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.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cabrera, Kinsler lead fan voting in first balloting update

The first balloting update in the fan voting for the 2014 All-Star Game is out, and it's no surprise that Miguel Cabrera is leading the fan voting at first base (440,407), although he's well behind the overall voting leaders Mike Trout (764K), Jose Bautista (675K) and Derek Jeter (602K). Cabrera has a healthy lead over second-place Albert Pujols (371,193) in the voting for first basemen.

Ian Kinsler (356,244) holds a narrow lead over Robinson Cano (350,293) in the voting at second base.

Victor Martinez (340,827) is third in the voting for designated hitters, behind David Ortiz (501,808) and Nelson Cruz (484,186).

Rookie Nick Castellanos is fifth in the race at third base with 157,768 votes, more than 300,000 fewer than position leader Josh Donaldson of the A's (464,367)

Torii Hunter is sixth among outfielders with 322,736 votes, while Rajai Davis (186,913) and Austin Jackson (175,165) clock in at Nos. 13 and 14, respectively.

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Two Tigers contests in June slated for MLB Network Showcase broadcasts

The MLB Network Showcase will carry two Detroit Tigers games to its broadcast schedule for the month of June. The broadcasts are available in the team's home TV market, but will still be broadcast on Fox Sports Detroit

MLB Network will broadcast the Friday, June 6 series opener between the Red Sox and Tigers from Comerica Park. Matt Vasgersian will do the play-by-play, while John Smoltz and Tom Verducci will do the color commentary.

The series opener in Texas between the Tigers and Rangers on Tuesday, June 24 will also be on the network. Vasgersian and Smoltz will be on that broadcast, along with reporter Sam Ryan.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Tigers look to end string of poor starts, with Drew Smyly on mound vs. Oakland

The teams with the two best records in the American League face off in an afternoon (4:08 p.m.) affair on Memorial Day. The Tigers were 1-6 in the last calendar week, and just 4-6 in their last 10.

"It was honestly not a good series for us. Our starters had a little bit of a rough series, with the exception of Sanchie (Anibal Sanchez)," said manager Brad Ausmus. "You wouldn’t expect, with our starters, this would be the case, but every team goes through it. It was a rough patch. We’re not, obviously, happy about it, but it’s over, and we’re going to move on."

Detroit's starters posted an 8.76 ERA in seven games.

"I think everything’s magnified when you’re going through a rough stretch, but it’s a rough stretch. It happens in the game of baseball," said Sunday's starter, Justin Verlander, who got bounced around twice in the stretch. "We’ve got a fantastic ballclub here. I wasn’t able to do the job today, but the next starting pitcher is going to do the job next time. That’s the way you have to look at things.

"We’ve got a great rotation, we’ve got a great lineup, we’ve got a great ballclub.

"Even great ballclubs go through rough stretches in the course of 162 games. It happens. It’s not the end of the world.

I think everybody in this clubhouse is still confident. We’ve got enough veterans that we don’t let the highs get too high, and the lows get too low. You’re playing great? You go out there and play great again.

"You’re not playing great? OK, you go out there and turn it around.

"It’s just the way it is. It’s the game of baseball. And we’re going to do that."

Oakland was 5-5 in its last 10 games, as well.

Of note for the Tigers, Miguel Cabrera is back in the lineup, after being removed from Sunday's game for precautionary reasons, after having his hamstring cramp up on him.

It's also the first day off of the season for Ian Kinsler, who had played every game so far.

"I like him so much, I haven't even given him a day off yet," manager Brad Ausmus said over the weekend, admitting he wasn't going to do that while Kinsler was playing his old team. Needless to say, the second-leading hitter in the American League (.330) has more than proven his value to his new team already.

With Kinsler out of the lineup, Rajai Davis leads off, followed by former leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, who hadn't hit this high in the lineup all season. Jackson had started 20 games in the No. 5 spot, and 23 in the No. 6 spot so far this year, seeming more comfortable lower in the order. The only other time Jackson hit in the No. 2 spot in his big-league career was April 17, 2011, when he hit second behind Will Rhymes against the Oakland A's. That day, Brennan Boesch hit third, Cabrera fourth, Ryan Raburn fifth, Don Kelly sixth, and Casper Wells ninth.

Rajai Davis, LF
Austin Jackson, CF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Torii Hunter, RF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Bryan Holaday, C
Danny Worth, 2B
Andrew Romine, SS

Pitcher: Drew Smyly, LHP

OAKLAND A'S (30-20):
Coco Crisp, CF
Derek Norris, C
Josh Donaldson, 3B
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Brandon Moss, DH
Alberto Callaspo, 2B
Kyle Blanks, 1B
Craig Gentry, LF

Pitcher: Tommy Milone, LHP (2-3, 3.99 ERA)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Miguel Cabrera pulled from blowout loss with hamstring cramp

DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera (hamstring cramp) and Joba Chamberlain (right ankle contusion) both left Sunday’s game early, a half-inning apart, and are day-to-day.

In the seventh inning of a 10-run game, Cabrera singled through the left side. On a foul ball by Don Kelly, Cabrera appeared to pull up lame, and hobbled almost all the way to second base.

Trainer Kevin Rand and manager Brad Ausmus immediately came out to check on him, and replaced him with pinch runner Bryan Holaday.

“He said he could stay in. If this was Sept. 19, and this was an important game, and we weren’t down by 10, it would’ve been a different story,” Ausmus said.

“There was no reason to take a risk. Just get him out of there.”

Cabrera is coming off surgery in the offseason to repair a core muscle injury.

Chamberlain got kicked in the foot trying to cover the bag at first base on an infield hit by Rougned Odor. Rand and Ausmus went out to check on him, but left him in, then pulled him after he walked Shin-Soo Choo.

Ausmus said the concern level about Chamberlain was low, but had not yet spoken with Cabrera or Rand.

Cabrera said it was just a cramp, and he already felt better, after the game.

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Home run has indeed helped spur turnaround for Andrew Romine's bat

DETROIT — The minute Andrew Romine hit his first career home run Friday night, ending an 0-for-28 streak, manager Brad Ausmus hoped aloud that it portended good things for the Tigers shortstop.

He was right.

Romine went 2-for-4 with a couple singles in Saturday’s game, then — after spending 10 minutes or so working with hitting coach Wally Joyner after the contest — added an RBI single in his first at-bat Sunday, giving him four hits in the span of seven at-bats.

It had taken 13 games before that to collect four hits.

“It’s funny, because I know he was working with Wally after the game. So, despite the fact that he had some good at-bats, there was something he felt was not quite right. He just took about 10 minutes to fine-tune something,” Ausmus said Sunday morning.

