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, May 31, 2012

Avila comes out after getting hit by foul tip, but no harm done

Alex Avila gets hit by foul tips more than any catcher manager Jim Leyland has ever seen.

Avila, for his part, insists that he does not have a ball magnet anywhere on his body. You can't prove that, though, especially considering how often he gets nicked.

He got it again in Thursday's game, taking a Mike Sweeney foul tip off his mask in the bottom of the third, a carom that knocked the mask off, and opened a cut on the bridge of his nose. Leyland went out to the plate to check on his catcher, thinking immediately that it wasn't good.

"He was seeing stars. ... I'd never forgive myself if I left him out there, and he keeled over, passed out," Leyland said in his postgame comments on FOX Sports Detroit. "He takes a lot more than I ever remember taking, or seeing anybody else take. ... He takes a beatin' pretty often."

You know it had to be bad, if Avila consented to come out, however. Despite the constant bruising, and tendinitis in both knees, he gutted out 130 starts behind the plate last season, and 141 games in all. 

Avila was removed from the game for precautionary reasons, but did not show any signs of a concussion when examined by a doctor, the team said. He was back in the dugout later in the game, joking around with his manager and the coaching staff.

For his part, though, Avila said after the game that he felt fine.

MRI on Fister's side 'showed something,' shouldn't miss as long this time

Tigers manager Jim Leyland told reporters in Boston for Thursday's game that the MRI on starting pitcher Doug Fister's side "showed something."

But head trainer Kevin Rand told reporters that nothing new was revealed aside from a recurrence of the strain in the costochondral junction in the pitcher's left side. There is no timetable on his return, but Rand said he "should not miss a month" like last time, reported Detroit News' Tom Gage.

Fister was placed on the 15-day disabled list — the second time he's been shelved in the season's first two months — Wednesday afternoon, after the soreness got progressively worse in his five starts since returning from the DL on May 7.

Looking just at results, Fister was stellar in his first start back, but pitched progressively worse, before having arguably his worst outing of his Tigers career on Tuesday. Leyland indicated to reporters Wednesday that pitching coach Jeff Jones had noticed changes in Fister's delivery since his return, possibly in an effort to compensate for the pain in his side.

If the Tigers were looking at a long-term rehabilitation process with Fister's injury (he's already missed half the season, in terms of games), the franchise could have found itself a in a position where starting pitching could be a bigger trade target than some of the other glaring holes — i.e. second base, designated hitter.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Doug Fister goes back on the DL

After he missed four turns through the rotation at the start of the season with a left-side strain, the Detroit Tigers placed starting pitcher Doug Fister back on the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday with a recurrence of the injury.

Casey Crosby will be called up from Triple-A Toledo to take his spot in the rotation, making his Major League Baseball debut in Friday's series opener against the New York Yankees at Comerica Park.

It's the second trip to disabled list already for Fister, who has yet to win a game for the Tigers this season, after going 8-1 for the Tigers after last year's deadline trade. The Tigers have only won one game Fister started this season — his debut, when he lasted just 3 2/3 innings before straining the costochondral junction in his left side.

The Tigers back-dated the move to Tuesday, the day after Fister's worst start of the campaign — he gave up six earned runs on 11 hits to the Red Sox in five innings — reminiscent of his worst start in a Tigers uniform, an 8-5 loss to the Orioles last Aug. 14.

As the Tigers said when Fister initially injured his side, he's too valuable to risk having him try to pitch through the pain. He'll miss at least two more starts before he's eligible to come off the DL again.

Fister was scheduled to pitch again on Saturday, but that slot will be filled by Friday's projected starter, Rick Porcello. Crosby (4-2, 4.26 ERA, 50.2 IP, 57 K, 26 BB) will step into Porcello's spot Friday.

One of the spring training candidates for the fifth starter job, Crosby has started to pitch better after a shaky start in Triple-A. After giving up 21 hits and 11 walks in his first 18 innings of work, Crosby has given up just 22 more hits in his last five starts combined. His last three starts, he's yielded just five walks (four of those in the first of the three) as opposed to 25 strikeouts.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tigers option Raburn to Toledo

If you didn't see this one coming, you were either living comfortably under a rock, or you just weren't paying attention.

When the Detroit Tigers optioned Ryan Raburn to Triple-A Toledo after Tuesday's game in Boston, it couldn't have been a shock to anyone involved — even Raburn.

"Not a punishment, just have to get him going," Leyland told reporters (including the Detroit News' Tom Gage) after the move was announced. The corresponding move will be announced Wednesday, but's Jason Beck said Leyland indicated it would not be a second baseman, meaning the Tigers would go with Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth. [Update: The Tigers purchased the contract of catcher Omir Santos.]

It's not that any of those second base options are great. Worth is hitting .182 with no extra-base hits in 14 games, while Santiago is hitting .203 (and slugging just .257) in 36 games.

But both were doing better than Raburn, a guy who has often seemed to battle confidence issues.

A notoriously slow starter — with a career .214 first-half batting average, as opposed to .300 in the second half — Raburn was even more cold than normal to start the 2012 season. And that was despite a searing hot start to spring training, where he started hitting nearly .400, then dipped to .268 by the end of the spring, but had six home runs and 19 RBI.

Nearly two months into the regular season, he was hitting just .146 (a full 113 points below his career average) with one home run and seven RBI.

The Tigers just couldn't continue to keep waiting for him.

"I thought Ryan was coming out of it there in Chicago with the three-run homer and everything, but it hasn’t happened yet," Leyland said during the team's last homestand, when he was hoping Raburn's first homer of the season — a three-run shot in a come-from-behind win in Chicago — was a signal of better things to come. "So you want to wait a little bit."

But it didn't get better. 

In seven games since that lone homer — broken up by a three-game stint on the bereavement list after the death of his grandmother last week — Raburn has gone 2-for-24 (.083) with 10 strikeouts. His 0-for-4, three-strikeout performance in the No. 2-hole in the lineup, which put him third on the team in punch-outs, may have been the last straw.

They couldn't wait any longer.

“It’s something I didn’t want to think would happen, but the way I’ve been swinging, I hadn’t gotten the job done,” Raburn told the Detroit Free Press. "So it was inevitable to help the team and help me to go down there and get it going," he continued.

The Tigers will take full advantage of Raburn's one remaining minor league option — something that he would have been able to decline later this summer, once he'd reached five years in the big leagues — to send him down to Toledo, where he can work on both his hitting and his confidence. And they'll hope he can get both back for a second-half stretch drive that they hope gets them headed toward the playoffs again.

Leyland has maintained that, of his second base options, Raburn was the one who could do the most damage when he hit the ball. He's averaged 15 home runs and 52 RBI over the last three seasons (Santiago has never had more than the seven HRs and 35 RBI he had in 2009), while playing both infield and outfield, a versatility that the other two competitors can only match by the fact that they play shortstop, and he does not.

If Raburn gets back to hitting up to his ability, he'll be an asset to the Tigers, whether it's as a starter at second, or a swingman on both the infield and outfield. He's just not helping them right now. 

And that was obvious to everyone.

Magglio Ordonez to announce retirement Sunday, be honored pregame

Press release courtesy of the Detroit Tigers: 

Former Detroit Tigers All-Star outfielder Magglio Ordoñez will announce his retirement in a special pregame ceremony on Sunday, June 3 at Comerica Park.

Ordoñez played the final seven seasons of his 15-year major league career with the Detroit Tigers and will forever be remembered for belting one of the most memorable home runs in the franchise’s 112-year history. His walk-off, three-run home run off Oakland’s Huston Street in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series on October 14, 2006 at Comerica Park lifted the Tigers to a 6-3 victory and a four-game sweep of the Athletics to propel the Tigers to the 2006 World Series.

Ordoñez batted .312 (989-for-3171) with 186 doubles, 107 home runs and 533 RBI in 847 games with the Tigers. He was named to the American League All-Star squad in both 2006 and 2007, won an American League Silver Slugger Award in 2007 and batted .363 in 2007 to win the American League batting title, becoming the first Tigers player to win the batting title since Norm Cash in 1961.

