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 21, 2012

Tigers still steamed about missed hit-by-pitch

It may not have had as identifiable a 'cause-and-effect' impact on Wednesday's game as some plays, but there were some grumblings in the Tigers' clubhouse about a missed call by home plate umpire Brian Runge which, at bare minimum, cost the Tigers a baserunner.

Jake Westbrook's first pitch of the third inning was inside to Ramon Santiago, far enough that the switch-hitting infielder couldn't get out of the way. Knowing he was plunked on the thigh by the pitch, Santiago trotted up the first-base line, before being called back.

Runge ruled Santiago, who'd been squared around to bunt, fouled the pitch off.

"I don’t even know. I know the ball hit me, I know I pulled the bat back. Then when the umpire say that, I was shocked. I was like, ‘What?’ He call me (for) a swing or something? Maybe I can take that better, but no. Not a foul ball when it’s not even close," Santiago said Thursday morning.


Manager Jim Leyland went out to consult with Runge (pictured), but the umpire didn't get help from anyone else on his crew. Santiago would ground out to first baseman Matt Adams three pitches later. 

"I was like ‘Check with the umpire on the other side. Ask him,' " Santiago said. "He say, no, he see it."

One batter later, Westbrook issued his only walk of the game, putting Gerald Laird on first. But it could have been two on and no outs for leadoff hitter Austin Jackson in that situation, instead.

"We don’t make any excuse, but ..." Santiago said. "Those calls like that, you got to make sure — they can cost the game."

Tigers recall Avila, send Holaday down

It was really a binary operation to get Alex Avila back from the disabled list.

If Gerald Laird’s hamstring, which cramped up badly enough to take him out of Wednesday’s game, was healthy, he’d stay and back up Avila, while rookie Bryan Holaday would go back to the minors.

If not, Holaday would stay, and Laird would be headed to the DL.

“We’re just trying to let cooler heads prevail right now and see what happens in the morning. You know, not make any rash decisions. You’re not talking about an outfielder or an infielder, where you’ve got another outfielder or infielder,” manager Jim Leyland said, when the Tigers deferred the decision to Thursday morning. “You don’t have another (backup) catcher, so there’s not much lenience there as far as what you have to do.”

Laird said he was fine Thursday morning — “It feels better,” he said, “but I can still feel a knot in there” — so it was Option B.

Avila returned, Laird stayed, and Holaday went down.

“You always want to go in the game with all your bullets if you can,” Leyland said. “Gerald has done a great job. We’ve played pretty good in (Avila’s) absence. Gerald has done a great job of filling in. Got some hits. He’s done a great job with the staff and that’s what he’s here for. He did what he’s here for.”

For the Tigers, Holaday’s 13-game stint with the big club as a good opportunity to get a look at one of the most advanced of their glut of young catchers.

“I like him a lot,” Leyland said. “He can catch and throw with ’em right now. He still has to get some experience with the bat. But he can catch and throw right now. ... If he can’t hit, he’s a backup, if he hits, he’s probably a regular at some point.”

For Holaday, he treated it as a learning experience, picking the brains of Laird and Avila, getting pointers on how to handle a pitching staff, as well as the big leagues themselves.

But he wasn’t shocked that he was here this season, at all.

“Absolutely. I think you’ve gotta be optimistic about your future. I think you have to have a little bit of that in you, because that’s what drives you, makes you work hard to get here. Now I’ve gotta set my mind on coming back,” Holaday said. “When you get to be in this environment, play at this level, it definitely makes you want to get back as quick as you can.”

Holaday may also want to come back, just so he can find something that has been ... misplaced.

He got his first big-league hit — a line-drive single to left off the Indians’ Jeanmar Gomez — in the fifth inning of his MLB debut on June 6, but hasn’t been given the ball by his teammates yet.

“It’s still floating around. I haven’t landed on it yet,” Holaday said.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Laird hamstring injury messes up Tigers' planned moves

There’s a reason folks knock on wood.

Just when it looked like the Tigers were getting healthier, ready to welcome catcher Alex Avila back from his rehab stint in time to start Thursday’s game, manager Jim Leyland didn’t want to “put the cart before the horse” and talk about it too early.

“I do. But I can’t say it for sure. Keep your fingers crossed. Hopefully everything goes well. He’ll be catching tomorrow for the Tigers, but once again, I can’t swear to that,” said Leyland, when asked if he anticipated Avila back Thursday, noting that the Tigers have already had two previous planned transactions nixed when someone else got hurt during a game.

“We’re going to make two moves after the game. ... I mean, supposedly.”

The Tigers may have had one of their planned moves foiled in the sixth inning of Wednesday’s game when Gerald Laird hurt himself taking an extra base on a deep fly ball, leaving the game with what was called left hamstring cramping.

“I felt it when I popped up from my slide. And then I was just standing out there and it was getting worse and worse and worse. So hopefully it was just kind of a cramp and dehydrated,” Laird said. “But I can feel it right now, it's like a knot in there. They said I'm going to feel a knot for a little while. I just took an IV, hopefully it’ll be good (Thursday). I’m just going to hydrate, see how it feels.”

His status is now day-to-day.

“We’ll check that out a little bit more (Thursday).My initial thought was probably DL, because it looked like maybe a pulled groin area. I wasn’t really sure what it was,” Leyland said. “He’s being treated as we speak, and he’ll be re-evaluated tomorrow, to see what we have to do.”

If he’s not better by Thursday, he’ll go on the disabled list, allowing Avila to return.

If he is, he’ll stay and back up Avila, and third-string catcher Bryan Holaday will go back to Toledo.

The Tigers made the other move, though, sending relief pitcher Luke Putkonen to Toledo, to allow them to bring up Thursday’s starter, Jacob Turner.

It was the third time this season — counting spring training — that Laird’s had a hamstring issues. In an attempt to minimize the possibility of a recurrence, he’s been working with strength and conditioning coach Javair Gillett to stay loose.

All of his issues have come while running the bases, not while catching, and this time it was the other hamstring.

“I guess I’m getting on base too much this year. No, that’s the thing, I feel good at the dish and I feel good on the bases. I feel like I’m running real well. It’s just one of those things where I don’t know,” said Laird of the frustration he was obviously feeling when he came off the field, firing his helmet to the ground on his way into the dugout.

“It’s just one of those things, coming out of the game right now, that’s why I was so frustrated. Ricky (Porcello), he was throwing a good game and I just wanted to be back there. But it’s just one of those things where I just wanted to be on the safe side.”

Tigers come to terms with six more 2012 draft picks

The Tigers announced on Wednesday the signings of six more picks from the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft, highlighted by fourth-round pick Drew Verhagen, giving them 26 of 39 picks signed already, including their top five picks.

Verhagen, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound right-hander from Vanderbilt, attended the same high school — Rockwall-Heath in Texas — as the Tigers' top pick, second-rounder Jake Thompson. The Tigers also signed Verhagen's Vanderbilt teammate, Will Clinard (19th round) on Wednesday.

The other signings included: OF D.J. Driggers (Middle Georgia College, 22nd round); OF Rashad Brown (Westlake HS, Ga., 26th round); OF Miguel Paulino (Choctawhatchee HS, Fla., 27th round); C Jacob Kapstein (Tiverton HS, RI, 35th round).

Detroit also announced it had signed non-drafted free agent Andrew Allen, a first baseman from Cal State Los Angeles. The son of Tigers TV broadcaster Rod Allen, Andrew Allen was drafted three times, twice by the Tigers, most recently in the 45th round of the 2011 draft. Allen made six starts for the Golden Eagles, hitting .179.

