Blogs > Out of Left Field

A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to defend their back-to-back American League Central titles.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

REPORTS: McClendon a candidate for Marlins job


Perhaps there was good reason not to announce the responsibility changes for the Detroit Tigers coaching staff just yet.

It could be that the makeup of the staff is changing through natural means.

Reports Wednesday surfaced that Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon had emerged as a candidate to replace the fired Ozzie Guillen as the manager of the Florida Marlins. Citing Marlins sources, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler was the first to report that McClendon had interviewed for the job.

[UPDATED: McClendon did not get the job. The Marlins hired Mike Redmond.]

McClendon has managerial experience, having spent four-plus seasons as the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates before being fired midseason in 2005. A former Pirates player during his eight-year playing career, McClendon was added to the Pittsburgh coaching staff by his former manager (and current boss) Jim Leyland after his playing days. He served as the Pirates' hitting coach under both Leyland and successor Gene Lamont, before taking over the team in 2000, and compiling a 336-446 record. The Pirates' 79 wins under Clint Hurdle this season were the most since McClendon led Pittsburgh to a 75-87 record in 2003.

The Tigers brought back Leyland's entire coaching staff intact when they re-signed the manager to a new one-year contract this week, but indicated that some of the coaches' roles might be changing. Those changes were not announced just yet.

“The way I’d answer this question is that we’ve had some conversations for a lengthy period about making some possible transitions with responsibilities, nothing reflective upon what’s happened in the year past," Tigers president, CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "But I’m not in a position to address that at this point.”

Leyland said there was no discussion of changing the composition of his coaching staff, despite rumblings that there might have been. But he admitted there would be new roles.

"All coaches are coming back next year, but there could be a situation where we may redirect a couple things. I’m not really ready to expound on that just yet. I think there’s a possibility we could rearrange the furniture just a little bit. But everybody is going to be back," Leyland said, dismissing the thought that the change had anything to do with performance in the 2012 season. "No. It has nothing to do with that. We’re going to rearrange one piece of our furniture and it has nothing to do with anybody’s results this year or the job they did. We just think it’s time maybe to make this move. In the near future, if Dave says it’s OK to tell you exactly what it is I’ll tell you exactly what it is. But I’ll wait until I get that permission from my boss. We just felt like that wasn’t that big of an issue today."

Perhaps there was good reason to wait.

All of that could be a moot point if McClendon gets the Miami job. According to the Miami Herald, the other candidates for the job include former Phillies and Padres manager Larry Bowa, currently a TV analyst, as well as former Marlins player Mike Redmond, the manager of the Blue Jays' Class A affiliate in Dunedin, Fla.

Detroit Tigers offseason activity tracker


It's easy to have a transaction or two fly under your radar, elude your notice during what is usually a busy offseason.

This file will contain a list of all the moves — minor and major — that the Detroit Tigers make in the 2012-13 offseason. Bookmark it, and return often to see if anything's changed. Click on the red highlighted text for a link to more on that move.

Team president, CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski laid out the framework for what was likely to happen this offseason in his after-season news conference on Oct. 30.

Here are the moves so far:

Brought back manager Jim Leyland and his staff.
• Reinstated Ryan Raburn from the 15-day disabled list, Victor Martinez and Daniel Schlereth from the 60-day disabled list.
• Exercised the $6 million option on the contract of shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
• Exercised the $3.5 million option on the contract of reliever Octavio Dotel.
Removed utility man Don Kelly from the roster. He cleared waivers, and was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo, but elected free agency instead.
Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon interviews for the Miami Marlins' vacant managerial position. [UPDATE: The Marlins hired Mike Redmond instead.]
• Former player, coach and minor league manager Bruce Fields returns to the Tigers system as minor league hitting coordinator.
Outgoing free agent Delmon Young sentenced for April incident in New York.
• Sign former Blue Jays RHP Shawn Hill to a minor league contract as organizational depth.
Sign outfielder Torii Hunter to a reported two-year, $26 million deal.
• Back-up catcher Gerald Laird signs a two-year deal with the Braves, leaving the Tigers without an established second-line catcher.
Ryan Raburn released, clearing room on 40-man roster for guys like Bruce Rondon.
Sign 19 players to minor-league contracts.
Tigers tender contract to seven arbitration-eligible players — Alex Avila, Brennan Boesch, Phil Coke, Doug Fister, Austin Jackson, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer.
Tigers non-tender LHP Daniel Schlereth, who was not yet arbitration eligible.
Shuffle coaching staff duties, making Gene Lamont bench coach and putting Tom Brookens at third.
Trade LHP Andy Oliver to the Pirates for minor-league catcher Ramon Cabrera.
Acquire 2B/UT Jeff Kobernus, LHP Kyle Lobstein in Rule 5 draft swaps.
Sign switch-hitting FA catcher Brayan Pena to back up Alex Avila.
Don Kelly among 17 non-roster invitees to spring training
• Avoid arbitration with six of seven eligible players
Avoid arbitration with Max Scherzer, signing him to a one-year, $6.725M deal
Come to terms on 2013 contracts with seven pre-arbitration-eligible players, including Bruce Rondon

Kelly removed from Tigers roster, elects free agency


As general manager Dave Dombrowski had said they would a day earlier, the Tigers on Wednesday removed popular utility man Don Kelly from the roster.

He went unclaimed in the waiver process, and his contract was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo, but the 32-year-old elected free agency and can sign with any other Major League Baseball club.

“In Donnie Kelly’s case, I may get in trouble here because we’re not supposed to talk about it but we’re going to take him off our roster. I’ve talked to Donnie about that so he’s aware of the situation,” Dombrowski said at Tuesday’s season wrap-up news conference. “There’s some procedural aspects of it that we have to follow. Clubs can claim him and keep him in the big leagues when that happens. If not, if he goes through, we would have interest in signing him to a minor league contract and bringing him to camp to compete for a job."

Kelly is one of the most popular members of the team, but it’s been an up-and-down year for him. Stuck in a season-long slump (he finished the season hitting .186 with just four extra-base hits and seven RBI), Kelly was designated for assignment in early August, but returned to the team in September.

He just kept his fingers crossed the whole time, knowing that there were no guarantees.

“Yeah,” Kelly admitted. “Yeah. ... Yeah, I didn’t know. There was nothing guaranteed. But in this game, you learn a long time ago, you just keep grinding it out. You don’t take it personally. I was hitting .170-something, so you don’t really — I know I bring a lot to the team, as far as versatility, but we needed a spark. So you don’t take it personally, you just keep trying to do your job, and go down there and keep playing.”

It worked out in the end. Kelly was on the playoff roster, and again contributed in a huge spot in the postseason.

Last year, it was a home run in Yankee Stadium in the pivotal Game 5 of the American League Division Series. This year, Kelly recorded a walk-off sacrifice fly in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Athletics.

The door is still open for Kelly to possibly return to the Tigers' organization, should he choose to.

“He knows how well thought of he is here. But I also know that other people are in a position where somebody may offer him a better opportunity,” Dombrowski said. “That’s what guys look for when they’re free agents.”

Dombrowski, Tigers lay out offseason plan


The Detroit Tigers' offseason technically started just after the completion of the 10th inning in Sunday's game 4 of the World Series, when the San Francisco Giants finished off a sweep of the Tigers with a 4-3 win.

Both manager Jim Leyland and team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski made their rounds of the locker room later that evening, and into the wee hours of the morning, speaking to players who would be back, and those who won't. 

“I talked to all of our players that I needed to talk to on Sunday after the game. It was a very busy time period, of course a heartbreaking loss and finish to the season," Dombrowski said, "but I also like to be in a position where you talk to the players directly when they’ve been with you for an extended period and it’s a situation also where they deserve that courtesy in my mind, to do it face to face — if you can, it’s not always possible — rather than picking up the phone a day down the road or two days down the road.”