In addition to his two All-Star selections with the Tigers, he was named to the team four times with the Chicago White Sox (1999-2001, 2003) and also won two American League Silver Slugger Awards with the White Sox (2000, 2002). He remains one of the greatest Venezuelan-born players in the history of baseball, ranking second with a .309 career batting average and 294 home runs, while he is third with 1,236 RBI, fourth with 426 doubles and sixth with 2,156 hits.

The Tigers will hold a pregame ceremony on Sunday to honor Ordoñez and his contributions to the Detroit Tigers. Dan Dickerson will emcee the ceremony, which will begin on the field at approximately 12:40 p.m. Ordoñez and his family will take part in the ceremony. Fans are encouraged to come out to Comerica Park early to pay tribute to Ordoñez.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Arguments for expanded replay in MLB keep on coming ...

The Detroit Tigers ran into one of those ineffable, 'what just happened there' moments in umpiring during Monday's holiday matinee at Fenway Park, one of those incidents that cries out for expanding instant replay in Major League Baseball.

With two outs in the second inning, Tigers starting pitcher Doug Fister had an 0-2 count on the Red Sox's No. 9 hitter, Mike Aviles, and thew a curveball looking for a strikeout. He got a swing, but Aviles got a piece of it.

Home plate umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Aviles foul-tipped it into the glove of Tigers catcher Gerald Laird. First-base umpire Bill Welke overruled the call, and said Laird had trapped it. Replays showed that Laird did not. [You can see that here, the .gif courtesy]

If you thought this was going to be a "Tigers always get screwed rant," it's not. Sorry.

But it illustrates a point.

Almost to a man (you'll find some outliers, granted), big-league players and managers will tell you that the human element belongs in the game, it's what makes MLB unique.

True to form, Fister in a postgame interview on FOX Sports Detroit: "That's the 'human element' out there. ... I've just got to execute."

They'll also say that expanded replay would slow down the game.

Here's the reality when you look at what happened Monday.

The "human element" cost the Tigers three runs — the inning would have been over, rather than extended, as Aviles used the reprieve to double to the gap in left-center, followed by an RBI double by Daniel Nava. Fister ended up throwing eight more pitches than he otherwise would have.

The "human element" of Bill Welke's overrule (if there was an appeal for help from Nelson, I did not see it. Some are saying he did) took a correct call, and made it incorrect. 

The "human element" also got into heated arguments with Tigers bench coach Gene Lamont and manager Jim Leyland, ejecting both. Yes, you can rightfully point out that the Tigers have had four different members of the coaching staff ejected on this road trip (first-base coach Tom Brookens and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon were ejected from consecutive games in Cleveland), and think that emotions may be boiling over.

You might be right.

"There shouldn't have been a second-inning rally. ... There should not have been a second-inning rally, because there was three outs," Leyland said in his postgame comments on FOX Sports Detroit (h/t to WXYZ-TV's Tom Leyden — @TomLeyden on Twitter — for the transcription.)

"I've been in the game a long time and when the catcher catches the ball and it's strike three you call the guy out, it's that simple isn't it?

"You guys that need to write something and hold people accountable... you know what, we're all accountable in this business. All of us are accountable. And when I say all of us, I mean everybody that's involved in the game needs to be held accountable, OK?

"That's exactly what needs to be done. There should not have been a rally in that inning.

"Now anybody that saw that, have the nerve to write what you saw and say it, because I'm not going to sit here and rip umpires.

"But you saw what you saw — clearly saw what you saw. I just saw it for the tenth time — clearly saw what you saw.

"Write it and say something once in awhile. Have the nerve to say something.

"Now, next question."

But you also have to admit that the 'human replay' applied by Welke 1) did not end up with the correct call, and 2) slowed down the game.

If those are the best arguments players can come up with for not expanding replay, they ring sort of hollow. IN PRACTICE it seems that more often than not bad calls slow down the game just as much as replay would.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tigers lineup vs. Twins, Game 46: Scherzer vs. Pavano

The Tigers broke their three-game skid with a 10-6 win over the Twins on Friday, and look to put their first win streak together since April 17-18, facing Carl Pavano, who was 0-3 against them last year.
Game time is 2:05 p.m. ET.
[update: first pitch pushed back until at least 2:30 p.m.]
(TV: FSD, MLBN; Radio: 97.1-FM The Ticket)

DETROIT TIGERS (21-24, third American League Central):
Quintin Berry, CF (L)
(3-game total: 4-for-12, 2-2B, SB, R, RBI)
Andy Dirks, LF (L)
(.316/.370/.513, 21 R, 7-2B, 2-3B, 4 HR; vs. Pavano: 0-for-3)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
(.306/.367/.483, 23 R, 35 RBI, 8-2B, 8 HR; vs. Pavano: 11-for-36, 2-2B, 2 HR)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
(.295/.356/.468, 27 R, 9-2B, 7 HR, 27 RBI; vs. Pavano: 5-for-11, 2-2B, HR)
Delmon Young, DH (R)
(.261/.312/.373, 12 R, 15 RBI, 10-2B; vs. Pavano: 6-for-12)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
(.259/.291/.397, 23 R, 18 RBI, 9-2B, 5 HR; vs. Pavano: 3-for-12, HR)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
(.239/.325/.348, 13 R, 12 RBI, 9-2B, 2 HR; vs. Pavano: 7-for-18, 2-2B, HR)
Alex Avila, C (L)
(.234/.314/.419, 6-2B, 5 HR, 17 R, 20 RBI; vs. Pavano: 6-for-16, 2 HR)
Ramon Santiago, 2B (S)
(.200/.269/.257, 2-2B, 1-3B, 6 RBI; vs. Pavano: 5-for-15, 2B)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Tigers lineup vs. Twins, Game 45: Smyly vs. Swarzak

Coming off a sweep at the hands of the American League Central-leading Cleveland Indians, the Tigers headed to Minneapolis, hoping to stop a three-game skid. Rookie fifth starter Drew Smyly (1-1, 2.89 ERA) is coming off back-to-back outings where he allowed a pair of two-run home runs each game, but not a whole lot else.

Right-hander Anthony Swarzak, starting in place of the injured Nick Blackburn, is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts this season, and has a 7.62 ERA against Detroit in his career. Ryan Raburn is making his return to the lineup after missing three games following the death of his grandmother.

DETROIT TIGERS (20-24, 3rd AL Central):
Quintin Berry, CF (L)
(.250, 2-2B, 2 R)
Andy Dirks, LF (L)
(.321, 7-2B, 2-3B, 4 HR, 14 RBI; vs. Swarzak: 1-for-4, 2B)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
(.305, 8-2B, 8 HR, 35 RBI; vs. Swarzak: 3-for-7, 2B, HR)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
(.286, 8-2B, 7 HR, 25 RBI; vs. Swarzak: 1-for-3)
Delmon Young, DH (R)
(.248, 9-2B, 2 HR, 14 RBI; vs. Swarzak: 1-for-4) 
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
(.247, 7-2B, 5 HR, 15 RBI; vs. Swarzak: 1-for-3)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
(.246, 9-2B, 2 HR, 12 RBI; vs. Swarzak: 4-for-9, 2B, HR)
Alex Avila, C (L)
(.225, 4-2B, 3B, 5 HR, 17 RBI; vs. Swarzak: 1-for-4, HR)
Ryan Raburn, 2B (R)
(.144, 5-2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI; vs. Swarzak: 0-for-1)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tigers finally put AJax on DL, part of a flurry of moves

Austin Jackson's injury wasn't a hamstring, but that's the effect his absence has had on the Detroit Tigers.

After missing seven games with a strained abdominal muscle, the Tigers finally put their leadoff hitter on the disabled list, back-dating the move to May 17, the day he left the game after hurting himself on a swing. The Tigers averaged three runs per game in his absence so far, nearly a run and a quarter down from their average of 4.22 for the season.