“He certainly looked a lot more comfortable at the plate, whether it was psychological, physical, I couldn’t tell you. But I was hoping that maybe that home run would be the start of something good, and it looks like it’s headed in that direction, and I hope it continues.”

While it’s a good sign that Romine is bringing his bat around, it’s just as important that he never let his struggles at the plate impact his play in the field.

“Those are two different things to me,” he said. “Being at the plate, once I’m not at the plate, I’m not a hitter anymore, I’m a fielder — or I’m a runner, if I put the ball in play. To me, there’s no comparison to them. They don’t carry over to me. Going out and playing defense is what I’m here for.”

That’s what his manager expected out of a guy who — despite just 70 career big-league starts — has been around the block, playing in 700 minor-league contests.

“Really young players are the ones you see that happen to,” Ausmus said. He’s been around enough, and he plays a premium position, defensively, so I think he’s learned coming up through the minors, and these short stints in the big leagues that taking your offense to shortstop with you is not going to help you stick around.”

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Recycling gets a new meaning for one Tigers fan

I wrote yesterday that "Ian Kinsler should be judged for who he is, not who he isn't."

And I stand by that.

Especially considering Prince Fielder's out for the season, it's unfair for Kinsler — who had contributed far more, even when both were on the field for their respective teams — to be constantly compared to Fielder. (I'm adult enough to know it's going to happen. So is Kinsler.)

And it's obvious that many Tigers fans are still holding harsh feelings for their former first baseman.

One fan at Saturday's game, however, found a good way to continue to make use of an old Fielder shirsey, converting it to a Kinsler model, with the judicious use of what appears to be masking tape.

Below is the tweet from an elementary school principal, Michele Corbat, that brought the remodeling job to public attention.

(Also, if anyone knows who the fan might be, let me know, so he can get credit for his work.)

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Verlander on the mound, as Tigers try to split series with Texas

The Tigers try to salvage a split playing the Rangers in the fourth and final game at the end of a brief homestand. Then, it's off to the West Coast again, starting with a series in Oakland.

Detroit comes into Sunday's game 1-5 in its last six games, since sweeping Boston.

Game time: 1:08 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Detroit
Radio: 97.1-FM and 1270-AM

Here are the lineups:

Rajai Davis, LF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, DH
Victor Martinez, 1B
Torii Hunter RF
Austin Jackson CF
Alex Avila, C
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Andrew Romine, SS

Pitcher: Justin Verlander, RHP (5-3, 3.55 ERA)

Shin-Soo Choo, DH
Elvis Andrus, SS
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Leonys Martin, CF
Michael Choice, LF
Robinson Chirinos, C
Rougned Odor, 2B

Pitcher: Colby Lewis, RHP (3-3, 5.40 ERA)

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Dirks' rehab should go 'relatively quickly' from here on, but early June return still unlikely

DETROIT — Of any of the injury rehabilitations Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has had to explain, the easiest for him to talk about has probably been Andy Dirks’ recovery from microdiscectomy to repair a disc in his back.

After all, Ausmus had that very surgery in 2010, so he knows what steps are necessary for Dirks to make it back.

“I was trying to think of that when I was reading the report on him couple days ago. I remember kind of easily doing some of the stuff he did: throwing and taking dry swings. You take some swings off the tee, and soft toss. Then it goes relatively quickly after that,” Ausmus said Saturday.

“I think once the doctors feel you can rotate without any issues, it went relatively quickly from dry swings to going to batting practice, and then rehab.”

Dirks has been doing light baseball activities for two weeks, including the dry swings and throwing that Ausmus remembered.

Initially, it was anticipated that Dirks would be facing a 12-week recovery process from surgery on May 10.

That set the potential return date for the first week of June — which is rapidly approaching.

Even with the thought that it may move quickly from here on out, it would be surprising if Dirks is back with the Tigers in early June. It may not even be late June.

As interminable as the wait seems for fans, it’s gotta be worse for Dirks.

Ausmus remembers what that’s like, too.

“Boring. I actually, except for the first week after surgery, traveled with the team. I was with the Dodgers, so I was traveling with the team. I didn’t do much. Other than for a while, just walking on the treadmill was all I could do. I would watch the game every night, but I literally couldn’t do anything,” the manager said.

“It got a little boring. I would imagine Dirks is even more bored, because he’s not with the team. I could at least go out and have a beer with some of the players after the game. I don’t know who he’s hanging out with.”

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Lineups for Tigers- Rangers, as Porcello goes for win No. 8

Ian Kinsler 2B
Torii Hunter RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinex DH
Austin Jackson CF
Alex Avila C
Nick Castellanos 3B
Andrew Romine SS
Rajai Davis LF

Pitcher: Rick Porcello, RHP (7-1, 2.91 ERA)

Shin-Soo Choo, LF
Elvis Andrus, SS
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Chris Gimenez, C
Leonys Martin CF
Donnie Murphy, DH
Rougned Odor, 2B

Pitcher: Nick Martinez, RHP (0-1, 2.28 ERA)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Tigers outright contract of Francisco Martinez to make room for Corey Knebel

DETROIT — No doubt about it, Corey Knebel is one of the Detroit Tigers’ hottest minor-league commodities.

But when the Tigers decided Thursday they were bringing him up, there was one snag: He was not yet on the 40-man roster.

The Tigers took care of that Friday, when they actually made the transaction, outrighting the contract of Francisco Martinez to Double-A Erie. Robbie Ray was sent to Triple-A Toledo after Thursday’s start to clear room on the active roster.

According to’s preseason list, Knebel ranked as Detroit’s 16th-best prospect (Ray was No. 3). Martinez used to be perceived that well.

When he was included in the trade to bring Doug Fister to the Tigers from the Seattle Mariners, Martinez was ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the Detroit farm system. After a disappointing stint in the Mariners’ system, Martinez was sent back to Detroit in trade, after being designated for assignment last June.

The Tigers had to designate Quintin Berry for assignment to add Martinez to the 40-man at that time, and ended up losing him, before seeing him again in the playoffs with the Red Sox.

After hitting .295 with 13 doubles and three home runs with Hi-A Lakeland in his return to the Tigers’ system last season, Martinez is hitting .228 with one home run and five doubles in 37 games with Erie this year.