But it wasn't officially an offseason until Dombrowski held his after-season news conference to review the season with members of the media, and look forward to the offseason. In his annual address, the GM lays out the team's likely course for the offseason, highlighting what changes and tweaks to be expected.

For the most part, it's merely putting voice to plans that have been in the works for several weeks.

"We had talks about three weeks ago, a month ago, with all the coaches, and Dave — not that we knew we were coming back then, because we didn’t — but we went over the whole team, what we thought we needed. So Dave has a list — I mean, he’s the best when it comes to that. He’s got everything prioritized, he’s got it all down. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Guys give their opinions. Mine wasn’t the same as some of the coaches. Some of the coaches’ wasn’t the same as mine. Some of them were exactly alike," Leyland said Tuesday, when he spoke after Dombrowski.

"That’s how you get good. That’s how you get good, when people have different opinions, and everybody doesn’t agree with everybody all the time."

Here is a short synopsis of some of the high points of the discussion with Dombrowski:

Leyland and his coaching staff were brought back on a new one-year contract, a discussion that Dombrowski said took about two minutes.

DOMBROWSKI: “I think he knew from the perspective that, a while ago, once the season was over, it was pretty clear from my angle that we would love him back. He just didn’t want to discuss it. I also knew from Jim’s perspective that he doesn’t want focus on him — really at any time, but especially at that time of the year. It’s about the team and winning games.”

• There will be some responsibilities switched around among members of the coaching staff.

DOMBROWSKI: “The way I’d answer this question is that we’ve had some conversations for a lengthy period about making some possible transitions with responsibilities, nothing reflective upon what’s happened in the year past. But I’m not in a position to address that at this point.”

• The club exercised its $6 million option on the contract of shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

DOMBROWSKI: “With Jhonny, and I did talk to him about this,  the second half of the year he started doing some more agility drills and I think it showed and improvement. We talked about him doing that this winter time to help him improve to make the effort to help with the quickness of his feet. The other part of it is, you’re always looking to get better, but when you look at the obvious alternatives at this time —  because you don’t know what else is out there— I don’t know where that obvious alternative is. Where you just say automatically that guy is there, you’re going to get him, he’s going to be significantly better.”

• Reliever Octavio Dotel also had his option ($3.5 million) picked up by the club.

DOMBROWSKI: "I’d say it was an answer that was pretty obvious for us, yeah. You weight that. He’s getting older, but he still threw the ball well. His arm strength is getting good. It’s for one year. The outspoken nature, he’s a good guy, he spoke his mind and what he felt. We didn’t have any problem with that.”

Dombrowski said the Tigers would love to retain midseason trade acquisition Anibal Sanchez.

DOMBROWSKI: “I know it’s not going to be an easy pursuit by any means. I’d love to have Anibal Sanchez back if we could.”
"Do I think it helps that we had Sanchez? My answer would be yes but I’m also practical enough to know that in other ways, no, because when you get to this point, probably offers being equal, it helps you. Offers that blow you away, it doesn’t really make much difference and really what ends up happening is you’ve been through this process before, it’s the player’s right, they can do what they want, you thank them for what they did and if they get an offer that you think, hey, how can you turn it down? You wish them well. I’m not sure where it’s going to lead with him but I do know that he’s a very sought-after guy and people have to make their decisions on what they’re going to do.”

• The Tigers will not pursue re-signing Jose Valverde, leaving the closer's job up in the air.

DOMBROWSKI: “Papa Grande’s case, I do not think we’ll be pursuing him to re-sign him. We told him that, thankful again for what he’s done. He’s done a very good job for us over the last three years. Very fine individual, brought a lot to the clubhouse, great person, and despite a tough finish, really did a fine job for us throughout his career.”

• With no Valverde, the Tigers may go to a closer-by-committee approach, a situation that might possibly include minor league phenomenon Bruce Rondon.

DOMBROWSKI: “We do have guys in (Joaquin) Benoit, Dotel, (Phil) Coke if we decide to mix and match, some young arms with (Brayan) Villarreal and (Al) Alburquerque. ... I would not discount Bruce Rondon in the competition for our closer role for next year. I’m not saying he’s going to be our closer but I do not discount him in that role. He is a guy that throws, and people don’t sometimes believe this, but it is true. He averages 100 miles an hour and topped off at 103, and throws his breaking stuff for consistent strikes. We really, really, seriously thought of, before the 1st of September if we should bring him up and let him join us for the postseason. And probably, if I’d have known how things were going to go with Valverde at that point, would have done that, but I did not anticipate the struggles during the postseason — otherwise we didn’t really have a role because we had a lot of other good arms out there.”


Delmon Young is another free agent the Tigers will not try to re-sign.

DOMBROWSKI: “There’s really not a spot open for Delmon Young at this time. I’m sure somebody could look at him as a left fielder, perhaps so, but for us, right now, we looked at him more as more of a DH situation. ... He understood because we have Victor Martinez coming back. It’s an automatic, Victor sliding into that. We feel Victor will be ready to go next season.”

• While the Tigers would be open to re-signing backup catcher Gerald Laird, he may try to look for a starting job — and starter's money to go with it. That would leave the Tigers with rookie Bryan Holaday as the primary backup to starter Alex Avila.

DOMBROWSKI: “We basically told Gerald this situation: I know he’s looking for a little more playing time, he’s looking for a little more finances. That’s not going to come from us.
“We did not close the door, but also told him it would be a situation where we thought he may as well go ahead and pursue what’s out there and we’ll see what takes place. In that spot, we do feel comfortable with Bryan Holaday as a guy that can step in and be a backup catcher.”

• Paying for arbitration raises may offset a great deal of the payroll money freed up by the departures of guys like Valverde, Young, Laird.

DOMBROWSKI: “(The payroll is) always a conversation I have with Mr. I (Ilitch) at the appropriate time. And even though you take that money off, we have a lot of guys that are due for significant increases through arbitration.”
“We’ve pushed the payroll as you’re aware in the last few years, many times. But I can’t say that we’re actively going to participate in trying to sign some big-dollar free agent player, but I’m not saying that we’re not going to do it at this time either. I still need to have those conversations with Mr. I.”
“We have more arbitration-eligible players this year, than what we’ve had. There’s some significant guys that fit that category, and that will take up a significant amount of dollars for us.”

• The Tigers fully expect Victor Martinez to be ready to resume his role as full-time DH in the spring. 

DOMBROWSKI: "From the injury perspective, I think he’ll be fine. I’m not worried about that part of it. We actually slowed him down a little bit because we didn’t need to progress him any more because you know at one time we had thought about him being ready maybe later in the year. But the strength aspect of it wasn’t quite there. The strength is there but we’ve asked him to slow down the process, take some time. He continues to rehab, just not at a quick pace. I’m assured that he’ll be ready for spring training as far as on field is concerned. We do not look at him as a catcher at this point. We look at him as a DH, maybe play some first base if you give Prince a day off and decide to DH him, which doesn’t happen very often. He can do that. Guys’ skills, how long do they stay? It’s like anybody else, it’s tough to take a year off but I also know he’s a very good hitter. He’s not one of those swing and miss power hitters so I would anticipate that he would be fine. Is he going to hit .330 and drive in 100-plus? I don’t know that but I think he’ll be a good hitter.”

• Set at six of the eight starting positions, as well as DH, the key spots for the Tigers to look for an upgrade would be in the two corner outfield slots. But the GM warned that their might not be a 'Fielder-like' surprise signing in the free agency period.