Smyly headed to Toledo for rehab start

The I-75 shuttle is operational again, this time taking rookie starter Drew Smyly to Toledo for a planned three-inning rehab start on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Smyly threw his first bullpen session since going on the DL on June 11 with a massive blood blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

“At this point, I’m just trying to build a callus over the new skin,” said Smyly, who’s due to come off the DL on June 26, but didn't know the next step in his rehab until now. "I'm good to go."

Smyly is 2-2 with a 3.96 ERA in 12 starts for the Tigers this season, but had to leave his last outing against the Cincinnati Reds on June 10 with the blister. The three-inning stint that day was his shortest MLB outing by two full innings.

The Tigers have said all along they were planning to limit the workload for Smyly, who'd only pitched eight games above Class A ball in his young pro career before this season, and had just 126 regular-season professional innings under his belt when he won the fifth starter job in spring training. 

This stint on the 15-day DL altered that plan in the short term.

"I don’t know if it was a blessing in disguise. There’s no way he could’ve made it tomorrow. I looked at it today and it’s much better, but there’s a big hole there and it’s real sensitive. It’s much better, but there’s no way he could’ve pitched tomorrow," manager Jim Leyland said Friday, the day before what would have been his next scheduled start for the Tigers, had he been healthy. "To be honest, we really had our plan made around the All-Star break to watch what was going on. So, this was kind of unexpected. Obviously, he’d be pitching if he didn’t have the blister. We really had a plan in place that started around the All-Star break. It wasn’t expected, but we had a lot of that this year."

Valverde's sore wrist is a concern, after he can't go in 9th

It seemed like Jose Valverde closed out every one of Justin Verlander’s big wins in 2011.

It looked like Tuesday’s game against the Cardinals was going to be no different, as the Detroit Tigers’ ace was cruising until the seventh inning, then turned his game over to the bullpen.

But after a stellar 1-2-3 eighth inning by set-up man Joaquin Benoit, the phone in the bullpen started frantically ringing again, as Valverde sat slumped over on the bullpen steps, unable to continue warming up because of soreness his right wrist.

“The last pitch I throw, my wrist start getting sorer and sorer,” said Valverde, who got an X-ray and an MRI after the game to figure out why.

The results were not immediately available.

“I think I’ll be OK, you know what I mean. Go get an MRI right now, and figure it out. ... He told me nothing serious (after X-Ray). The doctor say it’s not too bad,” said Valverde, admitting he was nervous. “Yeah, I’m nervous, because I don’t know yet what’s going on. I think everybody’s nervous.”

So is everyone else.

While the mercurial closer has had his troubles this year, he’s still the closer, and it’s not like the team needs another injury. The bullpen just got veteran reliever Octavio Dotel back earlier Tuesday afternoon.

“Sure. Yeah,” manager Jim Leyland said, asked if he was concerned. “But you know what? I can’t do anything about that, either. I’ve seen it too many times where something happens, and people sit around and feel sorry for themselves. That’s the way we operate around here. We’ll do whatever we have to do to get by.

“You step up, and put somebody else in there. That’s what you do. You don’t have a choice.”

Tuesday, the guy that got thrown into the breach was Phil Coke, who was given the hurry-up call.

“I just thought he’d gotten enough reps (repetitions) in or whatever. Then the phone rings, and they say I need to get up, so I got up and threw a couple short ones, got on the mound, got it rollin’, went out, did my job. And I don’t know what’s going on with Jose,” Coke said. “I don’t think about any of that. If the phone rings for me, and he asks me to get up, I get up, ready to do my job. And go do my job. I don’t think of anything else.”

It probably helped that he didn’t have any time at all to think about the situation he was being thrown into.

“Well, I don’t typically try to do any of that, anyway. It’s kind of dangerous,” Coke joked. “I enjoy that. I enjoy the, ‘Uh, oh. Get hot.’ For some reason. I don't know. I’m probably just really weird. It’s more fun for me that way.”

The lineup fell perfectly for the Tigers, too, in that the first two guys due up in the ninth were left-handed hitters, in Skip Schumaker and Daniel Descalso. That forced Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny to pinch hit for both.

Coke struck out Shane Robinson swinging, then got Tyler Greene to ground out, before Rafael Furcal lined out to third to end the game.

“He did a good job. He’s always going to give you whatever he’s got. Sometimes he’s a little hyper. It probably was a blessing maybe that it happened fast,” Leyland said. “Those last three outs are different outs. People learn that every day in this game.

“Pretty impressive.”

Should Valverde be sidelined for any amount of time, the closing duties would most likely fall to Benoit, who’s been lights-out as the Tigers’ set-up man.

“I’ll probably shoot myself in the foot, but I think he’s the best set-up guy in the league. Rarely gets any credit,” Leyland said over the weekend. “Just my opinion, for whatever it’s worth.

“He’s awful special, but I gotta watch him.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tigers activate Octavio Dotel off the DL, continue to get healthier

Day by day, the Tigers are slowly but surely getting more healthy.

Veteran reliever Octavio Dotel (elbow inflammation) came off the 15-day disabled list Tuesday. The Tigers sent Thad Weber back to Triple-A Toledo to make room for him on the active roster.

Manager Jim Leyland didn’t have a specific plan to get him back into action, though.

“Not really. I’ll just use him if I need him. He’s been around long enough, it’s not really a shock to his system,” the skipper said. “He’s been around a long time. He’ll know what to do. He’ll remember where the mound is.”

Also on Tuesday, rookie fifth starter Drew Smyly on Tuesday threw his first bullpen session since going on the DL on June 11 with a massive blood blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

“At this point, I’m just trying to build a callus over the new skin,” said Smyly, who’s due to come off the DL on June 26. “I’m good to go. I don’t know if they’ll need me to throw a bullpen again, or go to Toledo for a rehab start.”

Alex Avila (hamstring strain) began his planned three-game rehabilitation stint at Toledo on Monday, going hitless in two at-bats.

“The only thing I’m excited about was he felt great,” Leyland said, noting Avila was scheduled to catch five innings again Tuesday, then DH the entire game Wednesday. “If everything goes right, he’ll play here on Thursday.

“But he came out of it fine, yes.

“So that would be another. We’re slowly getting guys back, so that would be a good thing for us.”

Monday, June 18, 2012

Multple reports: Eldred leaving Tigers organization for Japan

When the Tigers went looking through their minor league organization for a right-handed bat recently, they were forced to bring Ryan Raburn back from Toledo well before he'd figured out his early-season offensive struggles.

It begged the obligatory question, what about Brad Eldred? You know, the guy who's leading the International League with 24 home runs, 65 RBI and a .695 slugging percentage.

"That's a story for another day," Leyland said mysteriously at the time, one of several hints he dropped on that particular road trip.

Maybe Monday was the day. By the reports, it certainly seems so.

While half the Tigers media corps was in Toledo on the team's off day to check out the first rehabilitation start of Alex Avila's rehabilitation stint, the story came to a head, as Eldred was a very late scratch from the game.

Per the varied reports out of Toledo — from's Jason Beck, MLive's Chris Iott, the Toledo Blade's John Wagner and's Dana Wakiji — Eldred said his good-byes to his teammates after the game, and appears to be headed to Japan to play for the Hiroshima Carp.

"What's going on is probably obviously better for me and my family, so that's the way it's gotta be," Eldred told the reporters, as reported by Wakiji. "I couldn't really ask for a whole lot more. Obviously more opportunity or whatever you want to call it, it is what it is right now."

The 31-year-old Eldred, who signed a minor-league contract with the Tigers organization in the offseason, hit just .188 in his five-game stint with the parent club in late April, early May.

