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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Torii Hunter misses another chance at his first career cycle

Selflessness doesn’t help you achieve personal milestones.

If Torii Hunter had given in to that little selfish imp that sometimes sits on his shoulder, he might have been talking about his first career cycle after Wednesday’s game, rather than falling just shy for the second time this season.

“I’ve come close several times in my career. Every time I have a single to go or a double to go,” said Hunter, who had four hits, including two doubles, a home run and a single, on Wednesday. “If I need the single, I hit a double, another double or a homer. It just never works out. I had a chance in Cleveland and here this year, twice, and I didn’t capitalize on it. I suck.”

He had a chance to get the elusive triple to complete the cycle in his final at-bat Wednesday, lacing a shot to the right-field corner. It scored Ramon Santiago from second. But Alex Avila, on first at the time, obeyed the stop sign from third-base coach Tom Brookens, and put the brakes on at third base.

Hunter, who’d been digging hard for third, had to put on the brakes, as well, and was thrown out as he tried to scramble back to second.

“I felt really bad after. I really wasn’t, kind of the moment of the game I wasn’t. I wish I did, for sure. I would have definitely gotten thrown out but I wouldn’t have cared at that point. I felt really bad coming back in the dugout. When I saw him coming around, I stopped and I got to third, I was like, ‘oh, crap,’ ” Avila said.

“I was running hard. I couldn’t go any faster than that. I thought maybe I had a good enough jump off the ball because I knew Werth wasn’t going to be able to catch it so I was able to get a good jump, and I thought maybe I had a good enough jump to where I could score. As soon as I saw Brookie put the stop sign up, as fast as I was going, it’s not very hard to stop.”

For his part, manager Jim Leyland declared Brookens’ decision the right call (especially in a blowout game), but Hunter jokingly insisted he should have been selfish.

“It was very difficult, man. I was just going to keep going no matter what. I saw Avila slowing down before I even hit second base but I was like, forget that, I’m going to keep running and it didn’t work out. I knew Brookie couldn’t have known because he held him up early. I should have been selfish. It’s not in me, though,” Hunter laughed.

“I would have pushed Avila off the bag and I would have stayed on, pushed him off — ‘Tag him!’ He didn’t know either. Brookie didn’t know. What can you do? Hopefully I get another chance before I retire. In about 10 years.”

Peralta on possible suspension: 'It’s gonna be disappointing but there’s nothing that I can do'

DETROIT — Somebody finally noticed there’s been smoke for a while.

Maybe they’re ready to acknowledge there’s been a fire.

While all parties involved have tried to take the head-in-sand route and ignore all the smoke surrounding Jhonny Peralta’s reported involvement with performance enhancing drugs from the Biogenesis clinic, all signs now point to there being something to the reports.

“When there’s enough smoke, you get to be concerned,” said Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski, when announcing a three-way deadline deal to bring shortstop Jose Iglesias to Detroit as an insurance policy should Peralta be suspended by Major League Baseball. “I’m not at great liberty to talk about that. That’s a Commissioner’s office decision. And I don’t really know what’s going to happen, 100 percent.

“But I read the same names that you read. And I got concerned.”

Just as concerning is the fact that Peralta denials, since calling any accusers “liars” when his attorney issued a statement back in February, have been less than vehement.

With the suspensions expected to drop later this week — maybe Thursday, maybe Friday — Peralta didn’t sound like a guy who was still proclaiming his innocence.

“I don’t hear nothing yet. Try to play this game. I’m still here so I don’t worry about nothing. Try to play this game today,” he said, admitting the whole controversy is hard to keep out of mind. “It’s hard a little bit but I need to forget about it and try to move on, try to do what I need to do.”

Is it wrong to be in the Biogenesis records, as he’s reported to have been?

“Yes, it’s wrong. But whatever happens, I need to fight and try to move on,” said Peralta, who’s spoken with his agent about it, but said he has not talked to anyone to give any testimony. “I don’t feel nervous. But yeah, I worry a little bit because I want to play everyday here and I love to be here in Detroit.”

Should Peralta be disciplined by MLB, would he appeal? His answer to that question, should he face it, might determine whether or not he plays for the Tigers again this season — or maybe ever again.

“I don’t have comment yet about that,” he said. “I try to see what’s better for everybody and see what can happen.”

An All-Star for a second time in his Tigers career, Peralta came into Wednesday leading all American League shortstops in batting average (.308), on-base percentage (.361), slugging percentage (.460), and OPS (.821). He’s second in RBI and home runs, and leading all MLB shortstops in doubles.

“Peralta’s a very good shortstop and a hell of a player,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I think you’re going to miss Jhonny Peralta’s bat if something happens. I don’t know if anything’s gonna happen and I’m not gonna comment on it until something does happen. Jhonny Peralta, in my opinion, and I can’t believe that nobody ever mentions this in the Detroit media, in my opinion, I don’t know how this is going to play out, but up until this point, I think Jhonny Peralta is one of the best trades that Dave Dombrowski ever made and it never gets any credit. Nobody ever talks about it. I never read anything about it. This is a great trade. This was one of Dave Dombrowski’s finest, in my opinion. He’s been on two All-Star teams.

“We’ll just have to see what happens and I have no absolutely no more information on that subject than what I read in the paper.”

Everybody’s in that same boat, that uncertainty the large part of the reason Dombrowski felt a need to address the shortstop situation now, rather than in the offseason, as he’d planned.

Iglesias profiles as more of a defensive shortstop than Peralta, but his range could help out the pitching staff immensely.

“I agree with that. But I also know that the guy that’s been playing shortstop, his glove is as good as it gets. His arm, his accuracy is as good as it gets,” Leyland said. “Like old Sparky (Anderson) said, he’d head up the runway when they hit it to (Alan) Trammell with two outs in the ninth. I head up the runway when they hit it to Peralta with two outs in the ninth.”

The pitchers know how valuable his steady play has been, too.

“He’s very important to this team. He’s obviously had an All-Star caliber season and he’s gone out there and played just about every game at shortstop. You lose a guy like that, that’s tough,” Justin Verlander said. “But I can’t comment on how it would go to lose him because I don’t know what the possibilities are that we do or don’t.”

Whether or not anything happens, all the suspicion has put a damper on what’s been one of the better years of Peralta’s career, statistically.

“I feel really good,” he said. “I feel I’m doing a really good job and I think this is the best year that I have right now for me and I try to keep it going and see what happens.”

What if it doesn’t keep going?

“It’s gonna be disappointing but there’s nothing that I can do, I try to do the best I can do and try to help everybody here,” he said. “I don’t try to put a lot of attention on it. I try to play baseball every day and try to come in ready to play every day and don’t try to worry about what everybody say.”

After tweaking ab strain, Cabrera out of Wednesday's lineup

DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera has been day-to-day with injuries for several weeks, at first his back, then a hip flexor, missing a total of five games earlier this month.

He has not finished any of the previous four games he started, either — three due to concerns about the injury, and one when he was ejected early for arguing balls and strikes.

And he was not in the lineup for Wednesday’s game when it was posted.

Cabrera appeared to tweak the most recent sore spot in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s contest, when he attempted to make a pair of spectacular plays at third. After making a diving stop and throw to get Wilson Ramos, Cabrera tried to make a bare-handed play on Chad Tracy’s dribbler, but bent over in pain after making the late throw.

“Coming in, on the slow-roller. Not the one he made the great play on, but the roller. It bothered him a little bit,” Leyland said.

Three innings later, after lining out to third, Cabrera came out of the game.

“He knows that there are certain plays that are going to stress that area more than other plays,” Rand said. “Obviously, you can see swinging the bat does not. He swings the bat very well. The two plays to his right, no problems on those, but when he came in on that other play and came up, yeah, he felt it at that point. He tweaked it a little bit. ... That’s something he’s going to feel. As long as he’s able to plug through that, he’s OK.”

Wednesday's lineup: 
Austin Jackson, CF
Torii Hunter, RF
Matt Tuiasosopo, LF
Prince Fielder, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Hernan Perez, 2B
Ramon Santiago, 3B
Alex Avila, C

Starting pitcher: Justin Verlander, RHP

MLB trade deadline day live chat

Updates and discussions from Digitial First Media's Major League Baseball writers on the MLB non-waiver trade deadline, which rolls around at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

We'll be here all morning and afternoon, keeping you updated, as things happen. 