DOMBROWSKI: “I don’t think we’re going to do that. I think we’ll be better for a couple reasons. First of all, this year there were some areas where we were below average that we can address. I think that the players — although I’m not going to predict a Triple Crown from Miguel — but I think we have other players that are in the prime of their career that will continue to produce at the results that they have given us or close to those results of star players. I think also the experience this club has gained over the last couple years, being in the postseason. And I also think the factor of having them together as a group through the postseason run is a great benefit and they won’t rest on their laurels because they’re not that type of makeup and we have a manager who won’t allow it. Sometimes you have a club that’s really good that wins a lot of games or gets some push, you can’t say, ‘Well this is an area, this is an area, this is an area,’ I think our club, we have a couple areas, we talked about corner outfielders. I think a couple guys can come back and have better years than what they had. I think Alex and Jhonny can have better years from an offensive perspective. So I think that combination would be the two [reasons we’ll be better]. Now I’m not sitting here saying it’s going to be easy, but I’m saying we have the chance to do that.”


DOMBROWSKI: “Dirks is a good player. Is he an every-day player at this point? I don’t know. He might be. I know he’s a real good player. Can he combine with somebody? So I think we’ll just kind of look at that.”

Avisail Garcia may be a guy who earns time in a platoon situation, but he may also not be ready for full-time action at the big-league level.

DOMBROWSKI: “It’s a tough call. I would say the way I describe Garcia is that he’s improved by leaps and bounds. We think he is going to be a star. Has star potential. He’s a five-tool player. I’m not sure that he’s ready as a corner outfielder to give us the contributions that we need on the overall basis at this time, but I’m not sure that he’s not. He is going to play everyday in Winter Ball for Magglio’s (Ordonez's) team in Venezuela. I think he’s a guy that we’ll keep a real close eye on in how he develops over the winter time. He’s got so many plus things. There’s no question that’ll he’ll benefit over the experience he had over the last couple months, but we’ll also need him to give us some production. And when I see that you’re willing to take less production out of a younger guy as they grow, but if you have watched him take batting practice you could see the type of power that he has. Some of that will eventually have to translate to the game, and you know it will but it’s just a matter of when it happens. I don’t think any of us, when we have our conversations, I don’t think anybody knows that, but if I had to settle for him, (Nick) Castellanos, Dirks with one of the roles and you do something else somewhere else, well maybe that’s something you do. I think it just depends on the options as you progress through the winter.”

Brennan Boesch will be tendered a contract, as the Tigers still think he has value and untapped potential. But they won't be handing him one of the corner outfield jobs.

DOMBROWSKI: “I think in the case that he still has ability. He still hit the ball out of the ballpark. We still see some untapped potential. He has struggled some. He hasn’t made the strides we’d like him to make. However, sometimes power hitters take longer to come about, too. But I cannot look and tell you he’s a given, that one of those corner outfield spots are his at this time. That’s something he’d have to earn, by all means. But that doesn’t mean you’d non-tender him because I think he has value as a player.”


DOMBROWSKI: "In Donnie Kelly’s case, I may get in trouble here because we’re not supposed to talk about it but we’re going to take him off our roster. I’ve talked to Donnie about that so he’s aware of the situation. It will happen in the next couple days. There’s some procedural aspects of it that we have to follow. Clubs can claim him and keep him in the big leagues when that happens. If not, if he goes through, we would have interest in signing him to a minor league contract and bringing him to camp to compete for a job. He knows how well thought of he is here. But I also know that other people are in a position where somebody may offer him a better opportunity. That’s what guys look for when they’re free agents."

Quintin Berry will also be given a chance to come to camp and compete for a job. 

DOMBROWSKI: "I will say that Quintin Berry did a real fine job for us early in the season. He added a dimension that we don’t have much, which is speed. Did a good job, enthusiasm. His offense waned as the year went on.  I would say he’s a guy that we look to compete for a spot on our club. How much he does and how much playing time he gets, we’ll see."




No Gold Gloves for Tigers players


Considering how much (well-deserved) heat the Detroit Tigers defense took this season, there's probably not a less shocking headline that could be put on a blog post.

But the Tigers were shut out of the Rawlings Gold Glove awards for the third straight season, as neither catcher Alex Avila nor center fielder Austin Jackson — the team's only two nominees — claimed the top spot when the honorees were announced Tuesday.

The Gold Glove for American League catchers went to Baltimore's Matt Wieters for the second straight season. New York's Russell Martin and Chicago's A.J. Pierzynski were the other nominees.

Avila had a fielding percentage of .994, and caught 34 of 113 would-be base stealers (30 percent).

Wieters' Orioles teammate Adam Jones won the Gold Glove in center field, beating out Jackson and the Angels' Mike Trout for the award.

Jackson committed just one error in 345 total chances (.997 fielding percentage), and recorded five outfield assists.

It's the second time Jones has won the award, but he might have voted differently, were he asked. Below is a tweet that Jones posted to his account during Sunday's Game 4 of the World Series.


2012 Tigers postseason awards tracker


Once the awards season starts in Major League Baseball, it becomes an unrelenting blur of names, trophies and honors breezing past. It's hard to keep track of, admittedly, even for folks like me.

So to help you keep track of the honors individual Detroit Tigers players have been either nominated for, or awarded, here's a tracking list. It will be updated with each announcement, as it is made.

MIGUEL CABRERA
Sporting News Player of the Year
Hank Aaron Award
Sporting News 2012 American League All-Star
Players Choice Awards Player of the Year
Players Choice Awards American League Outstanding Player
AL MVP finalist
Tiger of the Year (voted by Detroit Chapter of BBWAA)
Silver Slugger (AL third base)
AL MVP winner in a landslide

ALEX AVILA
Gold Glove nominee • C

AUSTIN JACKSON
Gold Glove nominee • CF
Wilson Defensive Player of the Year for the Tigers

PRINCE FIELDER
Sporting News 2012 American League All-Star
Silver Slugger (AL first base)

JUSTIN VERLANDER
Sporting News 2012 American League All-Star
AL Cy Young finalist

QUINTIN BERRY
Tigers Rookie of the Year (voted by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters' Association)

If you want to reminisce, here's the 2011 awards tracker.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tigers tabbed as early '13 World Series favorites


Expectations? What expectations?

If the Detroit Tigers had a hard time handling all the questions about expectations, and living up (or down) to them in 2012, it's only going to get worse next season.

One day after the completion of the World Series — one in which the Tigers were swept, getting shut out in two games, and hit just .159 as a team — the Tigers were installed as early favorites to win it all in 2013.

It's not new. The Tigers keep bringing it on themselves.

"I think we set ourselves up a couple of times. We set ourselves up in the wintertime, when we signed Prince. We set ourselves up for expectations. When we swept the Yankees, we set ourselves up for more expectations," manager Jim Leyland said in the aftermath of the series sweep Sunday night. "A lot of people probably didn’t realize how good the Giants were. And so, that’s the way it turned out."

The betting service Bovada has the Tigers as 6-to-1 favorites to win the World Series in 2013, followed by the Yankees at 7-to-1. The champion San Francisco Giants are 10-to-1 to repeat.

The list of odds released by the service does not list odds to win individual divisions, but clearly does not have a lot of faith in the other American League Central teams to knock off the two-time defending AL Central champion Tigers. The White Sox have 28-to-1 odds to win the World Series, while the Twins have 66-to-1 odds, and both the Royals and Indians, with new manager Terry Francona, have 75-to-1 odds.

The complete list:

Detroit Tigers............................6/1
New York Yankees..................7/1
San Francisco Giants...............10/1
Texas Rangers.........................12/1
Washington Nationals.............12/1
Los Angeles Angels................12/1
Philadelphia Phillies................14/1
St. Louis Cardinals..................14/1
Cincinnati Reds.......................14/1
Atlanta Braves.........................14/1
Los Angeles Dodgers..............18/1
Tampa Bay Rays.....................20/1
Boston Red Sox.......................22/1
Arizona Diamondbacks...........25/1
Baltimore Orioles.....................25/1
Milwaukee Brewers.................25/1
Oakland Athletics....................25/1
Chicago White Sox..................28/1
Pittsburgh Pirates.....................30/1
Toronto Blue Jays....................35/1
Seattle Mariners.......................40/1
Miami Marlins..........................40/1
New York Mets.......................40/1
San Diego Padres.....................60/1
Minnesota Twins.....................66/1
Chicago Cubs..........................75/1
Cleveland Indians....................75/1
Colorado Rockies....................75/1
Kansas City Royals.................75/1
Houston Astros......................150/1

Leyland's status with Tigers still up in the air after World Series comes to an end


DETROIT — He’s no longer a lame duck. He’s the next step beyond that.

