Blogs > Out of Left Field

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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

UPDATED: Alburquerque headed to DL; Oliveros called up from Toledo

The Tigers have made it official that phenom rookie reliever Al Alburquerque is headed to the 15-day disabled list with "right forearm flexor mass inflammation." They've called up Lester Oliveros to fill his spot on the active roster.

John Wagner of the Toledo Blade first reported Thursday night that the Tigers had promoted the fireballing youngster Oliveros from Triple-A Toledo, and replaced him on the Mud Hens roster with Chance Ruffin from Double-A Erie.

Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi later reported that the Tigers had placed Alburquerque on the disabled list. Alburquerque struggled through 42 pitches in 1 1/3 innings in Detroit's 16-9 loss to the Mets Wednesday.

Oliveros is a fireballer with a mid-90s fastball and control issues (his WHIP at Toledo was 1.54), but he was 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 27/4 at Erie before earning his last promotion. Ruffin was one of the Tigers' two supplemental first-round draft picks in 2010. He had a 2.12 ERA in 34 innings at Erie, limiting opposing hitters to a .190 average.

Alburquerque leads all American League relievers with 14.59 strikeouts per nine innings, and is tied for the AL lead in relief wins (5). He has stranded 21 of 23 inherited runners and allows opponents to hit just .147 against him — second-best among AL relievers.

"He was a godsend. If it wasn’t for Alburquerque, we’d be six or seven games less than we are right now," manager Jim Leyland said last weekend of the rookie who has taken a lot of the high-leverage innings late in ballgames this year.
"You could make a case for — without getting carried away — you could make a case for obviously (Justin) Verlander, obviously (Jose) Valverde. But you could make a case for Alburquerque after that being our most valuable pitcher up to this point."

The Tigers had hopes that Joel Zumaya and Ryan Perry would be able to handle that seventh-inning role this season, but injuries and inefficiency has precluded either pitcher from stepping forward, forcing the Tigers to turn to Alburquerque.

"We’re Zumaya-less, obviously, and we were basically Perry-less, so this was a godsend. This has turned out to be a great sign. And I thought it was a great sign when I saw him in spring training, but I wasn’t sure what would happen," Leyland said. "When I saw him in spring training, I thought ‘Wow. This is some kind of slider with some kind of arm.’ I don’t know if he’ll throw it in the ocean. But he's been fantastic. He's saved us."

Alburquerque's disabled list stint is retroactive to June 30, making him eligible to come off the DL on July 15, for the Tigers' first game after the All-Star break, the start of a three-game series in Chicago.

In other injury news, Carlos Guillen's injury rehab assignment was transferred from Class A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo. That's a good sign for the likelihood of him coming back sooner rather than later, since it's likely more about timing rather than health at this point.

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One last day to stuff the ballot box

Without a big push today, it looks like the Tigers — barring an injury replacement scenario — won't have a starter in the 2011 All-Star Game. Fans can cast their votes at until 11:59 Eastern Time on Thursday.

No Tiger position player leads the voting at their position, and the timing of Justin Verlander's next two starts will preclude him from being pitching in the game, even though his first half would warrant him being the odds-on favorite to start the game on the mound for the American League.

Alex Avila may have the best chance of sneaking his way in, though, trailing New York catcher Russell Martin by 434,527 votes when the final update was announced Tuesday. The gap has been closing the past two weeks — it was 619,086 two weeks ago, and 496,286 last week — but not fast enough.

In part, it's been a concerted effort from not only the Detroit Tigers fanbase — including inventive fans like this one — but also his teammates. New to Twitter himself, Verlander has tried to spearhead the #voteavila movement online, making a concerted plea for his backstop.

"In my opinion — and I think even Russell Martin would say — he deserves to be the starter in the All-Star Game," Verlander said after his last start last weekend, when Avila added to his statistical lead over Martin with a home run, a double and four RBI.

Avila told reporters Wednesday that he'd thank all the fans on Twitter, if he knew how.

"The response has been amazing," he said. "To have that kind of support makes you feel great."

Miguel Cabrera (third at first base), Brandon Inge (fifth at third base), Jhonny Peralta (fourth at shortstop) and Victor Martinez (fourth at designated hitter) are all in the top five in the voting at their respective positions, but trail the leaders in those spots by significant margins.

As of the last voting update, it looked like the Yankees and Red Sox would own every starting position but one for the All-Star Game. The rosters will be announced on Sunday.

Russell Martin, Yankees: 2,779,592
Alex Avila, Tigers: 2,345,065
Joe Mauer, Twins: 1,699,604
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox: 1,505,143
Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers: 1,309,802

Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: 4,014,722
Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 3,077,242
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 2,184,480
Mitch Moreland, Rangers: 1,209,258
Paul Konerko, White Sox: 932,422

Robinson Cano, Yankees: 4,724,816
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 2,979,181
Ian Kinsler, Rangers: 1,896,259
Orlando Cabrera, Indians: 1,127,840
Ben Zobrist, Rays: 963,481

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 3,735,406
Adrian Beltre, Rangers: 2,935,373
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: 2,724,286
Evan Longoria, Rays: 2,000,379
Brandon Inge, Tigers: 633,519

Derek Jeter, Yankees: 3,392,128
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: 2,885,778
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: 1,971,514
Jhonny Peralta, Tigers: 1,178,114
Marco Scutaro, Red Sox: 1,099,744

David Ortiz, Red Sox: 4,237,014
Michael Young, Rangers: 2,235,504
Jorge Posada, Yankees: 1,453,385
Victor Martinez, Tigers: 1,234,879
Johnny Damon, Rays: 1,028,366

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 5,263,840
Curtis Granderson, Yankees: 4,582,419
Josh Hamilton, Rangers: 3,173,000
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: 3,051,675
Carl Crawford, Red Sox: 2,294,337
Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 1,912,783
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: 1,912,062
Nick Swisher, Yankees: 1,648,599
Brett Gardner, Yankees: 1,499,367
J.D. Drew, Red Sox: 1,428,367
Matt Joyce, Rays: 1,226,439
Jeff Francoeur, Royals: 1,061,445
David Murphy, Rangers: 1,057,887
Grady Sizemore, Indians: 1,033,014
Shin-Soo Choo, Indians: 924,326

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Leyland Tuesday explained his explosion of emotion that led to his first ejection of the season in Monday night’s makeup game against Toronto.