The action and conversation starts at 10 a.m.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reports: Tigers send Garcia (and maybe more) to Boston in 3-way deal to get Iglesias

DETROIT — The Tigers may or may not be in the market for a shortstop (although they should be). They may be getting one.

Multiple reports late Tuesday had the Tigers as a part of a three-way trade with the Red Sox and White Sox, sending Avisail Garcia to Chicago and bringing shortstop Jose Iglesias back in return.

Veteran pitcher Jake Peavy headed from Chicago to Boston as the final piece of the puzzle. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported it as done at 11:03 p.m.

“Every conversation you have with other organizations, I don’t care if you’re talking about a fringe utility guy or their star player, starts with (Nick) Castellanos and Garcia and (Bruce) Rondon and, if you want to include (Drew) Smyly because he’s young,” Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “Those are the first guys they always ask us. Then there’s another group of guys that they always ask us. But it’s a situation where we’re really not eager to trade those guys. If we were ever to trade those people, it would be a major, major deal and acquisition.”

Gordon Edes of reported that there was also a pitcher from Detroit headed to Boston.

Iglesias is just 23, and under team control until the 2019 season. He’s hitting .330 with the Red Sox in his first full season as a starter.

The acquisition of Iglesias, who has played both third and short stop, would give the Tigers a contingency plan, should they lose their primary starter at either of those positions.

Third baseman Miguel Cabrera has been dealing with day-to-day injuries for the last few weeks, but more concerning is the possibility that All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta could be among the 20-odd players suspended later this week for association with the performance enhancing drug provider, Miami’s Biogenesis clinic.

“I cannot comment on that. I don’t have comment. ... That’s all Commissioner’s Office stuff. They’ll let us know when they want us to know,” Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said earlier Tuesday. “I wouldn’t really talk about any of that type of scenario at this time. It’s a Major League Baseball issue. Until we’re in a position to discuss it, we’ll wait and we’ll see.”

The internal options the Tigers had to fill in for Peralta are not strong, even though Dombrowski tried to put on a good face at Tuesday’s press conference to announce Monday’s trade acquisition, reliever Jose Veras.

“We have depth in the middle infield. Argenis Diaz is an outstanding defensive shortstop. He can really pick the ball at short. (Danny) Worth’s playing second base (at Toledo), (but) we know he can play shortstop. (Ramon) Santiago can go over there and play. You’re not going to get the offense from any of them that you would get on a regular basis (from Peralta),” Dombrowski said.

“So, we have some depth in that regard. Can (Hernan) Perez go over there? That’s a good question that I don’t really know the answer to. He’s played primarily second base this year. He has been a shortstop in the past. We switched him over to second.

“Think he’s going to be an outstanding defensive second baseman, all-around second baseman. Is he a shortstop for the future? I don’t really know that answer. Could he be? Maybe.”

Dombrowski, Tigers not concerned about middle infield depth, even with possible Peralta suspension looming

DETROIT — The Biogenesis suspensions are coming from Major League Baseball sooner, rather than later, based on all reports.

How that impacts the Detroit Tigers — and how they’re prepared for that eventuality — remains to be seen.

From all indications, the clubs who employ the players involved are as much in the dark as the rest of us.

No one knows if the Tigers are making plans, in case — as all reports have indicated — shortstop Jhonny Peralta is among those who receive suspensions.

“I cannot comment on that. I don’t have comment. ... That’s all Commissioner’s Office stuff. They’ll let us know when they want us to know,” Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski. “I wouldn’t really talk about any of that type of scenario at this time. It’s a Major League Baseball issue. Until we’re in a position to discuss it, we’ll wait and we’ll see.”

If Peralta is suspended, the Tigers would have to figure out how to fill his role, both on the field and in the lineup.

The first part isn’t as much of a problem. The second part could be more ticklish, especially if they’re trying to fill in with internal options.

By all reports, the Tigers are not pursuing middle infielders on the trade market before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.

“We have depth in the middle infield. Argenis Diaz is an outstanding defensive shortstop. He can really pick the ball at short. (Danny) Worth’s playing second base (at Toledo), (but) we know he can play shortstop. (Ramon) Santiago can go over there and play. You’re not going to get the offense from any of them that you would get on a regular basis (from Peralta),” Dombrowski said.

“So, we have some depth in that regard. Can (Hernan) Perez go over there? That’s a good question that I don’t really know the answer to. He’s played primarily second base this year. He has been a shortstop in the past. We switched him over to second.

“Think he’s going to be an outstanding defensive second baseman, all-around second baseman. Is he a shortstop for the future? I don’t really know that answer. Could he be? Maybe.”

Perez has played just four more games (292 to 288) at second base than at shortstop in his six seasons in the minors.

Manager Jim Leyland said just this past week that the game appeared to slowing down for him offensively.

“I was never worried about him being able to catch a ground ball,” Leyland said.

Tigers looked at Brian Wilson, but wasn't a fit

DETROIT — It was no secret that the Detroit Tigers have been seeking bullpen arms, and actively so.

Because that was common knowledge, they were linked to any and every arm deemed ‘available,’ whether or not there was any interest on anyone’s part.

One name that seemed inextricably linked to the Tigers was that of Brian Wilson, the bearded former closer for the San Francisco Giants, who has been a free agent until Tuesday, when he signed with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Tigers did investigate the possibility, but it wasn’t a fit.

“We looked at him. We had a scout over there the last time he threw. We’ve kept the pulse of that situation the whole time period. Tim McWilliams, one of our scouts out in California, watched him throw a couple times,” said Tigers GM and president Dave Dombrowski, who was announcing the signing of another bullpen arm, Jose Veras, Tuesday afternoon.

“He threw the ball pretty well, but I think in Wilson’s case, if we were going to talk about him, we were going to have to talk about him being our closer at the time from any of the discussions, and we weren’t in that position to do so.”

The Tigers feel they’re set in the eighth (Drew Smyly) and ninth (Joaquin Benoit) innings, and added a guy in Veras who has more experience in a set-up role than in the closer’s role he’d been in for the Houston Astros.

A three-time All-Star, Wilson had been the closer in San Francisco since 2008.

Then, there’s the issue of him coming off a second Tommy John surgery last year. He hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since April 12, 2012.

“Again, would we have that interest? Yes. But not necessarily in that type of role at this time,” Dombrowski said. “And there’s still some ifs there, because he’s still coming back, on when he’ll be ready.”

DFM baseball pre-trade deadline live chat

On the eve of the trade deadline, Digital First Media baseball writers will predict what to expect. We'll also answer your questions about the week in Major League Baseball.

Chat starts at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tigers trade for Astros closer Jose Veras to add to young bullpen

DETROIT — The Tigers got their bullpen help, trading for Houston Astros closer Jose Veras on Monday, giving up 19-year-old minor league prospect Danry Vasquez in exchange.

There is also a player to be named later in the deal.

“We are pleased to add an experienced arm to our bullpen,” said Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski. “Jose can pitch in a variety of roles, provides depth in the bullpen, and complements the roles of Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly.”

Less than a day after saying it was a seller’s market, with very few teams thinking they were out of the running before the trade deadline, thus driving prices up, Dombrowski paid what appears to be a relatively steep — but fair — price to get the bullpen help the team has needed.

He also said at the time that he was willing to stand pat, if nothing materialized.

“Yes. Sure. It’s always a focus on what you don’t have. We’ve got a lot of good things and there’s some guys that throw well. There’s some inconsistencies with some of the guys, but they’re very talented. We’ll see what happens. I’m not ready to make any proclamations at this point. We’ll see what happens,” Dombrowski said Sunday.

“We’ll see. This is a very unusual situation. It’s a lot different. There’s very few clubs that don’t think they’re in position to be able to get a playoff spot — at least a second wild card spot. And that leads to very few clubs that are willing to make moves. And a lot of clubs that want to make some type of addition.”

It did take a little bit to pry away Veras, in a market where a ton of teams were looking for relief help.

Vasquez was considered among the best players in a depleted Detroit farm system, ranked the No. 4 overall prospect by this season. One of the signings out of the Tigers’ Venezuelan pipeline, Vasquez was hitting .281 with 26 extra-base hits and 39 RBI and at West Michigan this season.

Veras, a 32-year-old journeyman who is on his sixth team in five seasons, is 0-for-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 42 appearances with the Astros this season, recording 19 saves. He hasn’t allowed an earned run yet in July, and has an ERA of 0.95 since the start of June.