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Lineups for May 23, as Tigers try to snap 4-game skid vs. Rangers

Rajai Davis LF
Ian Kinsler 2B
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Torii Hunter RF
Austin Jackson CF
Alex Avila C
Nick Castellanos 3B
Andrew Romine SS

Pitcher: Anibal Sanchez, RHP

Leonys Martin, CF
Elvis Andrus, SS
Shin-Soo Choo LF
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Michael Choice, DH
Robinson Chirinos, C
Rougned Odor, 2B

Pitcher: Scott Baker, RHP

Danny Worth might be the most effective fielder-turned-pitcher in Tigers franchise history — better than Ty Cobb, even

DETROIT — Ty Cobb would be jealous.

Danny Worth has something that the Georgia Peach does not.

Two strikeouts.

“I think a lot of the pitchers in the dugout were jealous. He struck out two in one inning,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said after the shortstop Worth pitched the ninth inning of Thursday’s game.

“His strikeout-to-innings ratio is pretty good.”

According to research on, Worth became the ninth different Detroit Tigers position player to enter a game as a relief pitcher. One of them was Ty Cobb, who appeared for two innings each in the second game of doubleheaders on consecutive days in Sept. 1918.

Teammate Bobby Veach, the left fielder, was also called upon for two innings in that second twinbill nightcap in 1918.

Infielder Ben Dyer appeared in two games a month apart earlier in that season.

Cobb came back to throw one inning in the nightcap of a doubleheader late in the 1925 season, earning a save.

None of those guys struck anyone out, though.

Nor did Shane Halter, when he infamously played all nine positions on the last day of the 2000 season. Nor did Don Kelly when he closed out the game against the Mets in June, 2011, the last time a Tigers position player took the mound.

The only two Tigers position players that Baseball-Reference lists as having struck out batters in relief appearances had more extensive pitching experience.

Mark Koenig — normally a reserve infielder, like Worth — started one game in 1930, then made three relief appearances in 1931, striking out one each time.

The last Tigers position player to throw a full inning of relief was “Wonderful” Willie Smith in 1963. Although he’d go on to play nearly 700 games in the field at either left field or first base for four other teams, he was primarily a pitcher for the Tigers, having appeared as a pitcher in 101 of his 431 career minor league games, starting 80.

He started two games for the Tigers in 1963, and relieved in nine other games, compiling 21 2/3 innings in his rookie season.

Obligatorily, Smith had the most success as a reliever, striking out four in five innings on Sept. 18, 1963, when he had to take over for starter Phil Regan in the first inning, then striking out two in two innings a week later.

Even if you classify Smith as a “position player” (he did not appear at any other position other than pitcher for the Tigers in 1963), Worth is still in pretty select company.

If not, he might possibly be the most effective fielder-turned-pitcher in franchise history.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Good news for Putkonen: No surgery needed

Getting an appointment with noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews is like getting called to the principal’s office.

You might be in trouble.

Turns out Luke Putkonen’s trip to Florida to see Andrews for a second opinion this week was not as indicative of trouble as it could have been.

There’s no discussion of surgery just yet for Putkonen’s sore throwing elbow, as Andrews confirmed the previous diagnosis, and recommended continued rehabilitation.

“Yes. No talk of surgery right now. Treatment and rehabilitation,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Andrews looked at him, looked at the MRI, and kind of made the same diagnosis that was made before. So just going to continue treatment and rehab, see if they can work it out.”

Putkonen has been on the disabled list since April 19 with inflammation in his right (throwing) elbow. He made three rehabilitation appearances — one at Class A West Michigan and two at Triple-A Toledo — before being shelved again soon after his last outing on May 13, when he gave up four runs on four hits.

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Lineups, as Ian Kinsler faces his old team, the Texas Rangers

While the Tigers are looking to wipe a bitter taste out of their mouths after being swept in Cleveland to end what had been a successful road trip, the Texas Rangers are wishing they could wipe the taste of this whole season out of their mouths, considering all the injuries.

Everyone expected this would be the day that Prince Fielder — traded to the Rangers in the offseason, in exchange for Ian Kinsler — would make his return to Detroit, but instead he stayed in Dallas to have his sore neck examined.

Ian Kinsler, 2B
Torii Hunter, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Don Kelly, LF
Austin Jackson, CF
Alex Avila, C
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Andrew Romine, SS

Pitcher: Robbie Ray, LHP

Daniel Robertson, CF
Elvis Andrus, SS
Shin-Soo Choo, LF
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Alex Rios, RF
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Chris Giminez, C
Michael Choice, DH
Luis Sardinas, 2B

Pitcher: Yu Darvish, RHP

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tigers promote SS Eugenio Suarez to Triple-A Toledo

No matter the solution the Detroit Tigers have tried at shortstop this season, they’ve never acted like they were permanently married to it.

They traded a pair of players to acquire Andrew Romine and Alex Gonzalez, releasing the latter after just nine games. Danny Worth has gotten a shot — but not an endorsement.

And now — the same day that free-agent Stephen Drew re-signed with the Boston Red Sox — the next two who might get a chance to fill that gap for the Tigers might both be at Triple-A Toledo.

Eugenio Suarez was promoted after Tuesday’s game, going from Double-A Erie to the Mud Hens, where he’ll pair with Hernan Perez.

Manager Brad Ausmus told reporters he was “very satisfied” with the play of his current shortstops, despite the fact that the position had produced a combined batting average of .189, a slugging percentage of .220 and an OPS of .470.

Suarez went 3-for-5 in the Seawolves’ 7-6 loss Tuesday, driving in three runs, and hitting his 14th double. In 42 games, he hit .284, slugged .503 and posted an .850 OPS. Dixon Machado was sent to Erie in the corresponding move.

Worth got the nod over either Suarez or Perez when Gonzalez was released, primarily because the Tigers didn’t want to force either of them into a platoon situation.

“Hopefully this combination will help us, and we can continue to analyze our situation. We’ve got, again, two young guys that we’re just not quite ready to bring up and ready to let them play, but they’re playing very, very well for us,” Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said at the time.

“It gives them an opportunity to continue to play on day-in, day-out basis, which we think will benefit our organization in the long run.”

The long run may not be that far off, at this point.

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Red Sox catcher David Ross on Tigers: 'I think they wanted to kick our tail, and they did'

There’s been a ton made of the Detroit Tigers’ off-the-field silliness, with their Zubaz tiger-print gear, dancing in the dugout, general goofing around.

That’s all good.

But other teams are noticing that the Tigers — who came into Tuesday with the best record in baseball — are not goofing around on the field.

Take it from Boston Red Sox catcher David Ross (pictured above), who explained in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, with hosts Jim Memolo and Todd Hollandsworth. [The full interview clip is below]

“The other day, I caught the first game of the Detroit series, and those guys are usually real chatty coming to the box, and talking, and saying hello. And they were business,” Ross said. “They were coming there to kick our tail, and maybe send a message that last year they remember, and maybe they felt like they should’ve won, or whatever. But I know that they came in with a mindset of, I think they wanted to kick our tail, and they did.”