While Jackson had optimistically tested the strain over the weekend, with some swings in the batting cage, his setback on Tuesday — causing him to be a late scratch from that night's game — all but guaranteed this wouldn't be a short process. Jackson, who suffered through a similar injury last year, saying "it took a minute" to heal up, will be eligible to come off the DL for the Tigers' return to Comerica Park for the Yankees series June 1-3.

"We've got a lot going on right now, and not enough going on. We've got a bunch of moves, seems like something every day. But the bulk of it is, we're not hitting, not scoring runs," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said in his postgame media session, broadcast by FOX Sports Detroit after the third-place Tigers had been swept out of Cleveland. "Really out of synch right now, without a question."

The Tigers will use the spot to reinstate Ryan Raburn from the bereavement list on Friday. Raburn was placed on the list on Tuesday, after his grandmother passed away.

Also after the game, the Tigers announced they'd optioned the contract of rookie reliever Luke Putkonen to Triple-A Toledo, and reinstated Luis Marte from the 15-day disabled list.

Leyland had called Marte "the forgotten man" a couple of weeks ago, someone he felt at least a bit of loyalty to, having watched him win the competition for the final bullpen spot in spring training, only to pull his hamstring in the team's second-to-last exhibition contest. He'd finally returned to game action in the last two weeks, throwing two scoreless innings at Class A Lakeland, then three scoreless innings at Triple-A Toledo on Monday.

Tigers lineup vs. Indians, Game 44: Verlander vs. Masterson

The Tigers send their stopper — Justin Verlander (5-1, 2.14 ERA) — to the mound for the getaway game in the three-game set against the Indians on Thursday (12:05 p.m./FSD/WXYT-FM 97.1).
The Indians took the first two, but Verlander has gone 20-3 after a Tigers loss the past two seasons, and they're hoping Thursday's start will be no different.

DETROIT TIGERS (20-23, 3rd AL Central, 5G back):
Quintin Berry, CF (L)
(1-for-5, R in MLB debut Wednesday)
Andy Dirks, LF (L)
(.336/.393/.551; 13 EBH, 21 R; vs. Masterson: 4-for-8)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
(.306/.363/.491; 8-2B, 8 HR; 34 RBI; vs. Masterson: 7-for-15, HR)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
(.285/.346/.461; 25 R, 25 RBI)
Delmon Young, DH (R)
(.256/.310/.368, 9-2B, 2 HR, 14 RBI; vs. Masterson: 3-for-17, 2B)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
(.246/.276/.271, 6-2B, 5 HR, 16 RBI; vs. Masterson: 3-for-15)
Alex Avila, C (L)
(.222/.303/.402, 4-2B, 5 HR, 17 RBI; vs. Masterson: 1-for-10)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
(.254/.342/.369, 9-2B, 2 HR, 12 RBI; vs. Masterson: 1-for-7)
Danny Worth, 2B (R)
(.176/.300/.176, 1 R, 3 BB)

CLEVELAND INDIANS (25-18, 1st AL Central)
Shin-Soo Choo, RF
(vs. JV: 8-for-39, 1 HR, 16K)
Jason Kipnis, 2B
(vs. JV: 0-for-2, 1 K)
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
(vs. JV: 6-for-36, 2B, 15 K)
Carlos Santana, DH
(vs. JV: 2-for-9, HR, 2K)
Michael Brantley, CF
(vs. JV: 7-for-16, 3B, 3K)
Jose Lopez, 3B
(vs. JV: 11-for-38, 2-2B, 1K)
Casey Kotchman, 1B
(vs. JV: 6-for-23, 2B, HR, 3K)
Shelley Duncan, LF
(vs. JV: 4-for-13, 2 HR, 4K)
Lou Marson, C
(vs. JV: 2-for-11, 2B, 4K)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tigers lineup vs. Indians, Game 43: Fister vs. McAllister

The Detroit Tigers dropped the first game of a three-game set across the lake, falling 5-3 to the Indians Tuesday night. The Tigers will send Doug Fister to the mound for his fourth start since returning from the disabled list. Last year, Fister was 3-0 with a 1.44 ERA (4 ER, 25 IP, 29K, 19 H) vs. the Indians after joining the Tigers at the trade deadline. (His one start vs. the Tribe that ended in a Tigers loss, you may recall, was the one that ended with a walk-off hit-by-pitch in the wee hours of the morning, long after Fister had left the game when rain delayed it after two innings).

Quintin Berry, CF (L)
(MiLB career: .267/.321/.368; 261 stolen bases)
Andy Dirks, LF (L)
(.340/.393/.553, 20 R, 13 RBI, 12 EBH)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
(.304/.462/.488, 7-2B, 8 HR, 34 RBI)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
(.292/.354/.472, 8-2B, 7 HR, 24 RBI)
Delmon Young, DH (R)
(.248/.305/.364, 9-2B, 2 HR, 14 RBI)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
(.239/.271/.362, 5-2B, 5 HR, 16 RBI)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
(.262/.352/.381, 9-2B, 2 HR, 12 RBI)
Ramon Santiago, 2B (S)
(.188/.264/.250, 2-2B, 1-3B, 6 RBI)
Gerald Laird, C (R)
(.281/.314/.438, 2-2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI)

For those of you who missed the transaction from Tuesday night to bring Berry to the squad, click here.
Only three Tigers (Don Kelly, Austin Jackson and Delmon Young) have hits off Indians starter Zach McAllister, but the whole squad has a sum total of 16 combined at-bats against the 6-foot-6, 240-pound right-hander. McAllister was originally a third-round pick of the New York Yankees in 2006, but was sent to Cleveland as the player to be named later in the 2010 Austin Kearns trade.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tigers DFA Balester, purchase contract of OF Berry

The Tigers finally got to the breaking point after playing five straight games with a two-man bench, making a move late Tuesday to get back to the proper ratio of position players (12) and pitchers (13).

Unfortunately, that meant sending out a pitcher, and the Tigers chose to designate Collin Balester for assignment after Tuesday's game, allowing them a spot on the active roster to purchase the contract of outfielder Quintin Berry from the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.

Acquired in an offseason trade for disappointing former first-round pick Ryan Perry, the Tigers will have 10 days to return Balester to the 40-man roster, place him on waivers, trade him or release him.

Balester was unspectacular in 11 appearances for the Tigers, giving up 14 runs (13 earned) in 18 innings of work (6.50 ERA), including five home runs — the most of any non-starter on the roster.

By contrast, Perry has allowed eight earned runs in 6 2/3 innings pitched, sporting a WHIP of 1.80 and allowing opponents to hit a whopping .357.

Neither side appears to have come out on top in that one.

Berry was a non-roster invitee to spring training for the Tigers, and impressed with his speed and outfield defense — something that the Tigers have in short supply. That lack is particularly glaring with center fielder Austin Jackson unavailable for the fifth straight game, shelved by an abdominal strain.

The 27-year-old career minor leaguer was hitting .270 for the Toledo Mud Hens, with 19 stolen bases. Tigers manager Jim Leyland confirmed after Tuesday's game that Berry will be in the lineup Wednesday, making his big-league debut.

The need for Berry, though, indicates that Jackson's ailment may be more serious that originally thought. Having suffered through a similar injury last year — which "took a minute" to get right, according to the outfielder — Jackson tried to test the strain with some light swinging in the batting cage and running on Saturday. The running did not go as well as he would have liked, he said Sunday.

"It actually felt fine in the cage, hitting, with just some light swings, but when I went to run, you know, try to get up to 80 percent at least, it didn’t feel that good," Jackson said. "It was still kind of hurting to run, so that’s why I’m thinking maybe a couple more days ... to get that soreness out, to where I’m able to run freely without any pain."

If it continues to linger, the Tigers could eventually have to place him on the 15-day disabled list, but they could back-date it to last Thursday, the day after he left the game following an awkward, painful swing of the bat.

If he should miss any extended time, it will continue to hamstring an offense that — while inconsistent at best so far this season — has not had to worry about its leadoff hitter. As of Tuesday night, he ranked top 10 in the American League in average (4th, .331), runs (t6th, 29), on-base percentage (3rd, .414), slugging percentage (8th, .544) and OPS (6th, .958). He leads the team in all those categories, as well.