When Andy Dirks, attempting a sacrifice bunt, was initially called safe, then out by first-base umpire Ed Rapuano, Leyland went ballistic, arguing vehemently for nearly four minutes before getting ejected. Leyland’s main argument, he explained, was that Rapuano had asked for help from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, then overturned his original call.

“I’ve never seen that in 48 years. I’m obviously smart enough to know that the guy was out. That was not my argument, whatsoever,” Leyland said. “I mean, you could open up a real can of worms, if you start that stuff.”

Leyland at first declined to talk to the media — so he wouldn’t say something that would get him fined — but then changed his mind, with the stipulation that he not be asked about the play.

Then in Tuesday's pregame media session, he brought it up himself, to clear the air. Here's the full transcript of what exactly he said:

I want to clarify one thing that I think everyone in here understands: In most all circumstances, I do not discuss umpires in the newspapers. I just want to clarify that, because I was getting ripped (on the radio) this morning for it.
The reason I don’t is not because — first of all, I know you guys are going to come in here when I’m madder than (heck), and I’m going to say something stupid. I just want you to all understand that the reason I don’t, and sometimes I don’t want to talk to the media after a situation like that, because if I do, we’re apt to be fined $10, 15, 20, 25 thousand. If you rip an official — a referee, an umpire, an official — in the paper, the commissioners don’t take that lightly. That is a huge fine. It’s not like getting thrown out of a game, and paying $1,000 or $2,500.
That’s why I don’t want to get caught when I’m very upset, like I was last night. I don’t want to get caught and say something that I’m going to get a phone call the next day and say ‘That’s going to cost you $50,000.’ I don’t want to pay that kind of money. So that’s why I don’t do it. It’s not that I don’t want to explain the situation. That has nothing to do with it.
I obviously expressed my displeasure with the umpire, but there’s no need to express it in the newspaper. Because that’s usually a no-no.
Asked if it was as mad as he's been at any time in recent years, Leyland responded, "Yes."
Asked if he thought, given the extent of the tirade, he was in jeopardy of being suspended, Leyland responded:
No. I’m not even expecting to get fined. I will, but I don’t expect it.
I’m going to make a statement here, and then we’re going to change the subject:
I don’t care how it all came down. My only point was, in 48 years of baseball, I have never seen a play where a ground ball is thrown to a first baseman called one way, and then changed. I’ve never seen that in 48 years. I’m obviously smart enough to know that the guy was out. That was not my argument, whatsoever. The guy was out. The umpire, by his own admission said he blew the call. My point is, he should’ve been explaining that to (Blue Jays manager) John Farrell, not me. When John Farrell came out, he should’ve said, ‘I blew the call.’ And then John Farrell, in my opinion, could handle it accordingly, and then they can argue whatever they want. I mean, it’s not my fault that he missed the call. It’s not my fault. That’s the only issue I had. He was definitely out. And ultimately, did they get the call right? No, they got the call wrong. They got the call wrong getting the call right, in my opinion.
To me, Rapuano’s one of the best umpires in baseball, he’s one of the great guys. I have no issues with him, whatsoever. But I was very upset, because I have never seen that in 48 years. I truly have not. I mean, you could open up a real can of worms, if you start that stuff.
So much for that. I’m not mad at anybody. I was very upset at the situation, obviously, because I have never seen that.
Not too often, but once in a great while, I go out there, and the umpire says, ‘Jim, I missed it,’ and I turn around and walk away. I mean, what can I say? The guy was honest, and said, ‘I missed the call.’ OK, I appreciate that.
To me, that’s what should have happened last night when John Farrell went out. ‘I missed it, John.’
I was dumbfounded when he called him safe, and I was dumbfounded when he called him out.

Whether or not a fine is coming remains to be seen.

[If you want to watch the full video of the tirade, it can be seen HERE.]

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reaction to the Sparky Anderson tribute

Sunday could not have been scripted better.

When the Detroit Tigers organization announced at TigerFest this winter that it would posthumously honor Hall of Fame former manager Sparky Anderson by retiring his number in late June, there's no way anyone could have predicted it would turn out so perfectly.

Oh, it was purposely scheduled for a date when the Arizona Diamondbacks — led by two of Sparky's most prominent players, manager Kirk Gibson and bench coach Alan Trammell — were in town. And the organization surely labored long and hard making arrangements to ensure that not only would Sparky's three kids — sons Lee and Albert and daughter Shirlee Engelbrecht — be on hand, but so would as many members of the 1984 World Champion Tigers squad as humanly possible.

Dan Dickerson, the radio play-by-play voice of the franchise, moved the ceremony right along. The video montage was well done. The commemorative print given to each of the 41,036 fans was tasteful.

Shoot, it was even one of the few days this summer when the sun shone, start to finish.

The moment itself was everything all involved hoped it would be.

"It’ll be pretty powerful," Gibson admitted two days beforehand, while insisting that he planned to go about his business like any other game.

Larry Herndon, the left fielder from 1984, called it "goosebump territory" after it happened.

Not everyone was satisfied, however.

To a man, every single one of the former Tigers voiced the thought that it was disappointing that Sparky himself was not here to see it. Anderson died last November, of complications from dementia.

"I wish he was here, but unfortunately, he won’t be," Gibson said before the series began.

"It’s unfortunate — I think the one thing that Gibby and I would both say was that we wish he was here. We wish he was alive. That would be the best," Trammell said. "Unfortunately, that’s not the case, but we will honor him, and smile, and then we’ll have to go battle, as he would want. That’s part of our job."

"Well, I'm thinking, kind of like a lot of other people, I kind of wish he'd been here," said Milt Wilcox, a member of the pitching staff from 1984.