After playing out the end of the expiring one-year contract he agreed to late last season, there’s still a decision to be made on the future of Jim Leyland as the manager of the Detroit Tigers.

Will he return? Or not?

In the wake Sunday night of the World Series sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants, even he did not know.

“I don’t really know that. We’re going to talk about some things in a day or so. And I’m sure they’ll have some type of an announcement,” Leyland said. “But tonight’s not the night for that.”

No, Sunday night was for the stocking-footed, 67-year-old manager to quietly make his way around the somber locker room, handing out thanks, hugs and handshakes to his players.

But the questions persist.

He met with a small group of reporters in the clubhouse hallway to answer some of them.

Does he want to be back?

“Well ... I like to manage, you know? Contrary to what some people think, I think I’m pretty good at it. A lot of people don’t agree with that. I’m not the best, and I’m not the worst,” said Leyland, who has led the Tigers to two pennants, two division titles and three playoff appearances in seven seasons on the bench in Detroit.

“I think that, since 2006, we’ve changed the culture around here. We’ve been in two World Series in the last seven years. That’s not bad.

“I just want to wait for the right time.”

Some of that is the manager’s own insistence on his contract status not being a distraction. While general manager and team president Dave Dombrowski has said that Leyland would be welcomed back, neither man has gone further than that in discussing the situation.

“I think it is something I’d still rather talk about after the season. I think his preference is for us to deal with it (after),” Dombrowski said at the team workout between the American League Championship Series and the World Series.

“We’ve known each other a long, long time, and we talk on a daily basis about a lot of different things — basically anything with the ballclub. So that’s how he’d like to handle it, and that’s how we’ll handle it.”

If the one side would like to come back, and the other side would like to have him back, it begs the question — what’s the hold up? Are there other considerations? Staff changes? Another team in the equation?

“I can give you this tonight. This is all I can give you: I will not be managing anybody else but the Detroit Tigers, next year. Unless it’s the Mt. Lebanon Tigers, in Pittsburgh, Pa.,” said Leyland, who’s already made four different stops in his 21-year managerial career. “But I’m not looking, in any way, shape, or form, to go anyplace else. This is my last stop.”

That leaves the option of retirement. Does the fire still burn to manage?

“Well, I hope I showed that this year. I took a lot of beatings. I got put against the ropes quite a few times this year. I think I survived it all right,” Leyland said.

“Like I said, I never out-managed anybody, and I like to think that I never got out-managed.

“I don’t get into that stuff. I get into my players, my team, putting them in the right spot. Everybody else can think what they want. That’s up to them.

“That’s OK. I’ve enjoyed it. I like it here. Contrary to what people think, I like the writers, I like the whole scenario. The writers are fair.

“I think some of the punches I took this year were certainly fair. A lot of them not. But that’s OK. That’s part of this business. This is not a place for the weak, the faint of heart. Especially when you have as passionate fans as they have in Detroit. Because they’re into it. And thank God they are.

“But it’s been great. It’s been fun. We made it to the World Series. Pretty good.”

The players in the locker room shared that sentiment — but they may or may not know any more about the situation than anyone else.

Asked how important it was that Leyland comes back to the Tigers, staff ace Justin Verlander did not equivocate.

“No, it’s very important. Skipper and I, we have a great relationship. I love playing for him, my whole career, thus far,” Verlander said.

“I, for one, am extremely glad he’s coming back. I love playing for him. It’s an honor. In my opinion, he’s going to be a Hall of Fame manager. Being able to play for a guy like that, not a lot of people get to say they did.”

Email Matthew B. Mowery at matt.mowery@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

WORLD SERIES: Tigers offense tipping its cap again — and struggling mightily


DETROIT — Not the way this team was constructed to be.

There was simply no way that the Detroit Tigers were supposed to struggle scoring runs like this, not with the lumber they had in the middle of the order.

So, throughout the season, it was fingernails on the chalkboard every time fans heard the phrase, ‘Tip the cap,’ to honor a stellar performance by an opposing pitcher. It was like a punch to the gut whenever an opposing pitcher looked like Cy Young against the Tigers, regardless of their credentials prior to pulling the teeth out of the supposedly vaunted Tigers offense.

“Certainly, you want to tip your hat, but you can’t keep crediting opposing pitchers every night,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said midseason. “We’re doing that a little too often.”

Yet, facing a superb San Francisco Giants in the World Series, back in that same old mode, having scored just three runs in three series games, all of those coming in Game 1 in AT&T Park. (Game 4 was incomplete at press time for this edition).

Tip the cap again.

“The reality is, we’re not clicking. Our timing was a little bit off, but I think you have to tip your cap — the Giants have done a good job pitching to us,” GM Dave Dombrowski said Sunday afternoon in an interview on MLB.com.

“We have run through phases this year, although we’ve only been shut out a couple of times, where we have trouble scoring runs. That’s probably why we only won 88 games, rather than winning more games. Because we go through these phases where you kind of shake your head, and you’re not sure why.”

The Tigers were only shut out twice in the regular season.

When they were blanked, 13-0, by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on July 17, it snapped a 158-game streak of scoring at least one run, one that had dated back almost exactly one calendar year to midway through the 2011 season. The only other time the Tigers were blanked in the regular season was on Aug. 29 by the Royals, a 1-0 loss in the middle game of a three-game sweep in Kansas City.

Through 12 playoff games, though, the Tigers have been shutout three times — 25 percent of the time, by anyone’s math — losing 2-0 to Oakland in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, and by the same 2-0 score to the Giants in both Games 2 and 3 of the World Series.

“The games that we’ve won here in the postseason have basically been attributed to our good pitching, rather than to our hitting,” Dombrowski admitted.

That’s not all that rare.

“(Runs are) normally hard to come by in the postseason, because you’re going to face a good pitcher pretty much every night. Both teams have. Game 1 (an 8-3 Giants win) was a little bit of a crazy game, really. It wasn’t like we figured it would be,” Leyland said. “But the last two have pretty much been what you think about postseason play. Runs are hard to come by.”

Maybe what you figure postseason play will be like. But certainly not how you figure the Tigers would go, right? Not with Triple Crown winner and Hank Aaron Award winner Miguel Cabrera hitting third, and Prince Fielder batting cleanup.

Right?

Well, not really.

“Well, we’ve been pretty hot and cold all year, a little bit more cold than hot, and even in the playoffs we weren’t really scoring that many runs other than the final game against the Yankees, when we finally put eight on the board. But we’ve been fighting all year long, in and out with our offense,” Leyland said Saturday night, after his team became the first AL team to be shut out in back-to-back World Series games since the 1919 White Sox, they of the “Black Sox scandal” infamy.

“No, I don’t think it’s frustration. It is what it is.”

It doesn’t help that the big two, Cabrera and Fielder, are struggling, too.

Fielder came into Saturday’s Game 4 of the World Series hitting just .188 in the postseason — with one home run and three RBI — and just .100 (1-for-10) in the first three games of the Fall Classic.

Cabrera hit .278 through the first two rounds of the playoffs, but just .222 (2-for-9) in the World Series, prior to Game 4.

“I think in reality, that bottom part of the order, that five-through-nine has been very up and down for us, really throughout the year. And then when you look at it right now, Miguel and Prince are also scuffling — at times, those are the guys that pick you up, put you on their back, and carry you,” Dombrowski told MLB.com. “So when you put that combination together, you have almost everybody scuffling. Hopefully collectively, they’ll come out of it, too.”

So which is it? The Tigers hitters struggling, or the Giants pitchers pitching well?