Tigers place Raburn on bereavement list, recall Worth

Ryan Raburn won't be with the Tigers for the series in Cleveland, as the club placed him on the bereavement list Tuesday, and recalled Danny Worth from Triple-A Toledo to take his spot on the 25-man roster.

The bereavement list is used when a player needs to attend to a serious illness or death in the family and, by MLB rules, requires a minimum stay of three games, and a maximum of seven. [Update: per published reports, Raburn was with his family following the death of his grandmother.]

Replacing Raburn with a reserve infielder is a no-brainer move, as Ramon Santiago will have to be the primary starter at second base in Raburn's absence. It will, however, leave the Tigers with just four players capable of playing the outfield, if Austin Jackson is not yet ready to return to duty, further limiting the roster flexibility for late-game defensive substitutions.

Off the field, this is one of those reminders that players are not, in fact, robots, but rather humans who may be dealing with something in their lives that none of us know about.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Confused by the 'tweak' to Scherzer's delivery? He explains ...

There's been a lot made of the small tweaks Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones made to the deliveries of starters Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. [I wrote about it here.]

With Porcello, it was relatively simple and evident — when pitching from the wind-up, he brought his hands behind his head, like he had in high school, in an effort to slow down his delivery.

With Scherzer, it's a tad bit more technical, and harder to explain. If you're still confused by it, here the pitcher explains it in his own words:

Tigers lineup vs. Pirates, Game 41: Scherzer vs. Correia

The Tigers are looking to take the rubber match from the Pirates in Sunday's interleague series finale, having split the first two. Detroit's historically been one of the strongest teams in interleague play, posting a .645 winning percentage (71-39) since 2006 — tied for second-best in MLB — and 142-125 overall.

Don Kelly, CF (L)
(.196, 5 RBI)
Andy Dirks, LF (L)
(.351, 4 HR, 13 RBI; vs. Correia: 1-for-3)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
(.309, 8 HR, 34 RBI*; AL-best 19 multi-hit games;
.390 RISP; vs. Correia: 7-for-13, HR)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
(.303, 7 HR, 24 RBI; vs. Correia: 4-for-19, HR)
Delmon Young, DH (R)
(.244, 2 HR, 13 RBI)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
(.244, 5 HR, 16 RBI; vs. Correia: 1-for-3)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
(.262, 1 HR, 11 RBI; vs. Correia: 0-for-3)
Alex Avila, C (L)
(.218, 4 HR, 12 RBI; vs. Correia: 1-for-3)
Ryan Raburn, 2B (R)
(.148, 1 HR, 6 RBI; vs. Correia: 1-for-1)

* — tied for 2nd in the AL

Jose Tabata, RF (R)
(.234, 2 HR, 6 RBI; vs. Scherzer: 1-for-3)
Neil Walker, 2B (S)
(.261, 1 HR, 13 RBI; vs. Scherzer: 0-for-2)
Andrew McCutchen, CF (R)
(.346, 7 HR, 20 RBI; vs. Scherzer: 3-for-8)
Pedro Alvarez, DH (L)
(. 205, 7 HR, 17 RBI)
Garrett Jones, 1B (L)
(.230, 4 HR, 12 RBI; vs. Scherzer: 2-for-8)
Josh Harrison, 3B (R)
(.261, 1 HR, 8 RBI)
Rod Barajas, C (R)
(.216, 3 HR, 5 RBI)
Nate McLouth, LF (L)
(.154, 2 RBI; vs. Scherzer: 0-for-1)
Clint Barmes, SS (R)
(.153, 2 HR, 6 RBI; vs. Scherzer: 2-for-11, HR)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The one where Leyland gushes about JV's near no-hitter ...

A crusty veteran of nearly a half-century of baseball, Tigers manager Jim Leyland doesn't gush like a fan very often ...

But sometimes he gets on a roll. Like Saturday, in the aftermath of ace Justin Verlander's near no-hitter. Leyland's pregame press briefing lasted 22 minutes, much of which the skipper went on and on about Verlander's performance, which Leyland called "the best I've ever seen."

[If you missed it, here's my column from Friday]

Here are his own words:

Q: You said it was among the best games you could remember Verlander throwing?
"Electric was what you saw last night. That’s electric.
"That’s the best I’ve ever seen. In my personal opinion, that was the best game he’s pitched since 2006. I mean, you talk about a masterpiece, that’s taking it to a different level. That’s freaky (crap)."

Q: Will you watch the replay of the game?
"I’m not much into stuff like that. I did save the (lineup) card for Justin and he didn’t even want it. I’m sure he probably would’ve taken it if it was a no-hitter. I save it, though. I offered it to him this morning, but he didn’t care about it. Matter of fact, I think I threw it away. If we don’t start doing better, maybe I’ll take it out of there and sell. I might need some money."

Q: What signaled to you that it was his best game?
"I just thought last night that the slider might’ve been the best I’ve ever seen. He threw some nasty sliders last night, as well as curveballs and changeups. That’s a freak show. That was unbelievable to me, to watch that game. If you watch that game, it was amazing to me how he started out throwing good and as the game went on from the third inning on, it looked like he could smell it. And, that’s usually pretty early to smell a no-hitter.
"That was just the best I’ve ever seen. He threw some nasty sliders last night, as well as curveballs and change-ups, then 100 mph. Like I said, that’s a freakshow. I hate to term it like that, probably get in trouble, but that’s a freakshow.
"That was unbelievable to me, watching that.
"If you watched that game, it was amazing to me how he just kind of started out, throwin’ good, and as the game went on, from about the third inning on — I don’t know that he’d ever admit this, and there’s no sense asking — but from the third inning on, it looked like to me, he could smell it. And that’s usually pretty early to smell a no-hitter.
"It looked like to me, in the third, then in the fourth, in the fifth, then by the sixth inning, there was no doubt in my mind, if you just looked at his face, coming off, going on the mound, it was total ‘I got a shot.’
"One of my buddies from Kentucky called me this morning, and said he couldn’t believe it. He said, if you saw him, the concentration level, he was locating ... I mean, I’ve never seen anything like it.
"That’s probably the best game I’ve ever seen pitched. And I’ve seen a lot of games. Over 3,000.
"I mean, I don’t know how to explain that. That’s freaky (bleep)."

Q: You guys worked with him for years ... “I worked with him just before the game yesterday. We tweaked a couple things,” a joking Leyland interjected midquestion, finishing with, “Nah, I don't tell him a (bleeping thing)” ... you talked with him about knowing where his outs were. Is that a case of him doing that? 
"I can remember this as if it was yesterday. We had tried it some, but I can remember when we went and played the New York Mets, Tom Seaver came in to see me, and I brought Verlander in to talk to him. Now, don’t write a big story about this like Tom Seaver’s taking credit, or I’m taking credit, but I just wanted him to listen to Tom Seaver talk a little bit.
"I know he listened. Did it sink in? I don’t know. I’m not saying that. But I’m just making a point that we’ve tried to get him over the years, not to be full-throttle from the first inning on.
He’s come leaps and bounds in every area. The way he’s handled everything, with the national attention, and all the publicity, notoriety — this guy’s one of the top five names in baseball right now; I mean, that’s my opinion.
"So the way he’s handled that has been beautiful. That’s not easy to do. I had the same problem when I hit .279 my senior year in high school, there was (bleeping) people on my (butt) all the time.
"No, I’m telling you, the way he’s handled this has been unbelievable." 