He’s limiting right-handed batters to a .160 average this season.

According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Joaquin Benoit will remain the Tigers’ closer, with Veras slotting in as the set-up man.

“We feel very comfortable in the ninth and eighth innings with Benoit and (Drew) Smyly. I don’t know where you’re really going to go out and improve that significantly. We’re very young in our bullpen. We’re talented, but we’re young — that’s where I’d leave it at this point,” Dombrowski said Sunday.

“Some days they’re very, and some days they’re not quite as good. That’s what happens when you’re young at times. But that doesn’t mean they can’t contribute. That’s what you look at.”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Chad Fairchild has another run-in with Tigers, ejecting Miguel Cabrera mid-at-bat

DETROIT — Chad Fairchild struck again, this time with a little forewarning.

A little over three weeks after tossing a pair of Tigers out of a day game, again the home plate umpire in Sunday afternoon's game at Comerica Park, Fairchild ejected Tigers star Miguel Cabrera mid at-bat, in a bases-loaded situation, for arguing balls and strikes.

“I called Strike One and he began to argue balls and strikes. I warned him to stop, but after the second pitch, he began to argue balls and strikes again, and was removed from the game,” Fairchild told a pool reporter after the game, without divulging what it was exactly that Cabrera had said to merit an instantaneous ejection. “He was removed from the game for arguing balls and strikes. What exactly he said will be in our report.”

Manager Jim Leyland was ejected seconds later, after coming out to see what had happened.

“Jim came out and asked for an explanation, which I gave to him,” Fairchild said. “He then began to argue balls and strikes, and since he had left his position and argued balls and strikes, he was removed from the game.”

Matt Tuiasosopo inherited the no-balls, two-strike count, and ended up striking out looking. Prince Fielder followed with a foul fly, ending the potential rally abruptly and weakly.

“I was joking with Prince. ‘Hey, I get a new count?’ It’s a tough situation. You try to make the most out of it. I didn’t,” Tuiasosopo said.

“It’s tough. Anything close — especially with what just happened — you know that he (Fairchild) is probably going to be heated, and looking to make any type of call close.

“The pitch he called me out on, I thought was down for a ball.

“You just try to get as loose as you can, because your body’s not even loose. It’s different. Usually you’ll have a heads-up later in the game, ‘Hey, next inning you might hit.’ (In this case), it’s just, ‘All right, here we go.’ Take a couple swings. Anything close.”

It’s not the first run-in the Tigers have had with this umpiring crew.

A little over three weeks ago, on July 11, Fairchild was the home plate umpire when things got testy between the Tigers and White Sox. That afternoon, Luke Putkonen was ejected for throwing behind Alexei Ramirez, when no warnings had been issued. Leyland soon followed.

The Tigers’ contention in that game was that benches should have been warned after Chris Sale threw a ball high and tight on Fielder, one pitch after a Cabrera home run.

“Not for us,” said crew chief Jeff Kellogg, when asked if there was a concern about two major incidents with the Tigers in a 17-day span, the earlier of which may have come up when Leyland came out on the field Sunday. “That will be in our report, but I’m not going to comment on that now.”

Fairchild has already issued six ejections this month, including four of them since July 20. Cabrera's last ejection came Sept. 8 of last year, for arguing balls and strikes.

It’s not an everyday occurrence, so it must take a lot to stir him up.

“I’m not getting into that. That’s a dead issue. He obviously said something, made a remark the umpire didn’t care for. We’ll just leave it at that,” said Leyland, who did not go any deeper into that line of questioning, other than to respond with “Next question.”

It didn’t really stop the Tigers, either, as they rallied from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Phillies.

“You don’t really get caught up in ‘Oh, Miggy got thrown out.’ You don’t feel sorry for yourself or the team, because he’s not in there anymore,” Don Kelly said. “You just have to do what we did, push some runs across, and get a win.”

It may not have been that big of a deal in the long run, either, considering Cabrera's still nursing a sore abdominal muscle, that had cost him four games last week.

“This thing, the ejection, may have been a blessing,” Leyland said. “He didn’t play much today. Didn’t play much (Saturday) night, and he’ll get off Monday and Thursday. Hopefully, that’ll take care of it. But he’s not 100 percent.”

Tigers finally get some 'very encouraging' news on Dotel

DETROIT — If the Tigers could pick up a hardened veteran reliever, a guy who has more than 100 career saves, and held right-handed hitters to a .197 average as recently as last year, and could do so for next to no cost, they should right?

No-brainer. The Tigers have been actively looking for a guy like that to add to what’s been a beleaguered bullpen all season.

Well, they might have a chance to do so ... considering the guy is named Octavio Dotel.

For the first time in a long time, the reports on Dotel — who has been out since April 20 with elbow inflammation — are positive.

He’s throwing off the mound, feeling good, according to Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

“You never know how this works. It might turn out to be a helluva trade at the deadline. I don’t know. I have no idea,” Leyland said. “If he could come back like the Dotel of the second half of last year, it would be a nice trade at the deadline that you didn’t have to make.

“But I can’t predict that. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, because I don’t know that.”

Dotel went 5-3 for the Tigers (and 3-1 in the second half) last season, posting a 3.57 ERA and a WHIP of 1.069 in 58 innings, allowing just 17 percent of inherited runners to score, and recording 11 holds.

After re-signing with the Tigers on a one-year, $3.5 million deal, Dotel appeared in just six games early this season, before being shut down with a sore elbow. For most of the time since then, he’s been in Florida, trying to rehabilitate his 39-year-old arm.

At one point, Leyland even said “I think he’s trying to see if he still has it.”

Apparently, the desire is still there, at least enough for Dotel to continue working at it, to see if he can come back this season.

“He’s a proud guy, a veteran guy. He’s been around a long time. He’s doing everything he can. That’s not easy to sit down there in Lakeland, Fla., all summer long, rehab. That’s a tough ticket. I give him a lot of credit. A guy that’s played as long as he has. He could’ve just said, ‘You know what? I’ve had enough.’ He wants to help us. And I really appreciate that,” Leyland said.

“It sounds like it’s very encouraging. But I don’t count on them until they’re here, pitching for us, so I’m not going to put the cart before the horse. It sounds encouraging.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

COLUMN: 'Smart' decision to make Benoit closer could save Tigers come the trade deadline

DETROIT — This might seem like one of those trivia questions which play out on the big screen at Comerica Park these days: Who’s the smartest guy in the Tigers locker room?

You could make a solid case for Max Scherzer, who probably could have made a ton of money in Las Vegas or on Wall Street, if he didn’t have the unnatural ability to throw the ball really hard with his right arm.

You could make a case for his next-door neighbor in the locker room, Don Kelly, the guy Scherzer has spent hours of pregame talking to, discussing in depth things like the Big Bang theory (and, no, not the TV show).

You could also make a case for the reserved, soft-spoken, erudite Joaquin Benoit, who speaks more intelligently in his second language than most of us do in our first.

“Oh, he’s smart. He’s very bright,” said manager Jim Leyland, who years ago called Benoit the smartest player on the team. “He figures things out. He’s smart. He knows what the hitters are looking for, and he knows what the bats are telling him.”

All of those guys — and others — are completely viable choices.

But the real smartest man in the locker room might be the person who finally convinced the Tigers brain trust to move their successful set-up man, Benoit, into the vacant closer’s role.

“He comes in to close the game, just like any great closer does,” Tigers starter Doug Fister said. “That’s a tribute to the style of ball that he plays, that he has always played. We have the utmost confidence in him. He comes in, and does what he needs to do, and knows what he does, and does it very well.”

As successful as that move has been — Benoit has given up just one earned run in 13 appearances since inheriting the role when Jose Valverde was designated for assignment on June 21, recording six saves — it’s going to look all the smarter in the next handful of days.

Abdominal injury — not back or hip — kept Miggy out four games, but he's back now

DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera revealed Saturday he’s been dealing with an abdominal strain, suffered in Chicago, which kept him out of the lineup for four games.

“It’s not the hip. It’s in my abdominal. Separate injury,” said the slugging third baseman who’d missed the Home Run Derby with a sore back, and then had been diagnosed with a strained hip flexor since Monday’s opener in the Chicago series, the same time he said he tweaked his abdominal muscle.

“The first day in Chicago. It was when I was running.”

Cabrera was back in the lineup for Saturday evening’s contest against the Phillies. The task in the interim was to get him to a point where he was playable, Tigers trainer Kevin Rand had said Friday, even if that wasn’t fully 100 percent.