The three-game sweep of the Red Sox in Fenway Park was the first for the Tigers since 1983. The last time the Tigers finished their first 40 games with a better record than they currently have was 1984.

But are they the best team in baseball right now?

Ross thinks they’re in the discussion.

“They’re really solid. It’s hard to say. I like to judge from a perspective of who we’ve played, and they’re definitely the best team that we’ve played so far, in my opinion,” Ross said. “I think the top of their lineup is as good as any, in my opinion. ... When you’re talking about Ian Kinsler, then you’re going Torii Hunter, then you’re going Miguel Cabrera, then you’re going Victor, I mean, that’s some of the best. There’s nobody to pitch around. Ian Kinsler was on fire when he was in here. ... Right now, to me, Victor Martinez is one of the best hitters in baseball. He’s really a quality at-bat, he doesn’t strike out.”

And the Red Sox catcher acknowledged that the Tigers’ offseason transformation is paying off.

“I feel like they added the things they lacked last year, the things we exploited, I thought, in the playoffs, where they were more of a station-to-station team. I didn’t think they ran the bases as well as they do now,” Ross said. “They’re doing a really good job of taking the extra base — they got some speedsters, they got some baseball players. And their defense is a lot better, I feel like, than last year.”

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Tigers to start racing 'Motor City Wheels' mascots

The Washington Nationals have racing presidents.

The Milwaukee Brewers have racing sausages.

Now the Detroit Tigers have joined the trend, and will have racing mascots — automotive themed, of course — during the third-inning break, starting with this Thursday's game against the Texas Rangers.

The combatants? Nicknamed the "Motor City Wheels" and sponsored by the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers, they'll include: Bella Air, a 1957 Bel Air; Corey Vette, a 1958 Corvette; and Petey Pickup, a 1954 Chevy pickup truck.

“Working with the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers presents an opportunity to combine two events the city of Detroit loves most: Tigers baseball and vehicles made in the Motor City,” Tigers VP of corporate sponsorships Steve Harms said in a news release. “I know our fans will enjoy the energy and excitement of the newMotor City Wheels races and the unique redesign of three classic Chevys into entertaining mascots.”

No word on whether or not Paws, the team's current mascot, has a driver's license. 

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Tigers quarter pole live chat: Tuesday, 2 p.m.

The Detroit Tigers have sprinted out to a 27-13 record after 40 games. Do you still have concerns about this team, even though it's sporting the best record in baseball? If so, drop by our live chat at 2 p.m. to talk about them.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Tigers send Miller down to make room for Sanchez; keep Ray to start

Logic dictated that it would probably be Robbie Ray headed down to Toledo when the Tigers activated Anibal Sanchez from the 15-day disabled list to start Sunday night's game vs. the Boston Red Sox.

After all, they'd need to keep Ray stretched out to fill in as a spot starter for injuries, and in the event of doubleheaders.

Instead, though, the Tigers sent reliever Justin Miller to Triple-A Toledo, keeping Ray.

Why? Because they'll need Ray to start in Rick Porcello's spot on Thursday. Porcello is experiencing soreness in his left side after Saturday night's start, much the same issue that cut short his previous start. Rather than start on turn Thursday, Porcello will be pushed back to Saturday, giving him an extra couple of days' rest.

Manager Brad Ausmus told reporters they were exercising "an overabundance of caution" to keep Porcello's issue from lingering.

Ausmus said after Ray's second of two big-league starts, on Mother's Day, that the best thing for his development would be for him to be starting. He'll get another start as a fill-in, then ostensibly head back down to stay stretched out.

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Robbie Ray had his day, but should not stay with Tigers

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was originally published on on Sunday, May 11, but is being republished here, due to a broken link.]

DETROIT — Robbie Ray did his job.

The rookie, acquired in the Doug Fister trade, came up and made two excellent spot starts, holding the fort with Anibal Sanchez on the disabled list.

He got on the plane for Baltimore with the rest of the Tigers after Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins, when he threw six scoreless innings, but the bullpen and two misplays in the outfield blew his chances at a second win.

Couldn’t ask for much better of a start to a career.

“It went pretty well. I don’t know if I could ask for anything more — maybe a complete game. But, no, I couldn’t ask for anything more from the first two starts,” said the 22-year-old Ray, with a wry smile. “It feels good. You feel good about yourself, and you carry yourself a little better. The nerves weren’t there today. I was a little more calm after the first start. It definitely feels good, though.

“To do that over a five-day basis, you feel like you belong.”

But, contrary to the popular groundswell of opinion, he’ll probably get on a plane from Baltimore and rejoin the Toledo Mud Hens at home next Wednesday, as long as everything plays out well in Sanchez’s simulated game on Tuesday.

At that point, Ray’s job as a fill-in starter will be over — until they might need him again.

Could he stay with the Tigers, and pitch out of the bullpen? Sure, that’s possible.

But then, once he’s no longer stretched out as a starter (as happened to Drew Smyly last year), they’ll have to find someone else to fill the role that Ray inherited when the Tigers traded for him.

Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to change the plan mid-stream.

“We’ve discussed (Ray’s role). The truth is, he probably has to pitch, wherever he is. If and when Anibal Sanchez comes back, there’s going to have to be a decision made with him, but I think the best thing for Robbie Ray would be to continue to pitch, to continue to work on that curveball, and to polish his other pitches to be a major-league starter,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday.

“He’s had two outings here, and pitched well, filled in nicely. But I do think, in the big picture, he needs to pitch. He’s still a young kid.”

Ray has pitched one game in relief as a professional — the warm-up inning he threw at Toledo before his call-up. He’s willing to do whatever the Tigers ask of him.

“I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, which is whatever is asked of me,” Ray said. “If that’s the bullpen, great. I’d love to stay up here. I know that I’m a starting pitcher, but I’m absolutely open to whatever I can do to help out the team.”

That begs the question: How CAN he best help the team?

Is it as a starter, ready to plug in, should injury (or doubleheaders) strike? Or is it as a reliever, who might give the big-league bullpen a boost, but whose short-term progress is stifled by a move to a new role?

“I mean, we’ll make that decision when we have to. But generally speaking, if you want him to be a starter at the major league level, he has to pitch as a starter. Now, does that mean he couldn’t fill in in the bullpen? Sure, he absolutely could. But the question is, is it best for Robbie Ray to pitch as a starter, or as a reliever, long term?” said Ausmus, noting that Ray is still working on rounding out his repertoire.