Q: Does being the way he is make him easier or harder to manage?
"He’s very easy to manage because he’s so good, but he’s very tough to manage because, when you see the pitch count starting to get there, and your (butt) is on the line as the manager, that makes it a little more difficult.
"People don’t understand that, but I’m holding my (breath) every (bleeping) game he pitches.
"That’s a treasure. I don’t want to mess with that treasure ... or any other pitcher I’ve got. We’ve tried to really to take care of them. I always have, and I always will. Sometimes to the tune of getting second-guessed a lot.
"I’ve gotta be careful with it. I asked him in the office — he thinks he can throw 175 pitches. And he’s dead serious.
"I told him, that’ll never happen, as long as I’m here. A week from now, that could happen, if we don’t get better. But it ain’t gonna happen under my watch.
"I asked him one day, ‘How many do you think you can throw?’ He said, ‘I don’t know, I never really ... 170? 175?’
"He’s a treat, obviously. But there’s a little pressure on you, when you manage his games.
"Most guys go from 95, then by the seventh inning, they’re down around 92, 91. This guy goes from 92 to 94 to 95 in the middle, to 99 to 100 late. That’s why it’s a freaky thing.
"I’ve never seen anything like it.

"I’ve never seen a better pitched game than that one last night. Never.
"If you watch Verlander sometimes — and this is what people don’t realize sometimes: The average person sees 98 on the scoreboard, but they don’t see the same 98 I do. I see the difference between the 98 that is more effort and the 98 that’s a little more effortless. There’s a major difference in that.
"He got to 98, 100, it was like fluid. It wasn’t muscling way up. If you really watched close, you could see it.
"That’s (bleeping) amazing to me. It’s amazing."

Q: Can you tell early if he’s got no-hit stuff? "I wasn’t thinking about a no-hitter, to be honest with you, at all. Until about the sixth inning.
"Still, it’s so hard to do, you’re saying ‘Oh, (crap), somebody’s going to get a hit.’ You’re trying to maybe use reverse psychology, or what. Somebody’s gotta to get a hit. Then, all of a sudden, the sixth, the seventh, the eighth, you say ‘(Crap), he gets the first out in the ninth ... but he just had them all going. When you’ve got them all going, it’s pretty tough.

Q: Most people don’t think how tough a 1-hitter is ... "Anybody that was here last night, probably saw one of the best games ever pitched in baseball, I would think.
"There was one — it certainly wasn’t a great play, but it was a nice play that Donnie Kelly made; It wasn’t a great play, but it was a real nice play. But normally in those no-hitters, you see somebody that pulls one out of their (butt), or dives and makes a shoe-string catch. You know, some infielder comes in on a chopper, shortstop bare-hands it, and gets the guy by an eyelash. You normally see that. Last night, it was just total dominance."  

Q: Have you ever managed a pitcher that had a chance to throw a no-no every time out? "Well, I don’t think he has much of a chance to throw a no-hitter when he goes out there. I don’t really look at it that way, because of what you just said — it’s just too difficult to do. Somebody’s going to bloop one. I mean, these guys are pretty good hitters.
"I mean, Neil Walker hit a line shot at Boesch that was probably the hardest-hit ball of the night, I would think. It happened to be right at him. It could’ve been down the line or something, but it wasn’t.
"I’ve never seen anything like that. I mean, this is dominant stuff, plus a 100 mph fastball to go with it. That was pretty impressive."

Q: How impressed with the Pirates hitters fighting off no-hitter? "Let’s put it this way: Nobody likes to get no-hit. So I think that’s another part of the impressive thing that Verlander did. They were grinding their (butt) off in at-bats. They were fighting their (butt) off. "They were battling their (butt) off to get him, which is what they should’ve been doing. And they were.
"It wasn’t like Pittsburgh said ‘Oh, (crap). We got no chance.’ They went up there, and they were bearing down. ... It wasn’t like they were swinging bad, it was just that he just totally dominated them.
"I mean, their little catcher (Michael McKenry) put a couple balls in play halfway decent. With two strikes, you could see him spread out, choke up a little bit, try to put a line-drive stroke on it. That’s one of the other things that was impressive about it.
"It wasn’t like these guys were saying ‘Holy (crap), we’ve got no chance.’ They were fighting their (butt) off. Neil Walker was pissed off when he got called out on strikes. They were fighting their (butt) off."

Jackson, Valverde getting closer to return

The Tigers have been limping along without their stellar center fielder, Austin Jackson (abdominal strain), and their closer, Jose Valverde (lower back strain), for nearly the entirety of the current homestand, but both players might be ready to go before the Tigers head out on the road Monday.

Jackson and Valverde went out together before Saturday afternoon's batting practice to play catch, testing how they felt.

"It’s feeling better. I’m going to do some light throwing today, and hitting, and get it nice and loose and see how that feels," said Jackson, who was picking up a bat for the first time since he pulled a muscle reaching on a swing in Wednesday's game. "Yeah. I’m going to try to do some swings off a tee, throw a little bit, just to get a gauge on how it feels, see when I’ll be ready."

Depending on how he felt, Jackson admitted he might be available for at least pinch-running chores in Sunday's game. If not, the Tigers have an off day on Monday before heading to Cleveland. 

"I’m not sure. If I get out there today, and it’s feeling pretty good, I may be available to run, if that presents itself. It’s all going to be in how I feel when I go out here in just a second," he said, dismissing the idea that he was feeling any pressure to get back more quickly with the Tigers dealing with a short bench. "Not really. You definitely want to get it better. I don’t want to go back out there too quick and re-injure it, and possibly miss more time. I think my body will know when it’s ready, and when that time comes, I’ll be back out there."

Manager Jim Leyland wasn't willing to chance anything, either.

"I’m not going to take any chances. It’s May 19. I’m not going to do it," the skipper said. 

For Valverde it was a return to throwing after having his lower back tighten up on him in Tuesday's get-away win over Chicago. He'll test out how it feels again on Sunday.

"He is going to throw tomorrow. Now, when I say throw, I mean he’s going to throw to see how he feels. If he feels great, he may be available tomorrow (Sunday)," Leyland said. "But, I kind of doubt that. I think it’ll be Tuesday in Cleveland, but I can’t swear to that. He’s a gamer. He’s a tough guy. He might tell me he’s ready."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ticked off at the Tigers? Jim Leyland says you have every right to be

Jim Leyland was very candid in his pregame media session before Friday's opener of Interleague Play. It came a night after the Tigers (18-20) had fallen to two games under .500 for the first time since last May 7, 2011, the night of Justin Verlander's no-hitter against the Blue Jays.

The veteran skipper said that fans — even vocally critical ones — have every right to be, given how far below expectations the Tigers have flown.

Here are some excerpts from his 22-minute session (note: most of these were continuous dialogue without any follow-up questions — not exactly a :

Q: Do you listen to some of the things they say on the radio?
"Nah, but I know what’s being said. My buddies all listen, and they call and have the latest gossip for me. ‘Oh, they’re all over you.’ I say, ‘I’m sure.’ Right now, you can’t argue with them.

"I don’t mind them being pissed off. I’d be pissed off."

Q: How do you deal with the negativity around the team?
"We’re just in one of those situations where there’s so much going on, there’s so much negative talk about us right now — and rightfully so — that you just have to stay the course. And that’s what I do. 

"I don’t alter my routine, I don’t alter the players’ routine. I just don’t believe that’s the approach to take. I think you just stay the course, and just keep doing what you do. Because it can get confusing to everybody if you’re talking about — on one hand, talking about all the negative, and the other hand talking about how much you believe in the club, the positive.

"It boils down to simple stuff: Come to work, do your job. Try to do your job well each day.

"It’s no different than you guys’ job. We’re in the limelight a little bit more, they talk about us a little bit more.  It’s just come here and do your job. ...

"The one thing that won’t happen is I won’t let happen is be negative, myself and coaches. That will not happen. I’m a positive guy and I stay positive. That’s just the way it is.

"You can harp — if we lose the game tonight, and you say ‘I believe in this team,’ that can get old, too. You’re really in a no-win situation when you start talking about that kind of stuff. Just stay the course."

Q: Has there been any point in your career when the criticism was hard to handle?
"First of all, I’m a grown man. And I’m a realist. And I think if you’ve seen me over the six years that I’ve been here, I get a little snippy once in a while, when I think people are unfair. And I stand by that forever.
"They’re not being unfair right now.
"I can take it. I’m a man.
"We have to take it. We’re not performing well.
"You won’t ever see me snap at anybody if it’s fair. I’m sure there’s some crazies that are way out of line, but the average take on that is: That’s fine, we have to take that.
"We have it coming right now. You better have broad shoulders.
"Does everybody like it? No. But do we expect it? Yes. I expect it.