“I think it’s both. You gotta give them credit. They’re hitting their spots,” Fielder said. “When teams throw back-to-back shutouts, they’re doing something.”

Eight teams have accomplished that in the World Series, but only one — the 1966 Orioles, who blanked the Los Angeles Dodgers in three straight games — has done it in the last 90 years.

WORLD SERIES: Alex Avila a late scratch for G4 with forearm soreness


DETROIT — Alex Avila was a late scratch from Sunday’s Game 4 lineup for the Tigers, nursing a sore right forearm, after getting hit by a foul ball in Game 1. 

Trainers recommended to Jim Leyland that he not play Sunday. The manager was not sure about whether or not he could be used as a pinch hitter, but scratching him early allowed him to still be available as an injury replacement.

“I’d probably run him in there to catch if I had to. But just as far as I know, the trainer told me just a little bit ago, it’s probably best not to go with him. Obviously, yesterday I talked to the trainer, felt like he was OK to go and OK to play, because I don’t want to go naked with a catcher in the World Series, obviously,” the manager said, meaning avoiding the risk of having to pull him out of a game, then not having another catcher to use, should back-up Gerald Laird get hurt.

“In an emergency, I’m sure he could go back there and catch the ball.”

Avila has a bone bruise that Leyland said was pretty sore.

But the manager did not know what that meant for down the road, should the Tigers win Sunday night, and extend the series to Monday or beyond.

“It’s not broken. I mean, hopefully, or I’ll be embarrassed because I’d hate to think I caught a guy with a broken arm (Saturday) night,” said Leyland, who will get further medical opinions before and after the game. “Well, that (going forward) would be a concern, to be honest with you. But that’s something for a little later, obviously. But it would probably be a concern. ...

“Alex is very tough, without question, one of the toughest I’ve ever managed. If it’s hurting, it’s hurting. But I would have to talk to our medical team about that before — I don’t want to make any silly statements right now about that, because I don’t know the answer.”

Avila, who has caught a franchise-record 20 postseason games, his hitting just .143 (1-for-7) in the World Series, but hit .227 in the first two rounds, with a home run in the Oakland series.

Laird hit .382 vs. right-handed pitchers in the regular season (the Tigers are facing Giants ace Matt Cain, a righty, in Game 4), but only has one hit in 17 postseason at-bats to date.

WORLD SERIES: Lineups and match-ups for Game 4



WORLD SERIES
Game 4 • Comerica Park
Sunday, Oct. 28
Time: 8:07 p.m.
TV: FOX

The Tigers, trailing the series 3-0, need to get a win to extend the series to a Game 5 Monday. Of the 23 teams that have fallen behind 3-0, only three have extended the series in Game 4. They'll need a good outing from Max Scherzer, who craves this type of stage.

Of note, Alex Avila was originally slated to start behind the plate for the Tigers, but was a late scratch after reportedly taking a foul ball off his arm. He was replaced in the lineup by Gerald Laird, who will hit ninth. Manager Jim Leyland, who was advised by the trainers not to play Avila, figured he could use his starting catcher as an emergency replacement behind the plate, should the need arise, but was not sure about pinch hitting.

DETROIT TIGERS
Austin Jackson, CF
Quintin Berry, LF
Miguel Cabrera, 3B
Prince Fielder, 1B
Delmon Young, DH
Andy Dirks, RF
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Omar Infante, 2B
Gerald Laird, C

STARTING PITCHER: Max Scherzer, RHP

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Angel Pagan, CF
Marco Scutaro, 2B
Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Buster Posey, C
Hunter Pence, RF
Brandon Belt, 1B
Gregor Blanco, LF
Ryan Theriot, DH
Brandon Crawford, SS

STARTING PITCHER: Matt Cain, RHP

WORLD SERIES: Sanchez is there when Tigers need him, offense is not

DETROIT — He was a luxury when they got him.

Saturday, he was a necessity.

When the Detroit Tigers traded for Anibal Sanchez as part of the deadline package they got from the Miami Marlins, he was a luxury — the Tigers didn’t NEED Sanchez to replace rookie Drew Smyly in the rotation.

For all that getting a pitcher was the expressed desire of manager Jim Leyland, the Tigers could’ve lived with the rotation they had.

But they NEEDED him Saturday night, needed him to come through in Game 3 of the World Series.

He did.

The offense didn’t.

“He gave us a great start tonight and gave up two runs. But that’s an outstanding start,” Andy Dirks said. “We just can’t get anything rolling offensively. Tomorrow, that’s what we’re looking forward to.”

Sanchez held the San Francisco Giants to just six hits and two runs through seven innings. Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke would both pitch scoreless innings, as well. The trio combined for 12 strikeouts, the eighth time the Tigers have done that this postseason — a new MLB record.

But that didn’t matter a whit, considering the fact that the Tigers couldn’t score to save their lives. Their streak of shutout innings — dating back to Jhonny Peralta’s ninth-inning home run in Game 1

“We’ve been able to match them pitching, but we just haven’t been able to get the hits,” said catcher Alex Avila.

And match, Sanchez did.

With the exception of the second inning, when he got ahead of himself, trying to throw too hard, and do too much, he matched the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong, pitch-for-pitch.

“I do the best I can. I move my ball. I tried to be ahead in the count. Just one inning, just one inning changed everything. It passed for a bad moment for hitters,” Sanchez said. “But nothing is over. I say yesterday nothing over so we can continue playing. We can just play hard to the end.”

Sanchez would hand Hunter Pence a four-pitch leadoff walk in the second inning, and would pay after Pence — who stole second and went to third on a pitch Sanchez sailed past Avila to the backstop — trotted home on Gregor Blanco’s rocket triple to the gap in right-center field.

Brandon Crawford made it 2-0 with an RBI single that blooped into center field in front of Austin Jackson, who awkwardly tried to play it on one hop, rather than diving.

In all, it would be a 31-pitch inning for Sanchez.

“You can’t (explain it). I think that second inning, he started to overthrow it a little bit, and he made the right adjustment. Sometimes, that just happens. You want to do so well for your team, you just kind of lose your release point. He just started to overthrow there, and he made the adjustment,” catcher Alex Avila said. “I don’t think it was nerves or anything. I think he just tried to overthrow a little bit.”

After that blip, he’d retire 15 of the next 18 batters he’d face, keeping it a 2-0 game through the top of the seventh. He’d be done after 117 pitches in seven innings, striking out eight.

“Well, I thought he was probably over‑competing a little bit early, and then he settled in and was absolutely terrific, and that’s why I let him finish that inning,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I thought he deserved to be out there. He was competing his fanny off. He was absolutely tremendous. We got tremendous pitching effort, but we've been shut out for 18 innings, so it's pretty hard to win a game.”

As good as Sanchez was, he’d be outdueled by one of this postseason’s best in Vogelsong.

The one-time journeyman — who resurrected his career in Japan — had been stellar for the Giants this postseason, going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA before Saturday’s game. He’d lower that to 1.09, the lowest ERA recorded by any pitcher with a minimum of 24 postseason innings pitched since Orel Hersheiser’s 1.05 mark in 1988.

“It’s the type of game you like to win because of how close it was, and both pitchers were on top of their game,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

While the Giants’ pitching is obviously a key to the three runs allowed in three games — and the first back-to-back shutouts thrown by any World Series staff since the 1966 Orioles — the defense backing those pitchers up has been pivotal.

Left fielder Gregor Blanco — who plated the go-ahead run in Saturday’s Game 3 with a second-inning triple — has made a number of sensational plays with his glove.

Two diving catches in Game 1 to rob Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera.

The start of the relay in Game 2 that nailed Fielder at the plate, trying to score from first base on a Delmon Young double.

And he made a running grab in foul territory in the ninth inning of Game 3 to help seal the win.

“I’ll tell you, it’s a critical part of the game. That’s our strength, pitching and defense. They’ve done a great job. Blanco, just a tremendous job he’s doing out in left field, including in the ninth, making that catch,” Bochy said. “Defense can win games for you, and I thought it did tonight.”

