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.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Ausmus still stoic, headed into regular-season managerial debut

DETROIT — The day before Opening Day is often quite hectic for a manager, tying up loose ends, finishing things left undone from spring training.

For first-time manager Brad Ausmus, Sunday was relatively relaxing, though.

“No, not at all. I didn’t have to pick anybody up at the airport. I had to fix a few things at this place that we bought. Door handles, stuff like that,” the Detroit Tigers’ new skipper said.

“Other than the workout and some stuff around the house, went out with my family, and had something to eat, fixed a few more things before I went to bed, got a good night’s sleep.”

Fixing stuff?

“I’m pretty handy around the house, yeah,” he said. “I don’t do windows. I don’t paint. But I can deal with anything else.”

After that, it was an easy drive to the ballpark before most of the crowds showed up for Monday’s matinee.

“The way I came in, I only saw one parking lot that had people standing out there. Really, my first thought was, ‘There’s already traffic coming off the exit ramp. My wife’s going to have a heck of a time trying to getting in here in three hours,’” he said Monday morning.

“I’m excited about it. Obviously, I’ve never done this as a manager before. I think Opening Day itself will be familiar, but it’ll be in a different role. Especially here. There’s a lot of energy at Tiger Opening Days. I know that for a fact.”

There were no butterflies, though.

At least not hours before the first pitch.

“No. Not yet,” he admitted. “There might be just before the game starts. I think once the game gets rolling, because the wheels are spinning in the brain, it’ll probably go away pretty quickly.”

And there were no rituals that he had to go through once he got to the park, either. Aside from the occasional knock on wood, Ausmus didn’t consider himself a superstitious player, and doesn’t envision that changing in his new role.

“I guess you could say my one superstition is that I’m not superstitious,” he said.

He got a few ‘good luck’ text messages, but was not going to have a huge group of supporters in the stands — just his wife and daughters.

“I’ve heard from a number of people. Obviously friends, family, people in the game that I’ve known, even media members that like me. There’s been a number of them,” Ausmus said. “Obviously, I’m appreciative of it.”

Digital First Media Opening Day live chat

It's Opening Day. The Tigers open the 2014 regular season with a 1:07 p.m. game against the Kansas City Royals. Join in the conversation about the games all across Major League Baseball in this live chat from Digital First Media.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ausmus commits to lineup — for Opening Day, at least

DETROIT — He finally committed.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus joked early in spring camp that he might be a commitophobic, and as such he’d barely given out any hints on what his batting order might look like, outside of the obvious ones.

And, even then, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez were only tabbed “95 percent.”

Now, it’s 100 percent what the lineup will look like, at least for Monday’s Opening Day contest against the Royals.

Ian Kinsler will lead off, followed by Torii Hunter, in his old spot in the No. 2 hole.

Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez will bat third and cleanup, respectively.

That part, really, was the easy (or easier) part.

“Portions of it. There are portions of this lineup that I think are relatively easy. There’s other parts where you probably have a little more wiggle room. Ultimately, after talking with the coaches, and mulling it over, this is what I came up with,” Ausmus said at Sunday’s optional workout at Comerica Park.

“I think the middle part of the lineup, below Victor is where you probably have a little more gray area, and can shift people around, if necessary.”

Austin Jackson will be in the fifth spot in the lineup, at least to start. His .429 spring average — best on the team of anyone with more than seven at-bats — surely helped.

“He’s hit there, really, for the majority of spring training, and he’s looked exceptional. Does that mean it’s going to carry over? No. But right now, I feel like he’s the best option at that spot,” Ausmus said of Jackson, who was moved out of the leadoff spot in last year’s playoffs, and has not hit there since. “He wasn’t jumpy. He had a very strong base. He just looked like a hitter. Even his outs were hard-struck.”

After Alex Avila in the No. 6 spot, it goes right-right-right in the bottom three spots with Nick Castellanos, Alex Gonzalez and Rajai Davis. Part of that is facing Kansas City ace James Shields, who’s been tougher on lefties (.233 last year) than righties (.272 last year) in his career.

Ausmus still wouldn’t commit to the division of at-bats between left-handed Tyler Collins and right-handed Rajai Davis in left field, but he’s in the No. 9 spot in the lineup Monday, as a second leadoff hitter of sorts.

“You hope, in theory, it puts him on base in front of guys like Kinsler, Hunter and then Miggy. Doesn’t always work out that way. But that’s kind of the theory going in,” Ausmus said. “He certainly has the ability to score on just about any double, from first base. He puts a little fear in the pitcher and catcher, in terms of his base-stealing capability. And maybe, as a result, the hitters coming after him, get a few more pitches to hit.”

Tigers batting order
(for Opening Day vs. KC)
Ian Kinsler, 2B

Torii Hunter, RF

Miguel Cabrera, 1B

Victor Martinez, DH

Austin Jackson, CF

Alex Avila, C

Nick Castellanos, 3B

Alex Gonzalez, SS

Rajai Davis, LF

P: Justin Verlander

Monday, March 24, 2014

Report: Tigers trade for SS Alex Gonzalez

In the Detroit Tigers’ mind, they have not yet fixed the problem at shortstop.

According to reports from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly, the Tigers made a trade Monday morning, sending utility man Steve Lombardozzi to the Orioles in exchange for shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

[UPDATE: The Tigers made it official 20 minutes later.]

Originally acquired in the Doug Fister trade, Lombardozzi likely would have been in a logjam to make the team, had the Tigers needed to carry two shortstops to for a platoon to replace Jose Iglesias.