"We got it last year. And we turned it around, and that changed a little bit.

"It’s one of those things, basically, that if things don’t get better, it heats up even more. But if you start winning games, you get back into that, people start feeling good again about the Tigers, that changes as well.

"I’ve been around long enough to realize how that works.
"That’s part of this business. If you can’t take that ...
"You don’t snap at reporters, and everything, when you’ve got it coming.
"Right now, I have nothing to come back with, because we haven’t been very good. Simple.

"You’ve gotta take it when you’ve got it coming, and right now, we’ve got it coming. Pretty simple."

Q: How do you balance the fine line between being positive, and being pissed off?
"Oh, I’m pissed off, believe me. I’ve been pissed off a few times this year.

"I can tell you this: It’s changed. The yelling and screaming, and throwing (crap), like I did 20 years ago — that doesn’t work anymore. Forget it. It’s a whole different society. Whether it’s your kids, my kids, ballplayers, whatever — that doesn’t work anymore. It just doesn’t work.

"You talk out things sensibly, you make your points, and you get firm when you make your points, normally in a private conversation.

"But that stuff doesn’t work anymore. All that rattling (crap) and throwing stuff, that doesn’t affect guys at all. That doesn’t help anybody hit a slider, doesn’t help anybody throw one over the plate.

"So you just grind your (butt) off.

Q: Has that evolved since you've been here in Detroit? Or have you thrown things here?
"Very, very little. I mean, I’ve gotten upset a few times in my career here.

"You also have to understand that if people are waiting for me to start throwing stuff, put on a show for the media, I’m not going to do that. That’s not going to happen. I’m not going to put on some phony show for people.

"The simple fact is, we gotta get better, start winning some games, then the negative talk will be turned back to positive talk. With the exception of some people that that’s their life. They’re going to be negative no matter what. They’re not going to like the manager, they’re not going to like the first baseman,or the third baseman ... whatever it may be.

"We understand all that. But right now, the people have a right to be upset."

Tigers lineup vs. Pirates, Game 39: Verlander vs. Morton

The Tigers open Interleague Play with a three-game series against manager Jim Leyland's former franchise. Both teams come in with identical records of 18-20.

The Tigers put the following lineup out against right-hander Charlie Morton (2-3, 4.05 ERA)

Don Kelly, CF (L)
(.209, 4 RBI)
Andy Dirks, LF (L)
(.369, 4 HR, 13 RBI)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
(.305, 8 HR, 33 RBI)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
(.294, 6 HR, 21 RBI; vs. Morton: 2-for-11, HR)
Delmon Young, DH (R)
(.226, HR, 10 RBI)
Alex Avila, C (L)
(.223, 4 HR, 12 RBI)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
(.235, 5 HR, 16 RBI)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
(.252, HR, 11 RBI)
Ryan Raburn, 2B (R)
(.154, HR, 6 RBI)

Josh Harrison, DH (R)
(.256, HR, 8 RBI)
Neil Walker, 2B (S)
(.260, HR, 13 RBI)
Andrew McCutchen, CF (R)
(.349, 5 HR, 16 RBI; vs. JV: 2-for-4)
Pedro Alvarez, 3B (L)
(.216, 7 HR, 17 RBI)
Garrett Jones, RF (L)
(.238, 4 HR, 12 RBI; vs. JV: 1-for-3)
Casey McGehee, 1B (R)
(.202, 5 RBI; 2-for-4, HR)
Nate McLouth, LF (L)
(.167, 2 RBI)
Clint Barmes, SS (R)
(.162, 2 HR, 6 RBI)
Michael McKenry, C (R)
(.195, 2 HR, 2 RBI)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tigers lineup vs. Twins, Game 38: Fister vs. Walters

For the ninth time in 20 games, the Tigers will try to follow a loss with a win, trying to climb back to .500 in Thursday's afternoon game, the second in a two-game set with the Twins.

Only five Tigers have ever faced P.J. Walters, and no one more than one at-bat.

Don Kelly, CF (L)
(.220, 7 R, 4 RBI; vs. Walters: 0-for-1)
Andy Dirks, LF (L)
(.370, 17 R, 12 RBI)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
(.311, 8 HR, 33 RBI; vs. Walters: 1-for-1, HR)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
(.293, 5 HR, 20 RBI)
Delmon Young, DH (R)
(.234, 1 HR, 10 RBI)
Alex Avila, C (L)
(.232, 4 HR, 12 RBI)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
(.234, 4 HR, 15 RBI)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
(.252, 1 HR 11 RBI)
Ryan Raburn, 2B (R)
(.157, 1 HR, 6 RBI; vs. Walters: 0-for-1)

Coming into Thursday's game, Doug Fister had not allowed a run at Comerica Park since Aug. 30, 2011, a streak of 19.1 scoreless innings pitched. He's gone at least six innings in both of his starts since returning from the disabled list, but was on the hook for a tough-luck, 3-1 loss in Oakland on May 12.

Ben Revere, CF (L)
Brian Dozier, SS (R)
(.286, 2 HR, 5 RBI)
Joe Mauer, 1B (L)
(.275, 1 HR, 16 RBI; vs. Fister: 0-for-10)
Josh Willingham, LF (R)
(.299, 7 HR, 22 RBI; vs. Fister: 2-for-7, HR)
Justin Morneau, DH (L)
(.228, 4 HR, 9 RBI; vs. Fister: 3-for-6)
Trevor Plouffe, RF (R)
(.138, 2 HR, 5 RBI; vs. Fister: 0-for-3)
Alexi Casilla, 2B (S)
(.253, 5 RBI; vs. Fister: 3-for-6, HR)
Drew Butera, C (R)
(.250; vs. Fister: 0-for-2)
Jamey Carroll, 3B (R)
(.229, 9 RBI)

Walters is making his second start of the season, and the sixth of his big-league career. The former 11th-round draft pick of St. Louis in 2006, the right-hander has only thrown two career innings against the Tigers, back in 2009, giving up a lone run on Miguel Cabrera's solo homer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tigers lineup vs. Twins, Game 37: Porcello vs. Blackburn

The Tigers (18-18) return from a nine-game, three-city road trip to face the Twins (10-26) for a short two-game series, the first meeting of the season between the two American League Central rivals.
Here is the lineup the Tigers will send out against Nick Blackburn (1-4, 7.18 ERA):

Austin Jackson, CF (R)
(.323, 5 HR, 16 RBI; vs. Blackburn: 6-for-15)
Andy Dirks, LF (L)
(.351, 3 HR, 11 RBI; vs. Blackburn: 2-for-3)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
(.308, 8 HR, 31 RBI; vs. Blackburn: 13-for-29, 3 HR)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
(.292, 5 HR, 18 RBI; vs. Blackburn: 2-for-13, HR)
Delmon Young, DH (R)
(.234, HR, 10 RBI; vs. Blackburn: 1-for-3)
Alex Avila, C (L)
(.240, 4 HR, 12 RBI; vs. Blackburn: 4-for-11, HR)
Ryan Raburn, 2B (R)
(.162, HR, 6 RBI; vs. Blackburn: 2-for-6)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
(.234, 4 HR, 15 RBI; vs. Blackburn: 3-for-15, HR)
Ramon Santiago, SS (S)
(.154, 5 RBI; vs. Blackburn: 6-for-21)

Jhonny Peralta is just 5-for-26 (.192) career off Blackburn, in part the reason for getting a rest Wednesday.

Rick Porcello (3-3, 5.18 ERA) is pitching for the Tigers, looking to bounce back from a loss in Oakland his last time out.

