April 2007

Bonderman's blister

Today was the first day I had heard of it, but Bonderman believes it comes from a change in grip that he made on his two-seamer back in Spring Training. He doesn’t believe it’s something that will affect his starts. He might not throw a side session before his next start Sunday at Kansas City, but he’s pretty certain he’ll make that outing.

"I’m a little concerned about it," manager Jim Leyland admitted after the game. "It’s something obviously you’ve got to get taken care of, because you can’t go through that all the time, not knowing if it’s going to irritate you."

It’s one of several concerns right now for Leyland, who’s understandably worried about Carlos Guillen’s biceps tendinitis. Guillen said his arm felt better today, and he’s doing exercises to keep strengthening it. Still, when Leyland hears about a pinching feeling, he wonders why that’s going on.

Don’t expect a switch of positions to be an option. As Leyland put it, "He’s my shortstop. If he can’t play shortstop, we’re in trouble."

Casey out

He’s feeling better after his bout with a stomach virus Sunday, but Leyland wants to give him at least a day to regain his energy. It’ll probably be two days since lefty Adam Loewen is starting for the O’s on Tuesday.

Here’s the lineup:

  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Sheffield, DH
  4. Ordonez, RF
  5. Guillen, SS
  6. Rodriguez, C
  7. Monroe, LF
  8. Thames, 1B
  9. Inge, 3B

Also, Mesa will head down to Toledo for a brief rehab assignment. He’ll pitch two innings or 25 pitches on Tuesday, then rejoin the club Wednesday. If everything’s all right from there, he’ll be activated.

Sendy Vasquez suspended

Class A Lakeland right-hander Sendy Vasquez was suspended for 50 games today for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. The suspension is retroactive to last Friday. Vasquez was 0-3 through four starts with an 8.20 ERA, having allowed 25 hits and 11 walks over 18 2/3 innings. Also suspended today was former Tiger Matt Roney for what the commissioner’s office termed a "substance of abuse."

Sunday extra: Zumaya gets advice

If Sunday was the day that Joel Zumaya started to break out of his pitching funk with his 1 1/3 scoreless innings, he can give a little thanks Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones for helping chase it. Neither will take credit, but their talks with Zumaya helped chase out some of the frustrations Zumaya was battling on top of his inconsistent location.

"It will humble you," Rogers said. "If you get too high, for lack of a better word, it will bring you down to where you realize this game isn’t as easy as I hoped it would be or thought it would be."

Rogers talked to Zumaya before batting practice Sunday morning about not letting his frustrations get the better of him, among other things. He went as far as to say it’s not a bad thing for him to struggle on occasion.

"We all understand what he’s capable of doing," Rogers said. "He’s entitled to struggle once in a while. He’s going to. You just hope his struggles are going to be limited.

Jones talked with him about being patient with trying to get back in sync.

"What he’s got to realize," Jones said, "is he’s used to looking in the paper and seeing a 1.90 ERA and a bunch of strikeouts and no walks. What he’s got to do now is [realize] he can’t try to get it all back in one outing. That’s a tough thing for a young guy to try and learn. You’ve just got to start piecing things back together. That’s what I was trying to stress to him the most.

"I don’t care about how he pitches on a particular outing, because he’s going to be fine. Everybody has hiccups. But what you can do is help a guy who hasn’t been through that, give him a blueprint to help him get out of it. And as a guy who’s had his brains beat up several times, I feel like I’m an expert on it."

As for Zumaya’s radar gun readings, including a handful of mid-90s and one fastball topping out at 100, he said he was throwing two- and four-seamers to try to get a feel for it again. He’s not proclaiming that he’s back yet, not with two walks out of the six batters he faced.

"I’m not going to get ahead of myself," he said. "It’s not going to be over with in three days, but it’s the beginning of it. I feel more comfortable. My ball was down in the zone and I was working my fastball pretty good. Now let’s just get that breaking ball over and I’ll be OK."

Pudge back in lineup

He’s leading off against Johan Santana today after saying yesterday that he felt "a lot better." Granderson stays in center rather than inserting Omar Infante, who’s 0-for-16 with a walk and seven strikeouts for his career versus Santana.

  1. Rodriguez, C
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Sheffield, DH
  4. Ordonez, RF
  5. Guillen, SS
  6. Monroe, LF
  7. Thames, 1B
  8. Inge, 3B
  9. Granderson, CF

Also, Jose Mesa threw his second bullpen session this morning and appears set to either go on a quick rehab stint or be activated when he becomes eligible in the next couple days.

Rough times for young pitchers

If Joel Zumaya’s outing Wednesday was partly a result of Zumaya becoming too confident, Friday was the outing that proves that even Zumaya can be hittable.

This wasn’t Zumaya struggling to find the strike zone. I’m not sure it was even Zumaya leaving pitches over the heart of the plate. If anything, Joe Mauer’s go-ahead hit should be more of a humbling experience than Wednesday. Zumaya made a pretty good pitch, and a batting champ found a way to drop it in for a hit. It wasn’t a mammoth home run like Ken Griffey Jr. last year; it was arguably tougher.