A career .246 hitter, the right-handed-hitting Gonzalez will ostensibly take over the right-handed portion of the platoon at shortstop from the Danny Worth/Hernan Perez combo, with the recently acquired Andrew Romine still handling the other half.

Lombardozzi was expected to be able to be a backup at shortstop when Iglesias was still healthy, and the original plan was still in order, but he had not played the position at the big-league level.

The 37-year-old Gonzalez has started more than 1,500 major league games at shortstop, playing for six different teams in his 15-year career. He had signed with the Orioles as a free agent on Feb. 1, and was a non-roster invitee to spring training.

Gonzalez played in only 65 total games (only 27 at shortstop) over the last two seasons with Milwaukee, and hit .177 in 41 games a year ago before being released in June.

With Lombardozzi easing the logjam of bench players, it likely means that Don Kelly would be the only true utility player the Tigers keep, clearing the way for Tyler Collins to make the team as the fourth outfielder.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tigers cut eight more from camp, leaving four real decisions

The Tigers trimmed eight from the big-league roster Sunday morning, leaving them with 32 in big league camp.

Three of those remaining players — Andy Dirks, Bruce Rondon and Jose Iglesias — will begin the season on the disabled list, leaving just four actual decisions between now and Opening Day.

Ezequiel Carrera and Trevor Crowe were assigned to minor league camp, leaving Tyler Collins (above, right) as the only extra outfielder, competing with utility men Steve Lombardozzi and Don Kelly for possible playing time.

Eugenio Suarez was optioned to Triple-A Toledo, as expected, leaving the shortstop battle between Hernan Perez and Danny Worth to pair with newly-acquired Andrew Romine.

Pitchers Jose Ortega and Kyle Lobstein were also optioned to Toledo, leaving Evan Reed, Luke Putkonen, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, Blaine Hardy and Jhan Marinez competing for four spots in the bullpen.

Extra catchers Craig Albernaz, Luis Exposito and John Murrian were also sent to minor league camp.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tigers acquire SS Andrew Romine from Angels in trade

The Detroit Tigers traded left-handed pitcher Jose Alvarez to the Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem, in exchange for shortstop Andrew Romine.

Romine helps fill the void left by the injury to Jose Iglesias, who is expected to miss most or all of the 2014 season with stress fractures in each of his shins.

Alvarez was one of a MLB-low six starters used by the Tigers last season, getting spot starts in place of the injured Anibal Sanchez. He was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year after signing a minor-league deal in the offseason.


Poutine Dog, Pork & Beans Dog, Late Night Dog among new menu items at Comerica Park

The Poutine Dog has gotten a lot of attention as the newest menu item at Comerica Park — and rightfully so — but it’s not the only new thing.

A hat-tip to our Canadian friends, the Poutine Dog is topped with French fries, cheese curds and beef gravy. It’s available at the Topped Dogs stand in the Food Court.

“Our culinary team is constantly looking to bring Tigers fans the best possible ballpark experience through our food,” said Mark Szubeczak, the executive shef for the Tigers’ concession vendor Delaware North Companies Sportservice.

Other new items:

Pork & Beans Dog: a hot dog with baked beans, cheddar cheese and bacon. Available at the Topped Dogs stand.

Late Night Dog: a hot dog with fried egg, bacon and cheddar cheese. Available at the Topped Dogs stand.

Slaw Dog: a hot dog with coney chili and coleslaw. Available at the Topped Dogs stand.

Burrito bowl: a fried tortilla shell with lettuce, cilantro lime rice, roasted corn, black beans and chicken or taco meat (or meatless), topped with pico de gallo and cheddar cheese. Available in the Mexican stand in the Food Court.

Street tacos: corn or flour tortillas with slow-roasted chicken, pork or beef barbacoa, topped with cheddar and Cojita cheeses and pico de gallo. Available at the Taco Cart, near section 135 on level one of Comerica Park.

Available in the suites: lobster mac & cheese, burrito bowls, turkey burgers, Italian sausage alforno, Polish sausage, tamales, fajitas, Italian sub and the meatball trio.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Second opinion confirms stress fractures; Iglesias to miss 5 months or more

The second opinion was the same as the first.

Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias has stress fractures in both shins, an examination by Dr. Thomas Clanton at the Steadman Clinic in Colorado confirmed, and will miss the majority of the 2014 season.

The shortstop will continue the same treatment regimen he’s been on, but his activities will be limited to non-weight bearing conditioning — like biking, swimming and upper-body work — for the next four to six months.

He will be reevaluated after four months, which is 11 days before Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline.

Brought over in a trade with the Boston Red Sox at last year’s deadline, Iglesias has missed time with both before and after the deal with shin splints. Earlier in spring training they were upgraded to stress reactions before a recent diagnosis of stress fractures.

The organization has known for a few days that Iglesias would be out for the foreseeable future, and has begun the process of determining his replacement, saying initially they'd stay in-house, but that they'd "keep a pulse of what was going on outside the organization."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ilitch statement on passing of William Clay Ford

There is always a fraternity of owners at the big-league level, no matter the sport.

In that spirit, Mike Ilitch, the owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers — along with his wife, Marian — issued a statement on the passing Sunday of Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford:

"We are saddened by the passing of William Clay Ford, Sr. and extend our condolences to the entire Ford family, the Ford Motor Company, the Lions organization and all of his employees. He led with a memorable blend of class, dignity and unwavering commitment to our community and his legacy will always be a source of pride for our city, state and nation."