“As a starter at the Major League level, you need at least three pitches. The change-up is his best pitch, the most consistent off-speed pitch. But I think to put him over the top, it’s going to be the curveball, eventually.

“It comes and goes. He messed with it in spring training, and it’s coming along slowly. But it’s going to be inconsistent.”

To maximize the value for that trade, the Tigers need Ray to be ready to step into the rotation next season, once free agency begins to open up holes.

They also need him to be ready to start.

Just ask a team like the Angels how fun it is to not have enough pitching depth. Their “sixth starter” is Jose Alvarez, who held that same role with the Tigers last year. He, too, got a win and a no-decision in his first two spot starts with the team.

Detroit lost his remaining four starts last season. Oh, and he gave up five home runs in 4 2/3 innings in his last minor-league start for the Angels.

No, Ray is best off doing his job.

And staying put as a starter.

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Anibal Sanchez activated from 15-day DL

Anibal Sanchez was officially activated from the 15-day disabled list Sunday afternoon. He'll start for the Detroit Tigers in the Sunday Night game against the Boston Red Sox.

Sanchez had been on the DL since April 27, with a laceration in his right middle finger, the after-effects of a burst blister on the fingertip.

The Tigers did not immediately announce a corresponding move, but best guess is that rookie Robbie Ray will be sent down to Toledo, to continue to work as a starter, in case he's needed again, for an injury fill-in, or in the event of doubleheaders. [Read more on that HERE.]

[UPDATE: The Tigers sent out Justin Miller, instead. A more complete explanation is here.]

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Tigers return to Boston for Game 1 of 2014 season series

Last time the Tigers were in Fenway Park was for Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. And Max Scherzer was on the mound.

Several players in tonight's starting lineup weren't even with the team then, though.

The Tigers (24-12) bring an eight-game road win streak into the game, the longest since 2006. At 11-4, it's also the best 15-game road start since the '06 campaign.

Only two teams in franchise history have a better start through 36 games — 1984 at 31-5 and 1961 at 25-11. The 1982 team started 24-12, as well.

The Tigers are 9-2 against left-handed starters so far this season.

Rajai Davis LF
Ian Kinsler 2B
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
Torii Hunter RF
Austin Jackson CF
Alex Avila C
Nick Castellanos 3B
Danny Worth SS

Pitcher: Max Scherzer, RHP (5-1, 2.04)

Dustin Pedroia 2B
Grady Sizemore RF
David Ortiz DH
Mike Napoli 1B
Mike Carp LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Will Middlebrooks 3B
David Ross C

Pitcher: Jon Lester (4-4, 2.75)

Putkonen's rehab hits a snag; reliever will visit Dr. James Andrews

Luke Putkonen’s rehab hit a snag.

The reliever, who has been on the disabled list since April 19, will remain there, and have his elbow checked out by Dr. James Andrews next Wednesday.

The Tigers recalled his rehabilitation assignment from Toledo on Friday.

Putkonen made three rehabilitation appearances since May 7, the last coming on Tuesday at Triple-A Toledo, when he gave up four runs on five hits in two innings.

The soreness in Putkonen’s throwing elbow, which sidelined him after two appearances with the Tigers, dated back to spring training. The team hoped rest would clear up the issue, and it initially appeared it had.

“It felt good,” Putkonen told The Oakland Press after his first rehabilitation start. “(It was) just irritation in the joint, inflammation.”

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Out of Left Field live chat, for Thursday, May 15

The Tigers are on their last remaining off day in May, but that does not mean that we'll be taking the day off. We'll be talking Tigers (and probably more specifically talking some Robbie Ray) at 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon. Bring your questions.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Torii Hunter takes umbrage after being plunked by Norris after HR

Ian Kinsler drilled his second home run in as many days in the eighth inning of Monday’s game, putting some separation between his Detroit Tigers and the host Baltimore Orioles.

Two pitches later, Orioles starter Bud Norris drilled Torii Hunter in the ribs.

Exception was taken.

So was umbrage.

Benches cleared, as did the bullpens.

Even reading lips, it was clear that Hunter shouted “What the (bleep) you doin’, man?” at Norris, then after the pitcher was ejected, but hung around in the dugout, “I’ll whip your (bleep).”

Hunter had to be restrained by reliever Joba Chamberlain.

"I was actually thinking he was pitching really well, had control all night, and all of a sudden lost it?" Hunter said on the Fox Sports Detroit postgame show. "It's like a pickup basketball game. Two guys, you get a foul, you argue, that's sports. That's baseball. It's just adrenaline going, and once you calm yourself down, you think about the situation, it doesn't make sense. ...

"I got kids in college. I can't be doing that."

It’s much the same situation as last year on June 1, when the Orioles’ Jason Hammel plunked Matt Tuiasosopo high on the left shoulder, after back-to-back-to-back homers by Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila.

Norris has developed a trend of starting things recently, as well, jawing with the Pirates Neil Walker after a hit-by-pitch.
He wasn't happy about the ejection, though.

His reaction kind of stirred the umpire, too, stirred their bench up, too," Norris told reporters, including's Brittany Ghiroli. "It's kind of a weird time. Because he says something, I'm immediately tossed?"

The oddest part of the whole situation, though, might be third-base umpire Paul Nauert patting Hunter on the cheek, in what appeared to be an attempt to calm him down. Instead, it appeared to have the opposite effect. See the picture at right.

Hunter after the game told MLive's Chris Iott:
"That's my buddy. I've been knowing him too long. He was just trying to, 'Come on, T.'" 

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gardenhire ejected after Romine's weirdest infield single ever

DETROIT — The argument was valid, but it really didn't mean a whole lot in the long run.

After the Tigers had already tacked on an insurance run to lead 2-0 in the fourth inning of Sunday's game against the Minnesota Twins, Andrew Romine stepped up with the bases loaded and one out.

His grounder hit baserunner Austin Jackson before the ball — which looked like it would be good for an inning-ending double play — reached Twins shortstop Eduardo Escobar.

Struck by a batted ball, Jackson, by rule is out.

But the inning remained alive.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire came out to argue that Jackson interfered with a double play, which potentially could hurt the Twins with the inning continuing.

Gardenhire was ejected by third-base umpire Joe West.

One pitch later, Rajai Davis grounded out to third, rendering the whole hoopla moot.

