to still play.

“We didn't send him for X-rays or anything,” Ausmus said. “As a matter of fact, we're going to check in tomorrow (Thursday) because he's scheduled to DH [on Thursday], so we're going to check in in the morning and there's a possibility on how he feels in the morning that he may just DH anyway. But we're going to wait and see on that.”

Ausmus said Upton, who signed a six-year $132.75 million deal to join the Tigers as a free agent this offseason, did not require stitches.

Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who threw three scoreless innings in his second start of the spring, admitted it was a scary moment to see the team's star outfielder slow to get up and leave the field with head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.

“You never want to see that,” said Verlander who threw 51 pitches and allowed only one hit. “But if you do, early in spring training is better than late. It's tricky, this time in spring, it's probably a little bit of miscommunication.

Gose and him aren't use to playing outfield together so the communication's not quite there and then as windy as it is, it makes it even more difficult for those guys to communicate.”

The Tigers are already down one outfielder in Cameron Maybin, who broke his left wrist after being hit by a pitch from Luis Severino in a game against the New York Yankees last week. Maybin, who was expected to platoon in center with Gose, is out four to six weeks, with his availability for the season opener in jeopardy (keep in mind that Maybin was also removed from the game for “precautionary reasons.”)

ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reported on Sunday that while the Tigers are not actively pursuing an outfielder, they are “at least checking into potential options if Maybin is out longer than expected.”

For now, the Tigers are discussing internal options, including Wynton Bernard, who had a terrific season last year in Double-A Erie.

“We've talked about it. No decisions, obviously, have been made,” Ausmus said.