That's the rub that a lot of people can't get over. The Tigers had 15 years to get something together, but inexplicably dragged their feet.

Anderson was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000 — he went in as a Red, a tough choice for him, according to his son Lee — and into the Cincinnati Reds' Hall of Fame that same year. Five years later, the Reds retired his No. 10 jersey. A year after that, his number was retired by the Fort Worth Cats, a minor league team he'd played for in 1955.

It took the Tigers five more years to get around to it.

I can't disagree with the thought that it simply took too long for this day to come.

It would have been tragic had the Tigers waited until the last few years of Anderson's life — when he was clearly and visibly altered by the dementia he was struggling with — but it was almost as tragic that they waited until after his passing.

His family, however, did not have a bad word to say about the timing.

His eldest son, Lee, was asked twice about whether he thought it was too late in coming.

"Anytime is a good time. He made memories, great ones for himself and great ones for the rest of the world," Lee Anderson said.

But wouldn't it have been better if he'd been honored when he was here to appreciate it?

"He had so many honors while he was here. He was honored every day, in every way," Lee Anderson replied, coming across as the spitting image of his father in action and demeanor, as well as merely in appearance.

If they don't have a problem with it, then I probably don't have one, either.

But at least I understand that complaint.

The one I've heard since then, that carries absolutely no weight, is the criticism that Trammell and Gibson somehow wrecked the ceremony by staying in the Diamondbacks dugout, and watching from the top step.

That argument is abject stupidity, if you ask me.

Both Trammell and Gibson — who took the high road when they were relieved of their duties with the Tigers in 2005 — said they were honored to be part of the proceedings. Neither said anything at any point that indicated they did not want to be included.

The standing ovation they got from the sellout crowd was one of the best moments of the day. Both men acknowledged it with a wave, Gibson's dismissive wave aimed toward his former teammates who were seated on the field seemed to indicate a tone of "No, I'm OK right here. You do what you've got to do out there, and I'll watch."

And none of their former teammates took it as a snub, either.

"Wonderful," 1984 alumnus Dan Petry said of the ovation," and of course I thought their response was great, too. We were all hoping they'd come out and join us, but they did it really, really nice. They stood right there and waved to everybody. Same guys, same Tram you always knew. 'Hey, you guys go on. We don't need to be out there. This is Sparky's day. Don't put the attention on the two of us. Just go.' I thought they handled that very well."

Petry said their intent didn't occur on him until after the ceremony.

"I thought they were going to be sitting out there, but as I was sitting here talking to you guys, it just dawned on me, we hoped that they would come out, but I think they kind of realized that 'You know what? It's Sparky's day, and we don't want the attention to be on us. We're just going to stay right here. We're a part of it,'" Petry continued. "We got to see them before the game and after the ceremony. That's the big thing; we just love seeing one another, but as it turns out, it looks like it was just a classy act on their part."

I can't disagree with that, either.

Whether there's bitterness or not from the fans about when the ceremony took place, there's none from Sparky's family. And none of the former Tigers feel slighted about Gibby and Trammell not sitting in folding chairs on the infield.

At least they were able to be in the building, where they belonged.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tigers bullpen gets righty reinforcement: Perry recalled from Toledo

The Tigers made a move after Wednesday’s series finale in Los Angeles, recalling former No. 1 pick Ryan Perry from Triple-A Toledo, where he’d been working out some kinks.

Perry was 1-0 with a 2.20 ERA in 16.1 innings pitched in Toledo, after being shipped down after his big-league ERA went whizzing into triple digits (12.19).

To make room for Perry on the active roster, the Tigers sent Adam Wilk down to Toledo, in part clearing up a bit of the logjam of lefty relievers that had manager Jim Leyland shaking his head over the past few weeks.

Leyland had said repeatedly that carrying four left-handers in the bullpen was too many, and this move leaves only David Purcey, Charlie Furbush and Daniel Schlereth to divvy up the lefty innings for now.

One of those guys may be the odd man out when — or if — the Tigers decide to recall left-handed Brad Thomas (elbow inflammation) from his injury rehab stint with the Mud Hens.

The team will also have to decide who will be sent out to make room for third baseman Brandon Inge, who’s due to finish up his rehab stint in Toledo, and rejoin the parent club when it returns from the West Coast to open a 10-game homestand.

Inge and Perry both appeared in Wednesday night’s Mud Hens game against Columbus. Perry went one-third of an inning, giving up a run on two hits, earning a blown save. Inge was 1-for-3 with a run scored and two walks, raising his average to .250 on the rehab stint.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tigers sign four more picks, three undrafted FAs

The Tigers added some hitters to the organization this week, announcing Tuesday they'd signed four picks from the recent MLB First-Year Player Draft, as well as three undrafted free agents.

The Tigers signed their eighth-, 11th-, 14th- and 19th-round draft picks, along with a pair of Mississippi State players — catcher Wes Thigpen and shortstop Jonathan Ogden, — along with infielder/outfielder Zach Maxfield, one of the most prolific hitters in the history of the Florida Gulf Coast University program. The only FGCU player to hit double-digit home runs in three straight seasons, Maxfield owns four career and two single-season hitting records in the program.

He's got nothing on the Tigers' eighth-round pick, though. Dallas Baptist's Jason Krizan put a serious challenge toward matching Robin Ventura's NCAA Division I-record 58-game hit streak, hitting in 39 consecutive games as a senior. The first-team All-American outfielder broke the D-I single-season record for doubles, and led the nation in hits this season.

The Tigers' 11th-round pick, first baseman Dean Green, was a consensus D-II All-American and Sunshine Conference Player of the Year as a senior after transferring from Oklahoma State. He hit .400 with 19 homers and 77 RBI, setting the school record for intentional walks and extra-base hits.

Pat Smith, the Tigers' 14th-round pick, led Middle Georgia College in nearly every offensive category as a freshman, a year after the Red Sox picked him in the 43rd round out of high school.