The Giants also turned two double plays to snuff out potential Tigers rallies, but they seem to make every little routine play, as well.

“A lot of times those things go a little bit unnoticed, you know great plays, things like that. A catcher blocking the ball with a guy on third. A lot of times, those things go unnoticed, and they definitely have saved runs by great plays,” Avila said. “That’s a credit to them.”

Email Matthew B. Mowery at matt.mowery@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey honored with Hank Aaron Award


DETROIT — Takes a lot to awe a Major League Baseball player.

Both Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera and San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey were a bit jittery in the chairs they were placed in early Saturday evening.

After all, the two All-Stars will likely only be the Most Valuable Players in their respective leagues. Saturday, they were named the Hank Aaron Award winners for the American League and National League, respectively,

But before they faced off in Game 3 of the World Series, they were in the presence of baseball royalty.

They took their turns stepping to the podium in the interview room in the bowels of Comerica Park, sitting there with Hall of Famers Aaron — who was on hand to present his eponymous award — and Frank Robinson, along with the commissioner of MLB, Bud Selig.

“I’m very nervous right now,” Cabrera said. “I want to thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. It’s an honor.”

“I’m humbled Hank Aaron knows who I am,” Posey agreed.

The Hank Aaron Award is given annually to each league’s top offensive performer, as voted by fans, along with a Hall of Fame panel of Aaron, Tony Gwynn, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan and Robin Yount.

Posey won the NL batting title (after suspended teammate Melky Cabrera recused himself), while Miguel Cabrera led the AL in hitting, and all of the big leagues in home runs and RBI.

Cabrera was honored for his Triple Crown, as well, the first of its kind in 45 seasons, presented with a crown by MLB.

"That was one thing I didn't do, and you did it with grace," Aaron said to Cabrera.

Just Friday, Cabrera was named the Sporting News Player of the Year.

Email Matthew B. Mowery at matt.mowery@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.

WORLD SERIES: Scherzer stoked for Game 4 start


Lessons learned through experience can be applied differently.

For some guys, it’s a matter of figuring out how to settle themselves down on a big stage, not let it get too big for them.

“I think honestly just experience. You know, not letting your anxiety and adrenaline get the better of you but being able to use it to your advantage, and I think the only way to learn how your body is going to respond to these situations is having been in them before,” Justin Verlander said before his start in Game 1 of the World Series, responding to a question about what he’d been able to apply this trip, after going to the 2006 World Series as a rookie.

“So I think that’s what has made it easier for me this postseason thus far to draw on some of my past experiences pitching in the postseason and some big games, to just allow me to be a little bit more at ease out there.”

For others, like Max Scherzer, there’s no issue with embracing the magnitude of the game.

The bigger the stage, the more Max likes it.

“I love it. Because I’m not afraid of the situation, not afraid of the spotlight. I love being in these situations, because I always believe in myself,” the Tigers’ Game 4 starter said after he pitched his team to the World Series berth-clinching, sweep-sealing win in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.

Having one trip to the postseason under his belt last year, Scherzer better knew what to expect this year, too, better knew how he needed to deal with the excitement, the atmosphere.

“This year I knew, let it fly. Use the energy of the crowd to your advantage. That was my approach (in the ALCS). I was able to treat it like a regular season game but with a little bit more amp to it,” he said. “For me, I was able to keep it right where I needed to be. That’s what allowed me to execute my pitches tonight.”

The Tigers will need Scherzer to properly channel his emotions again on Sunday, when they send him to the mound for Game 4. After losing the first two games of the World Series in San Francisco, the Tigers needed to win one of the first two home games to get the series back to Verlander in the rotation. They needed to win two of the three to send the series back to San Francisco.

Scherzer is ready, too.

“Oh, I absolutely relish it. I mean, this is the start of a lifetime to be able to pitch in the World Series. You know, every game you pitch in the World Series is a must-win game, so what better opportunity than the one I have?” he said, admitting it doesn’t matter to him if it’s a game the Tigers need to win to avoid elimination, or if it’s one that will enable them to tie the series at 2-2.

“Absolutely not, because I’ve got to give the team a chance to win tomorrow, so regardless of what the series is at, it’s a must-win game. We’re trying to win the World Series. So, if we’re going to do that, I’m going to need to pitch well.”

It helps that he’s had a few days to get acclimated to the series, too, soak in the atmosphere.

“I’ve already done that. Being out there for the introductions for Game 1 and watching the flyover, that’s just such a cool experience to be a part of, I mean, part of the World Series,” he said. “I’ve already gotten to pinch myself and say I’m in the World Series. (Sunday) when I go out there, it will be business as usual for me.”

Fister fine, passes 'every test with flying colors'


After getting hit by a line drive in Thursday’s Game 2 loss, Doug Fister insisted he was fine, and continued to pitch. He insisted after the game that he was fine, too.

But that didn’t mean the Tigers didn’t get him checked out.

They did. Thoroughly.

Manager Jim Leyland told reporters prior to Saturday’s game that Fister had indeed been checked out.

“Fister took and passed every test with flying colors. So he’s fine,” the manager said. “I hate to think anybody thought I’d keep a guy in there who was cuckoo.”

Start to finish, they took the matter very seriously — well, sort of.

There were a few jokes.

“I didn’t know what happened. I just know that it came in the outfield and Doug kept pitching,” left fielder Delmon Young said Thursday. “Then I found out it hit him in the head, so I felt bad for the ball.”

Even the manager got in on the wisecracking.

“I talked to him on the plane last night. He was sitting right behind his folks and I had a nice conversation with him. I’m a little worried about him because this morning he didn’t remember our conversation — no, I’m just kidding,” Leyland joked during Friday’s workout at Comerica Park. “He’s going to be checked out today. He will be checked out. ... I’m not exactly sure what time his appointment was, but he will be checked out.

“I think he’s fine because I did talk to him. I’m serious now, I did talk to him on the plane last night, and he seemed fine. He’s a little sore, but there didn’t appear to be anything that looked alarming like loss of memory or — he looked fine, his eyes looked fine, and the trainers have checked him out, so I think he’s fine.”

Even Fister had a laugh at his own expense.

“According to my dad, my whole life, his saying has always been if I got hit in the head, I’m OK,” he said. “So that’s how I’m taking it.”

WORLD SERIES Game 3 lineups


WORLD SERIES
Game 3 • Saturday, Oct. 27
Comerica Park
Game time: 8:07 p.m.
TV: FOX
Series: San Francisco leads, 2-0


The Tigers bring the World Series back to Detroit, but they have their backs against the wall, having lost both of the first two games in San Francisco.

Of the 52 teams that have jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the 107 previous World Series, 41 of those (78.8 percent) have gone on to win the title.

The team to go up 2-0 has won each of the last eight times it’s happened, and 13 of the last 14. The 1996 Yankees were the last team to come back from an 0-2 deficit in the World Series.

Franchise history is no kinder to the Tigers. The only time in 11 appearances the Tigers lost the first two games of the World Series, 1908, they lost the series to the Chicago Cubs, 4-1. (Technically, the Tigers went down 0-2-1 to the Cubs in the 1907 series, after Game 1 ended in a 3-3 tie after 12 innings. The Tigers did not win a game in that series.) They split the first two games in the other nine appearances.

It's perhaps unsurprising that the Tigers — who went 38-43 on the road in the regular season — have struggled away from home in the playoffs, going 3-4 so far. All four of those losses have come in the Bay Area, two at San Francisco and two at Oakland. After racking up a 50-31 home record in the regular season, the Tigers are 4-0 at home so far in the playoffs.

Here are the lineups: (as of 3:30, the Giants had not set their lineup yet).