“Right now, I’m like 70 percent. Maybe 80 percent. I’m nervous. First day — I’m nervous,” the slugger said. “I’ll play with a little pain, but I can play with that.”

The Tigers are 6-1 without Cabrera over the last three seasons, and 13-11 in games he’s missed since joining the team before the 2008 season.

Each of the last two seasons, he missed just one game each, managing to play through the aches and pains of a 162-game season.

“It’s hard (to get rid of them),” he said. “You try to, but it’s hard.”

Rand said Friday Cabrera had been improving.

“Much better. He’s made real good improvement. Obviously, we held him out of the lineup today, to give him a chance to do some activity. He’s feeling a lot better, but he still feels like he needs another day or so,” Rand said. “You’d rather lose Miguel Cabrera for two, three games than two or three weeks. It’s important for us to make sure he’s right before we put him back out there.”

Friday, July 26, 2013

Infante has setback, might miss more time: 'I think one more week or two more weeks, I feel better'

The Tigers got mixed reviews from a pair of players on rehab assignments, both of whom strolled into the locker room at Comerica Park before Friday's game.

On the shelf with rotator cuff tendinitis since July 7, Downs threw one inning at Class A West Michigan on Thursday, and is headed to Triple-A Toledo to continue his assignment before returning to the Tigers.

The news on Omar Infante was not as cheery.

The second baseman, sidelined by a bad ankle since July 4, played two rehab games at West Michigan, but came out of Thursday’s after feeling pain in his still-healing ankle in the second inning.

“It stings in the same spot,” Infante said. “That’s why came out yesterday. I tried to run hard and I felt pain.”

He was in Detroit Friday to be examined by the Tigers’ doctors.

“Doesn’t bother him fielding, doesn’t bother him hitting, but it did bother him trying to go full speed,” Rand said. “So he felt like it wasn’t quite ready to go full speed yet. So we brought him back, obviously reevaluate him. We’ve gotta get that other part back. We’ve gotta be able to get him to run full speed.”

After making the trip with the team to Chicago before starting his rehab stint, Infante had thought he’d be ready to come back as soon as this weekend.

That chance looks remote now.

“I think one more week or two more weeks I feel better, y’know. It’ll make my ankle stronger. That’s what the trainers told me,” said Infante, who admitted the ankle still doesn’t feel great when he pushes off on defense, either, although the pain doesn’t show up when he’s strolling around the locker room.

“I felt better (in Chicago). But I tried to run hard and then I felt the pain. But I can hit good. I can swing and do everything without pain. But when I tried to run hard that’s when I felt it. ... When there’s pressure and I’m reacting explosive, that’s when I feel it.”

No Miggy, no Torii in Friday's Tigers lineup

DETROIT — For the longest time Friday afternoon, there was no Detroit Tigers lineup posted.

Jim Leyland had to wait and see who was healthy enough to suit up for him.

Then, after walking through the clubhouse with the lineup card in hand, whistling a cheery song, the Tigers skipper had to change his tune less than a half hour later, scratching two guys from the initial lineup.

Miguel Cabrera will not play for the fourth straight game, still trying to allow his hip flexor to heal.

After initially being written in, Torii Hunter was a late scratch with a sore Achilles tendon that forced him out of Thursday’s game.

Don Kelly was removed from the lineup in favor of Ramon Santiago at third base, giving the Tigers more defensive flexibility on the bench.

And all that doesn’t even include the walking wounded — Omar Infante and Darin Downs, both of whom were in transit from rehab assignments — who were just passing through the locker room.

On the shelf with rotator cuff tendinitis since July 7, Downs threw one inning at Class A West Michigan on Thursday, and is headed to Triple-A Toledo to continue his assignment before returning to the Tigers.

The news on Infante was not as cheery.

The second baseman, sidelined by a bad ankle since July 4, played two rehab games at West Michigan, but came out of Thursdays after feeling pain in his still-healing ankle.

He was in Detroit Friday to be examined by the Tigers’ doctors.

Friday's Tigers lineup: 
Austin Jackson, CF
Andy Dirks, RF
Matt Tuiasosopo, LF
Prince Fielder, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Jhonny Peralta, SS
Hernan Perez, 2B
Ramon Santiago, 3B
Alex Avila, C

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tigers add another familiar face as pitching depth, signing Jurrjens to minor-league deal

All along, the thing that worried Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland the most heading into the 2013 season was pitching depth.

After his six starters vying for five rotation spots in spring training, there wasn’t a whole lot of inventory left in the upper levels of the organization, after years of wheeling and dealing it away to bolster the big-league club.

To that end, the Tigers brought back a guy they once traded away, signing former phenom Jair Jurrjens to a minor-league deal on Wednesday, and shipping him to Toledo to bolster the Mud Hens’ rotation.

Signed by the Tigers as an undrafted free agent in 2003, Jurrjens debuted with the big-league club in 2007, going 3-1 in seven starts as a rookie. In the offseason, he was traded to Atlanta, along with Gorkys Hernandez, in return for shortstop Edgar Renteria.

He’d go on to finish third in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2008, and earn an All-Star nod in 2011, after leading the National League in wins and ERA at the break, but his career was ultimately derailed by a 2009 knee injury.

Jurrjens started 118 games in five seasons with the Braves, including a National League-high 34 in 2009, but was limited to 20, 23 and 10 starts the last three injury-plagued seasons, trying to recover from the 2009 surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

He started one game for the Orioles this season, but was designated for assignment on July 12.

While it may be questionable whether or not Jurrjens will ever recapture his pre-injury promise, he is just 27 years old.

And the Tigers need anybody with a live arm at Toledo these days.

Twelve different pitchers have started games for the Mud Hens this season, but three of those — Casey Crosby (13 starts), Shawn Hill (19 starts) and Pat Misch (13 starts) — are on the disabled list. Two more, Duane Below (4 starts) and Derek Hankins (14 starts), are no longer with the organization, while Luke Putkonen (1 start) is currently in the big-league bullpen.

The Tigers signed former big-league starter Jeremy Bonderman to a similar minor-league deal before the All-Star break, but he’s pitched out of the bullpen so far.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Digital First Media's baseball second-half preview live blog

As the second half of the 2013 Major League Baseball season begins, Oakland Athletics beat writer John Hickey will help us break down the major division races, and answer your questions on the major stories of the second half. 

The chat begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 23. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Martinez no-look assist ranked No. 1 highlight of first half

Victor Martinez's motto: "I don't play first base very often, but when I do ..."

Yep, good things happen.

Martinez has only started six games at first this season — the same number he started in all of 2011 — but he's still recorded a handful of highlight plays there, including the one on Sunday, June 23, that MLB Network ranked No. 1 on its "Plays of the First Half" show Thursday night.

To recap, Martinez made a diving stab to knock down what looked like a sure double from Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury, then watched as it rolled into foul territory behind the bag. Martinez chased after it on all fours, then made a back-handed flip to pitcher Drew Smyly covering the bag.

"That was sweet. That was a sick play. That was all him. I was just standing there at first place. I didn’t know if he saw it or not because he knocked it down and it was right there," Smyly said later. "I was yelling at him, ‘I’m here, I’m here’ and he flipped it back. That was a cool play."

Ellsbury even thought it was a cool play, patting the kneeling Martinez on the shoulder on the way back to the dugout, as you can see in the video below.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Miggy dodges high-and-tight pitch in new Fox Sports 1 promo

How apropos is it that Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, in the portions of the promo video shot at Comerica Park for the new Fox Sports 1 network, is seen dodging what appears to be a high-and-tight fastball in slow-motion,  "300" style?

Considering what's transpired in the last few weeks, very.

Here's the promo:

Digital First Media live blog from the All-Star Game at Citi Field

The Detroit Tigers have an MLB-best six representatives at the 2013 All-Star Game in New York this week, including the manager of the American League, Jim Leyland, and the AL starting pitcher, Max Scherzer.

"We’re very proud of that. The Tigers are very well represented," said Leyland, who brought his entire coaching staff, as is his right. "That’s guys that get slighted, too. It’s kind of a reward for the coaches that never get noticed about anything, unless things aren’t going right. Those guys get to go, and take their wives and family. It’s a nice experience.

"I’m glad they’re all going, they all accepted."