Prince still leading ASG fan voting; Miggy 2nd at 3B

The updated American League fan voting totals were released Monday, and Prince Fielder is still the lead dog in the first-place polling by 265,252 votes, making him by far the best shot for the Detroit Tigers to start in the All-Star Game on July 10.

Miguel Cabrera (1,869,727) trails Texas' Adrian Beltre (2,251,304) by 381,577 votes at third base, but is more than 427,000 votes ahead of third-place Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Fielder, who started two of his three All-Star games for the National League in his years with the Brewers, leads all AL first basemen with 1,946,045 votes. The White Sox's Paul Konerko is second with 1,680,793 votes.

Center fielder Austin Jackson, who missed 21 games with an abdominal strain, is the only other Tigers player who appears among the top vote-getters at his position, his tally of 741,877 ranks 12th among AL outfielders. He's behind all three Opening Day outfielders for both the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees. That includes Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner, who's played just nine games this season.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Berry, Berry extraordinary

It quietly flew under the radar, but Quintin Berry was unavailable for Saturday's game.

A little sick, Tigers manager Jim Leyland reported before Sunday's game, when he inserted Berry into the No. 2 hole in the lineup, right behind Austin Jackson.

"Trying to get a little energy at the top, a little speed. Why not?" Leyland said pregame. "Perfect time. This is what a team’s about. If you look at the lineup, I played Berry, I played (Don) Kelly. I want some energy today.

"These other guys have been playing all the time. I want to get Miggy (Cabrera, Sunday's DH) off his feet for a day. Get Berry in there, some speed, a little different look.

"That’s what a team’s all about. If we can win this game today, it’s really good tonic for our team."

Also a good tonic for a team that's been desperately without it for years: Speed.

Jackson and Berry were on base a combined seven times in Sunday's game, scoring once each in a 5-0 win. While Jackson was a respectable 2-for-5 in the game, Berry was scorching, going recording a career-high five hits in five at-bats. He stole his team-leading ninth base, as well.

Rather than unavailable, he was unstoppable.

"Quintin Berry had an unbelievable day," Leyland said. "He didn't try to do too much. Berry just laid the bat on the ball, he didn't try to do too much. He had a great day. Line drives, too. I'm not talking about fluke hits, every one of them was hit hard. The last one wasn't quite as hard as some of the other ones but just laid the bat on the ball, the legs are there, obviously. He gives us a different dimension when he plays and that's why we played those guys today. ... Some fresh legs and some different looks today. Quintin was at the top of that list and he did more than you could have expected."

A career minor leaguer who came up to fill in when Jackson missed 21 games on the disabled list, and worked his way — at least for now — into the team's immediate plans, even when its regular center fielder and leadoff man returned, Berry had no way to explain his day, either.

"Nothing too big about it. Five-for-five, you don’t think about it too much. It just happens. Things flowing, getting good pitches to hit. ... I’ve got nothing else for you. Five-for-five — that’s just what it is. I can’t give you too many answers," an elated Berry said.

"Hopefully, they don’t expect this to happen everyday — because it’s not. ... I’m not going to try to keep doing that, because realistically, we all know it’s something that doesn’t happen very often."

• In the first inning, he fell behind Rockies starter Jeremy Guthrie, 0-2, but singled through the right side of the infield. He was later erased on Cabrera's 6-4-3 double play.

• In the third inning, Berry got a reprieve when Guthrie and catcher Wil Nieves couldn't converge on his foul pop up, allowing it to fall as a harmless strike. Guthrie was charged with an error on the play, and Berry made him pay by scorching the ball over shortstop Marco Scutaro's head into shallow left field. He'd go to second on a Guthrie balk, then score on Prince Fielder's RBI double to the right-center field gap.

• Berry would lead off the fourth with a single up the middle, steal second, daringly move to third on a groundout by Cabrera in front of him, but get gunned out at the plate trying to score on a grounder by Fielder to second baseman Chris Nelson.

• In the sixth, with Jackson having singled, Berry got a fastball to hit, shooting it into left-center field, putting Jackson on third, where he'd score on a double down the left-field line by Cabrera. He'd be stranded there when Brennan Boesch grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.

• In the eighth, with Gerald Laird on ahead of him with a single, Berry shot the ball toward Scutaro at shortstop, and beat out the infield single when it went off Scutaro's glove. It was ruled a base hit.

"I was glancin’ up at that scoreboard for a while, I’m not going to lie. It could’ve went either way. Luckily, had a little home-court advantage there, helped out. They gave it to me," Berry said with a laugh, admitting he'd waited on the scoring decision.

"I’ll take it."

It helped that Berry was hitting in the No. 2 hole, behind a guy who's every bit as disruptive on the basepaths as he is.

"I’ve never hit in the second hole very much, and having Austin in the leadoff spot, hitting behind him is great. You know you’re going to get those pitches to hit. They’re going to give you fastballs, because they don’t want to take too long getting the ball home, because he’s going to steal too," Berry said.

"That’s the kind of thing you don’t think of when you’re hitting in the leadoff spot or the nine hole, because you’re always hitting behind somebody who doesn’t run."

Scherzer waits out the rain, saves the bullpen

The clock was ticking.

The minute the umpiring crew waved the players off the field, and the Comerica Park grounds crew put the tarp on, putting Sunday's game between the Tigers and Rockies into a fourth-inning rain delay, the clock started ticking on the viability of each of the two starters to remain in the game.

Each minute that passed made it less likely they'd continue. No manager likes to put a starter at risk, by letting them cool down, then trying to ramp them back up again.

Colorado manager Jim Tracy, who'd liberally employed his bullpen all weekend long, did not hesitate to bring in Guillermo Moscoso after the 53-minute delay, replacing starter Jeremy Guthrie.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland had a tougher choice, considering his bullpen had been so strapped, his general manager had needed to make a roster move Friday night to get him an extra arm as insurance.

The ticking clock was that much more dramatic for him, as he debated keeping starter Max Scherzer in the game against the need to dip into his pen again.

"Somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour is usually our time limit. We probably would have stretched that a little bit today because we were a little bit short," the skipper said. "That's a tough call."

"It was extremely important, especially for me to be able to go eight innings," Scherzer said. "We’ve been using our bullpen a lot, and they’ve got tired arms. So especially for me to be able to go out today and really save the bullpen, plus we’ve got the day off (Monday), that’s a big thing for the team."

It looked like the cell of rain, which had also delayed the NASCAR race 70 miles west at Michigan International Speedway, might blow through. The grounds crew came out when the sun did, standing at attention near the tarp, but were waved off the field again when the pace of the rain picked up again.

The Tigers were in the clubhouse waiting it out, but Scherzer was trying to stay locked in, watching the clock, and the radar. 

"Oh, yeah. I was on, looking at the radar, seeing when this thing was going to push through. I thought it was going to be quicker than that. I’m trying to play meteorologist, trying to push that weather through, as quick as possible, so I don’t get taken out of the game," said Scherzer, who was so locked in pregame, he hadn't even known rain was in the forecast for Sunday until pitching coach Jeff Jones told him the game was set to start on schedule. "For me, it was just get away from everybody, go sit in the batting cages, throw a few balls into the net, keep my arm loose, and keep that mentality that you’re still in the game. That’s the biggest thing about rain delays: You’ve always got to believe you’re in the game, no matter what. Today was no different. I can’t be in the clubhouse, playing cards, laughing."

It wouldn't have been a laughing matter, if he'd had to come out of the game, either.

He was staying in come hell or ... well, high water.

"Yeah, otherwise, I was flippin’ chairs," he said with a grin. "I wanted to stay in that game. I didn’t care if we were playing at 9 o’clock at night. I wanted to stay in that game."

