DETROIT — You can’t necessarily blame the cold weather for the cold turn the fortunes of the Detroit Tigers have taken since their 9-5 start.
It certainly has contributed to some of the losses, making it uncomfortably hard to grip a ball ... or a bat.
“You don’t want to keep focusing on it, because, No. 1, it’s the same for everybody, but if you read the comments, (Kansas City’s Jeff) Francoeur said he couldn’t feel his hands, it was the coldest game he’d ever ... you know,” said manager Jim Leyland, whose team had lost five of six coming into this weekend’s interleague series with the Atlanta Braves.
“The weather conditions do have something to do with everybody, not just the Tigers. The weather is a factor, but I don’t want to make it sound like I’m saying it’s just a factor for us, and not other people, because it was pretty cold when we were hitting good, too. I don’t really know the answer to that.
“Right now, were not certainly clicking on all cylinders.”
But it’s been more directly involved in the Tigers losing players to minor injuries over the last week or so.
“The other night, we had a couple guys that were complaining. Guys were having a hard time getting loose,” Tigers head trainer Kevin Rand said. “It’s the same thing with the other club. We all deal with the same thing. But the fact is that when it’s cold, guys have more issues.”
Justin Verlander had a blister near his thumb crack open in the cold, forcing him to leave Thursday’s start earlier than anticipated.
Phil Coke strained an adductor muscle in his less-than-successful relief outing Thursday, and wasn’t available for Friday’s game.
Al Alburquerque’s nagging little hip flexor pull, which cut short his outing in Wednesday’s game.
And the cold has done no favors for the sore knee that’s bothered Andy Dirks since he slammed it into the fence in spring training.
“I think the weather’s had something to do with Alburquerque’s thing, Coke’s thing now. Some of the guys have been tight. It’s funny. Some years, nothing goes on like that, and other years, muscles tighten up, or get crampy, or whatever,” Leyland said.
“I can’t explain it to you. ...”
Most of those injuries will clear up on their own, in time.
No one thinks that Verlander’s blister issue will keep him from making his next start on Tuesday.
“No, I mean, we’re looking at it. We should be able to get him ready for his next start,” said Rand, noting it’s not the first time Verlander’s dealt with the issue
When you’re out there pitching, and it’s cold and dry, it’s just a crack in the skin, just like you’d get, regular people, working outside. You’re going to get a crack in the skin. Unfortunately, the location of it, in the thumb area, caused him to not be able to pitch coming out in the eighth. ... Pitchers build up different wear sites, but most of those callus over, and usually aren’t an issue. But when they split like this, they become an issue.”
Coke may miss some time, though, with what amounts to a groin pull.
“He felt it on a pitch yesterday,” Rand said. “He’s better today. He’s kind of a day-to-day guy at this point in time. Might be a couple days.”
And Alburquerque SAID he was OK after feeling the flexor tighten up, but he hasn’t pitched since.
“He’s a classic example of that the other night. He felt something in his hip flexor on a pitch. It tightened up pretty good for him, I think. A lot of that was cold weather-driven. It did tighten up,” Rand said. “Yesterday (Thursday), he came in and felt better. We weren’t going to use him yesterday. Give him some time and he’s OK. We’ll continue to treat him and get him out there.”
Dirks may be a more dicey proposition.
The knee hasn’t totally been right since the collision with the wall. That’s probably a large component of why he’s hitting .167 out of the gate.
Cold isn’t helping that, either.
“He’s had a couple continued flare-ups with that. He still has some inflammation in an around the joint,” Rand said. “As a result, I think he probably had a reaction to the cold weather the other night. I think that kind of bothered him a little bit.”
There’s no telling when it might be healed up all the way.
“Trainer got a text yesterday morning that the knee was sore, and acting up, but that’s OK. Today’s better, but what does that mean?” Leyland said. “I can’t answer that.”
Dirks wouldn’t have started Friday’s game, anyway, with a left-hander on the mound, but no manager likes to be short-handed.
That’s less of a problem on the bench than it is in the bullpen.
But Leyland’s not going to force-feed pitchers into the game in April, if there is a chance it could hurt them further.
“You have to watch them all. I try to watch them all. Maybe the other people are right, but I try not to do silly stuff. I know how valuable a healthy pitching staff is. I mean, Jose Valverde had no spring training, all of a sudden pitched four out of six (days) — I mean, I think you just don’t do crazy stuff. I want to get this bullpen, once and for all, in order. Now Coke’s a little setback again,” Leyland said.
“It’s way too early to start panicking about losing four out of five, or five out of six. Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying I’m happy about it. But I think it goes a lot like sometimes you say ‘You can’t be afraid to lose a game.’ Well, I don’t want to lose my bullpen for a month or two, getting greedy. I think it’s important, obviously, to win the games, but ...”