March 2007

Mesa suspended two games

As if the Tigers aren’t losing enough players as it is, Jose Mesa will miss the first two games next week. He’ll serve out a suspension he received with the Rockies for intentionally throwing at Omar Vizquel Mark Sweeney last September. It was originally a three-game suspension when it was issued last year, but he appealed it down.

For those looking for the background on what got Mesa suspended, here’s the story from the Rockies site last September.

What a day

Talk about closing out 6 1/2 weeks in Lakeland with a bang.

Losing Rogers for half a season is undoubtedly huge, and with four established starters now instead of five, it could even up the Tigers’ pitching staff with the White Sox while closing the gap with the Twins. But what the Tigers arguably gained with a new deal for Guillen is something. I don’t know what it will mean in 2011, when Guillen could be a 36-year-old converted shortstop playing second or first base or the outfield or something, but it means plenty now.

Signing Jeremy Bonderman and Brandon Inge to long-term deals was one thing. Signing Guillen was another. He’s at the peak of his game now, and he could’ve been one of the more sought-after free agents on the market who might have easily topped $12 million a year from another major-market team. He took less to stay with the Tigers. The club gave more to gave him some insurance. And there you have a deal.

I told somebody today I could’ve never have imagined three years ago that guys would’ve wanted so badly to re-sign with Detroit for less than market value. I feel like I’m watching what used to be a small-market club become a major-market club, which is pretty impressive in a metro area you keep hearing is shrinking.

Rogers out three months

Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers is expected to miss three months after undergoing surgery Friday to remove a blood clot and repair two arteries in his left shoulder.

It was a worse-case scenario for what was originally hoped to be a relatively minor procedure, and it ends up becoming a potentially major blow to Detroit’s defense of its American League championship.

The 42-year-old Rogers was placed on the 15-day disabled list Thursday with what was then listed as a fatigued arm. The original diagnosis was a blood clot, but the Tigers hoped it would be easier to repair. Pitcher Craig Dingman, for example, missed just a few weeks this spring after doctors removed a blood clot from his shoulder.

President/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Thursday that they hoped it wasn’t a long-term injury. Those hopes were dashed once Rogers had further examination from Dr. Greg Pearl, a specialist based out of Baylor University.

"The treatment of the blood clot was done a little bit differently," Dombrowski said.

Dr. Pearl had previous experience with Rogers, having performed surgery to clear an artery in the same shoulder back in 2001. Friday’s surgery removed a clot and repaired both the axillary and brachial arteries. The brachial artery runs down the arm before splitting into two arteries. The axillary artery runs in the middle of the shoulder.

Rogers will be under complete rest for about a month and is expected to resume throwing in 6-8 weeks. Given that timetable, Dombrowski said it would be "probably three months until you would anticipate him" pitching for the Tigers again.

Chad Durbin, who was moved out of the bullpen to replace Rogers in the rotation for at least one start, will remain the team’s fifth starter with the longer-term injury, Dombrowski said.

"I can’t look you in the eye and say Chad Durbin’s as good as Kenny Rogers," Dombrowski said. "But it doesn’t mean he can’t fill the role of a fifth starter and win enough ballgames to get us to the point where Kenny comes back or somebody else in ready. That’s why you have depth in the organization."

Vance to DL

Listed as a sore elbow, but he says it feels like some sort of pinched nerve. Mike Rabelo is recalled to take his place.

Rogers on DL

He’s listed with a fatigued arm and is being examined today. Chad Durbin moves into the rotation, with Bobby Seay called up to the bullpen. Dave Dombrowski sounded optimistic it wasn’t serious but was not sure.

Leyland: I [messed] it up

It’ll be in a piece this weekend for the opening day package, but Jim Leyland put losing the AL Central last year on his shoulders when I asked about whether his team handles pressure better now. He wasn’t asked about finishing second in the division, but he went there himself.

"Basically, I [messed] it up at the end. We should’ve won the division. But they’ve been through a lot of stuff now. They’ve been to the World Series, been through blowing the division. When I say that, I say me. But we’ve been through a lot, so those things are all good. I mean, you learn from those things. Had a great start, looked like we should’ve walked away with the division. We didn’t even win it. But we also, at the same time, could’ve caved in, and we went and beat the Yankees in the playoffs. Played our [tails] off, got to the World Series."

When I asked why he places it on himself, he said:

"Well, I just think I probably didn’t get the focus back on the importance of finishing the deal, because I thought it was good to let them — they accomplished something. I mean, some of these guys got their [tails] beat to the tune of a hundred and some games."