Zumaya knows he can’t simply overpower hitters. That’s why he has worked to mix in his curveball. But he’s learning now that good hitters can still sit on his fastball if the curveball isn’t going to be an out pitch. Young pitchers, as good as they are, go through that.

It’s tough being Zumaya right now, but it’s also tough being Andrew Miller, who was hit around for eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings Friday night for Class A Lakeland.

No Pudge

He’s out today with a bone bruise on his left foot from fouling a ball off of it Tuesday night. He stayed in the game that night, obviously, but it got worse. He was still limping as he walked through the clubhouse this afternoon, but he’s considered day-to-day.

Rabelo starts in his place to catch Robertson. That means the only Tigers starter he will not have caught yet this season is Chad Durbin, the guy he caught at Triple-A Toledo last year. In case you’re wondering, Neifi Perez is the emergency catcher, even though his only appearance behind the plate was in 1997.

Other than that, it’s pretty much the regular lineup:

  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Sheffield, DH
  4. Ordonez, RF
  5. Guillen, SS
  6. Casey, 1B
  7. Monroe, LF
  8. Rabelo, C
  9. Inge, 3B

Everyone in the bullpen is available.

Premature cancellation?

Here in Chicago, it finally started raining again a couple hours ago. The sun was out for a brief while earlier before what would’ve been game time. The worst weather for most of the evening around downtown were the low-lying clouds that rolled in before sundown. In defense of the White Sox — and unless the game starts, it’s up to the general manager to make the call on a game — there were severe thunderstorms in the region, as our friends in such western Michigan cities as Kalamazoo can probably confirm. A lot of red on the radar.

For those of you with conspiracy theories — and this is for entertainment purposes only — Jim Thome was not going to start for the Sox tonight, according to today’s notes. Rob Mackowiak would’ve been available but likely wouldn’t have played. Unclear whether Jermaine Dye would’ve been available.

No offense against Mike Maroth, but it’s probably a bummer that Detroit won’t see Bonderman opposite Johan Santana on Sunday. It would’ve been another tough matchup for Bonderman, but he gets up for them, and his performance for seven innings at the Metrodome last July was memorable even before the Twins pounced on him in the eighth. Maroth could pitch well against the Twins, but whether he does or not, Santana will have nothing to do with it.

Rained out

Tonight’s game has already been called. Scattered showers with thunderstorms and a chance for severe weather. The rotation was moved back a day, so it’ll be Robertson, Verlander and Maroth against the Twins this weekend.

Weird, wild night

What a difference a day makes.

Who would’ve thought going into tonight that Chad Durbin would dominate the White Sox for eight innings and Joel Zumaya would need bailed out?  And all the while, the White Sox hitters seemed like spectators in the matter.

Jim Leyland and White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson essentially said the same thing, that Durbin did a good job mixing his pitches and changing his speeds but that the White Sox also had pitches to hit. They didn’t, which isn’t what you would expect even without Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye. Detroit’s three early runs basically commanded the rest of the game, putting Durbin in a position to be aggressive and Sox hitters in a position where they were hacking. That’s the type of outing you want your fifth starter to be capable of when everything works right.

Everything, that is, until the ninth.

Usually when Zumaya enters late with a safe lead, he’s aggressive and his fastball gets hit once or twice. In this case, he ended up being wild and couldn’t get out of it. In Leyland’s defense, he had Zumaya warming up in a four-run game, still a contest that could become a comeback without much trouble, before it became a 6-0 score. A six-run game, though, would seem more fitting for someone else to finish out. It didn’t lend well to Zumaya, either in the score or the weather conditions, and he looked uncomfortable from the outset.

I’m not going to say this shows why Todd Jones should close, because situations like that are unfair to judge a guy’s suitability as a closer. But the way Leyland talked after the game suggested he wanted Zumaya to come in, block out the score and work on his pitching. The tough part about that is that Leyland is trying to balance out giving Zumaya chances to grow as a pitcher and saving Zumaya for situations where he needs Zumaya to get outs. He can’t pitch every day, and Leyland isn’t going to put an unreasonable workload on him.

I received a lot of emails bashing Jones Tuesday night after the loss to the Angels, including some particularly nasty ones directed at me. I also read some of the message board postings. The counter argument to Jones’ save total so far this year is that he hadn’t had very many tough saves where he has had to bail his team out of a jam. Even with a four-run margin and Brian Anderson at the plate, this was one of those games, the way it was going. He got to three balls, recovered and got the groundout when Anderson got too aggressive.

Other stuff:

  • The Tigers donated a No. 2 jersey for Charlie Gehringer to the family of Brian Bluhm to include in Tuesday’s memorial service. Gehringer was Bluhm’s favorite player in Tigers history, which is saying something about a college student’s knowledge of baseball history.
  • Magglio Ordonez said he tunes out the boos the crowd gives him when he steps to the plate in Chicago. "It’s been three years," he said. "For me, it’s another baseball game."
  • How close were Zumaya’s pitches to the strike zone on his final walk? Hey, I was watching them on television just like most everybody else. The new press box here is on the upper level down the first-base line. From the TV, the last two pitches looked close.
  • Seriously? Larry Brown could be coaching again?
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