Florida State closer Dan Bennett was the Tigers' 19th-round pick, after recording 15 saves for the Seminoles, who fell one game shy of a College World Series appearance.

While Avila might be an All-Star, Verlander likely won't pitch in ASG

In just his second season, Alex Avila has become so crucial to the Tigers lineup that manager Jim Leyland has trouble going more than a game or two without him hitting. The skipper has put him at third base — his initial position in college — once already on this six-game Interleague road trip, and has DH'ed him a few times before that.

It's becoming increasingly clear that he's the team's best shot for an All-Star starter, as well. The youngster is gaining ground on New York's Russell Martin for the lead in voting among American League catchers, as well, moving within 500,000 votes.

At first base, Miguel Cabrera (1.7M votes) still lags behind Boston's Adrian Gonzales (3M) and New York's Mark Teixeira (2.4M), while shortstop Jhonny Peralta (875K) still trails NY's Derek Jeter (2.6M), Cleveland's Asdrubal Cabrera (2.2M) and Texas' Elvis Andrus (1.5M). Victor Martinez is also a distant fourth in the voting at designated hitter.

While Justin Verlander may be the prohibitive favorite to earn the nod as the AL starting pitcher, just based on stats alone, he's unlikely to pitch in the game, the way the rotation currently shakes out. Leyland said Monday that he'll keep his rotation in line despite the off day Thursday, meaning that Verlander's final start of the first half will come Sunday, July 10. All-Star who pitch that day are honored with a spot on the roster, but are prohibited from pitching in the game.

Leyland said he would not alter his rotation to accommodate Verlander. The pitcher, for his part, downplayed the fact that he might miss a chance at playing in his fourth All-Star Game, noting that he's had the chance before. Last year, he himself was a replacement for a pitcher who'd thrown the Sunday prior to the game.

"The All-Star game is a show ... It's not taken seriously," he told reporters after Monday's game. "The only thing that's serious is winning games for the Tigers. Would it be nice to go out there and pitch? Yes. But what's more important? Obviously this ... for the Tigers."

Here are the current vote totals:

Russell Martin, Yankees: 2,226,797
Alex Avila, Tigers: 1,730,511
Joe Mauer, Twins: 1,341,474
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox: 1,135,617
Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers: 980,697

Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: 3,017,960
Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 2,407,665
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 1,771,893
Mitch Moreland, Rangers: 890,468
Paul Konerko, White Sox: 676,194

Robinson Cano, Yankees: 3,664,498
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 2,239,172
Ian Kinsler, Rangers: 1,452,880
Orlando Cabrera, Indians: 910,941
Ben Zobrist, Rays: 828,771

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 2,876,537
Adrian Beltre, Rangers: 2,307,380
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: 2,025,438
Evan Longoria, Rays: 1,639,405
Brandon Inge, Tigers: 490,734

Derek Jeter, Yankees: 2,654,040
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: 2,242,157
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: 1,513,929
Jhonny Peralta, Tigers: 875,371
Marco Scutaro, Red Sox: 813,888

David Ortiz, Red Sox: 3,116,578
Michael Young, Rangers: 1,760,195
Jorge Posada, Yankees: 1,120,830
Victor Martinez, Tigers: 932,711
Johnny Damon, Rays: 864,535

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 4,156,940
Curtis Granderson, Yankees: 3,473,227
Josh Hamilton, Rangers: 2,400,408
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: 2,249,323
Carl Crawford, Red Sox: 1,789,097
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: 1,537,101
Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 1,462,426
Nick Swisher, Yankees: 1,271,843
Brett Gardner, Yankees: 1,120,179
J.D. Drew, Red Sox: 1,112,720
Matt Joyce, Rays: 1,038,098
Jeff Francoeur, Royals: 906,983
Grady Sizemore, Indians: 867,281
David Murphy, Rangers: 785,630
Shin-Soo Choo, Indians: 764,817

Sunday, June 19, 2011

What's in a lineup?

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was asked a simple question about his lineup earlier this week, and it precipitated one of his patented media-session blowups.

The question? Whether or not Andy Dirks had played his way into an outfield rotation, even with the return of Magglio Ordonez.

Why do I write this now? Because Dirks has now played twice as many times on this road trip as Ordonez has, starting Sunday's finale against the Rockies. Is that an important, long-term trend? Probably not. But what it does say is that the question about Dirks is valid, at least in the short term. As of right now, he's gotta be considered part of the outfield platoon.

Here's the diatribe:

I’m not going to discuss lineups with you guys. Don’t ask me about the lineup. Read the lineup card: That’s who’s playing.
Magglio’s going to play three out of four.
This is what my plan is: Magglio just got back, he played last night. He will play the next two days. He’s not playing tonight, because right-handed hitters are hitting .190 against this guy (Cleveland's Justin Masterson), and left-handers are hitting .314. That’s why he’s not playing tonight. And he will play the next two games.
I’m not going to do this about the lineup every day. The lineup is going to be posted. Write whatever you want about it. But I’m not going to explain the lineup. That’s my lineup. That’s the lineup I think gives this team the best chance to win this game tonight, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to get into lineups. If you guys want to make a better lineup, do whatever you want. That’s up to you. But I’m not going to get into lineups. Everybody’s (bleeping) hung up on lineups all the time. Makes me sick. Don’t worry about it. Write the (bleeping) lineup down, and that’s what it is. If you don’t like it, say I don’t like Jim Leyland’s lineup. That’s fine. I don’t care. No arguments, no problems. That’s your business. I don’t have any problem with that.
I’m just making a point, I’m not going to talk about lineups. That’s what I do here. I make out the lineup. Why do I have to get questions on the lineup? If you want to question it, question it wherever you want. But I’m not going to explain my lineup every day. I mean, I have a reason for the lineup I have tonight. I’m not going to explain it every day. This is the lineup I think gives us the best chance tonight. This guy, .194 is what right-handers are hitting against this guy. Magglio just got back. He’s not sharp yet. He’s going to play three out of four. So if he’s going to play three out of four, I’m not going to play him against this guy. And it’s no day at the beach tomorrow against (Fausto) Carmona. But righties are hitting .245 off Carmona, and lefties .255, so there’s not much of a difference. But this is a huge difference.
I don’t know if Dirks is going to do anything.

