UPDATE: Trevor Bauer was a last-minute scratch with an illness after trying to long-toss before his start. Left-hander T.J. House starts in his place. The Tigers lineup, which already had Rajai Davis in it but also has Alex Avila in it, stays the same.
Davis got the start today over Anthony Gose against what was supposed to be Bauer, who has slight reverse splits for his career but has been pretty much stingy against everybody this season (4-for-30 with 17 strikeouts vs. right-handed hitters, 4-for-34 with 9 walks and 9 K’s against lefties). Gose’s four-strikeout also likely played into the move.
“He’s just in a little bit of a funk right now,” Brad Ausmus said. “He’s not swinging like he was a week ago. It doesn’t hurt to give him a day to regroup and work on some things in the cage.”
Weatherwise, it appears Detroit has lucked out today. While most of the Midwest is getting drenched today — the White Sox already canceled their game against the Royals — the storm system is expected to stay to the south of Motown, allowing for a cold, dry afternoon of baseball at Comerica Park.
Reminder: Today’s game is on Fox Sports 1, rather than Fox Sports Detroit. Check your TV provider for the channel number.
TIGERS (career numbers off T.J. House)
- Rajai Davis, CF (1-for-1, walk)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-1, walk)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-2, HR)
- Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-2, walk)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-2)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (0-for-1, K)
- Alex Avila, C
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-1, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-1)
P: Alfredo Simon
INDIANS (career numbers off Alfredo Simon)
- Michael Bourn, CF (4-for-6, 2 K’s)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (2-for-8, double, walk, K)
- Michael Brantley, LF (7-for-12, 3 doubles, walk)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (4-for-12, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Brandon Moss, RF (1-for-4, K)
- David Murphy, DH (3-for-6, double, 2 walks, HBP)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (2-for-10, double, HR, K)
- Brett Hayes, C
- Jose Ramirez, SS (1-for-4)
Trevor Bauer T.J. House
Alex Avila bats ahead of Nick Castellanos in the order for the second straight game, which is the order we all expected coming out of Spring Training before Brad Ausmus flipped them for Opening Day. It breaks up the string of right-handed batters, Ausmus said, but it’s something he wasn’t doing for the first 2 1/2 weeks.
“I think Alex has shown that he’s swung the bat a little better,” Ausmus said, “so I feel like there’s less risk involved now.”
Other than that, it’s the standard lineup against right-handers, and a lineup of mixed results against Danny Salazar. J.D. Martinez has yet to make contact against Salazar in seven plate appearances (one walk, six strikeouts), while Miguel Cabrera is 5-for-13 with six strikeouts.
- Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-0, walk, hit-by-pitch)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-10, HR, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-13, double, HR, 6 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-14, HR, walk)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-6, walk, 6 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Alex Avila, C (2-for-5, walk, 3 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (3-for-8, 2 doubles, 2 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-5, K)
P: Shane Greene
- Michael Bourn, CF
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (0-for-3)
- Michael Brantley, LF (1-for-3)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (0-for-3, K)
- Brandon Moss, RF
- David Murphy, DH (0-for-2, K)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (0-for-2)
- Roberto Perez, C
- Jose Ramirez, SS
P: Danny Salazar
A month ago, the debate was what Joe Nathan exactly said about the fans in Detroit. It now appears he won’t throw another pitch in front of them, or if he throws another pitch at all.
Though Nathan talked about trying a comeback from his torn UCL and flexor pronator, it would appear likely he threw his final pitch on the mound at Triple-A Toledo on a chilly April afternoon before thousands of schoolkids. It would be an odd ending for one of the greatest closers of his generation. But then, Nathan’s Tiger tenure in general never quite went to script.
In the end, it will probably be regarded nationally a footnote on a great career, and locally as one of those Tigers closer acquisitions that didn’t work out (Troy Percival and Ugueth Urbina were others, but Nathan did more in his season than Percival and Urbina did in theirs).