Robbie Ray gets his second career start vs. Twins


Ian Kinsler 2B
Torii Hunter RF
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martez, DH 
Don Kelly, 3B
Austin Jackson, CF
Alex Avila, C
Andrew Romine, SS
Rajai Davis, LF

Pitcher: Robbie Ray, LHP

Brian Dozier, 2B
Joe Mauer, DH
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Chris Colabello, 1B
Josmil Pinto, C
Eduardo Nunez, LF
Chris Parmelee, RF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Eduardo Escobar, SS

Pitcher: Samuel Deduno

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Injury update: Dirks begins baseball activities, Sanchez to throw simulated game

A quick update on some of the Tigers’ injuries:

• Andy Dirks has moved out of the rehabilitation phase of his recovery from back surgery in early March. Dirks had microdiscectomy surgery on March 10, and was expected to need 12 weeks of recovery, starting with three weeks of complete rest, and three weeks of therapy.

He’s closer to nine weeks out, now.

“He threw the other day for the first time, and he can take dry swings. Just swing a bat easy. That’s where he’s at. I guess the very beginnings of baseball activities,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who had the same surgery in 2010.

“We’re coming up on two months, really. It’s kind of a three-month injury. I think it was three months. Whenever the exact date of the surgery was, roughly three months from there. Everyone’s a little different.”

A twelve-week estimate would put land Dirks’ target return date in the first week of June.

• Anibal Sanchez felt fine after Friday’s bullpen session.

“Sanchie is going to throw a simulated (game) in Baltimore on Tuesday,” Ausmus said.

On the DL since April 27, Sanchez said Friday night he expects to return to the rotation on May 18, against Boston.

• Luke Putkonen threw two innings in his second rehabilitation outing Friday night, giving up a run on two hits. He will make another appearance in Toledo on Tuesday, according to Ausmus, and should be good to go after that.

“Should be, yeah. If it continues as it is right now,” Ausmus said.

Putkonen has been on the disabled list since April 19 with inflammation in his throwing elbow.

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Don Kelly in the lineup for Jim Leyland Day ... because, of course

The Tigers will have a pregame ceremony Saturday afternoon, before the game against the Twins, honoring former manager Jim Leyland. Fans are asked to be in their seats by 12:40 p.m. Gates still open at 11 a.m.

There will be a video board tribute, and Leyland will throw out the first pitch.

Ian Kinsler, 2B
Torii Hunter, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Austin Jackson, CF
Don Kelly, LF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Alex Avila, C
Andrew Romine, SS

Pitcher: Max Scherzer, RHP (4-1, 1.72 ERA)

Brian Dozier, 2B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Joe Mauer, DH
Chris Colabello, 1B
Chris Parmelee, RF
Eduardo Nunez, LF
Eduardo Escobar, 3B
Aaron Hicks, CF
Danny Santana, SS

Pitcher: Kyle Gibson (3-2, 3.50 ERA)

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Corey Knebel moved up to Triple-A Toledo

DETROIT — Once the post-draft experiment with converting Corey Knebel to a starter was scrapped, you kind of had to expect that he was going to be a fast-riser through the Detroit Tigers’ system.

The former University of Texas closer, drafted by the Tigers in the sandwich round of last summer’s MLB Draft, was moved up to Triple-A Toledo after last night’s game for the Double-A Erie Seawolves.

Knebel, 22, had 15 saves for West Michigan in 31 games after last year’s draft, posting an 0.87 ERA, and striking out 41 in 31 innings. This year at Erie, he’s 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA in 11 appearances, striking out 23 and walking eight.

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Mechanical fire sets off alarm bells at Comerica Park during Friday's game

DETROIT — Alarm bells were ringing all over Comerica Park late in Friday’s game, but it wasn’t a bullpen alert.

No, it was an actual emergency — of sorts.

According to the team, the alarms were tripped by a mechanical fire in a janitor’s closet in the Tiger Club, one that was contained and put out before the Detroit Fire Department even arrived on scene, according a team spokesperson.

The alarm bells — along with flashing lights all over the stadium — began in the top of the ninth inning. The system overrides the public address system in the stadium, meaning that for the rest of the game, there were no introductions, or in-game music.

It didn’t really impact the play on the field.

“When it first initially happened, it’s like ‘Oh, the alarm’s going off,’” catcher Alex Avila said. “But after that, whether the PA’s going, or the guy’s announcing me, you gotta go up there and do your job.”

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Sensitive to criticism of AL Central? Ausmus: 'I really don't care'

DETROIT — The criticism is always there.

It’s there when people and pundits assume it will be easy for the Detroit Tigers — masters of the American League Central for three straight years — to push their streak to four.

And it’s there to add scorn on top of the heap when the Tigers don’t necessarily always run away with it, as they currently appear to be.

“It’s a weak division.”

Coming into Friday’s play, the AL Central was the only division in Major League Baseball with just one team over .500. (The White Sox came in right at .500, with an 18-18 record so far.)

In fact, only the National League Central had as few as two teams with winning records.

Former manager Jim Leyland always got sensitive when the topic was brought up.

His successor does not.

“I didn’t notice it, and I really don’t care. Doesn’t bother me what people say. Our goal is the same, whether people think it’s a good division or a bad division. The goal is to win the division,” Brad Ausmus said.

“In 1997, the Houston Astros played in what was deemed a bad division. I think we won the division with 84 wins. Still won the division. Didn’t make it any less fun winning the division.”

The Astros had the 10th-best winning percentage that season.

The Tigers, for reference, have the best record in baseball, coming into Friday’s games (.667, 20-10). More than half those wins (11) came against AL Central teams, a small slice of the reason that the other teams are .500 or worse.

And factor in this, as well: Teams in the AL Central have the third-best winning percentage (.512, 40-38) against teams from other divisions in baseball. Only the NL East (.550) and the AL East (.520) rank higher, the latter only because of an 0-3 day by AL Central teams.

(hat tip to Chris Creamer for the 
standings after Wednesday’s games)
Records against other divisions:
(Heading into Friday’s games) 
NL East.......44-36..... .550
AL East.......38-35..... .520
AL Central...40-38..... .512
NL West......38-37..... .506
AL West......39-35..... .453
NL Central...25-33..... .431

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Lineups for Twins vs. Tigers, as Verlander takes on Phil Hughes

Ian Kinsler, 2B
Torii Hunter, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Austin Jackson, CF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Alex Avila, C
Andrew Romine, SS
Rajai Davis, LF

Pitcher: Justin Verlander, RHP (4-1, 2.68 ERA)

Brian Dozier, 2B
Kurt Suzuki, C
Trevor Plouffe, 3B
Chris Colabello, 1B
Jason Kubel, LF
Eduardo Nunez, DH
Chris Parmelee, RF
Aaron Hicks, CF
Danny Santana, SS

Pitcher: Phil Hughes, RHP (3-1, 4.72 ERA)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Five key plays in series finale vs. Astros

DETROIT — There’s a reason that Dallas Keuchel was the Arkansas Razorbacks’ top starter in college, ahead of Drew Smyly.