In all, the Tigers had more than 40 people pile on the team plane, including the All-Star contingent from the visiting Texas Rangers, who were in town through Sunday.

Follow along as Digital First Media reporters take you inside All-Star Week at Citi Field, from Monday's workout and Home Run Derby to Tuesday's 84th MLB All-Star Game.

Scherzer gets nod to start All-Star Game for American League

With the way he started the season Max Scherzer may be in line to collect a ton of accolades.

Monday may simply have brought the first, when he was named the All-Star Game starting pitcher for the American League.

"It's what you dream for," Scherzer said in Monday's press conference. "Life is good right now."

Monday was hardly the first time he's fielded questions on the topic, though. He's been taking those for five weeks, and shrugging them off.

“It would mean a lot. I just know how many great pitchers there are in the game, and how many great pitchers — I mean, the other pitchers who are on top of their game right now, and how well they’re pitching,” Scherzer said after his start Saturday night. “So, if I get the nod over those guys, I mean, that’s a real nice moment.”

AL manager Jim Leyland, also Scherzer’s skipper with the Tigers, chose his own guy to start.

“Our starter will be 13-1 Max Scherzer. I don’t think I need to explain it any more than that,” Leyland said.

Through the All-Star break, Scherzer is tied for the MLB lead in wins (13), leading in win percentage (.929), second in strikeouts (152) and strikeouts-per-nine ratio (10.55), sixth in WHIP (0.98), seventh in strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.90), eighth in opponent's batting average (.206) and 26th in ERA (3.19).

Leyland picked him over a group of eligible starters that included Seattle’s Felix Hernandez, Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore, Baltimore’s Chris Tillman and Chicago’s Chris Sale. 

“This is all going to work out. However it works out, it’ll all work out. My stuff for the All-Star Game is a piece of cake now, with the exception of a couple of things,” Leyland said midweek last week. “Right now, I’m concerned about the Tigers. I’m home free with the All-Star Game, as far as — I’ve got my lineup, but I don’t have my starting pitcher. That’s OK. That’ll be a no-brainer. Somehow, that’ll be a no-brainer.

“How can you go wrong when you start any of them? I mean, you take any one of those guys, and start them, I don’t think you can go wrong. That’s why they’re on the All-Star team.

“So, I’m home free from that standpoint.” 

Mets rookie Matt Harvey got the nod for the National League.

Detroit's Justin Verlander started the 2013 All-Star Game, the most recent in a long line of several starting pitchers given the honor, including: Kenny Rogers (2006), Jack Morris (1981/1985), Mark Fidrych (1976), Denny McLain (1966), Jim Bunning (1957/1961, G2/1962, G1) and Hal Newhouser (1947).

The one guy it was never going to be was Mariano Rivera, who Leyland said “took me off the hook” by dismissing a grassroots movement to get the retiring closer the gig as the starter, to make sure he got his due in the game.

Leyland is planning to make sure that he does get his due recognition, if at all possible, in his home city and his final All-Star Game.

“If we have a three-run lead going into the ninth inning, and I can trot Mariano Rivera out there, I’d be the happiest son of a (gun) on the face of the earth,” said the manager, who was planning on challenging his AL team by tasking them with making that happen with a ‘Win One for Mo’ speech. “That’s going to be my motivational thing for the players. I think we should dedicate this All-Star Game to Mariano Rivera, and think we should work our (butt) off to hand him the ball in the ninth inning.”

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tigers sign Jeremy Bonderman to a minor-league deal

DETROIT — One of the good guys is back with the organization that he grew up with.

The Tigers announced Sunday afternoon they’d signed Jeremy Bonderman to a minor league contract, and the former Tiger pitcher will report to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday.

“I love him to death. He’s a wonderful, wonderful teammate, and I’m thrilled about that,” said Jim Leyland, who was Bonderman’s manager for five seasons, but didn’t know anything about the deal until the conclusion of Sunday’s game. “That’s great. He’s going to go to Toledo, and perform, see how he does. We’ll just have to wait to see.

“As far as knowing Jeremy Bonderman, yes. He’s a terrific, terrific teammate.”

Recently designated for assignment by the Seattle Mariners, Bonderman will likely take the spot of Derek Hankins, who recently left the Mud Hens for an opportunity to pitch in Korea.

Bonderman pitched for Detroit from 2003-2010, compiling a 67-77 record, but dealt with a blood clot in his shoulder in 2008 and thoracic outlet syndrome that cost him most of the 2009 season. He returned to the Tigers for 2010, then was out of baseball for two full seasons before getting an opportunity with the Mariners this season. Bonderman was 1-3 with a 4.93 ERA in seven starts for Seattle this year, after earning a call up from Triple-A Tacoma.

There are still 10 players on the Tigers’ active roster who played with Bonderman, who remember him being that terrific teammate.

One of them is Justin Verlander, who shared a locker wall with the fellow 30-year-old for several seasons. Verlander is actually seven months older than Bonderman, but was drafted three years later.

“Jeremy and I are really good friends still. I don’t think anybody was happier, except maybe his family, for seeing him get back to the big leagues with Seattle and pitch pretty well. It’s nice to hear he’s doing well. I’m glad he’s back playing baseball,” Verlander said. “Obviously I wish the best for him, wish he was in the big leagues. But to be with the Tigers again, the team that it all started with, I think it’s good for him personally.”

Bonderman was originally taken in the first round of the 2001 draft by the Athletics, the first U.S. resident to be selected after his junior year of high school. He was traded to the Tigers in 2002 in the three-way deal that sent Jeff Weaver to the Yankees, and also brought Carlos Pena to Detroit.

Verlander has no-hit bid vs. Rangers broken up with two outs in the seventh

DETROIT — Justin Verlander knew he was going to get a week off, so why not make his final start before the All-Star break a memorable one?

The Tigers’ ace went chasing after his third career no-hitter in Sunday’s game against the Rangers, getting within seven outs before Mitch Moreland it up with a two-out double in the seventh.

Before Moreland’s double, Verlander was cruising, having retired all but three of the 22 batters he faced, issuing only three walks.

But it took him a ton of pitches to get it done.

It looked for a while like one of those tough decisions a manager faces, when a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter, but his pitch count is steadily rising. Verlander had 97 pitches after six innings.

San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy faced the same decision Saturday night, when he let Tim Lincecum throw 148 pitches to complete his first career no-hitter.

“You’re in a tough spot, between a rock and a hard place,” Leyland said of Bochy’s dilemma. “It came at a good time. Really, I mean it came at a good time because he can put him at the back end after the break.”

Verlander finished with 105 pitches through seven innings, and with tightness in his right quadriceps, according to the team. But like Lincecum, won’t pitch in the All-Star Game, having been replaced on the roster by Baltimore’s Chris Tillman earlier in the afternoon. Starters who pitch Sunday, by rule, are only allowed to pitch in the All-Star Game with their manager’s permission.

Maybe he was treating Sunday’s start as his All-Star Game.

Maybe he was using it as redemption for last year’s All-Star start, when he gave up

Last time he pitched against Texas, he gave up seven runs in one inning.

Last time he pitched at all, he gave up a career-high 12 hits to the White Sox.

As the game wore on, he’d get some of those hit-saving defensive plays that always seem so prevalent in no-hit bids.

Alex Avila gunned out Leonys Martin trying to steal in the first inning, erasing the only baserunner Verlander allowed in the first 13 batters he faced. He’d issue a second walk to Mitch Moreland with one out in the fifth — ending a streak of 11 straight retired — but get a running, fading catch by Torii Hunter in right field, and a diving stop by Victor Martinez at first to strand Moreland.

Prior to that, Matt Tuiasosopo had nearly screwed himself into the ground, reversing field three times in an effort to catch a knuckling liner off the bat of Adrian Beltre to end the fourth.

When Moreland’s hit came, it was a spot that no one could make a play on it, a line-shot double to the gap in right-center field, more than 20 feet from either Austin Jackson in center or Hunter in right.

The Tigers staked Verlander to a 3-0 lead with a trio of solo home runs, one by Hunter in the first, and back-to-back shots by Martinez and Jhonny Peralta in the fourth.

They would add two runs in the sixth, knocking Rangers starter Martin Perez out of the game, after singles by Peralta and Tuiasosopo drove in the two Perez had walked to start the inning.

Leyland sets 2nd-half rotation, replaces Verlander on All-Star pitching staff

DETROIT — Picking the All-Star Game starter was going to be a “no-brainer” for this year’s American League manager, Jim Leyland.