As Nathan grew emotional talking with reporters this morning, you could sense that the gravity of the career was hitting him, whether it’s over or not.
“I want people to understand,” Nathan said. “I think people sometimes don’t realize how much work and effort goes into playing this game, to just the last couple of years but over the course of a career. Playing this game and going out there, preparing yourself every day, the things sometimes we have to do, take anti-inflammatories on a daily basis, get numerous cortisone shots. Trainers are in there hours on end, trying to make sure we’re physically ready to go. It’s tough, and we wouldn’t have it any other way, but unfortunately these things do happen. I busted my butt just like I always have to get myself ready for [Wednesday]. So I prepared myself for that, and it was going well. That was the frustrating thing, the outing was going well, the bullpen session beforehand was great, didn’t feel anything, then first pitch to the third batter felt something I never felt before. Felt a pop, knew something wasn’t good, give myself a minute to settle in and try and throw another pitch. Obviously that didn’t go so well.
“The emotional thing, the frustrating thing is what we do to prepare ourselves, and what we do to prepare every year to get ourselves ready. Coming in this year, shoot, I had a cortisone shot Saturday night when I landed and then pitched on Opening Day on Monday to make sure I was ready for that. It just shows what these trainers do for us, what we do to get ourselves ready. It does become very emotional and yesterday was a very tough day.”
Nathan spent the bulk of his offseason trying to get himself in shape for a rebound, trying to give himself a chance to pitch better than he did for longer than he did last year. With one pop in the arm, that work is now done, and it’s questionable at best whether any amount of work will get him back on the mound.
“My motto in this game has always been throw ’til you blow. Unfortunately, yesterday I did blow,” Nathan said. “One of those things that I’ve been proud of my career, I’ve been proud of the things I’ve done. It’s always been about hard work and getting myself ready, so this will be no different. I will prepare myself to get ready and bust my butt to see whatever’s in store for me in the future.”
In the end, he might end up being remembered in Detroit more for what he did against the Tigers than for him. He was not only beloved in Minnesota, he was dominant, especially against the Tigers. Still, he credited as many people as he could Thursday.
On his time in Detroit, Nathan said, “It’s baseball. It’s not easy. My time here has not been easy, but it’s also been pleasurable. I’ve gotten a chance to meet great fans. I’ve gotten a chance to hang out with great people in this organization, meet great people in this organization from the front office, on down to the guys who work outside, security, people that work on the field for us, take care of us out there, to great individuals in this clubhouse.
“There’s tough times with everything. No matter what you do, you’re going to have tough times. It’s about picking yourself up, and getting back up, and creating good relationships, even from things that start off bad.”
During the winter caravan (he volunteered to wait tables at a Buffalo Wild Wings in a teammate’s place), then TigerFest, then Spring Training, there was a sense he wanted to mend that relationship. His quotes after being booed in Lakeland thwarted that, even if they didn’t come out the way he had hoped. Still, he got a better reception than expected on Opening Day, and a strong start might well have won some fans back. It didn’t go right; not much here really did for him.
Maybe he does make it back, but it almost surely won’t be here. His legacy in Detroit is pretty much what it is. He’ll have to handle that as an end point on a much better career.
“I do know what’s in front of me,” Nathan said. “I’m also smart enough to realize that if things don’t work out, I have nothing to be upset about. I played baseball until I was 40 years old. If you would have told me when I started this I’d be playing baseball when I was 40, I’d have been ecstatic. I’m very happy with the way my career has gone, but like I said, I’m not done yet.”
Where Nathan ranks all-time:
Saves: 377, 7th
Games finished: 586, 17th
Games pitched: 777, tied for 52nd
A little late on this, but here it is. Just a regular day off for Jose Iglesias, according to Brad Ausmus, who expects to do more of this on day games after night games.
“We still have to be somewhat cognizant of the injury that Iglesias had last year, and give him — at least for a period of time — some breaks,” Ausmus said, “more than you would another regular.”