Erik Komatsu, CF (L)
(.240, 1 RBI)
Brian Dozier, SS (R)
(.297, HR, 2 RBI)
Joe Mauer, DH (L)
(.270, HR, 15 RBI; vs. Porcello: 3-for-17)
Josh Willingham, LF (R)
(.286, 7 HR, 21 RBI; vs. Porcello: 2-for-5)
Justin Morneau, 1B (L)
(.230, 4 HR, 9 RBI; vs. Porcello: 3-for-16, HR)
Ryan Doumit, C (S)
(.252, 5 HR, 23 RBI)
Trevor Plouffe, RF (R)
(.133, HR, 3 RBI; vs. Porcello: 2-for-6)
Alexi Casilla, 2B (S)
(.250, 4 RBI; vs. Porcello: 3-for-11)
Jamey Carroll, 3B (R)
(.222, 7 RBI; vs. Porcello: 4-for-10)

Denard Span, who had the best career numbers against Porcello coming in (8-for-22/.364) was a late scratch with left hamstring soreness, replaced in the lineup by Komatsu.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Valverde leaves Tuesday's win with lower back tightness

Jose Valverde was potentially one pitch away from closing out Tuesday's matinee win over the Chicago White Sox when he had to be pulled from the game with an injury.

FOX Sports Detroit reported after the game that it was "lower back tightness," according to manager Jim Leyland, who'd gone to the mound with two outs in the ninth, along with head trainer Kevin Rand, almost immediately signaling to the bullpen for a replacement. Octavio Dotel inherited a three-balls, one-strike count against the White Sox's Alex Rios, and walked him on his first pitch.

Alexei Ramirez shot a two-run double down the right-field line to close the margin to 10-8, but Dotel got Dayan Viciedo to fly out to the warning track in right — stranding the potential game-tying runs on base — to seal the save.

Before his back stiffened up, Valverde retired the first two batters of the ninth inning, pushing his streak to nine straight retired, dating back to Don Kelly's save-sealing catch in Seattle. Valverde had worked 1-2-3 ninth innings in his last two appearances, and appeared headed for that same feat when Paul Konerko started the rally with a two-out single. AJ Pierzynski would double off the wall in dead center field, then Valverde would throw four pitches to Rios before exiting.

Joaquin Benoit, the likely closer should Valverde be unavailable, had already been used in the game, pitching a scoreless eighth inning.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Tigers lineup vs. White Sox, Game 27: Porcello vs. Axelrod

The Detroit Tigers sent the following lineup out in Sunday's rubber game of the three-game series with the Chicago White Sox, facing Dylan Axelrod. The 26-year-old is replacing Chris Sale in the lineup, after the highly-touted former first-round pick was moved to the closer's role because of elbow trouble.

Austin Jackson, CF (R)
(.303, .378 OBP, 11 EBH; 7-for-18 on homestand)
Andy Dirks, LF (L)
(.302, .535 SLG%; vs. Axelrod: 0-for-3)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
(.290, .530 SLG%, 22 RBI, 7 HR; vs. Axelrod: 2-for-3)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
(.289, .402 SLG%, 12 RBI, 11 BB)
Delmon Young, DH (R)
(.229, 4 EBH, 5RBI, 15K; vs. Axelrod: 0-for-3)
Alex Avila, C (L)
(.278, 8 EBH, 9 RBI, .514 SLG%)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
(.256, 8-2B, HR, 9 RBI, 18 K)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
(.213, 13 R, 13 RBI, 25 K, 2 BB, .234 OBP)
Ryan Raburn, 2B (R)
(.141, 4 R, 14 K, 4 BB)

Alejandro De Aza, CF (L)
(.260, 3 HR, 9 RBI; vs. Porcello: 0-for-5)
Brent Lillibridge, 3B (R)
(.227, 0 HR, 0 RBI)
Adam Dunn, 1B (L)
(.250, 8 HR, 22 RBI; vs. Porcello: 1-for-3)
Paul Konerko, DH (R)
(.351, 6 HR, 17 RBI; vs. Porcello: 8-for-20, HR)
Alex Rios, RF (R)
(.277, HR, 10 RBI; vs. Porcello: 4-for-19, 2 HR)
Alexei Ramirez, SS (R)
(.204, HR, 9 RBI; vs. Porcello: 5-for-22, HR)
Dayan Viciedo, LF (R)
(.213, 3 HR, 5 RBI; vs. Porcello: 2-for-6, HR)
Tyler Flowers, C (R)
(.133, HR, 1 RBI)
Gordon Beckham, 2B (R)
(.224, 2 HR, 7 RBI; vs. Porcello: 4-for-9, HR)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Tigers putting plan in place to limit Smyly's innings

You trust what your scouts tell you.

Late in January, at a public appearance, Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski dropped a hint that his minor league staff were telling him that a left-handed pitcher he’d not seen live, a pitcher who’d appeared in just eight games above the Single-A level in his only professional season, might be ready to make the monumental jump to the big leagues.

They weren’t kidding.

That pitcher, Drew Smyly, the team’s second-round pick in 2010, won the job as the fifth starter in the Tigers’ rotation in spring training, and has been arguably their second most-dependable pitcher through the first month of the regular season.

So far, he’s done nothing to disprove that assessment by the Tigers’ front office.

“I don’t think this is a big surprise. I think we all thought he’d do OK. And he’s certainly doing OK. I felt comfortable when we named him,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

“I don’t know if you ever really win a job in spring training. But I think, judging everything that you saw and projecting a little bit, he was the guy that was the choice. I think it made a lot of sense.”

It also makes a lot of sense to figure that Smyly may not be able to maintain his current torrid pace. Even with a guy as composed and sure of himself as Smyly will have to deal with failure at some point.

“I think you just have to wait and see, when it doesn’t go so well, how does he react then? That’s when you know what you’ve got. ... When he gets banged around a couple of times, how does he respond then? I hope it doesn’t happen, but it will, at some point,” Leyland said. “Even (Justin) Verlander struggled. (Rick) Porcello struggled. The best struggle. So it’s just a matter of the process. That’s part of the process you go through. Some guys make the adjustment mentally to handle it better and quicker than others, and some guys don’t.

“But they’re all going to struggle at some point. You can take that to the bank.

“It’s just mentally having confidence in themselves, ‘I know I’m good enough, my stuff’s good enough to get them out.’ ”

He hasn’t had to deal with failure much so far.

Through five starts, he’s 1-0, having allowed five five earned runs in 28 innings, giving him an ERA of 1.61 that’s tied with LA’s Jered Weaver for best in the American League.

For reference, Weaver’s a Cy Young contender coming off a no-hitter. Smyly is a rookie.

And a rookie who threw just 126 innings spread over 22 starts, split between Class A Lakeland, and Double-A Erie. One who had just 161 total innings pitched in two collegiate seasons at Arkansas (103 of those innings in 2010), and 73 2/3 innings as a junior in high school.

For that reason, the Tigers are putting a plan in place to make sure they’re prepared to keep him healthy, starting conversations already to set an innings limit for his rookie season.

That will include skipping him for a start here or there, using the off days in the schedule in their favor, so they can save as many innings as possible for the stretch drive.

“I was just talking about him, gonna have to watch him during the course of the season, monitor his innings a little bit. He’s just a baby, so I’m going to have to watch him a little. I’m putting a plan together, almost as we speak, when to back him off — we’re looking at the All-Star break, how many days we can (rest him). I want to make sure I don’t do anything crazy and abuse him,” Leyland said, noting that it doesn’t mean that Smyly is guaranteed to stay in that role, if somehow he should start to struggle, or look overmatched.

“It doesn’t mean anything other than I have to have it, just in case. I’m planning on him continuing to do well, but if he doesn’t, then you make an adjustment.

“You have to cover your tracks. If Oliver had won the job, or something, well he pitched a lot of innings last year, so you wouldn’t have that problem. Casey Crosby, you probably would’ve watched a little bit, because he’s had some injuries in the past. But with this guy, it’s just a common sense thing. It’s not some sophisticated plan. But you’ve gotta plan. If you don’t, you’re foolish.”

The Tigers had a similar plan in place in Porcello’s rookie year, putting his outstanding debut on hold for a 15-day span in July.

