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Top Prospects: Robbie Ray, LHP, Tigers

Robbie Ray was shopping for a suitcase when he got the call from Triple-A Toledo manager Larry Parrish that the big league club needed him. After learning he'd be making his Major League debut in place of the injured Anibal Sanchez, Ray opted for a nicer bag.

The lefty will hope his fastball, which impressed Tigers manager Brad Ausmus in Spring Training, and his new-look curveball makes the trip north to Detroit when he faces the Astros on Tuesday.

Ausmus described Ray's fastball as "sneaky."

"It plays up on the radar gun," Ausmus said. "He seems calm on the mound. He doesn't seem overwhelmed. He might be churning inside, but he doesn't show it."

For his part, Ray said he will have some first-inning nerves as he tries to extend the Tigers' season-long winning streak to seven games. With Toledo this season, Ray is 3-2 with a 1.53 ERA. He has struck out 21 and walked five in five starts, but he knows pitching in the Majors for the first time is enough to cause some jitters.

"Probably my first outing in short season when I first got drafted -- that was probably the last time I was nervous," Ray said. "It's still baseball. I'm going to stay calm. Hitters are still hitters. They just hit more mistakes."

Ray was part of a package traded from Washington in the offseason for starter Doug Fister. At the time, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski called Ray a "key to the deal."

The Astros will counter with a lefty of their own, Brett Oberholtzer. At 0-5 with a 5.63 ERA, Oberholtzer is in need of a strong outing after allowing six runs in each of his last two starts.

Following his most recent trip to the hill, Oberholtzer talked about how Houston is unlikely to win many games based on talent alone. He said the Astros need to do a better job of competing and matching the intensity that other teams show.

Astros: Bass allows homer in Motor City homecoming
This week's series against the Tigers at Comerica Park marks a homecoming for Astros reliever Anthony Bass, who grew up in the Detroit suburb of Trenton and attended Wayne State University in Detroit. He had played at Comerica in high school, but Monday marked his first appearance in the ballpark as a Major Leaguer.

Bass pitched the eighth inning, retiring Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera before allowing a solo shot to Victor Martinez in the Astros' 2-0 loss.

"It's pretty surreal," Bass said before the game. "I'm just excited to be back here. To be back here and play against the team I rooted for growing up is pretty cool."

Bass, obtained by the Astros in a trade with the Padres in December, said he had tons of family members and friends from high school and college -- as well as some former coaches -- coming to watch him play at different points throughout the series.

His favorite Tigers player growing up was Cecil Fielder, who he saw play at old Tiger Stadium.

Tigers: Reliever Putkonen nearing rehab assignment
Long reliever Luke Putkonen, who is eligible to come off the disabled list, threw another side session Monday. Barring any lingering inflammation in his right elbow, Putkonen will report to Class A West Michigan on Wednesday for an inning of work.

Inflammation in the elbow sidelined Putkonen after his last outing on April 18. West Michigan is the destination for his rehab assignment because Triple-A Toledo is on the road at Pawtucket.

"We will see how it goes," Ausmus said. "If everything goes well, he'll probably have another rehab stint."

Ausmus added that Putkonen's second rehab outing would probably not be with West Michigan. Toledo returns home Friday. Putkonen's eventual return will give the Tigers their long reliever back. Detroit's bullpen has the third-worst ERA in the Majors (5.31).

"I felt good," Putkonen said Saturday after a Friday bullpen session. "I spun a few curveballs at the end."

Worth noting
• Hunter is now riding a 12-game hitting streak, during which he is batting .415.

• Only two Tigers, Ian Kinsler and Andrew Romine, have faced Oberholtzer. Kinsler is 1-for-4 against him; Romine is 1-for-2.

• The Astros have committed at least one error in six consecutive games.

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