DETROIT TIGERS: 
Austin Jackson, CF
*Quintin Berry, LF
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (1-for-5, 2K/1BB vs. Vogelsong)
*Prince Fielder, 1B (0-for-3, 1K vs. Vogelsong)
Delmon Young, DH (1-for-3 vs. Vogelsong)
*Andy Dirks, RF (0-for-3 vs. Vogelsong)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (1-for-2, 1BB, 1 RBI vs. Vogelsong)
*Alex Avila, C (0-for-1, 2 BB vs. Vogelsong)
Omar Infante, 2B (7-for-11 vs. Vogelsong)

STARTING PITCHER: Anibal Sanchez, RHP
2012 regular season (with Tigers): 4-6, 3.74 ERA, 12 GS, 1 SHO, 74.2 IP, 81H, 31 ER, 57K/15BB
2012 postseason: 1-1, 2 GS, 13.1 IP, 1.35 ERA, 8H, 2 ER, 10K/5BB

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: (lineup has not been set yet)
#Angel Pagan, CF (6-for-23, 3-2B, 6 RBI, 4K vs. Sanchez)
Marco Scutaro, 2B
#Pablo Sandoval, 3B  (1-for-6, 1K vs. Sanchez)
Buster Posey, C (1-for-8, 4K/1BB vs. Sanchez)
Hunter Pence, RF (6-for-18, 1-2B, 2 RBI vs. Sanchez)
*Brandon Belt, 1B (2-for-6, 1 RBI, 1K vs. Sanchez)
*Gregor Blanco, LF (4-for-7, 1-3B, 2K/2BB, 2 RBI vs. Sanchez)

#Hector Sanchez, DH

*Brandon Crawford, SS (0-for-5, 4K vs. Sanchez)

*—left-handed hitter
#—switch hitter

STARTING PITCHER: Ryan Vogelsong, RHP
2012 regular season: 14-9, 3.37 ERA

Friday, October 26, 2012

Miguel Cabrera named Sporting News MLB Player of the Year


Miguel Cabrera was named the Sporting News' MLB Player of the Year, the magazine revealed Friday, beating out Mike Trout in the voting, 108-71.

No other player got more than five votes from the panel of 203 big-league players.

The Triple Crown winner became the Detroit Tigers franchise's fourth player to win the award.

Teammate Justin Verlander was the 2011 honoree, while Denny McLain won in 1968. Both men won the American League Cy Young and MVP honors in those seasons. AL MVP Hal Newhouser won it in 1945.

Every Triple Crown winner since the award was created in 1936 — Carl Yastrzemski (1967), Frank Robinson (1966), Mickey Mantle (1956), Ted Williams (1942, 1947) — has won the award.

It remains to be seen if Cabrera will also beat out Trout in the voting for the AL MVP award. The Base Ball Writers' Association of American will announce the results of their voting at 6:47 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, Nov. 15.

Play at the plate backfires; Lamont: 'Nobody wants to talk to you, unless you (screw) up.'


DETROIT — If you push buttons, there’s no guarantee they’re the right ones.

When you’re not scoring runs, there’s a tendency to become more aggressive, to force the other team to make plays.

When the Detroit Tigers tried to do just that, it backfired.

Prince Fielder was thrown out on a bang-bang play at home plate in the second inning of Game 2 of the World Series, trying to score from first base on a Delmon Young double.

It ended up being the only time that the Tigers had a runner at second or beyond, as Madison Bumgarner and two San Francisco Giants relievers held them to two hits in a 2-0 win, the second time in 11 postseason games the Tigers have been shut out.

Of the Tigers’ four baserunners in the game, three were erased on the basepaths.

“Well, if I had it to do over, I probably would’ve held him. I just know we haven’t been scoring runs, and I got overly aggressive, I guess,” said Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont. “With nobody out, I just saw the ball bounce away from the left fielder (Gregor Blanco). Wasn’t where he was at. I thought Prince could score, and he made a perfect relay, and I was wrong.

“Difficulty is, nobody wants to talk to you, unless you (screw) up.”

In reality, though, it was only the wrong call because of the result.

And that was a product of a perfect defensive play by the Giants.

Young laced a double just inside the third-base bag, one that curved toward the Giants’ bullpen, and away from Blanco. All of a sudden, though, it hit the wall in front of the seating behind the bullpen, and bounced in the opposite direction than Blanco was running. It looked like it might take him a few seconds to re-direct and pick it up.

“Well, it hit off the wall, so I thought he would score, to be honest, the way it carried off the wall. It took two perfect throws to get him,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “He was out, and good quick tag by Buster (Posey), like I said. It took a perfect relay to get it done.”

Problem was, it wasn’t a perfect relay, as Blanco overshot the cutoff man, shortstop Brandon Crawford, but his throw was snared by second baseman Marco Scutaro, who was backing up the play. Scutaro fired a dart to Posey, who’d set up inside the base-line, then laid a perfect sweep tag, nailing Fielder on the hip before he slid into the plate.

The fact that Posey, who missed most of last season after being injured in a collision at the plate, has been instructed not to block the plate as aggressively since then, may have been the key.

Fielder could’ve trucked him, had he tried. Even at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Posey probably doesn’t win that impact with the 275-pound Fielder.

“He gave me the plate, so whenever that happens, you’ve gotta make a slide,” Fielder said, admitting that he’d not yet seen the replay at the time. “Yeah, I thought I was safe. I didn’t feel the tag. I thought I was able to get in there but, unfortunately, I wasn’t.”

That was enough for his manager to argue, too.

“I did go out. I thought with my naked eye, I thought he was out, but when Prince reacted, I thought, well, maybe he might have missed him,” Jim Leyland said. “But the umpire made a great call. He made an absolute terrific call in a big situation, a tough situation, a tough call, and he made a great call.”

The replay did show pretty convincingly that Fielder had been tagged out.

“You know what? It was a helluva call. God, Prince looked safe by a mile from our vantage point. We looked at the replay, and he was out by a foot,” said Justin Verlander, crediting home plate umpire Dan Iassogna. “I don’t know how he saw it, but he did. Heckuva call.”

That wasn’t the only call the Tigers appreciated.

“Helluva play. I know why Geno sent him. The ball kind of ricocheted, and looked like he was going to fumble around. And he picked up clean, and good catch-and-throw to home. Can’t fault Geno for sending him, and you can’t fault — those guys made a helluva of a play. You gotta put pressure on the other team,” Verlander said.

“Who knows what happens after that, if he’s safe at home, and you’ve got a man on second, nobody out? Could’ve been a big inning.”

Email Matthew B. Mowery at matt.mowery@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.

(NOTE: Lamont quotes courtesy of WXYT-FM's Jeff Riger)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fister hit in head with a line drive, stays in game


Everyone knew Doug Fister was a tough sonofagun.

After all, he took a line shot off the pitching hand in the American League Championship Series, and stayed in the game.

But a line shot off the head is something else, entirely.

That’s what happened to Fister in Thursday’s Game 2 of the World Series, when Gregor Blanco laced a comebacker right back to the mound, getting there before Fister could get his glove up in self-defense.

The ball glanced off the right side of Fister’s head, and caromed into center field for a single.

Tigers head trainer Kevin Rand and manager Jim Leyland both hustled out to the mound to check on him, immediately. 

Audio from the television feed picked up Fister answering Rand’s quick concussion test with “San Francisco. Game 2.” Rand asked how many outs there were. “Two,” Fister answered. “Get the third,” Rand replied.

The pitcher would walk Brandon Crawford to load the bases, but get the opposing pitcher, Madison Bumgarner, to pop out to end the threat.

Venezuela celebrating one of its MLB heroes, not for the first time


DETROIT — You might be able to criticize the term “World Series,” since — aside from Canada — no countries other than the United States are represented by teams. 

But you can’t argue that no other countries are represented at all, since there are a record 20 foreign-born players participating.

As always, this World Series is a huge hit in Latin America — where all 20 of those players originated — particularly in Venezuela, where Pablo Sandoval’s Game 1 exploits provided a continuation of what’s been a year-long baseball celebration.