Again, there's probably nothing more important to this lineup than any other. But that doesn't mean it's not valid to wonder why your $10 million slugger — who stayed on his Triple-A rehab stint until he declared himself "ready" — is on the bench. Even if it is just a matter of going with a good low-ball hitter (Dirks) when facing a sinker-ball pitcher in Colorado's Aaron Cook. It's still a platoon.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Avila climbing in MLB All-Star voting

MLB put out its third All-Star voting update on Tuesday, and Alex Avila leapfrogged the injured Joe Mauer into second place in the balloting for the American League's starting catcher. He's still more than 600,000 votes behind Yankees catcher Russell Martin.

Miguel Cabrera remains a distant third (700,000-plus out of first) behind early AL MVP candidates Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez, while Jhonny Peralta has finally cracked the top five in voting at shortstop.

It's not all that likely that anyone else — maybe Victor Martinez? — would be a popular enough player to garner enough votes in the next two weeks (voting ends June 30) to garner a starting or backup position, in the field at least.

You may have seen the AL's starting pitcher on the mound for the Tigers last night, however.

As of today, Justin Verlander (8-3) leads the league in innings pitched (111.2), strikeouts (105), batting average against (.185) and WHIP (0.89), while he's tied for second in wins (8), and fifth in ERA (2.66). Of course, he also has that no-hitter thingy, as well as two credible near-misses. Max Scherzer (8-2, 4.39 ERA) and Jose Valverde (2-2, 16-for-16 on saves) could also earn themselves a spot on the AL roster.

Here are the latest tallies released by MLB. (go here to vote)


Russell Martin, Yankees: 1,712,156
Alex Avila, Tigers: 1,093,070
Joe Mauer, Twins: 1,041,798
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Red Sox: 763,607
Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers: 751,858

Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: 2,027,537
Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 1,774,024
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 1,295,547
Mitch Moreland, Rangers: 692,670
Paul Konerko, White Sox: 507,547

Robinson Cano, Yankees: 2,649,737
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 1,518,231
Ian Kinsler, Rangers: 1,129,023
Orlando Cabrera, Indians: 732,308
Ben Zobrist, Rays: 633,533

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 2,063,520
Adrian Beltre, Rangers: 1,752,729
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: 1,381,381
Evan Longoria, Rays: 1,226,770
Maicer Izturis, Angels: 364,623

Derek Jeter, Yankees: 1,931,670
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: 1,647,802
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: 1,180,962
Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays: 640,395
Jhonny Peralta, Tigers: 540,601

David Ortiz, Red Sox: 1,974,918
Michael Young, Rangers: 1,428,833
Jorge Posada, Yankees: 810,672
Travis Hafner, Indians: 691,205
Johnny Damon, Rays: 672,529

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 3,042,091
Curtis Granderson, Yankees: 2,406,946
Josh Hamilton, Rangers: 1,799,339
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: 1,447,715
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: 1,231,035
Carl Crawford, Red Sox: 1,222,687
Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 1,123,608
Nick Swisher, Yankees: 937,365
Brett Gardner, Yankees: 796,905
J.D. Drew, Red Sox: 778,871
Jeff Francoeur, Royals: 752,687
Grady Sizemore, Indians: 739,930
Matt Joyce, Rays: 737,377
Shin-Soo Choo, Indians: 642,387
David Murphy, Rangers: 622,160

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Northrup remembered by his alma mater

Former Tigers outfielder Jim Northrup, one of the heroes of the 1968 World Championship team, passed away from a seizure on Wednesday. The 71-year-old Northrup had been in deteriorating condition from Alzheimer's for a few years.

He was honored with a moment of silence prior to Thursday's game between the Tigers and Mariners.

Born in Breckenridge, Mich., and playing high school ball just down M-46 at St. Louis High School — the geographic Middle of the Mitten — before earning 15 varsity letters at nearby Alma College, the former Detroit Tigers outfielder was always fondly remembered in the mid-Michigan area fondly.

Here's a video put together by his alma mater, where the scoreboard at the baseball stadium, Klenk Park, is named in honor of Northrup. Here's a link to the Alma College website's statement on Northrup's passing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tigers draft, Day 3

After grabbing Big Ten MVP Jeff Holm from Michigan State on Tuesday, you had to kind of wonder if Spartan head coach Jake Boss was picking for the Tigers Wednesday in the MLB First-Year Player Draft the way the final day's picks played out.

After an emphasis on college position players from power conferences — four SEC players and two Big 12 players among their first nine picks — the Tigers stayed college-heavy on Day 3, raiding the state’s schools.

The Tigers took two Western Michigan pitchers and another from Central Michigan.

But the biggest run was on Spartans. Following up with the pick of Holm in the 12th round Tuesday, the Tigers grabbed team defensive MVP Brandon Eckerle (right), the Big Ten batting champ and the program’s all-time hit leader, in Wednesday’s 32nd round.

The Tigers also took a trio of future Spartans — commits Blaise Salter (Orchard Lake St. Mary’s), Ryan Krill (Portage Central) and Jimmy Pickens (Birmingham Brother Rice) — on Wednesday. Salter (right) is the grandson of Tigers legend Bill Freehan.

They weren’t done with local talent, either, grabbing Madison Heights Lamphere catcher Greg Fettes (below, right), a Kentucky commit, in the 43rd round.

After that, there were several legacy picks, as the Tigers nabbed Nick Avila — the nephew of assistant GM Al Avila — Kansas high schooler Tucker Chadd — the nephew of VP of Amateur Scouting David Chadd — and Alexander Fernandez — the son of former White Sox and Marlins pitcher Alex Fernandez, who earned a World Series ring with Tigers manager Jim Leyland and GM Dave Dombrowski in Florida in 1997.