Setting up his own rotation coming back out of the All-Star break was going to be a more ticklish operation, based on how many of his own guys were going to pitch in the game, and how long.

Leyland gave his plan for the post-break rotation Sunday, hinting that he may have a good idea which of his starters will pitch in Tuesday’s game, and which wont.

Starting with Friday’s game at Kansas City, the Tigers will run Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander and Doug Fister out in the three-game series, then follow with Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello in the first two games of the four-game series in Chicago.

Since Leyland himself had said he’d “likely come back first with the guys who’d had the most rest,” that would seem to indicate that Sanchez won’t be added to the AL squad, and Verlander — who was one of Leyland’s initial picks, but was a candidate to be replaced, as one of the starters in Sunday’s games — likely wouldn’t pitch at all.

That was confirmed by the mid-game Sunday, when word leaked out that Verlander would be replaced by Baltimore's Chris Tillman. Verlander will still attend the All-Star Game in New York, and be honored as a member of the team, but will not pitch.

Leyland said before Sunday's game he had three replacements to make, substituting eligible pitchers for those who pitch later in the day.

He’s already made one substitution, tabbing Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore as an injury replacement for Texas’ Yu Darvish. Position players who need to be replaced because of injury revert to the next highest vote total in the player voting.

Infante's ankle 'not progressing like we'd hoped'

DETROIT — Initially, the Detroit Tigers did not think that Omar Infante’s ankle injury warranted a trip to the disabled list.

Then, they did not think his stay on the DL — once they decided to place him there — would last beyond the 15 days, expecting he’d be off without a problem on July 19, when he was eligible to return.

Now, it’s uncertain he’ll be back then.

“Not sure about that,” manager Jim Leyland said Sunday, although he wouldn’t call it a setback in his recovery. “No, not really setback, just not progressing as much as we’d hoped. I don’t really know the answer for that.”

The Tigers were hoping that Infante could head to Florida during the All-Star break, but that may not work out as planned.

“As soon as he’s ready, he’s going to Orlando, because he’s supposed to play for Lakeland, as soon as he can. But I don’t know when that’s going to happen. He’ll be down there, because he’s supposed to get treatment all through the break,” Leyland said. “He was probably going to DH for Lakeland a couple of games this week, but I don’t know if that’s going to work out or not.”

Infante was hurt on July 3, when Toronto’s Colby Rasmus overslid the bag at second base, trying to break up a potential double play.

When the Tigers announced Infante was going on the DL on Tuesday, it was couched as a formality, just a way to get an extra infielder on the roster to cover their bases. It also allowed the Tigers to easily give Infante as much rest as he needed.

“He’ll be ready to go. It’s just still lingering, pretty sore. It’s not going to be ready for at least three days. We only got six more so why not get it all the way right?” Leyland said at the time. “You can’t try to keep playing with just one (reserve) infielder, that being (Don) Kelly. We just decided that was the smart thing to do.”

Now, it looks even smarter, the longer it lingers.

Leyland on whether back would keep Cabrera out of ASG: 'That was never an issue'

DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera’s bad back will keep him out of the Home Run Derby.

That’s what he and the Detroit Tigers braintrust agreed to.

But manager Jim Leyland said he hasn’t taken that a step further, and considered sitting his slugger for the All-Star Game itself.

“No, that was never an issue,” Leyland said before Sunday’s game, the final contest before the break.

Leyland and head trainer Kevin Rand spoke with Cabrera last week to convince him not to accept the invitation to hit in the Home Run Derby.

“I think it’s a very smart move and that was something that Kevin Rand and I recommended to him very highly not to do that and he complied with that. I don’t think it’s a major issue,” Leyland said at the time.

“I think it will get better even though he’s playing. I think the All-Star break will do him some good. I don’t think he’ll be going through this all year long if that’s what you mean. I don’t think that. I think it’s one of those things that it’s fine unless a certain thing happens, where he has to make a quick move or something. That seems to be when it might flare up momentarily and then it kind of goes away,” Leyland said. “I don’t think his back is an issue other than the fact that I don’t think he’s 100 percent.”

Although Cabrera will be playing in his eighth All-Star Game, it’s the first time he’s been voted to start by the fans. He started the 2010 game at first place, replacing the injured Justin Morneau.

Leyland has said he’ll play his starters — including Cabrera — more than the mandated minimum of three innings.

“I think he’ll play more than that,” Leyland said.

“I’m going to play him. I’m not going to play him nine innings, but I’m going to play him. I’m going to play him more than three innings to start, I can tell you that right now.”

Friday, July 12, 2013

Leyland steamed after Thursday's ejection: 'That's the maddest I've been in the eight years I've been here'

DETROIT — Usually a cooling off period is in order, in whatever level of sports you participate.

In fact, some — the NCAA, high schools — make them mandatory, to allow people involved in the games a moment or two to reflect, and remove themselves from the “heat of the moment” before answering questions.

Entirely fair.

No one who covered Thursday’s matinee between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox questioned whether or not Jim Leyland was mad, considering he’d been ejected for an on-field dispute with the umpiring crew. No one questioned that it might be a good idea for him to be given a chance to cool off.

“That’s the maddest I’ve been in the eight years I’ve been here,” Leyland told reporters Friday.

And no one, after standing around talking to players in the locker room two hours later, was all that confused when the media relations folks indicated that Leyland would not be holding a postgame interview session.

Still mad, it was assumed.

Most shrugged. Most reported it. Most moved on.

Turns out he wasn’t a whole lot happier when he met with members of the media before Friday’s game, but most the reason he was still mad had to deal with how Thursday’s incident — which he did not discuss in detail — was covered. At least as it referred to him.

“I’m very upset at some people in this room because I think I was very disrespected,” the manager said. “I’ve been here morning, noon and night for eight years for you guys. In the morning, noon, night, winter, summer, spring — never not returned a call or anything — and for people to take shots at me because …

He paused.

“The only thing that could have happened yesterday would have been bad,” he said. “There was no need to speak to anybody here yesterday.”

Leyland has been extraordinarily accessible in his time in Detroit. No question about that. For most, the fact that he wasn’t accessible after Thursday’s game was merely noteworthy because it was so anomalous, and not a lot more.

It wasn’t that anyone thought they were owed an explanation from Leyland as much as it was feeling that they owed an explanation to readers about his absence.

Leyland took some of those explanations as criticism, as a lack of respect.

He felt like he should’ve been given the benefit of the doubt the one time he chose not to talk.

“That’s not the way it came off to me. It came off to me that I just blew you guys off and disrespected you and that’s not true,” Leyland said Friday. “And if I haven’t earned that much respect, then I haven’t done a very good job here with you guys, because I thought I was very disrespected by some of the comments taking cheap shots about that. I thought that I was very disrespected.”

Leyland knows he’s gotten himself into trouble before with comments he’s made in front of microphones. He admitted earlier this season he hadn’t had a good blowup in a while.

And he also admitted that he knows it’s in his own best interests not to put himself in situations where he might talk himself into trouble.

Like Thursday.

“If you remember right, there were a couple people in this room who referred to the fact that the Rodney situation, the Florida situation, happened because I said ‘You pay a price for that,’ so they made a big deal about that and they indicated that it was my fault because I made a reference to something after the game about paying the price. So I didn’t want to say anything yesterday to anybody, because it would have done nothing but get me in trouble and the organization in trouble,” Leyland said.

“It would have been totally out of line, because that’s the maddest I’ve been in the eight years I’ve been here. I doubt very much if there’s anybody in this room with a clear conscience who could say that I didn’t make myself available to them morning, noon and night, summer, spring and winter, all hours of the night, returned every call that I ever got from anybody in this room.”

Like in the situation in Tampa less than two weeks ago, Leyland was trying to protect his player, in that case Miguel Cabrera, who’d taken exception to a pitch thrown up-and-in by Fernando Rodney.

Same thing with Thursday’s game, when Prince Fielder had a pitch from Chris Sale come up under his chin an inning before Leyland was ejected, along with Luke Putkonen. The reliever, who threw a pitch behind Chicago shortstop Alexei Ramirez, was ejected by home plate umpire Chad Fairchild without any warnings having been given in the game. Ramirez, who took several steps onto the field toward Putkonen before being restrained, was not ejected.

“I mean, who took the first action after the pitch?” Tigers reliever Phil Coke asked rhetorically. “He (Ramirez) was the aggressor, yes? Usually the aggressor gets tossed, yes?”