Hernan Perez thus gets a second start. Also, Alex Avila and Nick Castellanos were subtly flipped in the batting order.
On the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira both get the day off, giving the Yankees two fewer power threats against Anibal Sanchez.
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Alex Avila, C
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Hernan Perez, SS
P: Anibal Sanchez
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
- Brett Gardner, LF
- Carlos Beltran, DH
- Brian McCann, C
- Chase Headley, 3B
- Chris Young, RF
- Garrett Jones, 1B
- Stephen Drew, 2B
- Didi Gregorius, SS
P: Masahiro Tanaka
Joe Nathan will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with tears of the ulnar collateral ligament and flexor pronator in his right arm, ending his season and potentially his career.
Victor Martinez is in the lineup once again. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets a day off against Tanaka for the day game after the night game.
The forecast for tonight calls for temperatures around 43 degrees at game time with a chance of rain, dropping into the 30s by 10pm.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Adam Warren)
- Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-3)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-2)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (0-for-3, walk)
- Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-2, walk)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-2, 2 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (0-for-6, walk, 3 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-2, triple)
- Alex Avila, C (0-for-2)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (3-for-4, K)
P: David Price
YANKEES (career numbers vs. Price)
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (19-for-54, 5 doubles, 2 triples, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Chris Young, LF (0-for-5, walk, 2 K’s)
- Alex Rodriguez, DH (10-for-43, 3 doubles, triple, HR, 6 walks, 17 K’s)
- Mark Teixeira, 1B (12-for-56, 3 doubles, 3 HR, 5 walks, 6 K’s)
- Brian McCann, C (7-for-14, 3 HR, walk, K)
- Carlos Beltran, RF (3-for-15, 5 K’s)
- Chase Headley, 3B (2-for-6, 2 K’s)
- Gregorio Petit, 2B
- Didi Gregorius, SS
P: Adam Warren
Tigers reliever Joe Nathan underwent an examination and tests Wednesday afternoon after leaving his rehab appearance at Triple-A Toledo earlier in the day with what appeared to be a recurrence of his right flexor injury.
Nathan was scheduled to throw one inning and up to 25 pitches in the Mud Hens’ Wednesday morning game against Louisville. He had thrown 10 pitches (seven for strikes) with a groundout and a strikeout when his first-pitch fastball to Louisville’s Bryson Smith left him in pain.
“He felt a pop,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “He thought it was possibly scar tissue, tried to throw another pitch, but it didn’t go so well. So we’re going to get it checked out.”
Nathan threw a warmup pitch but was clearly in pain, and he promptly left the game. Nathan’s fastball registered at 88-89 mph, with a few sliders mixed in at 85, according to John Wagner of the Toledo Blade.
#Tigers “I’ve never broken my arm in my life, but I assume this is what it feels like.” ~Nathan
— JWagnerBlade (@jwagnerblade) April 22, 2015
Nathan made a brief appearance at Comerica Park before heading out for an examination. Ausmus said they’re hoping for preliminary results Wednesday night.
Nathan, who went on the 15-day DL two weeks ago with a right elbow flexor strain, was anticipating Wednesday’s appearance being his final step towards a return as soon as Friday. Ausmus hadn’t committed to that timetable, preferring to wait and see how Nathan felt.
“It’s frustrating,” Ausmus said, “because I think he felt like he was close.”
Joakim Soria is 5-for-5 in save opportunities in Nathan’s absence, creating some suspense as to what the Tigers will do in the ninth inning once Nathan returns. That decision now appears to be on hold while they wait to see the extent of Nathan’s injury.
Regardless of the role, the Tigers felt like getting Nathan back was going to be a boost.
“It hurts,” Ausmus said. “Like I’ve said, we’re a better bullpen with Joe in it.”
A longer-term absence for Nathan could put more sense of urgency on getting hard-throwing youngster Bruce Rondon back. He has been on the disabled list since the start of the season with biceps tendinitis, and had his own setback earlier.