So did his teammates, who'd seen his 98 mph gas, and six strikeouts before the delay, and knew this was one of those days he was on.

"I was watching the (radar) gun, and go ‘Wow, he’s throwing 98?’ I know he got it, but he was outstanding," said Ramon Santiago. "I don’t know what the rule is. Some pitcher have a long delay, they don’t come back. And to see him come back, that was really huge, because he was pitching great game. When you’re pitching like that, you don’t want to come out of the game.

"Seeing him there was like ‘Yeah!’ We need it."

After the 53-minute rain delay, Scherzer took the mound almost exactly at 3:15 p.m., and needed just two pitches to induce a fielder's choice from Rockies second baseman Chris Nelson, getting himself out of the two-on, two-out jam that he'd been working himself into when the rain came.

"It was early enough in the game that my arm was still loose and fresh," Scherzer said, "and when the rain ended, it was even kind of nice and humid, so it made it even better pitching conditions for me."

It didn't hurt that he had all four of his pitches working, in spades, and had tweaked his change-up back to where he wanted it, giving him enough velocity variation from his fastball to get swings and misses. Scherzer would add six more strikeouts before he was done, pushing himself over the 100-strikeout plateau for the season, becoming the third pitcher in baseball — along with teammate Justin Verlander and the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg — to reach the century mark.

"He really had good stuff today. I mean, 97, 98, slider, changeup, command of the strike zone. He just attacked the strike zone with outstanding stuff today. Really kind of overmatched them, to be honest with you. He was really good, really good."

Scherzer not only come back out to finish the fourth, but he'd return for the fifth ... and the sixth ... and the seventh. Even after a discussion with Leyland following the seventh, he'd head back out to the mound to go an eighth inning, his longest outing in the span of 27 regular-season starts. 

"Yeah, I didn’t know what was going to happen. My arm felt OK," Scherzer said. "I thought the rain delay was going to get me out of there, but he (Leyland) asked if my arm was OK — our bullpen has been used a lot — so anytime there’s a chance I can help out the team, go out there and save our bullpen, I’m always down for that."

He'd turn his shutout over to Brayan Villarreal, and watch as the rookie pitched a 1-2-3 ninth. Rather than tax the bullpen, it instead saved it, giving the overused arms another day — with the off day Monday — to get back in line for the stretch drive before the All-Star break. The Tigers don't have another off day until July 9, after a span of 20 games in 20 days.

And the credit for that goes to Scherzer doing his part — and more.

“He came out stronger after the rain delay, and threw over 120 pitches. That’s the performance of a warrior and a stud,” Tracy said.

Fister feels fine, Avila headed out to rehab

After missing nearly three weeks in his second stint on the disabled list with a costochondral strain, the truest test of Doug Fister’s health was going to be how he felt a day after his first start back from the disabled list.

Sunday morning, he felt fine.

“He feels great and that’s a big plus for us. That’s a load off my mind,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who’d admitted he might not sleep well, wondering about it. “I didn’t let it ruin my night, but I was thinking about it. You just don’t know. Who knows. The last time he felt good the first time out and then the couple starts after that, it wasn’t.”

That was just the first step.

Later, the team announced Alex Avila (hamstring) was headed to Toledo to start an injury rehabilitation stint, and could be back as soon as Thursday.

“We actually had a pretty good day. Fister came in feeling great, that was the first best news of the day. Then Alex going out, that was probably the second best. Then the job that (Max) Scherzer and Quintin (Berry) did, everybody did today. That was probably the third best news of the day,” Leyland said after the team's 5-0 win over the Rockies, highlighted by eight shutout innings from Scherzer and a 5-for-5 day by Berry. 

“We’ll see. Dirksy’s (Andy Dirks) gonna be a while yet. That gives us some flexibility to play Quintin in left and DH Delmon (Young), play (Ryan) Raburn against some left-handers. It gives us a little different dimension. Trust me when I tell you, we'll have the best team on the field.”

So much for a bullpen start: Turner will get spot start Thursday

Before Sunday’s game, Tigers manager Jim Leyland spoke like he was uncertain what he was going to do with his rotation going forward. 

That uncertainty wouldn’t last long — only about three hours — before the organization came up with a very simple solution.

“We only need one (starter), somewhere along the line. I don’t know where exactly,” Leyland said at the time. “I have no idea.”

After an off day Monday, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello were scheduled to start the first two games of the mid-week home series against the St. Louis Cardinals, but the third was still listed as “TBA.” Leyland had hinted Saturday that he might be able to start Doug Fister there, depending on how he did in his first start back from the disabled list later that day.

Sunday morning, Leyland hinted it might be a bullpen day, given that he’d decided to Fister on Friday and Max Scherzer on Saturday before turning the rotation over again.
“Sometimes, that’s not a bad idea. Just make it a bullpen game. ... I’m just saying, trying to make somebody the starter for that game, or trying to bring somebody up, I’m not sure it’s not better to think maybe a bullpen game,” the skipper mused. “I mean, that’s just a thought. Not saying it’s going to happen.”

It won't. 

The Tigers announced shortly before Sunday’s game time that they’d call up top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, who grew up a Cardinals fan in Missouri, to make the spot start. Turner had two stints with the Tigers last season, making one start in late July, and two more in September. 

He’ll be the fourth rookie — following Drew Smyly, Adam Wilk and Casey Crosby — to start a game for the Tigers, and the 20th pitcher they’ve used, overall.

“When I spoke with Dave (Dombrowski, the GM), he said, ‘Let’s give Turner a shot.’ So that’s fine. That was an option and I was thinking about it, rather than make the moves all the time. I thought about that but then we discussed it and Dave wants to give Turner a shot and that’s fine. No problem, that’s good,” Leyland said. 

“That’s what they decided they wanted to do, take a look at Jacob Turner. I don’t want to get too far down the road. I have my rotation made out through the All-Star break but we’ll see how that all plays out. ... We tried Casey, pretty obvious he wasn’t ready yet. So Jacob’s been pitching good. Give him a shot, see what happens.”

Turner was in the competition for the fifth-starter job in spring training, but fell out of contention when he was sidelined by tendinitis in his pitching shoulder. Once he healed up, he ended up in Toledo, where he’s compiled a 2-1 record, with a 3.43 ERA in seven starts.

His last three have been his best, as he’s gone six innings each time, allowing one earned run, allowing 16 total hits in 19 innings of work.

So the rotation will be as follows: Verlander, Porcello, Turner vs. St. Louis; Fister, Scherzer and Verlander at Pittsburgh. 

That would put Rick Porcello in line to start the first game of the series at Texas, followed by Smyly’s return in Game 2 on June 26, provided his pitching-hand blister continues to heal as it has.

“He’s doing good. Played catch yesterday, felt great. Hopefully ...” Leyland said.

But that fifth spot becomes a more secondary concern, as long as the top four pitchers throw like two of them did this weekend.

Scherzer and Fister combined to throw 14 shutout innings against the Rockies in consecutive starts, giving up 10 hits, striking out 18 and walking one. 

“That’s one step. Now we get Porcello going real good and you got your big four our there. At least our big four, however you want to look at it. Then see what the fifth spot looks like,” Leyland said.
“When you start getting performances like that, and getting guys back that weren't healthy, like Fister, who is now, all of a sudden it gives your team a little different swagger. When they know Doug Fister’s going out there, that’s a little bit different than some kid that you don’t know what you’re going to get. Not to make excuses for anybody, but that’s also in the back of players’ minds. They know. Our team looked totally different (Saturday) when Doug Fister took the mound. Everybody waiting for the ball to be hit to them, everybody moving around. They know they’re not going to be standing around, a quick game. I said it all my life, you got guys that go out there and throw balls and hitting people and walking people, I don’t care whether your team’s supposed to or not, they’re not the same team. It’s just the way it is.”