Tigers lineup vs. White Sox, Game 26: Scherzer vs. Floyd

The Detroit Tigers (13-12) sent the following lineup out in Saturday's prime time game against the White Sox and Gavin Floyd.

Austin Jackson, CF (R)
(vs. Floyd: 5-for-15)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
(vs. Floyd: 0-for-13)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
(vs. Floyd: 10-for-39, HR)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
(vs. Floyd: 1-for-4)
Delmon Young, DH (R)
(vs. Floyd: 9-for-33, HR)
Alex Avila, C (L)
(vs. Floyd: 1-for-15)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
(vs. Floyd: 10-for-32, 2 HR)
Andy Dirks, LF (L)
(vs. Floyd: 1-for-8)
Ryan Raburn, 2B (R)
(vs. Floyd: 12-for-34)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Statement from Delmon Young's agent, Arn Tellem

The following is a statement from Delmon Young's agent, Arn Tellem, who is an active supporter of the Jewish community in both the U.S. and Israel, and involved with the National Jewish Fund:

"I have known Delmon for most of his life, and I can assure you that he is not anti-Semitic. He has a big heart and has always been exceedingly fairand broad-minded. He acknowledged that he drank too much on the night of the incident, and that he put himself in a compromising situation. He has owned up to his mistakes and apologized for his actions. I'm confident that Delmon will use this opportunity to reflect on his mistakes and learn from them."

Delmon Young reinstated; Eldred DFA'ed

As expected, the Tigers reinstated outfielder Delmon Young on Friday, after the expiration of his seven-day suspension from Major League Baseball for his intoxicated incident in New York a week ago.

To make room for Young on the active roster, the Tigers designated the contract of designated hitter Brad Eldred for assignment. Eldred goes on waivers, but since he hit just .188 with the Tigers after tearing it up at Triple-A Toledo, in all likelihood, he'll go back to the Mud Hens.

Young is eligible to play immediately, but manager Jim Leyland said earlier in the week that he'd likely ease him back into playing time after a week of inactivity. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fister talks about rehab start in Toledo

Doug Fister threw four scoreless innings of a rehabilitation outing for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens Wednesday evening at Fifth Third Field. Fister gave up two hits, struck out five and walked one, working at his usual brisk pace. It was his first time throwing to live batters since he left his first start of the regular season on April 7 with what was later diagnosed as a costochondral strain in his left side.

By all reports — and admittedly, I was not there Wednesday night — the outing went well. Manager Jim Leyland had said that if it did — and that would include, obviously, Fister feeling fine Thursday — then the lanky right-hander could return to the rotation as early as Monday's game in Seattle.

Here's a video of Fister's postgame interview (posted on, if you'd like to judge for yourself:

Miggy and Collin Balester in a telenovela? Si, por favor

Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera (in an eye-patch) and reliever Collin Balester co-starred in an episode of "La Cueva del Fanatico" when they visited the MLB Fan Cave in New York. Miggy, of course, played a character called "Miggy Poco" (Little Miggy) and Collin was ... well, Collin ... except he was a girlfriend stealer, apparently.

Harmless. Mildly funny. About as good a way to spend 2 minutes, 20 seconds of your life as any other on an off day.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

It isn't easy being green: Inge talks A's, mullets, smack with former teammates and hitting the Metrodome roof

Brandon Inge, the former-Tiger-turned-Oakland-Athletic, was on MLB Network talking about his new gig with the A's, and how much he's enjoying being back at home at third base. While the co-hosts of "The Rundown," Matt Yallof and Sean Casey (Inge's former teammate in Detroit) were in-studio, Inge was being interviewed on camera from the dugout at Fenway Park. (Thank goodness the camera can really zoom in.)

A few quotes from Inge —

On hitting second: "I did ask if we were trying."
On the upcoming series (May 10-13) against the Tigers in Oakland:
"I'm gonna wanna beat 'em. That's for one, for sure. I've already been messing with a couple of the guys. I've been sending (Alex) Avila texts and stuff, just telling him, 'Wait until you come over to Oakland.' So, it's going to be fun to play against those guys."
Here's the video of the interview, if you'd like to watch:

And, yes, Yallof gave another vote to the "It looks weird seeing Inge in green" sentiment.

Tigers lineup vs. Royals, Game 24: Verlander vs. Sanchez

The Tigers (12-11) go or their first two-game win streak since ... well, the last time they played Kansas City, sending this lineup out behind Justin Verlander:

DETROIT TIGERS (12-11, three-way tie for first AL Central):
Austin Jackson, CF (R)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
Ryan Raburn, LF (R)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
Alex Avila, C (L)
Brad Eldred, DH (R)
Danny Worth, 2B (R)

KANSAS CITY ROYALS (6-16, 5.5 games out in AL Central):
Jarrod Dyson, CF (L)
Alex Gordon, LF (L)
Billy Butler, DH (R)
Eric Hosmer, 1B (L)
Jeff Francouer, RF (R)
Mike Moustakas, 3B (L)
Brayan Pena, C (S)
Chris Getz, 2B (L)
Alcides Escobar, SS (R)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Odd to see Brandon Inge in Oakland green

Some things just don’t look right.

One of those was Brandon Inge suiting up in a green No. 18 jersey for the Oakland A’s on Monday, after agreeing to a one-year contract.

“It’s a good feeling, but at the same time it’s different,” Inge told The Associated Press. “Just spending that long in one organization, it’s part of my home. But the business side of it is: sometimes you’ve got to realize when the end is. This is a better fit for me right now, and I’m happy to be here. I was a fan of this team when I was a kid, too. I remember watching Rickey Henderson.”

For all that he was 2-for-20 in nine games for the Tigers, that was still lightyears ahead of what the Athletics were putting out at third base offensively, after another former Tiger, Scott Sizemore, injured his knee in the spring.

The three guys Inge essentially replaced — Josh Donaldson, Eric Sogard and Luke Hughes — were hitting a combined .111 at the time of the transaction, and slugging a whopping .197 through the start of Tuesday’s game.

Several Tigers players got in contact with their former teammate. Manager Jim Leyland hadn’t had a chance yet, but got a chance to watch Inge’s Oakland debut on TV when the Tigers’ game Monday was rained out.

“I will call him. I saw him hit one time last night on TV, hit a ball pretty good to centerfield, but it was caught. He had a decent night, obviously. I think he’ll be fine,” Leyland said. “He’s back in his comfort zone at third base, and he’s gonna get a lot of reps, and good for him. I’m happy for him. I know all the guys are happy for him, I know Justin (Verlander) texted him or talked to him. It’s great.”

Inge, of course, was released last Thursday by the Tigers after a slow start to his 12th season with the team. The organization will be on the hook for the majority of of his $5 million salary plus the $500,000 buyout for next year. The A’s will pick up the pro-rated portion of the MLB veteran’s minimum salary of $480,000.

Much like Inge insisted that there was no hard feelings with his former organization, his longtime manager wished him well, too.

“I would have been happy for him, whether he handled everything well or not, but he handled things as well as you possibly could. Sometimes, it’s time. He wants to play. He’s an athlete, he’s active. He wants to play. And now he’s going to get a chance to,” Leyland said. “I thought he made a great comment: When we moved Cabrera to third, was it the end for Brandon? No, but it was going to be a totally different situation, which I didn’t think, in the end, he was going to be real happy with. I mean, he did all the right things, he said all the right things, he worked. But he’s an athlete. He wants to play. He’s a competitor. He wants to be in the action. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

But wasn’t it weird to see him in a different uniform?

“No. And I’ll tell you why: The game’s changed. If that would’ve been 40, 50 years ago, then probably, yeah. When a guy got traded, yeah. But with free agency and everything, with the way guys get moved, no,” Leyland said.

“I look at things differently. I look at my memories with Brandon, and I’ll cherish them forever, at a time in my career, probably when it’s over, go back and say, ‘I can remember this home run he hit,’ or I can remember something Brandon said that was funny, or something he did that was funny, or some relationship that we had, whether it be an argument or happy, or whatever.

“But in today’s world of baseball, it’s not uncommon to see other people in another uniform.”