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

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tigers don't lose any ground, end up not losing players

DETROIT — It’s going to be hard enough for the Tigers to chase down the Chicago White Sox with a fully healthy team.

When players started dropping like flies in Tuesday’s game, you had to wonder how sustainably realistic that goal was going to continue to be.

Alex Avila was unavailable for the game, still suffering from mild concussion symptoms. Bright lights and fast-paced activities after the game were still bothering him to an extent, adding to his headache, so catching a Max Scherzer fastball? Not a good idea ...

“That’s a real touchy one when you start messing with upstairs,” manager Jim Leyland said Monday. “I’ll have to feel 100 percent that he’s totally cleared before I would play him.”

Speaking of Scherzer, he left after just two innings of his scheduled start, after the last few of his mere 44 pitches were way below the normal velocity you’d expect from the fireballer.

“Well, we were a little suspicious when we saw the velocity was down some. We were a little suspicious of that, and then Jonesy (pitching coach Jeff Jones) checked with him when the inning was over, and said ‘He can’t go, you gotta take him out,’ ” Leyland said.

Danger sign, right?

“Oh, sure. It flashes through your mind,” Leyland admitted.

Then, when — seemingly for good measure, a kick when the team was down, so to speak — Quintin Berry did not get up from attempting a diving catch in the seventh inning, writhing around on the ground in pain, looking for all the world like he’d dislocated a shoulder, you kind of had the feeling the cosmic fix was in, that karma was telling the Tigers to stop.

“I was worried that he probably did something to his collarbone or something. Dislocated it, or something,” Leyland said.

“Yeah. I got scared,” Berry admitted. “I had a labrum problem before, on my left, (from) doing the same thing. So I kind of got a little afraid in the beginning, that that could have been it.”

Then, as if magically, the good news began to trickle in all at once. A Tigers team spokesperson was literally finishing the announcements on the public address system in the press box the moment Miguel Cabrera erased all doubt about the game’s outcome with one bases-loaded swing of the bat, sealing a 12-2 win with the team’s first grand slam of the season.

Karma? Pffft.

Not looking so bad anymore.

Avila still suffering from headaches, although the team continues to insist that he does NOT have a concussion. And the catcher even clarified earlier comments he’d made to a reporter, when he said he couldn’t remember the incident that had caused the problems, saying “I wasn’t walking around not knowing who anybody was.”

Yes, the news is very good.

“Took a CT scan (Tuesday), and everything checks out very good. Thank God there’s no damage or anything like that,” said Avila, calling it a ‘waiting game.’ “According to the doctor, once the symptoms are gone — which in my case is headaches — they’ll put me through the test again, and if everything checks out there, then I’ll be good to go.”

Scherzer knew his issue wasn’t as bad as it could have been, as soon as he ran through a battery of test with the training staff, but he went to the Detroit Medical Center for an MRI anyway, just to confirm the early diagnosis.

“I’ve battled through things in the past, and it just didn’t feel like that. I could really localize it, where it was on my shoulder. It was outside all the major problems. It was right there on the side of the shoulder. I could feel it. It was right there on the muscle. So I was never really worried, for me, that anything was structurally wrong. But that type of situation, you gotta have an MRI to make sure you are 100 percent. Having that just gives you a peace of mind,” said Scherzer, who knew it wasn’t any of the issues he’d had before, and isolated the problem area to his deltoid — the large, round muscle atop the shoulder joint — causing rotational weakness.

“My ‘Uh oh’ moment, to be specific, is my bicep tendon. When my bicep tendon barks, that’s the ‘Uh oh.’ That’s the alarm for me. When it’s out side that tendon, in the deltoid, it’s on the side, that’s muscular. It wasn’t any structural damage. I just wanted to have the peace of mind to have the MRI, to make sure everything else was OK, and that there wasn’t anything else underlying.”

There wasn’t. Scherzer was well enough to return from the hospital in time to join the handshake/high-five line after the win, and tell his skipper, “I’m fine.”

A few days off, and a few anti-inflammatory treatments, and he could be right back ready to pitch again.

“Going to take a couple days off throwing, going to try to take some medication to help get out the inflammation,” the starter said. “Obviously, once we get to that point, if I can pick up a ball, it is possible I could make my next start.”

In Scherzer’s world, good news “brings a smile to his face” routinely, maybe even a laugh. So do things like the question of whether he and Berry passed on the way to and from all the diagnostic equipment.

“Sure does seem like it,” Scherzer said after a laugh. “He was hustling to get that ball.”

When Berry landed awkwardly after trying to catch Josh Reddick’s slicing liner, he got up to his knees just long enough to get the ball back in to the infield, before going back prone, waiting for the training staff.

X-rays, however, showed that there was nothing more than a contusion on his shoulder. He was not scheduled to play in the remaining two games of the series against Oakland, considering both were scheduled to be started by left-handers, giving him time to rest the sore spot.

Despite all the concern and consternation, the Tigers finished the night roughly where they’d started: No worse for wear and three games behind the White Sox, with now 15 to play.

Still doable, right?

“Yeah, you gotta always believe what you have here,” said Cabrera, who had two homers and six RBI on the night. “We have a good team. We play good. We play not as good. We need to be more consistent the last 10 games here, the last six games on road. We gotta believe we can do it.

“We gotta go out there and play hard, and do things to help us win games.”

And not get hurt, doing so.


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