One former teammate outdueled the other Thursday afternoon, as Keuchel beat the Tigers for the second straight year, and the Astros snapped Detroit’s eight-game win streak with a 6-2 win.

The win helped the Astros (11-24) stave off a four-game sweep in the series. Keuchel was the winning pitcher the only time the Astros beat the Tigers last season, as well.

Detroit (20-10) came into the game with the best record in the big leagues, off to a start that was tied for the second-best in franchise history. Only the 1984 Tigers (25-4) started faster through the first 29 games. Detroit began the 1961 and 1978 seasons with a 20-9 record, as well.

Five key moments in the game:

Second inning >>
The frame probably should’ve been over when Austin Jackson hit a one-out grounder toward second base. But he hustled down the line and beat out the relay throw on the attempted double play by the Astros, keeping the inning going. Nick Castellanos made the Astros pay for not turning it, doubling high off the wall in right field to put the Tigers up 1-0.

Fourth inning >> Victor Martinez (above) clubbed his seventh home run of the season deep into the seats in left field. For comparison’s sake, Martinez didn’t hit his seventh home run until July 3. In 2011, he didn’t hit his seventh until Aug. 15. [CLICK HERE for video]

Fifth inning >> George Springer hit his first career home run to cut the Tigers’ lead in half, then a walk and a single set up Jose Altuve’s go-ahead double at the end of a nine-pitch at-bat. [CLICK HERE for video] Springer’s home run was the first allowed by a Tigers pitcher since May 2, ending a span of 55 1/3 innings pitched. Carlos Corporan would add a solo homer two innings later, and Matt Dominguez hit a two-run shot in the ninth. [CLICK HERE for more on the Altuve-Smyly at-bat]

Sixth inning >> Drew Smyly got himself into one final jam in the top of the sixth, putting two on with one out. Evan Reed — who’d gotten a one-pitch double play in relief of Robbie Ray Tuesday night — needed four pitches to rescue the starter this time, getting the speedy Springer to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Seventh inning >> It looked like the failure to turn a double play might cost the Astros again, as they couldn’t convert a one-out Nick Castellanos grounder into an inning-ender, extending the Tigers’ threat. With runners on the corners, Torii Hunter pinch hit for Bryan Holaday, but struck out on a checked swing.

Putkonen's first rehab appearance goes well; assignment transferred to Toledo

DETROIT — Step one of Luke Putkonen’s rehabilitation stint is complete. Now, it’s on to step two.

The right-handed reliever threw one scoreless inning of relief at Class A West Michigan on Wednesday, allowing one hit.

“It felt good,” said Putkonen, who’s been sidelined since April 19 with inflammation in his throwing elbow, something that had been bothering him since spring training. “You wanna get three outs, but I wanted to go through all my pitches, make sure I could throw everything. It went well.”

His rehabilitation assignment will now be transferred to Triple-A Toledo, where he’ll throw again on Friday.

“He said the discomfort he felt in his elbow, he didn’t feel it,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “There’s a tentative plan, but with rehab, you just gotta see how they respond with each appearance, make sure that they bounce back fine. If everything goes well, then we’ll take the next step.”

College teammates Keuchel, Smyly face off, as Tigers and Astros wrap up series

Drew Smyly and Dallas Keuchel were college teammates at Arkansas, but they'll be facing off on the mound for Thursday afternoon's game between the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros.

It's the fifth time in the last two calendar years that former teammates have started for opposing teams in Major League Baseball, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The last was USC products Ian Kennedy (San Diego) vs. Barry Zito (San Francisco) on Sept. 2 last season.

Of note, Keuchel started the only game the Astros won in last year's season series with the Tigers, the game that ended with then-Houston closer Jose Veras inducing a game-ending fly out to the warning track from Miguel Cabrera, with the bases loaded. [CLICK HERE to read that game story]

Here are the lineups for today's matchup:

Rajai Davis, LF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, DH
Victor Martinez, 1B
J.D. Martinez, RF
Austin Jackson, CF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Bryan Holaday, C
Danny Worth, SS

Pitcher: Drew Smyly (2-1, 2.45 ERA)

Jose Altuve, 2B
Jonathan Villar, SS
Dexter Fowler, CF
Jesus Guzman, 1B
Chris Carter, DH
George Springer, RF
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Carlos Corporan, C
L.J. Hoes, LF

Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (2-2, 3.96 ERA)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Five key moments in Wednesday's 3-2 win over the Astros

DETROIT — Five key moments from Wednesday’s 3-2 win over the Astros.

First inning >> Miguel Cabrera hit his second home run in as many days, after hitting just two in the team’s first 27 games of the season. The opposite-field shot, which Astros right fielder George Springer got a glove on at the wall, put the Tigers up 2-0.

Second inning >> Andrew Romine had second base stolen cleanly, but was sent back to first when home plate umpire Seth Buckminster ruled that the batter, Rajai Davis, had interfered with the throw from Astros catcher Jason Castro. Davis was out. Romine tried again with Ian Kinsler batting, and was ruled out initially. The call was challenged by Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and overturned, but it all came for naught, anyway, when Kinsler struck out looking to end the inning.

Third inning >> Center fielder Don Kelly did not take a great route on a low line drive off the bat of Marwin Gonzalez, and it rolled all the way to the wall in left-center. He would go to third on a fly out and score on a Dexter Fowler groundout, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 2-1.

Sixth inning >> Victor Martinez padded the Tigers lead, choosing the easiest way to defeat a defensive shift: Hit it far, far over the top. It was his sixth home run already.

Seventh inning >> The Astros cut it to one again with a two-out rally that knocked Rick Porcello out of the game. Marc Krauss doubled, and scored two singles later on a hit by Gonzalez. Joba Chamberlain got Jose Altuve to ground out to end the threat, and went on to strike out the side in the eighth.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Five key plays in the Tigers' 11-4 win over the Astros

DETROIT — Five key plays from the Tigers’ 11-4 win over the Astros:

First inning >> After a cue-ball double from Jose Altuve down the first-base line to start off his first-ever big-league inning, rookie Robbie Ray got Dexter Fowler to hit a simple grounder to Miguel Cabrera at first. Fowler beat Ray to the first-base bag, though, and the rookie had runners on the corners with no outs. He’d strike out the next two, then get an inning-ending groundout to pitch around the trouble.

First inning >> Torii Hunter doubled to extend his hitting streak to 13 games, then abruptly took himself out of scoring position by trying to steal third. He was thrown out by several steps by Astros catcher Jason Castro. One pitch later, Miguel Cabrera homered.