Leyland maintained that his arguments were just in the defense of his players.

“These are my players. I’m the manager. And I’m going to protect them when I think it’s fair to protect them. And I don’t protect people when I think it’s not warranted. I don’t look for issues to start issues. I don’t do that. But I’m not going to tolerate any silly stuff with any of my players. It doesn’t matter if it’s 3 and 4 or 8 and 9. I’m not going to tolerate silly stuff. That’s my responsibility,” he said Friday.

“I don’t support my players if I think my players are wrong. I don’t support my players if I think they’re wrong, but I’m not going to tolerate situations not being handled correctly, and in my opinion, the situation was not handled correctly.”

Matthew B. Mowery covers the Tigers for Digital First Media. Read his “Out of Left Field” blog at

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Benches clear, ejections abound after Putkonen throws behind Chicago's Ramirez

DETROIT — The Tigers already lost one pitcher to a bean-ball suspension Thursday. Now they might lose another.

As well as a manager.

Luke Putkonen was ejected after throwing behind the White Sox’s Alexei Ramirez, who took several steps toward the mound before being restrained by catcher Brayan Pena. Both benches cleared, as did both bullpens. No punches were thrown.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was irate with the umpiring crew, headed by crew chief Jeff Kellogg, taking three trips out to the field to express his opinion vehemently before he was finally appeared to be ejected.

Earlier in the day, Rick Porcello, who’d been suspended six games by Major League Baseball for plunking Tampa’s Ben Zobrist on June 30, dropped his appeal.

The fracas started after Putkonen replaced starter Anibal Sanchez, following a sixth-inning grand slam by Joshua Phegley.

Putkonen's throw behind Ramirez may have been in retaliation for Chicago starter Chris Sale throwing up and in on Prince Fielder a half inning earlier, after Miguel Cabrera homered.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Leyland has no comment (again) on latest Biogenesis news

With ESPN reporting Tuesday that suspensions in the Biogenesis case could come as early as the week after the All-Star break, questions again came up in the Detroit Tigers clubhouse about what the team might do if Jhonny Peralta — linked to the clinic’s paperwork — were included in MLB’s dragnet.

After saying “I don’t know what you’re talking about” in his postgame media session Tuesday, Tigers manager Jim Leyland still had a no-comment prior to Wednesday’s game.

“I’m aware of what you’re aware of. I don’t know anything about that. I’m not getting into that. That’s not for managers to discuss, in my opinion. I’m not going to discuss that. That’s a lot higher up than me,” the manager said. “I don’t have any comment on that stuff.”

It’s the same stance the team — and Leyland — have taken all along.

After initially issuing a statement, in which he called anyone linking him to steroid usage as a liar, Peralta has declined comment, as well.

“I don’t have no comment for that right now. I’m play(ing) baseball right now, and that’s my focus, to play right now,” he said in early June. “I don’t really try to pay attention to what they say right now. I try to play this game.”

Leyland doesn't think Miggy's back issue will linger, plans to play him more than three innings in All-Star Game

DETROIT — Rest will be just what the doctor ordered for Miguel Cabrera’s ailing back.

Or at least what the manager and the head trainer advised.

Cabrera took the advice of manager Jim Leyland and head trainer Kevin Rand, and declined an invitation to participate in next Monday’s Home Run Derby, in part to rest up his back for a second-half push.

“He obviously is not in the home run hitting contest, which turned out good,” Leyland said Wednesday. “I think it’s a very smart move and that was something that Kevin Rand and I recommended to him very highly not to do that and he complied with that. I don’t think it’s a major issue.”

Nor does the manager think it will be an ongoing issue.

“I think it will get better even though he’s playing. I think the All-Star break will do him some good. I don’t think he’ll be going through this all year long if that’s what you mean. I don’t think that. I think it’s one of those things that it’s fine unless a certain thing happens, where he has to make a quick move or something. That seems to be when it might flare up momentarily and then it kind of goes away,” Leyland said. “I don’t think his back is an issue other than the fact that I don’t think he’s 100 percent.”

It seemed like that was exactly what happened Tuesday night, when the Tigers’ third baseman had to stretch high for an errant throw from the outfield in the top of the eighth inning. After coming back down from his jump, he bent over momentarily, hands on knees, and looked like it was really bothering him.

Then, in the bottom of the inning, he cranked a two-run homer.

“I think he knocked it out of place a little bit and then when he hit the homer he got it back in place,” Leyland joked.

Like the sore ankle that sidelined him in late August for one game — and put him at designated hitter for two more — Leyland figures rest is the only real necessity for getting the issue fixed.

“I think everybody in this room has had a bad back at some point. But everybody in this room doesn’t have to go out and play a game,” said the manager, who has had his own back issues in recent years.

“I think it’s just a matter of what you can handle. The best part about it is he’s got a manager that if he needs a day or two off he’s going to get it. But I don’t think this is something that’s going to linger. I don’t really think that. I don’t really see that. I’m not getting any advice like that from the trainers or Cabrera.

“You can tell there’s something. You might pick your spots to get him out of a game.

“(Tuesday) night, until he hit the homer might have been one of those games where you say take an inning or two off. If we were going to get back in that game, he would have had to come back up again, so you have to be careful of that.”

At least Leyland will be able to be on hand to make sure that the All-Star Game manager — Leyland himself — will handle Cabrera carefully in next Tuesday’s game in New York. It won’t be like the 2011 game, where the slugging star left early after tweaking a muscle in his side on a swing, leaving the manager to rely on a fortuitously quick phone call from the media relations staff.

"That sends a red flag up, even when you're home relaxing," Leyland said at the time.

This time around, Leyland plans on playing Cabrera more than the minimum three innings that starters must complete.

“I think he’ll play more than that,” Leyland said.

“I’m going to play him. I’m not going to play him nine innings, but I’m going to play him. I’m going to play him more than three innings to start, I can tell you that right now.”

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Miggy won't be in the Home Run Derby after all

DETROIT — Captain Robinson Cano was willing to hold a spot for Miguel Cabrera on the American League’s team for the Home Run Derby, waiting to see if his back felt healthy enough.

“Yeah, he already asked me,” Cabrera told reporters after Monday’s game. “I say it depends how my back is feeling. If that’s OK, I will do it.”

With Oakland’s Yoenis Cespedes being penciled into that spot Tuesday evening, clearly the answer to that was ‘No.’

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said that he was planning to speak with Cabrera, but would not influence his decision.

“I haven’t but I’m going to. I’m not going to get into that. I’m going to talk to him. Ultimately, it’ll be his decision. I read some of his comments about his back and I thought his comments were very smart. Because whether people don’t know this or not, that’s a grueling experience,” Leyland said before Tuesday’s game.

“They probably need to cut it down. It’s too long and it’s too many swings for anybody. It’s showtime and people enjoy it but it’s too long and they’re taking too many swings. I don’t think that’s good. I like the home run contest but to the extent that they do it, I don’t.”

As for the common perception that swinging for the fences wrecks hitters’ swings: “I don’t know that. But I think you’ve got a chance of somebody getting hurt, more so than the swing.”

And that’s the last thing the Tigers want for the reigning AL MVP, who appeared to hurt his back again late in Tuesday’s game.

“I don’t think he hurt his back but he’s not 100 percent. That’s why he’s not going to hit in the home run contest,” Leyland said afterward. “In talking with the trainers, this is one where the trainer talked about it, he talked about it with me, he talked about it with Miguel. I preferred that he did not do it. Obviously I couldn’t tell him that he couldn’t do it, that’s up to him. With the trainer’s advice and recommendation and my recommendation, he’s not going to hit in the home run contest.

“He’s not 100 percent and I think that would be pretty ridiculous to go up there and take a whole bunch of swings trying to hit home runs with his back the way it is. Even though he’s fine, he can play, he’s not 100 percent.”

The Home Run Derby teams will consist of Cano, Cespedes, Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Cabrera’s teammate, Prince Fielder, the reigning champ. The Mets’ David Wright, the NL captain, chose Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer, along with the Nationals’ Bryce Harper.

Infante goes on DL with sprained ankle, Tigers recall Hernan Perez from Erie

DETROIT — You can still argue whether or not it was dirty. But Colby Rasmus’ take-out slide on Omar Infante certainly has been costly.

Infante, who has already missed five games since getting steamrolled by Rasmus in the fourth inning of the game on July 3, was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a sprained left ankle.