Leyland admits should have played struggling Raburn less: 'I screwed that up'

Ryan Raburn has always had a ton of potential in his bat, but has never been confused with a quick starter.

Raburn, who was promised the left field starting job last spring training, only to move into the second base rotation on the team's first West Coast trip, was tabbed the starting second baseman early this season. That pronouncement came shortly after the team ended the Brandon Inge Second Base Experiment, releasing the veteran infielder at the end of April.

And, in retrospect, putting those kind of expectations on Raburn may have been a bad move on manager Jim Leyland's part, he now admits.

"I gotta just play him right. I screwed that up. He got overwhelmed when I told him he was going to play most of the time. I think he just got overwhelmed. ... In his defense, I think I just overwhelmed him a little bit," said Leyland, who has seen an improvement since Raburn's return from Triple-A Toledo late last week, but won't yet say he's out of the woods. 

Always a slow starter — he's a career .300 hitter in the second half, as opposed to a .216 first-half hitter — Raburn's normal struggles just got worse. He was hitting just .146 with seven RBI and 35 strikeouts when the Tigers sent him to the minors after an 0-for-4 day on May 28.

Leyland gave him the rope to pull himself out of the slump, but instead he hung himself with it. Every time there were signs he might pull out of it — like the four-RBI game against the White Sox in mid-May — he'd go right back in a shell.

Admitting maybe he should have played him less, rather than more, Leyland said going forward Raburn will split time at second and left field, taking advantage of his versatility. But it won't be hard to change the plan, if he starts producing.

 "If he gets hot, I’ll play him. If he hits like he did in the second half, he’ll be in the lineup. I’m talking about just trying to get him going.  I probably should’ve done that to start with. I probably screwed it up," said Leyland, who was then asked the follow-up if he meant he'd played Raburn too much. "I just think the mental part of, ‘OK, you’re the guy now.’ He got like a deer in the headlights look. Probably all kinds of (crap) going through his mind, like ‘Well, I’m a slow starter,’ ... ‘Now I’m playing all the time.’ I probably screwed it up.’ "

Despite getting just 31 minor league at-bats before his recall (and hitting just .194), Raburn has done relatively well in his first three games back with the Tigers, hitting .364 (4-for-11, with a couple doubles) and contributing a pair of nice defensive plays in left field in Saturday's game.

"He’s been better, quality at-bats. ... I mean, he’s not home free yet, but he’s better," Leyland said. "He’s a valuable guy, he’s just — he didn’t start well, so he’s kinda the whipping boy." 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Avila returns to baseball activities

When the Tigers placed Alex Avila on the disabled list, they wanted him to get away from baseball entirely for a week, shut everything down.

He stayed at home during the last road trip, prompting Jim Leyland to teasingly note that Avila was sitting at home "eating Twinkies and watching 'Days of Our Lives.' "

"He feels good, but he hasn’t done anything, so I don’t know what to tell you. He’s done absolutely nothing since we left. I don’t know what the plan is for him today. I assume he’ll get out there and move around a little bit, but I don’t really know what to tell you. When you sit around, you normally don’t hurt. But, when you go out and try to do something, you might," Leyland said before Friday's game. "So, I don’t know what to expect, but I think he’s going to start doing some things. He’ll take it easy, but do some things to see how it’s coming along. We’d like to shoot for (a return by next weekend's series vs.) Pittsburgh, but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible or not. A lot of positive stuff has to happen before that."

Avila took batting practice before the game, and threw — basically doing everything he normally would before a game — but didn't seem to have any problems. 

"It's a lot better than sitting on the couch," Avila said, when asked how it felt. "It was driving me crazy, really. I definitely have a better appreciation for Skip and the coaches that have to sit and watch. I was more nervous watching than I ever have been playing just because I wanted them to win."

Rehab for Dirks' Achilles has hit 'sticking point'

While some of the Tigers' legion of walking wounded seem to be headed back toward the field, Andy Dirks — who was eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Friday — is not.

"He’s not doing too good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before Friday's game.

Dirks' strained Achilles' tendon doesn't seem to be getting better like the training staff would like, necessitating a re-evaluation and a change in the treatment program.

"Andy's kind of reached a point, kind of a sticking point where it's bothering him to make one particular move that kind of irritates him," Tigers trainer Kevin Rand said, noting that Dirks was scheduled to see ankle specialist Dr. Chris Zingas later Friday. "He's worked very hard, he's done all his treatment, all his therapy work, he's done all his strength and range of motion work. He's able to execute quite a few moves but there's still a sticking point there and we're trying to get to the bottom of that."

The 'sticking point' seems to be one specific movement that Dirks has trouble with.

"He's been swinging the bat, he's been taking batting practice, he's doing all those things," Rand said, "but right now we've still got a point where he executes a couple of moves, it's still kind of buckling a little bit. So we need to get this right."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fister will return from DL, start Saturday

Drew Smyly heading to the disabled list with a blister on his pitching hand left a vacancy in the rotation for Saturday's start against the Colorado Rockies, but apparently the Tigers had the perfect guy ready to fill it: Doug Fister.

Manager Jim Leyland announced Thursday morning that — after feeling fine following a full, 60-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday — Fister would return from his second stint on the disabled list to make Saturday's start. Through Thursday, Fister has spent a total of 42 days on the disabled list already this season with a costochondral strain, allowing him to make just six starts so far.

Fister is 0-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 34 1/3 innings pitched.

Casey Crosby's win against the Indians on May 7 was the first 'W' the Tigers had gotten out of a starter who took Fister's turn in the rotation. Before that, the team was 1-9 when starting either Fister (0-3 personal record), Adam Wilk (0-3) or Crosby in that spot.

While the news on Fister comes at a perfect time, don't think he was rushed by the medical staff to get back in time for this particular start. The team had originally thought he might be ready to come off the DL midweek, but pushed it back when he was sore last weekend.

And this time around, they were taking no chances.

"Who knows? Maybe we were too quick with Fister. You saw what happened there. I’m done with taking those types of risks," Leyland said last week. "Every wanted him back and everyone means well, and the trainers, Dave, the players and I’ve been put on the spot."

Early news from Tigers: Smyly to DL, Raburn recalled

Manager Jim Leyland cautioned reporters to get to Wrigley early on Thursday, ahead of the getaway-day matinee against the Cubs, that there would be news to cover.

There was something to announce: The club placed rookie starter Drew Smyly on the 15-day disabled list with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, and recalled Ryan Raburn from Triple-A Toledo.

Raburn was sent to Toledo on May 30, after posting an anemic .146 average in his first 37 games with the Tigers. He was hampered by a hamstring injury while at Toledo, though, and hit just .194 with one home run in eight games for the Mud Hens.

The Tigers mostly needed a right-handed hitter, and Raburn — for all his warts — was the best they had available at the moment. Leyland told reporters that he wouldn't be the everyday second baseman, though. (see below left)

With the blister — which knocked him out of his last start early — sending Smyly to the disabled list, the Tigers will still need another starter soon. Rookie Casey Crosby is the scheduled starter Friday, and Max Scherzer will start on Sunday, but the Tigers will need to fill the Saturday slot.
[UPDATED: The Tigers announced later Thursday morning that Doug Fister would return from the DL to start Saturday's game.]