Rondon threw a brief bullpen session in Lakeland on Tuesday, according to Ausmus, and supposedly felt fine. He’s expected to throw a full bullpen from there, and continue his progression towards facing hitters and a possible rehab stint.
Joe Nathan could be ready to return from the disabled list by the end of the week. And the Tigers, in turn, could soon have to make a decision on a closer.
Nathan, who has spent the last couple weeks on the disabled list with a right elbow flexor strain, is scheduled to make a rehab appearance Wednesday for Triple-A Toledo. The Mud Hens have a 10:30 a.m. game scheduled as part of a School Celebration Day promotion, meaning much of the crowd at Fifth Third Field will be school kids on field trips.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Nathan said. “They said I could start the game. I said, ‘No, thank you.’ I said I’ll treat it as a regular routine, but I think that was more so I don’t have to throw at 10:30.”
Though Nathan said he hasn’t discussed the next step beyond that with Tigers officials, he said he could probably be ready to return on Friday after a day to rest his arm.
Manager Brad Ausmus was noncommittal on such a timetable, though that isn’t unusual for him given the way rehab stints for Justin Verlander and Bruce Rondon hit obstacles.
“It could be one [rehab appearance],” Ausmus said Tuesday. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Ausmus has steered clear of questions about the closer role for the past several days. That included his postgame press conference Monday night after Joakim Soria wrapped up his fifth save in as many opportunities with a perfect ninth inning.
“We’ll worry about that when Nathan comes back,” said Ausmus, who said last week in Pittsburgh that the plan was for Nathan to return from the DL as the closer.
The time might be coming up this weekend.
Nathan said he has been very happy with his recovery from an injury that has given other relievers more lingering problems.
“From a lot of the history with this injury, it’s a big question mark. It could take a long time,” Nathan said. “Flexor injuries before, from the guys that I’ve known that have had them, can tend to linger on for quite a bit. Credit to the training staff and patience. We did the right thing when we needed to, and hopefully we’re on the tail end of it now.
“I don’t want to say we’re out of the woods by any means. We still have bruising and stuff to deal with. But from where it was to now, it’s very minor.”
The big question of batting Victor Martinez against right-handed pitchers has its first answer: He’s starting tonight against Nathan Eovaldi. It’s Martinez’s first start against a right-handed starting pitcher in a week, but it’s something Martinez made clear he wanted to do after last night’s win.
“Victor is in there,” Ausmus said today, “said he feels good. He actually looked a lot better yesterday than he did the day before.”
The Tigers are facing right-handed starters the rest of the week, both from the Yankees and Cleveland. Ausmus says he’s going to play it by ear based on how Martinez feels. Still, it would not be a surprise if Martinez gets a game off, though maybe not multiple games.
Kyle Lobstein brings the spectacled look to Detroit tonight. He’s going to wear them for all night games, he said, as well as many day games. There might be some matinees, he said, where he goes back to the contacts.
Reminder: Tonight is an FSD Plus game with the Red Wings playing Game 3 of their playoff series against the Lightning over at Joe Louis Arena. Consult your local listings for where FSD Plus is on your system. It’s still an MLB.TV game.
TIGERS (career numbers off Eovaldi)
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-3, K)
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (3-for-7, double)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Avila, C (0-for-2, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-2, K)
P: Kyle Lobstein
YANKEES (numbers off Lobstein)
- Jacoby Ellsbury, CF (1-for-3)
- Brett Gardner, LF (0-for-2)
- Alex Rodriguez, DH
- Mark Teixeira, 1B (0-for-2, walk)
- Brian McCann, C (0-for-2)
- Chris Young, RF
- Chase Headley, 3B (0-for-2)
- Stephen Drew, SS
- Gregorio Petit, 2B
P: Nathan Eovaldi
The Tigers have a plan with Victor Martinez and his left knee. It did not include pinch-running for Martinez in the seventh inning of a close game, even though he represented the go-ahead run.