The Tigers also drafted the progeny of both members of their Fox Sports Detroit TV crew, tabbing Rod Allen’s son, Andrew, in Round 45, and play-by-play man Mario Impemba’s son, Brett, with their next-to-last pick.

Round Player Position School
31 (947), Brian Stroud, RHP, Western Michigan
32 (977), Brandon Eckerle, CF, Michigan State
33 (1007), Daniel Kickham, RHP, Missouri State
34 (1037), Zachary Maggard, C, Florida Southern
35 (1067), Eric Heckaman, RHP, Western Michigan
36 (1097), Jake Sabol, RHP, Central Michigan (De La Salle)
37 (1127), Nick Avila, RHP, Nova Southeastern
38 (1157), Blaise Salter, C, Orchard Lake St. Mary’s HS
39 (1187), Cole Brocker, RHP, Sacramento City CC
40 (1217), Ryan Krill, 1B, Portage Central HS
41 (1247), Jimmy Pickens, OF/C, Birmingham Brother Rice
42 (1277), Tucker Chadd, C, Bishop Carroll Catholic HS (KS)
43 (1307), Greg Fettes, C, Madison Heights Lamphere HS
44 (1337), Chretien Matz, OF, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
45 (1367), Andrew Allen, 1B, Cal-State Los Angeles
46 (1397), Alexander Fernandez, OF, Archbishop McCarthy HS (FL)
47 (1427), Ryan McPhail, C, Dutch Fork HS (SC)
48 (1457), Lavaris McCullough, CF, Palatka HS (FL)
49 (1487), Brett Impemba, C, Macomb Dakota HS
50 (1517), Brandon Weber, OF, Bishop Carroll Catholic (KS)

Brian Stroud, 6-4, 215, redshirt junior

Was 8-4, 3.20 ERA, 101.1 IP 74/25 K-BB ratio as a senior. Was named second-team All-MAC. (missed most of junior season with injury). Went 6-0 as a freshman to earn MAC Freshman of the Year honors.

Brandon Eckerle, 6-0, 175, senior
Corunna HS grad. Started every game (164) in center for Spartans in past three seasons. Left MSU as all-time hits leader (261), and second in runs scored (158). Hit .360 as a junior, .379 as a senior to win Big Ten batting title. Voted team’s Defensive Player of the Year. First-team All-Big Ten (along with 1B Holm [Player of Year], Torsten Boss, P Kurt Wunderlich [POY] and P Tony Bucciferro). Earned Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor and Chester Brewer Leadership Award.

Daniel Kickham, 6-4, 205, junior
Twin brother, Mike, was a sixth-round pick of SF Giants last year.
Relief pitcher (25 app.) with a 1.84 ERA, 29.1 IP, 24 K/16 BB, .192 BA against.

Zachary Maggard, 6-0, 195, senior
Hit .291 with 13-2B, 9 HR, 26 RBI, threw out 11 of 24 attempted base stealers. Teammate of Tigers 26th-round pick Colin Kaline.

Eric Heckaman, 6-2, 215, senior
Converted to a reliever in 2011, and went 2-4 with a 1.64 ERA in 21 appearances, 24 K/20 BB ratio, .270 BA against. Went 0-9 as a junior with an 8.91 ERA as a starter, logging the most innings of any WMU pitcher. Hard luck loser, though. Had a no-hitter through 10 vs. EMU in April, before losing in the 11th.

Jake Sabol, 6-5, 225, senior
Was 5-3 for MAC West champ Chippewas with a 4.13 ERA in 80.2 IP. Had 53/13 K-BB ratio. Had 3 CG, two shutouts. A graduate of Warren De La Salle.

Nick Avila, 6-2, 220, senior
Was 5-1 with 3.83 ERA in 94.0 IP, 50/15 K-BB ratio, .304 BA against for Division II Nova Southeastern, which made its first NCAA postseason appearance in 2011. Is the nephew of Tigers assistant GM Al Avila, the cousin of starting catcher Alex Avila.

Blaise Salter, 6-5, 225, HS senior
Grandson of Tigers great and former Michigan coach Bill Freehan, Salter is signed to play at Michigan State. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound cather was ranked the No. 5 player in Michigan after all-state first team selection in junior season, hitting .410 with four HR and 41 RBI.

Cole Brocker, 6-3, 205, sophomore
Was 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 13 relief appearances for the Panthers. Had a 24-4 K-BB ratio and a .138 BA against. Teammate Kyle Devore (11-0) was picked by the Rangers in the 27th round.

Ryan Krill, 6-4, 210, HS senior
Another Michigan State signee, the left-handed-hitting Krill hit .500 as a sophomore and .474, as a junior, and bounced back up to .500 as a senior for the top-ranked Mustangs. Has 16-2Bs, 4-3Bs, five HRs, 47 RBI and 43 runs, while not striking out yet in his senior season. Selected for MHSBCA All-Star game at Comerica. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Krill is also a tight end in football.

Jimmy Pickens, 6-2, 210, HS senior
The third Michigan State commit drafted by the Tigers on Wednesday. Ranked one spot behind Salter by Perfect Game, Pickens earned four letters each in baseball and football at Birmingham Brother Rice. The left-hander hit .418 with five HRs, 31 RBI as a junior. One older brother, Doug, played at MSU and is in the Indians organization, while another brother, Ryan, played football at Western Michigan.

Tucker Chadd, 6-1, 205, HS senior
Hit .451 as a sophomore, .420 with four HRs and 29 RBI as a junior, earning second-team all-state honors, leading BCC to a 5-A state runner-up finish. Committed to Barton Community College. The nephew of Tigers VP of Amateur Scouting, David Chadd.

Greg Fettes, 6-3, 205, HS senior
A Kentucky commit, Fettes is one of the top prep catchers in the state, behind Divine Child’s Eric Haase (7th round, Cleveland) and Salter (38th round, Detroit). Hit .500 with a school-record 11 HRs as a junior, earning all-state honors and leading Lamphere to the regional finals, where the Rams lost to Haase’s eventual state championship team.