With reliever Octavio Dotel going on the disabled list on Tuesday, and now Smyly, that means the Tigers will have had 10 players with DL stints so far this season, four already in June. If they use anyone other than Doug Fister (also currently on the DL) to start on Saturday, it'll be the eighth different pitcher to start a game for the team. The Tigers have made 28 roster moves in the first 62 games of the season.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tigers sign 15 of 39 draft picks

The Tigers announced Wednesday they'd come to terms with 15 players picked in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, including three of their top four selections.

Texas high schoolers Jake Thompson (RHP, 2nd round) and Austin Schotts (CF, 3rd round) both announced on Twitter their intentions to sign earlier this week. Per published reports by Baseball America's Jim Callis, Thompson signed for a $531,800 bonus (the slot value for his pick), and Schotts signed for $389,100 for slot value.

Fifth-round pick Joe Rogers (LHP, Central Florida) tweeted Tuesday that he'd signed as well — for a $211,900 bonus, per Callis— leaving fourth-rounder Drew Verhagen of Vanderbilt as the highest unsigned player from the draft class. Sixth-rounder Jordan John (LHP, Oklahoma University) tweeted that he was headed to Lakeland to sign, then tweeted Wednesday that he was headed back to Texas.

The organization signed 13 other picks — all college juniors or seniors — at the same time, including Central Michigan University shortstop Jordan Dean (15th round, Midland, MI; pictured) and left-handed pitcher Ryan Longstreth (40th round, Beaverton, MI).

Also signed were: Charlie Gillies (RHP, The Masters College, 10th round); Bennett Pickar (C, Oral Roberts, 11th round); Julio Felix (RHP, Pima CC, 12th round); Slade Smith (RHP, Auburn, 17th round); Alex Phillips (LHP, Kentucky, 21st round); Nick Carmichael (RHP, Palmar College, 24th round); Jared Reaves (SS, Alabama, 25th round); Josh Carr (RHP, Kennesaw St., 28th round); Zach Kirksey (OF, Mississippi, 29th round); Matt Davenport (RHP, William & Mary, 34th round).

Back-to-back bang-bang plays bury Tigers

As much as it appeared the Tigers may have turned the corner with a series win at Cincinnati, it looked like their infield defense — so rightfully maligned throughout the first third of the season — may have started to pick it up, too.

The Tigers, who'd turned just 36 double plays in their first 57 games, turned five in the three-game series against the Reds.

Then again, defense let the Tigers down in the crunch in Tuesday's series opener against the Cubs, as two throwing errors by Jhonny Peralta allowed an unearned run to score in the bottom of the eighth, despite no ball leaving the infield. It would be the deciding factor in a 4-3 loss.

Or was it? Replays showed that, while both throws from Peralta were poor, pulling a defender off the bag, they may have actually both been outs.

"I think it’s twice, ‘out,’ and the umpire call safe," Peralta said on the FOX Sports Detroit postgame show. "Everybody can see on the replay, make another mistake."

[At the end of the game, the video for both plays was available on's At-Bat Gamecast.]

"When you give a team six outs, it's tough to win," teammate Gerald Laird said.

Here's how the inning unfolded:

Phil Coke struck out Steve Clevenger to start his second inning of work, then walked Darwin Barney, before striking out Ian Stewart. Third baseman Miguel Cabrera couldn't do anything with pinch hitter Reed Johnson's swinging dribbler down the third-base line, putting two on with two outs.

That's when it got weird. Cubs leadoff hitter, blazer Tony Campana — who already had three stolen bases in the game — sent a weak grounder toward short. With little to no chance to get Campana at third, Peralta chose to instead try to get Johnson at second base. His lollipop throw to the bag was high, but second baseman Ramon Santiago dragged his toe across the bag, then showed the ball to second base umpire Tony Randazzo, who signaled safe, saying that the throw had pulled his toe up off the base.

That loaded the bases. 

"I mean, the first, the guy hit it — Campana — he’s a good runner, so I throw it to second base, and I see Santiago a little bit away from the base. You know, it’s hard to make a good throw to the base," Peralta said. "I look. No matter what, he's out. Everybody see it. They miss them both, both play."

"I was pretty confident that Santiago beat the runner to the bag, that the throw beat the runner to the bag," Coke said in the FSD postgame show. "I guess we could go look at the replay, and see what it says."

The next batter, Starlin Castro, sent another grounder toward short, which Peralta fielded. His throw, up the first-base line, caused first baseman Prince Fielder to fall face-first in the dirt making the stretch. Barney scored on the play, as first-base umpire Larry Vanover ruled that the throw had pulled Fielder off. 

“I knew for a fact the guy was out at first base ... There's no way his body came off the bag with the ball not in his glove. There’s no way," Coke said. "I honestly can’t even be mad, because I made my pitches, we made the plays that we needed to make, and we just didn’t get the result we wanted."

The Bleacher Report's Travis Miller (@AtTravisMiller) tweeted that Coke had the above screen grab for reporters when they got into the locker room, showing Fielder making the stretch with his toe on the bag, before Castro reached it. Others reported that there were two computers set up, side-by-side, showing both calls. 

There were some Tigers in the locker room taking the calls philosophically.

"Maybe we just need to put ourselves in better situations, where calls can’t cost us," Laird said on the FSD postgame show.

"It’s just one more thing we’ve gotta overcome," Coke said. "We’ve gotta overcome our own demons on the field — trying to do too much, whatever; not feeling up to par and still going out there and overcoming those types of situations; overcoming calls, no matter what they are — and stepping on the gas pedal and not looking back."

There were others who may have had more of a point to make.

"I mean, I know, obviously, we're not executing the way we should, but you'd just like to see those calls be made," starter Max Scherzer told MLive's Chris Iott. "I know the umpires have a tough job. We're asking them to be perfect. I wish there was a way they could be perfect."

Seems like there is a way to help: Instant replay. 

There were some observers who noted that the umpires may have missed a call in the Tigers' favor in the top of the seventh, when Delmon Young appeared to be out on a leadoff double that started the team's comeback — an error that likely would've been overturned on replay, as well.

So be it. Nothing wrong with getting calls right, is there?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thompson, Schotts set to sign

The Tigers' top two picks in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, Texas high schoolers and friends Jake Thompson and Austin Schotts, are close to becoming prospects in the system.

Thompson tweeted Monday that the twosome were headed to the Tigers' spring headquarters in Lakeland, Fla., and confirmed via Twitter that they'd be signing "as soon as we pass our physicals."

The Tigers selected Thompson 91st overall, at the end of the second round, and Schotts 30 picks later in the third round.

 Both players had been committed to high-level college programs — Thompson to TCU and Schotts to Oklahoma State — but were not considered signing risks. The Tigers vetted all their picks to confirm the chance of signing was high enough to warrant spending a pick.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Another day, more roster moves for Tigers

It was a no-brainer that Austin Jackson (abdominal strain) was coming back from the disabled list after a short rehabilitation stint.

But the Tigers also announced Saturday that Jhonny Peralta was put on the paternity list, so he could join his wife, Molly, for the birth of their second child.

The Tigers announced they were calling up Hernan Perez from Single-A Lakeland to take Peralta's spot on the roster, and not just because he's on the next page of the media guide. He's also on the 40-man roster, meaning that the team wouldn't need to clear room to add him, like they might a more experienced player.

A Midwest League all-star with Low-A West Michigan last year, Perez is hitting .252 with five-extra base hits in 55 games at Lakeland.

The team waited to make its second corresponding move to clear room on the 25-man roster for Jackson, likely to see the status of reliever Octavio Dotel, who was held out of Friday's game with inflammation in his pitching elbow. [UPDATED: The Tigers sent relief pitcher Jose Ortega back to Triple-A Toledo, restoring the proper pitcher/position player ratio on the roster.]