“I don’t want that bat out of the lineup in the seventh,” manager Brad Ausmus said afterward. “As a matter of fact, when the seventh was over, I think if he went 1-2-3 (the next inning), then in the ninth we would’ve had Victor on deck (if somebody got on base). That’s a huge difference when Miguel Cabrera’s hitting.”
Nor, however, did the plan involve leaving Martinez as an easy out at the plate if Yoenis Cespedes could follow J.D. Martinez with a single.
“Victor, we all know he’s dealing with an injury right now and on top of that, he’s not the fastest guy,” J.D. Martinez said. “Talking to [first-base coach] Omar [Vizquel] about it when I was at first, I said, ‘If they send him, are we going?’ He said, ‘Yeah, go, get in a pickle.’ Pickle, rundown.”
In an inning with a couple different examples of smart baserunning, that was a good one.
When asked if he was confident he’d score, Victor Martinez said, “I don’t know about confident, but I know that it was going to be a good run for us late in the game, especially the way those two guys were pitching. It was a good play by J.D., though. He did the best thing to stay in the rundown and make sure that I score.”
Ausmus did not want to take Victor Martinez’s bat out of the lineup with the potential to have him up in a tie game in the ninth. Whether and when he’s taking Martinez out of the lineup is going to be worth following the next few days.
“There’s a plan in place, and I won’t get into specifics, but hopefully it works,” Ausmus said.
Monday marked Martinez’s third consecutive start against a left-handed pitcher. Tuesday marks the first of three consecutive right-handed starting pitchers for the Yankees against Detroit, beginning with Nathan Eovaldi.
Batting left-handed has been troublesome for Martinez and his left knee. It was a point of discussion for Ausmus and others Monday.
“There have been some times when we’ve had to tell him not to hit left-handed,” Ausmus said, “and then there are days when he’s felt strong enough to do it, and we let him take some swings.”
He has swings that look ugly batting left-handed, that look agonizing on the surgically repaired knee. He also has swings that produce base hits, six of them (all singles) in 22 at-bats against righties. He has good days and bad, but they have to determine whether the bad ones are playable.
“We’re going to play it by ear, see how he is,” Ausmus said. “I don’t know how much we can dive into it with Victor. He’s not 100 percent. He’s got the ability to hit. We hope that it heals while we’re doing this, but if it gets to a point where it’s not healing anymore, then we’ll do something else.”
Even playing it by ear, it would seem to be a major surprise if Martinez plays three games in a throw batting primarily left-handed. It would be more shocking if Martinez didn’t play at all the next few games. The trick the Tigers have to figure out, or outline, is where they could sit in between.
Play of the game: Since there’s already a defensive category below, the play goes to Rajai Davis tagging up from first base in the seventh inning on Ian Kinsler’s fly ball into the left-field corner, a play Davis said he was confident he could make. “I would challenge anyone on that one, no matter who they were,” Davis said. “As deep as that ball was, he’d have to make a perfect throw.”
Out of the game: Iglesias’ play and throw across his body on a hop to rob Brett Gardner on a ground ball in the hole in the sixth inning is the highlight defensive play of the Tigers’ homestand so far. “That’s a tough play, especially with Gardner running,” Ausmus said, “because he’s a legitimate speed guy, a Major League steal threat type guy. And I know Iglesias was playing him a little bit in because of his speed, but to make that play and get a runner like Gardner was pretty impressive. That’s probably the best play we’ve seen from him all season.
Strategery: J.D. Martinez induced the rundown between second and third that left no play on Victor Martinez at the plate with the go-ahead run. “Talking to [first-base coach] Omar [Vizquel] about it when I was at first, I said, ‘If they send him, are we going?’ He said, ‘Yeah, go, get in a pickle.'”
Line of the game: Alfredo Simon improved to 3-0 by tossing 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball on seven hits, walking none and striking out seven.
Stat of the game: Alfredo Simon induced 11 ground-ball outs and no fly-ball outs, according to MLB.com Gameday.