Wednesday night, Sandoval became the first player to hit three home runs in his first three at-bats of any World Series game, and just the fourth to ever hit three overall. Thursday morning, his phone blew up with congratulations from friends around the world, many from his native Venezuela.

“Three hundred text messages, man — 300. So excited how the people watched pay attention to all the things in the game, all my friends back home, family, just excited to be part of this,” Sandoval said in a press conference Thursday afternoon, before Game 2 of the series. “You know, I still can’t believe it. In the morning when I wake up, all the stuff, my friends keep texting me. But you know, you have to realize what’s going on right now in your life, so you have to keep your head up and keep focused.”

It’s got to be hard to do that, though, when your country’s president is tweeting about your exploits, as they happen.

That’s going to make it an interesting trip home to Venezuela in the offseason for Sandoval, among others.

“I don’t know, man. It’s going to be a big deal. Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown, myself hitting three homers in the World Series. It’s a big deal. The President (Hugo Chavez) sent me a tweet yesterday. I still can’t believe it,” Sandoval said, admitting he’d never met the man. “No, he put a tweet on the three home runs. But when I was hitting the fourth at‑bat, he was like, ‘I’m just going to say congratulations to Pablo, but I’m just going to see the four homers right now.’ So that was funny.”

Even Cabrera was wowed.

“Unbelievable night. Unbelievable night,” the Tigers’ slugger said.

It’s not the first thing Venezuelans have had to celebrate this baseball season — or ever. The country has a rich history of sending players to the big leagues to do big things. 

Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in 45 years, becoming the first Latin American player to claim the distinction.

“I know my country was watching and I appreciate all of the support,” Cabrera said the night he clinched it in Kansas City. “This is a special moment for all us, not just a personal moment. It’s an emotional day for all of us. I still can’t believe it happened.”
He hit his 300th home run in July, becoming just the second Venezuelan — after Andres Galarraga — to accomplish that feat. 

• Magglio Ordonez won the 2007 American League batting title, the first Tigers hitter in 46 years to accomplish that, the first since Norm Cash in 1961. He was the second Venezuelan to win a league batting title, following Galarraga (1993, NL). Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez (2010, NL) and Cabrera (2011-12, AL) have since joined the duo. 

• Ozzie Guillen, ousted this week as manager of the Miami Marlins, was the first Latino manager to lead a team to the World Series championship, guiding the White Sox to the 2005 crown.

“I’ll be happy for all things happening to Venezuelan players right now, happening in all the careers of the Venezuelans in the Big Leagues; Omar (Vizquel), all those guys, Andres. I’m just excited what we do this year, (Johan) Santana starting with a no‑hitter, following with a perfect game, Cabrera following the Triple Crown and me, excited how we’re working hard to get all these things together,” Sandoval said. “You have to realize in your life, you have to be happy for all the work you do to get here.”

Venezuela and the Dominican Republic both have sent nine players each to this World Series.

Gregor Blanco, Jose Mijares, Hector Sanchez, Marco Scutaro and Sandoval of the Giants are from Venezuela, as are the Tigers’ Cabrera, Avisail Garcia, Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez. Six Tigers (Al Alburquerque, Jhonny Peralta, Joaquin Benoit, Ramon Santiago, Jose Valverde, Octavio Dotel) are from the Dominican Republic, as are three Giants (Joaquin Arias, Santiago Casilla, Guillermo Mota).

Both managers have seen those pipelines first-hand from the other end.

The Tigers’ Jim Leyland managed in Venezuela for a time, while the Giants’ Bruce Bochy played there.

“Well, I spent three years playing winter baseball down there, and they love the game. They have just a great passion for baseball. As far as I know, I’m pretty sure it is their national sport there. There’s some great players that have come out of Venezuela. So I’m not surprised to see that many players here in the World Series that are just great players and have played the game all their life,” Bochy said.

“They play the game in their country probably similar to how we played it here 50, 60 years ago. They all played as kids growing up. You drive around the country and you see them playing sandlot baseball. That’s why I think we’re seeing so many players, not just from Venezuela but from Latin America, because of how much they play as kids.”

Leyland has seen the same thing.

“Well, I just think it starts when they’re so young over there. That’s what they do over there. It seems like if you’re a young boy in Venezuela you play baseball; that’s what you do. We’ve been very fortunate, and I think if you look at baseball all around, the Latin countries ARE putting a lot of players in the Major Leagues in this day and age,” the Tigers’ manager said. “We’re very fortunate. Certainly we have some very good ones and we have had in the past. ... I think that the influx of the Latin players has been very important for Major League Baseball.”

Email Matthew B. Mowery at matt.mowery@oakpress.com and follow him on Twitter @matthewbmowery. Text keyword “Tigers” to 22700 to get updates sent to your phone. Msg & data rates may apply. Text HELP for help. Text STOP to cancel.

WORLD SERIES: Random notes, tidbits between Game 1 and 2

• The Tigers fell to 2-8-1 in World Series Game 1’s. Of the previous seven times they’d lost Game 1, they came back to win Game 2 six times — 1909, 1934, 1935, 1945, 1968 and 2006. (And, yes, the Tigers do have a rare tie in the World Series. The Cubs and Tigers were tied at 3-3 after 12 innings in the 1907 WS opener, when the game was called for darkness. The Cubs won the next four games.)

• Three of the four times the Tigers have won the World Series — 1935, 1945 and 1968 — they’ve lost Game 1. All three of those losses were by shutout.

• The winner of Game 1 of the World Series has gone on to win it all 66 times (61.7 percent). That’s held true eight of the last nine years, and 13 of the last 15. (The 2002 Giants and 2009 Phillies were the exceptions).

• Miguel Cabrera’s Game 1 single and walk allowed him to reach safely again, meaning he’s reached base safely at least once in each of his 21 career playoff games with the Tigers. That’s the longest such streak in franchise history, surpassing Hank Greenberg’s 18-game streak.

• Jhonny Peralta’s ninth-inning home run made him the fourth player in franchise history to homer in his first career World Series game, joining Greenberg (Game 1, 1934), Bruce Campbell (G1, 1940) and Mickey Lolich (G2, 1968).

• Through Game 1, Peralta and Austin Jackson both had collected 13 hits, four shy of Carlos Guillen’s club record for a single postseason. Delmon Young had 12, Cabrera and Omar Infante 11 each.

• From MLB Public Relations, 20 percent of all social media comments during Game 1 included the words “Pablo,” “Sandoval” or “Panda” according to Bluefin Labs.

• According to Sports Business Daily, Game 1 drew an 8.8 overnight rating, down eight percent from last year’s Game 1 of the World Series, and the second-lowest Series opener since the Tigers and Cardinals in 2006. Sports Business Journal’s Eric Fisher later tweeted that it finished up as the lowest-rated series opener ever. “First hour of last night’s WS game ratings tracked about even to last year then fell hard as #Giants built big lead,” he reported.

WORLD SERIES: Game 2 lineups

WORLD SERIES
Game 2 • Oct. 25, 2012
AT&T Park, San Francisco
Game time: 8:07 p.m.
Giants lead best-of-7 series, 1-0

Here are the lineups for Thursday's Game 2. The only real change for the Tigers, despite their 8-3 loss in Game 1, was subbing in Gerald Laird for Alex Avila at catcher. The Tigers still have two left-handed bats in the lineup, though, as Doug Fister throws right-handed, but bats left-handed.

DETROIT TIGERS (0-1)
Austin Jackson, CF
Omar Infante, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, 3B
*Prince Fielder, 1B
Delmon Young, LF
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Avisail Garcia, RF
Gerald Laird, C
*Doug Fister, P

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (1-0)
#Angel Pagan, CF
Marco Scutaro, 2B
#Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Buster Posey, C
Hunter Pence, RF
*Brandon Belt, 1B
*Gregor Blanco, LF
*Brandon Crawford, SS
Madison Bumgarner, P