That move was roster transaction No. 25 for the Tigers already this season (11 in April, nine in May, and five already in June). The team has used 40 players total. If Perez gets in a game, he'll be the 21st position player to take the field for the Tigers.

Detroit has used the disabled list eight times since the season started, as well as the paternity list, the bereavement list and the restricted list once each. They've also designated three players for assignment, and released one more.

Brayan Villarreal has personally been called up three times, and sent down twice. Danny Worth has been up and down two times each. Once (May 17), the transaction was one for the other.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Austin Jackson will rejoin Tigers after two rehab outings

You kind of figured it wasn't going to take long for Austin Jackson to make his return to the Tigers after he could do everything — swing the bat, run — without pain.

After two nights of a rehab stint at Triple-A Toledo, he's ready to return from the disabled list, he says.

He hasn't appeared in a game for the Tigers since leaving in the fifth inning of the Tigers' May 16 loss to the Twins, after straining an abdominal muscle on a swing. He missed 21 games.

"It felt like forever. It's tough just sitting back, watching. But at the same time, you need that rest to let it heal. ... This time I let it rest a little bit and it feels a lot better," Jackson told FOX Sports Detroit's Dana Wakiji. "I'm ready to rejoin them and try to help them out a little bit."

Jackson went 1-for-7 in his two-game rehab stint, getting just one single in Friday's game, but it may have been the swings-and-misses that were just as key to finding out how he truly feels, since that's how he was injured in the first place.

Jackson will rejoin the Tigers in Cincinnati on Saturday, likely replacing reliever Jose Ortega, the extra arm the Tigers have been carrying since Alex Avila went on the disabled list.

Laird back in the lineup, as Tigers return to interleague play in Cincinnati

After getting burned several times by injured players who either tried to return too early, or hung around too long, unavailable, Tigers manager Jim Leyland wasn't taking the same chance with back-up catcher Gerald Laird.

"I’m done with taking those types of risks," the skipper admitted, after getting burned by allowing starting catcher Alex Avila — and maybe even starting pitcher Doug Fister — return to the lineup too early, only to have their injury get aggravated, and lose them for longer.

So he was careful with Laird, who'd pulled his hamstring a week go, running out an infield hit against the Yankees. Leyland wasn't going to put him back in the lineup until he'd demonstrated he was at — or at least near — full health.

That meant going out for early batting practice Friday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, and doing some running, as well as swinging the bat.

"We’re going to hit early in Cincinnati tomorrow, and I’m going to have him come out when we hit early, and have him do some running in the outfield and everything. And if he convinces me he’s OK to play, I’m going to play him," Leyland said Thursday.
"But this has been a two-time thing with Gerald and the leg, so I’m being very cautious about it.
"We got burnt with Alex, and we got burnt with (Andy) Dirks a couple times, so I’m being very cautious about it. He’s not very happy about it, but I don’t really care. Because I’ve gotta do what I can to get these guys (right). I want to get back to Alex and Laird."

Evidently, that went well, because Laird is indeed in the lineup for Friday's game against the Reds. Dirks, who is on six-game trip, took early batting practice, as well, according to a tweet from's Jason Beck. Dirks is out with a lingering Achilles strain, and is not eligible to come off the disabled list until June 15.

Hopefully, this will begin a trend of a number of hobbling Tigers returning to the lineup. 

At bare minimum, it will probably make the day for Laird, who was indeed none too happy to be told 'No' all week, despite making his case for being 'close' all week to both his manager, and the media.

Leyland, for one, wasn't buying it.

"Laird is mad at me right now because he’s not playing. I want to go on record as saying that I’m proud of the fact that he wants to play. That’s what I told the guys (Wednesday) night. I know they’re trying their ass off. Guys are trying to play through injuries, they’re playing hurt. No one appreciates that more than me, but common sense has to come into it. Any man that saw the game (Wednesday) night and saw Gerald Laird run knows that you’re 100 percent and ready to play tonight. Could he get through it if he has to in a total emergency? Yeah. But I’m not going to do that. I’m going to try and get him right. I want to get all the ducks in order. You’re never 100 percent when you play the game. That’s just what I’m going to do," Leyland said. 
"I think I would look like a fool to put him out there tonight to let him start this game. And, I think anyone that saw the game last night would agree with me. He wants to play and he’s upset that he’s not playing. But, I have a full set of fresh legs tonight that I’m not really worried about. If I play Gerald tonight, I’m holding my breath.
"I don’t want to look foolish and I want to get Gerald Laird 100 percent healthy. He’s perfect for what we need. We know that that complement of catchers is perfect for us, but right now neither one of them are healthy."

Players trying to barter their way into the lineup is nothing new in sports, and it's completely unsurprising for a team that's struggling to find ways to snap out of a malaise that's lasted more than 40 games.

"Guys always want to play. They always want to play. All we can do is, as far as range of motion, strength, try to read them, see what they do as far as running, those types of things, on the field. They’ll all want to play ... You want those guys. You want those guys who want to be out there all the time," said the Tigers' head trainer, Kevin Rand, who's been worked to the bone of late.

"You know what? Every team has injuries, we all have them, and it’s just a question of getting through it. If you look, very rarely does a club get through a year where they don’t have two or three guys missing some time."

• Scheduled only to get three at-bats Thursday's Mud Hens game to start his rehab stint at Triple-A Toledo, center fielder Austin Jackson (abdominal strain) stayed longer than anticipated, playing a complete game with four at-bats.
"I felt good," Jackson told the Toledo Blade's John Wagner afterward. "I didn't feel any pain, and it was good to get back out there and get back in the swing of things. "It was tough to get my timing back. I wanted to see some pitches, and I didn't have any pain, so that was a good thing."
He could be back as soon as Saturday.
• Doug Fister was supposed to throw full bore from 60 feet on Thursday, but on flat ground, rather than from a mound. By all accounts, he's feeling better, as well, and his return could be imminent. Casey Crosby has gone 1-1 in his stead this time, on Thursday getting the first win for a starter in Fister's spot in the rotation
• Ryan Raburn, who was in Toledo to try to kick-start his slumping bat, has been battling a hamstring issue of his own, and has not played since Tuesday.

Quintin Berry, CF (L)
Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
Delmon Young, LF (R)
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
Gerald Laird, C (R)
Ramon Santiago, 2B (S)
Rick Porcello, P (R)

Tigers don't lose Santos to waivers, instead to FA

Omir Santos is no longer a member of the Tigers organization, clearing waivers, but refusing his assignment to Triple-A Toledo on Friday.

When the Tigers needed a stopgap over the weekend, with one of their two catchers coming up gimpy, the Tigers called up Santos, the journeyman who'd served as essentially their third-string catcher for the past two seasons.

Santos had been re-signed in the offseason as just such an insurance policy, in the event that either starter Alex Avila or his backup, Gerald Laird — himself signed as a free-agent insurance policy, to take the strain of non-stop catching off Avila's knees — got hurt.

But no one assumed that Santos was any more than a Band-Aid solution to any problem, and when it became evident that they'd need more than a back-up catcher later in the week — when Avila's suddenly strained hamstring forced him to the disabled list — the Tigers designated Santos for assignment, using his spot on the 40-man roster for Bryan Holaday, who started the final two games of the series with Cleveland.

"We felt like, if it was a total backup situation, Santos would be the guy, but since this guy is going to have to play more, we felt like Holaday would be a better choice," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after the move was made. "And he’s going to have to play a while, until I get Laird right."

With recent draft picks Holaday (a sixth-round pick in 2010), Rob Brantly (3rd round, 2010), Patrick Leyland (8th round, 2010), James McCann (2nd round, 2011) and Curt Casali (10th round, 2011) all highly thought-of by the organization, it wasn't like the 30-year-old Santos had much of a future with the organization, anyway.