The veteran second baseman is expected to return from the DL after the All-Star break.

“He’ll be ready to go. It’s just still lingering, pretty sore. It’s not going to be ready for at least three days. We only got six more so why not get it all the way right?” manager Jim Leyland said. “You can’t try to keep playing with just one (reserve) infielder, that being (Don) Kelly. We just decided that was the smart thing to do.”

The Tigers replaced him on the roster with Hernan Perez, an All-Star at the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate in Erie, Pa.

“I’ve seen him enough to know he’s a real talented kid and he’s got real instincts,” said Leyland, who got an eyeful of Perez in spring training. “I like him a lot. I have liked him a lot. I hope I like him a lot the next few days.”

But he’s not Omar Infante, just yet.

The Tigers were furious after Rasmus collided with Infante, trying to break up a double play, claiming that he slid too late, and over the bag, with his spikes up.

“I thought it was a dirty slide. Simple as that,” Torii Hunter said at the time. “It was all wrong. It made no sense to do that — at all. I've been around the game and I've broke up a lot of double plays. You’re not going to do it that way. C’mon, man. He knew he messed up. Look in the mirror.”

Infante was helped off the field, and was on crutches in the locker room after the game. He has not played since, forcing Ramon Santiago to take over at second almost full time. After replacing Infante, Santiago went 4-for-17 with five runs scored in the next four games, before an 0-for-3 night Monday.

“The reason I play everybody is exactly what you see here, when somebody goes down, like Infante,” Leyland said. “(They say,) ‘Just stick him out there, every day. Don’t give him a rest. Stick him out there every day. Don’t worry about Santiago.’ Well, that’s exactly why I play guys, and put them in there from time to time, so when they get a chance, they’re halfway at least got a chance, because they’re halfway sharp. That’s why you play everybody. It doesn’t work where everybody’s healthy every single day.”

Infante was fourth among qualified second basemen in MLB in batting average (.307), fifth in slugging percentage (.441) and sixth in OPS (.779) at the time of his injury.

Perez, who was hitting .300 with 28 doubles and four home runs for the SeaWolves, was named to the Eastern League All-Star team, but won’t be able to play in the game, which is scheduled for Wednesday. He arrived in Detroit from Altoona, Pa., just hours after finding out the news from Erie manager Chris Cron, and found himself in the Tigers lineup for Tuesday’s game, batting eighth.

“That was pretty nice. I was with my wife. I was like in bed and he called me, he told me, ‘I got good news for you. What do you think?’ ... I thought, ‘Maybe bigs?’ And he said, ‘Yes, you’re going to the bigs tomorrow.’ Pretty good,” said Perez, who had a two-game cup of coffee with the Tigers last June, when Jhonny Peralta was on the paternity list. “I just think about bigs, I didn’t think about Triple-A, because I know there are many players, infielders. He say, ‘Big leagues.’ And I say, ‘Yes! I did it.’ ”

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Miggy leads six Tigers on the 2013 All-Star team

DETROIT — Call it the Triple Crown bump.

Miguel Cabrera had never been voted to start the All-Star Game — until now.

Coming off the first Triple Crown in 45 years, though, the Detroit Tigers third baseman led all candidates in the fan voting for most of its term, easily earning the start for the American League squad.

The only starter for the Tigers this time around, he’s joined on this year’s squad by teammates Jhonny Peralta, Torii Hunter and Prince Fielder — all reserves — as well as starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Six Tigers on the squad is the most in the majors, and the most for the franchise since 1984 and 1985. There could be seven, if Joaquin Benoit, one of five Final Vote candidates, gets the nod.

“We’re pretty well represented on the All-Star team,” Scherzer, who is making his first appearance, admitted on Saturday’s postgame show on Fox Sports Detroit. “It’s awesome. It’s kind of like getting called up to the big leagues.”

Tigers skipper Jim Leyland will manage the American League squad, as well. Verlander was the only member of the Tigers selected by his manager, with the others voted in by the fans and players.

Baltimore’s Chris Davis — Cabrera’s main Triple Crown competition — passed Cabrera in the fan voting right at the end, finishing with 8,272,243 votes, more than a quarter million more than Cabrera’s 8,013,874. It gives Baltimore three starters in the game for just the third time (1971, 1997).

Cabrera has gone to the All-Star Game eight times now, four times since joining the Tigers, but only started once — at first base in 2010 — but was not voted in as the starter. He replaced the injured Justin Morneau as the starter that season. He’s the first Tigers third baseman voted to start the game since Ray Boone in 1954.

Entering Saturday, Cabrera was leading the majors with 120 hits and 86 RBI. The RBI total was the most by a Tigers player through 85 games since Hank Greenberg had 100 through 85 games in his record-setting 1937 season, when he finished with the 183 that still stand as the franchise record. Cabrera’s 120 hits are the most since Al Kaline had 128 in his first 85 games in 1955.

The AL starter in the 2012 game, Verlander will be on his sixth All-Star team, but will likely not pitch, as he’s slated to pitch the Sunday before the break, while Scherzer will likely be limited to an inning or two in his first appearance.

“If I start the thing, that would be a major feat,” Scherzer said on Fox Sports Detroit.

It is Fielder’s fifth trip to the All-Star Game, and his second in as many years with the Tigers. He started at first base in last year’s game.

Peralta’s only other All-Star campaign came in 2011, when he was an injury addition to the team.

Hunter is a five-time AL All-Star, but this is his first trip to the game since 2010, the second of two straight trips as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Porcello fined, suspended six games for intentionally throwing at Zobrist

There was indeed a price to pay.

Rick Porcello paid it.

A day after his manager went off in his postgame comments about the Tampa Bay Rays’ Fernando Rodney throwing up and in on Miguel Cabrera, saying “there’s a price to pay,” Porcello was the one to exact the price, plunking Ben Zobrist in the first inning Sunday.

[View video of the play here.]

Now, Porcello is paying the price, suspended for six games by Major League Baseball, which ruled he intentionally threw at Zobrist. He was also fined an undisclosed amount.

Here was Leyland's "price to pay" rant from after Saturday's game, courtesy of Chris Iott of MLive:
"I don't care about throwing inside, but I don't like it up there," Leyland said. "We will not tolerate that. You can take that to the bank. We won't tolerate that up at the head, with anybody, not (just) Cabrera, but anybody. I'm not accusing anybody of anything, but we won't tolerate that. If you're going to just rare back and throw it, you can't throw it there. If you throw it down at the legs in or something for a purpose, I don't have any problem with that. But not upstairs.
"That'll cause a lot of problems for people," Leyland continued. "That's as simple as it is. That's not a good idea. That's not acceptable. If you want to throw inside, I have no problem with that. The old (expletive) about the one getting away, he's pitched long enough that they don't get away up there in that area, in my opinion. That won't be tolerated. You can take that to the bank. That's not acceptable. Like I say, if you want to throw down at the legs, or you're throwing, trying to come in there. And I'm not saying he was trying to hit him or anything, but you're going to throw head-high in there, that's not acceptable."
"I don't have any problem pitching inside," he continued. "It was a great challenge with two -- Rodney's a very good pitcher -- and a great hitter. It was a great confrontation, which Rodney won, and I don't have any problem with anybody pitching inside, that's none of my business, you have to do that. I agree with that 100 percent. But not up around the head. That's not acceptable."
Warnings were issued by the umpires in Sunday's game, but Porcello was not ejected. Rays manager Joe Maddon said after the game he wanted MLB to look into the incident.

"I thought it was absolutely uncalled for, and hopefully the league will take a look at it," Maddon told reporters, as described by The Associated Press.

"I just assumed it would happen today at some point because of what was said last night," Zobrist said afterward, as reported by The Associated Press. "I just said to one of the umpires on the way to first, I was like, `Hey, that was intentional. You guys know it. I think we should do something about that.' But they chose not to."

Porcello’s next turn in the rotation is due to come Friday. Unless he appeals the suspension, the Tigers will have to fill that spot with another spot start from a minor leaguer.


Monday, July 1, 2013

Digital First Media weekly baseball live chat, American League Central edition

We're back with another edition of the Digital First Media weekly baseball live chat, this one — scheduled for Tuesday, July 2 at 2:15 p.m. — slated for a healthy conversation about the American League Central race.

After a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday, the Detroit Tigers go into the day in second place, behind the surging Cleveland Indians.