Chretien Matz, 6-0, 195, senior
Second team all-Southwest Athletic Conference as a senior. He’s the nephew of Ernie Young, the manager of Tigers Class A affiliate West Michigan.

Andrew Allen, 6-4, 230, junior
The son of the Tigers’ color commentator Rod Allen, the first baseman was drafted in the 43rd round of the 2007 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of high school in Phoenix, and again in the 43rd round by the Tigers in 2009. Played in just 17 games (eight starts) and hit .167 with one triple and five RBI. Hit .289 as a freshman at Central Arizona JC in 2009, but missed most of his sophomore season with injury.

Alexander Fernandez, 5-10, HS senior
The son of former Major League pitcher Alex Fernandez, the younger Fernandez played at Archbishop McCarthy High School, where his father is director of baseball operations. The school also produced current Tiger catcher Alex Avila and 2010 second-round pick Nick Castellanos. The elder Fernandez played for the Marlins’ World Series champs in 1997, a team managed by current Tigers manager Jim Leyland, and assembled by current Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski.

Ryan McPhail, 6-1, 190, HS senior
A switch hitter committed to Spartanburg (SC) Methodist College, a junior college, Ryan is the son of Mets area scout Marlin McPhail.

Lavaris McCullough, 6-1, 180, HS senior
Committed to Daytona State College, a junior college.

Brett Impemba, 6-0, 165, HS senior
The son of the other member of the Fox Sports Detroit TV crew, play-by-play man Mario Impemba, and is committed to play baseball at Oakland University. (For full disclosure, his father is the play-by-play voice of the OU Grizzlies men’s basketball team, too.)

Brandon Weber, 6-0, 180, HS senior
The teammate of Tucker Chadd, Weber is the fourth player the Tigers have drafted out of Bishop Carroll Catholic in four years — not surprising since it’s in the back yard of VP of Amateur Scouting David Chadd, Tucker’s uncle.

Other locals
46-1393 Zach Cooper LHP Central Michigan (Hartland)
49-1493 Mick VanVossen RHP GR Forest Hills Central

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tigers draft, Day 2

Just got off the conference call with the Tigers' VP of Amateur Scouting, David Chadd, and Director of Amateur Scouting, Scott Pleis. I'll have a story on the Tigers' first 29 picks at a bit later (Here's the link to that story.).

Just repeating for those who were unaware, the Tigers lost their first-round pick this year (No. 19) to Boston for the signing of Type A free agent Victor Martinez. It's the second year the Tigers have been without a pick in the first round (last year was for signing Jose Valverde), but last year, the Tigers had a supplemental pick in the sandwich round, where they took third baseman Nick Castellanos.

Here are the Tigers picks, in order, along with local players taken:

Round Player Position School
2 (76) James McCann Catcher Arkansas
3 (106) Aaron Westlake First base Vanderbilt
4 (137) Jason King Third base Kansas State
5 (167) Brandon Loy Shortstop Texas
6 (197) Tyler Collins Outfield Howard College
7 (227) Brian Flynn LH pitcher Wichita State
8 (257) Jason Krizan Right fielder Dallas Baptist U.
9 (287) Chad Wright Center fielder Kentucky
10 (317) Curtis Casali Catcher Vanderbilt
11 (347) Dean Green First base Barry University
12 (377) Jeff Holm Outfielder Michigan State
13 (407) Ryan Woolley RH pitcher Alabama-Birmingham
14 (437) Patrick Smith Center fielder Middle Ga. College
15 (467) Tyler Gibson Outfielder Stratford Academy (GA)*
16 (497) Ismael Salgado Center fielder International Baseball Acad (PR)*
17 (527) Chad Smith RH pitcher Southern California
18 (557) Brett Harrison Third base Green Valley HS (NV)*
19 (587) Dan Bennett RH pitcher Florida State
20 (617) Tyler Barrett LH pitcher Lewis-Clark State
21 (647) Scott Squier LH pitcher Greenway HS (AZ)*
22 (677) Tommy Collier RH pitcher San Jacinto Col. North
23 (707) Trenton Daniel LH pitcher Arkansas-Fayetteville
24 (737) Matt Crouse LH pitcher Mississippi
25 (767) Mitchell Mormann RH pitcher Wichita State
26 (797) Colin Kaline Second base Florida Southern
27 (827) Scott Matyas RH pitcher Minnesota
28 (857) Guido Knudson RH pitcher UC San Diego
29 (887) Montreal Robertson RH pitcher Coahoma CC
30 (917) Greg Milhorn RH pitcher Arkansas HS (AR)*

Locals drafted
Round Player Position School

7 (215) BAL Trent Howard LH pitcher Central Michigan
7 (218) CLE Eric Haase Catcher Dearborn Divine Child HS
9 (290) STL Tyler Mills RH pitcher Michigan
12 (389) NYY Cody Grice Center fielder Grand Valley
18 (559) TOR Jon Berti Second base Bowling Green/Troy HS
20 (616) OAK Kurt Wunderlich RH pitcher Michigan State
20 (619) TOR Joel Seddon RH pitcher St. Clair HS
24 (744) TEX Zach Fish Catcher Gull Lake HS
28 (843) SEA Brett Shankin RH pitcher Wayne State (Romeo HS)

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Tigers put Inge on 15-day DL with mono

The Tigers didn’t think that Brandon Inge’s struggles at the plate were related to his surgically repaired knees.

But they may have been health-related, anyway.

The longest-tenured Tiger, who just turned 34 on May 19, and had his career turn 10 on Wednesday, was put on the 15-day disabled list with mononucleosis on Friday.

The move was retroactive to Thursday.

Inge had played in 52 of 55 games for the Tigers, but was never able to break out of the slump began the season in, hitting just .211 on the season. He had just one home run and 12 RBI, and had more strikeouts (44) than hits (34).