His biggest highlight of his brief Tigers career may have been his walk-off sacrifice fly against the Yankees last Saturday. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Brennan Boesch needs to watch his hips

Tigers manager Jim Leyland mentioned Wednesday that he was going to have hitting coach Lloyd McClendon show right fielder Brennan Boesch something they picked up on video, a difference in his swing now, and his swing last year.

They're looking for reasons why Boesch, who's started hot in both of his previous two big-league seasons, is hitting just .222, and has gone 2-for-38 in his last 10 games. That cold spell came right on the heels of a four-game span when Boesch collected five of his nine doubles for the season, going 7-for-15 overall.

"Hopefully, we got something with Boesch. We looked at something that was drastically different from last year. We dissected it. Mac is going over it with him today – taking him to the cage and helping him figure it out because it’s significantly not even close to how he was swinging last year. It’s a mechanical thing, so hopefully, that’ll help," Leyland said.

And according to Leyland, despite the glaring lack of impact — Boesch was 0-for-4 in that night's game, failing to get a ball out of the infield — the conversation did actually take place.

"Yes, he did talk to him about it. He didn’t get instant success, if that’s what you’re leading to," Leyland acknowledged before Thursday's game. "There’s a difference between ‘Look at this, look at that,’ and just, snap, OK, I’m back at that."

So what was it, exactly?

"His hips were way over here on one swing, and on the other, they were where they were supposed to be," Leyland said. "He was just flying off the ball, which makes you work underneath the ball, and that explains some of that stuff to left field."

Boesch was back in the second spot in the order for just the third time (May 9, 31) since Leyland switched he and Andy Dirks in the lineup the first week of last month.

"I hit him second today, because I feel like this should be — should be — a good matchup for him," Leyland said of the matchup with the sinkerballing Derek Lowe. "I’m trying to give him every opportunity to get in some type of a good situation that’s conducive to him doing well."

Tigers lineup vs. Indians, Game 57: (Crosby vs. Lowe)

Casey Crosby will get his second MLB start as the Tigers try to snap a three-game skid and win for the second time in their last 10, first time all year against the Indians (0-5 coming in).

DETROIT TIGERS (25-31, 3rd place AL Central):
• Quintin Berry, CF (L)
.310, 5 RBI, .375 OBP, 13 R, 7/7 SB
• Brennan Boesch, RF (L)
.222, 24 R, 20 RBI, .335 SLG, 41K/8BB
Miguel Cabrera, 3B (R)
.325, 33 R, 47 RBI, .557 SLG, 12 HR, 17-2B
Prince Fielder, 1B (L)
.318, 31 R, 36 RBI, .509 SLG, 9 HR, 12-2B
Delmon Young, DH (R)
.261, 14 R, 19 RBI, .386 SLG, 4 HR, 11-2B
Jhonny Peralta, SS (R)
.259, 16 R, 16 RBI, . 402 SLG, 4 HR, 11-2B
Don Kelly, LF (L)
.178, 8 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 10 BB, .277 OBP
Danny Worth, 2B (R)
.184, 3 R, 2 RBI, 1-2B, .289 OBP
Bryan Holaday, C (R)
1-for-4, R

Casey Crosby, LHP (0-1, 16.20 ERA)

CLEVELAND INDIANS (30-25, 2nd place AL Central):
• Shin-Soo Choo, RF (L)
.278, 3 HR, 18 RBI
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (S)
.297, 5 HR, 23 RBI
Jason Kipnis, 2B (L)
.275, 9 HR, 35 RBI
Carlos Santana, C (S)
.232, 5 HR, 24 RBI
Jose Lopez, 3B (R)
.269, 2 HR, 16 RBI
Michael Brantley, CF (L)
.282, 1 HR, 28 RBI
Shelley Duncan, LF (R)
.207, 4 HR, 12 RBI
Casey Kotchman, 1B (L)
.214, 4 HR, 19 RBI
Lou Marson, C (R)
.213, 4 RBI

Derek Lowe, RHP (7-3, 3.06 ERA)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Berry's catches the only highlight for Tigers

Quintin Berry's speed has been the one and only bright spot for the Tigers in a span where they've been searching for fill-ins for the seemingly never-ending list of injured players.

Wednesday's pair of stellar catches did nothing to decrease Berry's chances of sticking with the big league club once the trend of injuries begins to reverse itself.

In the first inning, the Indians' Jason Kipnis sent a ball straight at the 420-foot mark on the outfield fence at Comerica Park, straight over the head of Berry. He froze momentarily, then sprinted for the fence to make an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track.

"Especially with the backdrop here, it’s hard when a ball first comes out, you can’t tell how far back, or if you should come in, so you gotta kind of pause, so it makes it kind of hard to go for those ones over your head," said Berry, who hadn't played in the spacious Comerica center field until this homestand. "You see both outfielders — especially in center — running for a little while, so it’s got some room."

His catch in the ninth inning was even more spectacular, as he got a picture-perfect jump on a ball headed to the left-center gap off the bat of Michael Brantley, and dove at the last second, laying full out to pull it in.

"It’s definitely a lot easier when the sun goes down to get good reads, with the background and stuff like that. Definitely had a good jump on that one," said Berry, laughing at the comparison to Austin Jackson, who rarely, if ever, dives for a ball in center. "I don’t have as much range as him, I guess, because I dive a little bit. ... I mean, there’s a reason he doesn’t have to dive. I’m going to have to give every inch to get what I can get."

Berry's weren't the only stellar catches, though. Former Tiger Johnny Damon made a leaping catch at the wall in left, robbing Prince Fielder of a home run to start the bottom of the second inning.

"He's always been a good athlete. He got back there in time and was able to time his jump right," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "Normally when Prince hits them, they don't come back. It was definitely surprising. Anytime somebody robs a home run, it's surprising."

Tigers 2012 MLB Draft picks, Rounds 21-40

Round, player, school
21. Alex Phillips, LHP — 6-4, 205, University of Kentucky
22. D.J. Driggers, RF — 6-3, 195, Middle Georgia College
23. Andrew Harrison, RHP — 6-4, 225, University of Oklahoma (right)
24. Nicholas Carmichael, RHP — 6-6, 220, Palomar College (Calif.)
25. David Reaves, SS — 5-10, 185, University of Alabama
26. Rashad Brown, CF — 5-11, 180, Westlake HS (Ga.)
27. Miguel Paulino, CF — 6-1, 185, Choctawatchee HS (Fla.)
28. Joshua Carr, RHP — 6-4, 210, Kennesaw State University (Ga.)
29. Zachariah Kirksey, OF — 6-0, 215, University of Mississippi
30. Preston Jamison, LHP — 6-6, 225, South Mountain Comm. College (Ariz.)
31. Connor Harrell, CF — 6-3, 220, Vanderbilt University
32. Blake McFadden, RHP — 6-2, 200, Savannah HS (Mo.)
33. Tyler Hanover, 2B — 5-7, 165, Louisiana State
34. Matt Davenport, RHP — 6-8, 200, William and Mary (Va.)
35. Jacob Kapstein, C — 6-2, 215, Tiverton HS (RI)
36. Clate Schmidt, RHP — 6-1, 170, Allatoona HS (Ga.)
37. Charlie Neil, C — 6-5, 195, Yale University
38. Alex Minter, LHP — 5-11, 205, Brook Hill School (Texas)
39. John Sansone, SS — 5-11, 195, Neshannock HS (Pa.)
40. Ryan Longstreth, LHP — 6-1, 205, Central Michigan University