Third inning >> Brett Oberholtzer’s first four pitches of the inning were all put in play, resulting in three straight singles (the last two of the bloop variety), and a sacrifice fly making it a 2-0 game. Victor Martinez added an RBI single to extend his hit streak to nine games.

Fourth inning >> After two singles to start the inning, Austin Jackson stole his third base of the season — giving the Tigers 25 on the season, and at least one in 16 of 28 games. It paid off a batter later, as he trotted home on Danny Worth’s sacrifice fly, making it 4-0.

Sixth inning >> Ray gave up two singles to start the frame, then got Chris Carter to pop one up into shallow right field. Ian Kinsler camped under it, but dropped the ball (above), then rallied to get the force out at second. Fowler scored from third on the drop. Evan Reed needed just one pitch to induce a double play after relieving Ray.

Manager Brad Ausmus' thoughts on how to keep a starter calm in his MLB debut

Q: What do you know about how to go about keeping a guy (like Robbie Ray) making his MLB debut calm out on the mound.

I don’t know if I know anything about it, other than you try to be a calming influence to him. Do everything you can to not let the game speed up on him. That’s what happens to young players. Everything starts moving really fast. It’s Ball One, then Ball Two. Then all of a sudden, it’s first and second, and Ball One on the third guy. So you try to slow the game down, keep him focused on this pitch. Don’t be concerned with what the last pitch did, or what the last hitter did. Just the next pitch.

Q: Did you tell him anything, give him any advice?

A: "I told him he was allowed to be in uniform today, because he wasn't yesterday."

Q: Could Ray put added pressure on himself, given the knowledge he was the centerpiece of a less-than popular trade?
A: "It could, yeah. If it’s in his mind, yeah, it could. Don’t ask him about it. Because if it’s not in his mind, if you ask him now it will be."

Tigers and Astros lineups, as Robbie Ray makes his MLB debut

Prospect Robbie Ray makes his big-league debut Tuesday night against the Astros.

Here are the lineups for the two teams, as the Tigers look to make it seven wins in a row, and nine of 10:

Ian Kinsler, 2B
Torii Hunter, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
J.D. Martinez, LF
Austin Jackson, CF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Alex Avila, C
Danny Worth, SS

Pitcher: Robbie Ray, LHP

Jose Altuve, 2B
Dexter Fowler, CF
Jason Castro, C
Chris Carter, DH
Jesus Guzman, 1B
George Springer, RF
Matt Dominguez, 3B
L.J. Hoes, LF
Jonathan Villar, SS

Pitcher: Brett Oberholtzer, LHP

Ortega optioned to Toledo to make room for Ray on active roster

DETROIT — Robbie Ray will make his big-league debut on Tuesday.

That’s been known for nearly a week.

What was not obvious was how the Tigers were going to get him on the roster.

Now that’s known, too.

Detroit outrighted the contract of Jordan Lennerton to Triple-A Toledo to clear a spot on the 40-man roster early Monday afternoon, then opened a spot on the active roster by optioning reliever Jose Ortega to Toledo after Monday’s game.

The 25-year-old Ortega has a wicked-looking ERA of 27.00 after giving up four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings in his only appearance of the season on April 26, after being called up as reinforcement for a taxed bullpen that day.

Five key plays in the Tigers' 2-0 win over the Astros Monday

DETROIT — Five key plays in the Tigers’ 2-0 win over the Astros on Monday.

• Seventh inning >> After an error and a walk put two on, Andrew Romine laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to put both in scoring position, and Rajai Davis singled through the drawn-in infield for the game’s first run. Davis is hitting .435 (10-for-23) with runners in scoring position this season. [CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO]

• Eighth inning >> Right after being posted to a 1-0 lead, Max Scherzer walked the Astros’ No. 8 hitter, Marc Krauss, to lead off the next half-inning. Jonathan Villar singled to put two on with one out, but Scherzer got out of it with a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play, with Alex Avila gunning out Krauss’ pinch runner, Marwin Gonzalez, at third. [CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO]

• Eighth inning >> Victor Martinez added an insurance run with a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the eighth, off Wayne State and Trenton High product Anthony Bass. It extended his hitting streak to eight games. [CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO]

• Fifth inning >> Ian Kinsler is hit by a pitch with one out, and proceeds to swipe his first base since April 17. Until replay overturns it, that is. Astros manager Bo Porter challenged the initial safe ruling, and replay (after a delay of 1:42) showed that the high tag from Jose Altuve came down before Kinsler’s feet came down on the bag.

• First inning >> The Tigers had runners on the corners after an error and a single to start the game, but Jarred Cosart got out of the potential jam pretty easily with a double play to the first baseman off the bat of Miguel Cabrera. Ian Kinsler was caught off third and doubled off. Victor Martinez struck out looking to end the inning. [CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO]

Monday, May 5, 2014

For the first time in a year, VMart strikes out looking

DETROIT — It’s rare, but it does happen, apparently.

For the first time in just less than one calendar year — to be exact, 154 games, including the postseason — Victor Martinez has struck out looking.

Houston starter Jarred Cosart got Martinez on a 94-mph four-seam fastball for a called third strike in the first inning of Monday’s game.

It was the first time VMart had been called out on strikes in 579 at-bats, dating back to his final at-bat on May 21, 2013. Cleveland’s Matt Albers was the last to get Martinez looking.

He struck out swinging 45 times in the stretch since then.

Lineups as Tigers open four-game series vs. Astros

The Tigers open their homestand with four games against the Houston Astros. Detroit won six of seven in last year's season series with Houston.

Ian Kinsler, 2B
Torii Hunter, RF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Austin Jackson, CF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Alex Avila, C
Andrew Romine, SS
Rajai Davis, LF

Pitcher: Max Scherzer (3-1, 2.08 ERA)

Jose Altuve, 2B
Dexter Fowler, CF
Jason Castro, C
Chris Carter, DH
Alex Presley, LF
George Springer, RF
Marc Krauss, 1B
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Jonathan Villar, SS

Pitcher: Jarred Cosart (1-2, 5.52 ERA)

Friday, May 2, 2014

Reports: Tigers have agreed to deal with reliever Joel Hanrahan

According to several published reports, the Detroit Tigers have signed former Pirates and Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan to a deal.

The deal was first reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

The Tigers have a conference call scheduled for noon, but no details of the subject matter were given.

Hanrahan is coming off Tommy John surgery a year ago, but worked out for scouts in the last few weeks.

The Tigers said they'd be at the workout, and were one of the five teams in serious talks with the reliever, Heyman reported earlier this week.