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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, June 19, 2013

Catching rotation complicated by boon for Verlander in Tuesday's lineup

No pitcher gets his own personal catcher.

Not under Jim Leyland, anyway.

But the Detroit Tigers’ skipper broke his own rule — or, more accurately, bent it a little — for Tuesday’s start, hoping that ace Justin Verlander could use the rapport he’s built recently with backup catcher Brayan Pena to get on a good roll.

“Verlander’s been working pretty good lately with Pena, so I thought I would do that. That’s something I don’t ever normally do, because I don’t want to get in a rut where a guy’s going to have a special catcher for a certain pitcher — not Verlander, but any combination,” Leyland said Wednesday.

“I’ve never — I don’t do that. But I did it (Tuesday) night, because they were real good in Kansas City together, so I thought ‘I’m going to catch him, rather than do something different.’ ... I wanted to give my horse the benefit of the doubt.”

It didn’t really net the results that Leyland was looking for, as Verlander again struggled with his fastball control, and was hit for five runs in five innings — giving up all five on a pair of home runs.

It also made a bit of a mess of the catching rotation between Pena and recently recalled Bryan Holaday, getting away from what you’d expect from a platoon between the right-handed Holaday and the switch-hitting Pena.

With Pena in the lineup against Orioles lefty Zach Britton, it forced Leyland to choose between starting him against the next two opposing pitchers — both right-handers — and play him at least four straight games, or play Holaday against a righty.

“I don’t want to kill him. It was just kind of one of those ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situations,” Leyland said. “It’s a day game after a night game, and one thing I know: Holaday’s going to have energy.”

It also might have made sense to start Holaday along with Jose Alvarez, who will be recalled to make another start Thursday in the rotation spot of the injured Anibal Sanchez. Holaday worked extensively with Alvarez at Triple-A Toledo, and knows him probably better than anyone on the Tigers.

“Well, I thought very seriously about that. He didn’t catch Alvarez up here, and he did all right. Alex (Avila) caught him the first game, and I thought Alex did a terrific job with him,” Leyland said. “I’ll tell you this: If Holaday hits two home runs today, and knocks in four runs, I’ll catch him tomorrow.”

It will be Holaday’s first start in the big leagues in more than a calendar year. He made three starts in early June when Avila was on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, then was a September call-up, making two more appearances as a defensive replacement.

Leyland doesn’t worry about his defensive abilities at all, though.

“I think he’ll be fine. I think Holday’s good at following a game plan. I think Ricky knows what he wants to do. I think Jonesy will have him programmed — you hate to make it sound like they’re a computer (to be) programmed — but he’ll have him programmed to what he wants to do, so that won’t be an issue. I think the guys really like throwing to Doc in spring training,” Leyland said.

“Like I said, he’s got a lot of energy. I don’t think it’s any big deal.”


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