Fan satisfaction rankings

In a surprising turnaround, the Tigers ranked second among Major League teams (behind the Angels) and 12th among all pro sports teams in a fan poll conducted by ESPN.com. The survey involved more categories than I care to explain, so I’ll just let you look at it for yourself. The Pistons are fifth, the Red Wings aren’t far back from the Tigers, and the Lions are dead last.

Interestingly, the Tigers placed in the top 10 for baseball teams in stadium experience with the same ballpark that used to draw low ratings. Winning makes any ballpark look good, and losing can make a lot of ballparks look bad.

Whatever happened to Urbina?

A prison sentence, and a long one at that. He was sentenced to 14 years for attempted murder, among other charges:

The 32-year-old free agent was accused of joining a group of men in attacking and injuring workers with machetes and pouring gasoline on them at his family’s ranch, located about 25 miles south of Caracas.

"The ruling was too severe," said Jose Antonio Baez, a former attorney who represented Urbina.

Urbina repeatedly has denied involvement with the violence, saying he was sleeping at the time of the attack.

That's not really why it's called AAA, but …

A lot of stuff today, but an overall theme emerged: Toledo is insurance for Detroit this year.

If any day demonstrated the difference between Double-A and Triple-A ball in the minor leagues, this was it for the Tigers. While Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin start out at Class A Lakeland hoping to make the jump to Erie, you’re looking at a lot of just-in-case scenarios for the Mud Hens. Chris Shelton is the first baseman in case Sean Casey goes down. Brent Clevlen will see time in center field in case Curtis Granderson gets hurt. Ramon Santiago is the shortstop if Carlos Guillen is injured. Zach Miner is the insurance starter, at least until Miller is ready or someone like Jordan Tata has a solid start.

Dombrowski said this morning that he now thinks of a roster as 30-32 players instead of just 25. Leyland said he goes into a season expecting to use somewhere in that range as far as players go. Those extra players end up at Triple-A.

The Mud Hens will still be about development with Shelton, Clevlen and pitchers like Virgil Vasquez. But more than anything, Leyland wants guys ready to step up if the Tigers need some help. Considering the age the Tigers have at certain positions, it’s a pretty big role. You don’t see that kind of role very often at Double-A. Coaches at the Triple-A level have to strike a balance, which is what makes Larry Parrish and Bull Durham (and what made Jeff Jones) so valuable.

Meanwhile, Leyland was pointed and direct in his summary of Chris Shelton’s scenario, suggesting he wouldn’t have had this situation had he hit a little better over the summer, prompting the Tigers to deal for Casey. Shelton was not happy about the move, but this might work to his favor. Alan Trammell used to say around this time that he had no problem with guys getting ticked off when they were sent down, that he liked players who wanted to prove him wrong. Leyland didn’t quite put it that way, saying the manager takes the hit on these days each spring when players get ticked off.

Among Leyland’s comments on Shelton was this: "If we didn’t think Chris was a valuable part of our organization, we wouldn’t have sent him to Toledo. We would’ve released him."

More of note …

  • The Tigers released Felix Heredia because they didn’t see a spot for him helping out the Tigers. He did not ask for his release, but Dave Dombrowski said they wanted to give him a chance to find another place before the season begins. Statistically, he wasn’t bad at all — nine innings, seven hits, two earned runs, six strikeouts — but he didn’t show what he needed.
  • Dombrowski mentioned Tim Byrdak as a left-handed relief option should the Tigers need one later on. He did not mention Joey Eischen, though that might be because Eischen has further to go in his comeback attempt from rotator cuff surgery. Byrdak had bone chips removed from his elbow last year.
  • The more Leyland talks about Ryan Raburn, the easier it is to imagine him getting called up as a utility player at some point this year. That said, if Omar Infante plays to his capability, their skills kind of overlap.
  • Leyland on Bobby Seay: "Bobby Seay was heartbroken. He pitched his [tail] off. He probably threw as many strikes as anyone." He also said Seay pitched better than he did last year, when he made the team out of camp.
  • Though this is usually the week when trades get made and waiver pickups abound, Dombrowski said he isn’t expecting to make any moves. Still, Durbin said he doesn’t consider himself as having made the team until/unless he’s there for the first pitch on opening day.
  • Someone emailed me the other day asking why Leyland is so fixated on taking 12 pitchers instead of 11 and keeping someone like Shelton. Leyland said he doesn’t want to be in a position where he’s exhausting pitchers early on. He said today what he has said before, "I’d rather have 13 than 11."
  • Nate Robertson will stay behind for an extra day when the team heads north. He’ll pitch in a minor-league game in Lakeland Sunday morning, then fly up later in the day.

Last spots

Durbin gets the open relief spot. Neifi gets last spot on bench. Santiago cleared waivers and is optioned to Toledo with Shelton and Miner. Heredia was released. Everyone else sent to minor league camp.

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