Catcher Omir Santos was recalled from Triple-A Toledo Friday to replace Inge on the active roster. He will likely only be on the roster until Magglio Ordonez (ankle weakness) is done with his rehab stint at Toledo, which was scheduled to start Friday and last through the weekend.

It wasn’t necessary for the Tigers to recall a defensive replacement for Inge, since Danny Worth, Ramon Santiago, Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn can all play third, if needed.

The move comes just two days after Inge earned his “10-and-5” rights, an occasion acknowledged by visiting Twins manager Ron Gardenhire — who was Minnesota’s third-base coach for Inge’s first game as a Tiger in 2001 — with a bottle of champagne and a note. By Major League Baseball rules, a player who has 10 years of service time and five of those with his current team, cannot be traded without his consent.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cabrera, Avila among leading vote-getters for AL All-Star team

If, when the season started, you figured Alex Avila was the Tigers' best chance for to be a starter for the American League in the All-Star Game, raise your hand.

Then stop lying. Possibly also check yourself into a clinic.

Based on last year's .228 average and relative tame power numbers (seven HRs, 12 doubles, .340 slugging pct.), Avila looked to be a long way away from being a household name nationally. But coming in to Wednesday, he was hitting .280 with 10 doubles and 29 RBI — all of which lead full-time AL catchers — and eight home runs, which is tied for third. His RBI total is best among all MLB backstops.

People are noticing. When MLB released the first fan voting totals for next month's All-Star Game in Arizona, Avila was one of two Tigers among the leaders at his position. The second-year pro had only half as many votes as the Yankees' Russell Martin, who is hitting just .242.

The other Tiger among the league's leading vote-getters is Miguel Cabrera, who finished second in last year's AL MVP race. He's not far behind Boston's Adrian Gonzalez — who could make a case for being the early favorite for this year's MVP — but nearly 250,000 votes behind the Yankees' Mark Teixeira.

If the voting ended today, the Yankees would have starters at every position but DH, including an outfield starter in former Tiger Curtis Granderson. He sits second behind the overall leading vote-getter, Toronto slugger Jose Bautista.

Fans can vote online (click here) through June 30, and at the ballpark through June 12.

Here are the vote totals announced by MLB on Wednesday:
Russell Martin, Yankees: 843,459
Joe Mauer, Twins: 593,949
Alex Avila, Tigers: 407,463
Carlos Santana, Indians: 395,892
Yorvit Torrealba, Rangers: 337,737

Mark Teixeira, Yankees: 827,247
Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox: 685,262
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: 657,594
Mitch Moreland, Rangers: 278,055
Adam Lind, Blue Jays: 256,782

Robinson Cano, Yankees: 1,185,952
Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 586,361
Ian Kinsler, Rangers: 502,012
Orlando Cabrera, Indians: 384,004
Ben Zobrist, Rays: 352,904

Alex Rodriguez, Yankees: 945,127
Adrian Beltre, Rangers: 755,551
Evan Longoria, Rays: 588,463
Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox: 491,422
Maicer Izturis, Angels: 199,423

Derek Jeter, Yankees: 931,410
Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: 672,105
Elvis Andrus, Rangers: 560,309
Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays: 320,874
Erick Aybar, Angels: 215,991

Michael Young, Rangers: 646,979
David Ortiz, Red Sox: 618,609
Jorge Posada, Yankees: 414,733
Travis Hafner, Indians: 407,334
Johnny Damon, Rays: 353,340

Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 1,261,659
Curtis Granderson, Yankees: 994,315
Josh Hamilton, Rangers: 748,240
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners: 674,406
Nelson Cruz, Rangers: 514,006
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox: 494,721
Nick Swisher, Yankees: 465,984
Grady Sizemore, Indians: 457,185
Carl Crawford, Red Sox: 440,626
Jeff Francoeur, Royals: 407,517
Brett Gardner, Yankees: 370,989
Shin-Soo Choo, Indians: 366,575
Sam Fuld, Rays: 310,520
J.D. Drew, Red Sox: 307,684
B.J. Upton, Rays: 277,173

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Ordonez to start rehab stint with Toledo on Friday

When Tigers pitcher Phil Coke puts on a Toledo Mud Hens uniform on Friday, and trots to the mound in Scranton, Pa., for a rehab start against the New York Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, it will seem like almost any other day at the office.

He’ll have a familiar coworker in the Hens lineup with him, after all.

Magglio Ordonez, who has been on the disabled list since May 13 with weakness in his surgically-repaired ankle, will begin his rehab stint with Toledo the same day, the Tigers announced Wednesday.
Even though Tigers manager Jim Leyland has tried to stay out of the discussion, leaving it between Ordonez and the training staff — “I just stay out of that stuff. ... Whenever they tell me Magglio’s ready, he’s ready,” he said — there’s no question that he’s been encouraged by watching Ordonez take batting practice on the field at Comerica Park the last few days.
“He felt fine the last couple of days, felt really good. And drove the ball pretty good. Just wait and see,” Leyland said after one session.

“He feels great, but is a couple of days swinging going to change how he feels? I wouldn’t think so, but I don’t know,” the manager noted after another.

Struggling off and on with his ankle in the cold weather early this season, Ordonez was hitting just .171 in 26 games before notifying the Tigers’ medical staff that he wanted to shut it down.
He was re-examined by Dr. Phillip Kwong, the surgeon who repaired his broken ankle last August, in Los Angeles three weeks ago, but has been rehabbing in Detroit since then.

Coke, who has been on the DL with a bruised bone in his foot, is scheduled to return to the Tigers’ active roster after his lone rehab start. Once he comes back, the Tigers will send left-handed starter Andy Oliver back to Toledo.

Ordonez’s return could make for a more interesting roster decision. Do the Tigers demote Andy Dirks, who’s hit .281 since taking Ordonez’s spot on the roster? Or Casper Wells (.228)? Or infielder Danny Worth, who may be less needed, once Ordonez’s presence in the outfield rotation pushes Ryan Raburn into the second base role full time?

Just wait and see on that, too, I guess.

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