March 2008

Todd Jones on bullpen scrutiny

“The storyline’s been set by everybody. Everybody wants to take their shots at the bullpen and make fun of them and stuff like that. It hurts, because these guys down there, we’re trying to do the best we can. Everybody wants to make a knock-knock joke out of our bullpen, and I think it [ticks] me off. You can look at it any way you want to, but we just have to try to go out there, make pitches and try to get guys out.”

“Once Joel last year got hurt, everybody wanted to kind of point at the bullpen as being a weakness. With Fernando going down this year, guys out there trying to make pitches and not doing, it’s just going to be a self-fulfilled prophecy. You guys are going to write about it, and everybody’s going to just wait until late in the game and a lead gets away and they’ll say, ‘We told you.’ But the truth of the matter is, all of these guys on this staff can get guys out, or they wouldn’t be here. These are the guys that we’ve got. We’re going to go with them, and that’s the way it’s going to be. We need to embrace some of these guys instead of kick them.

Cabrera's homer

He’s the first player to homer on opening day in his first game as a Tiger since Ivan Rodriguez and Rondell White did so at Toronto to open the 2004 season. That was the day Detroit jumped on Roy Halladay for three homers and went on to a 7-0 win over the Jays.

In case you were wondering

Renteria batted .290 with runners in scoring position and two outs last season. In 2006, he batted .308. Even in that bad 2005 season in Boston, he batted .298 with RISP, though that dropped to .247 with two outs. That’s why he’s more of an extra RBI guy than a leadoff man.

On a side note, David DeJesus left the game with an aggravation of his sprained right ankle. He injured it a week ago and missed four games before returning to the lineup Saturday against the Brewers.

Happy Opening Day

As you can probably tell by now watching on TV or looking outside, they’re going to be able to get this in. It’s not really that warm, more like around 50, but the only big weather factor when the starts is probably going to be the wind, which appears to be going in from right field.

Not a whole lot of news today, other than minor items. Dontrelle Willis’ minor-league start on Sunday was a mixed bag, according to Leyland. He still had good velocity, but his command was in and out. The velocity is still a point of encouragement for them, but he has to be able to command without falling into the trap of trying to aim the ball.

Clay Rapada, meanwhile, will be ready to begin the season in the Triple-A Toledo bullpen, according to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. He pitched in a minor-league game on Sunday.

I’d give lineups, but you probably know those by now. Enjoy the day.

Workout day

img074.jpgBack on duty for workout day after skipping the series in Houston. Apparently they changed the look of the blogs when I wasn’t looking. Hopefully it works for everyone.

The weather forecast doesn’t look promising, obviously, but Jim Leyland said this morning he was told by Dave Dombrowski that it looked like they would get it in. If they can get it started under dry conditions, of course, then they can play through rain. No idea how long they would wait to do that, but that’s why they scheduled off-days for the day after opening day.

“If you try to make a big deal out of [the weather], you make a huge mistake,” Leyland said.

For now, at least, the bad weather has held off long enough for the Tigers to work out on the field, something that wasn’t expected to happen initially. They’ll take some batting practice, do some throwing, and generally get used to the chillier conditions they’re going to have to deal with for the foreseeable future.

Not much else going on besides the final roster moves. Francisco Cruceta was placed on the restricted list today, while Fernando Rodney, Jordan Tata, Vance Wilson and Joel Zumaya were all placed on the 15-day DL. The restricted list for Cruceta required approval from Major League Baseball, and it means that Detroit retains the rights to the player but will not be paying him while he’s out.

Looking around the stadium, you can tell where they’ve added seats rising above and behind the old ones. The riser seats on the Pepsi Porch now just about shroud the Montgomery Inn, depending on what angle you’re looking.

Guzman clears waivers

He has been outrighted to Double-A Erie. That’s one level lower than you might expect, but the reason given was that it allows younger guys like Brent Clevlen and others to play at Triple-A Toledo.

The reasoning on Byrdak

Yes, Jim Leyland said today, he did say last night that Byrdak was on the team at that point. It was after saying that to reporters that GM Dave Dombrowski came in for a discussion on Byrdak’s issues and whether they wanted to move forward. Essentially, they had to make a decision today whether to stick with him or release him to have a chance to fill the spot. They agreed to sleep on it, and Leyland still felt like he could take Byrdak. But in the end, he really couldn’t, not the way Byrdak was struggling.

So with Byrdak out, the Tigers could break camp with the pitchers they have, keeping both Yorman Bazardo and Aquilino Lopez and going with one left-hander. However, Leyland would rather go with two lefties if they could. The Tigers are going to try to make a move to pick up one, either through trade or the waiver wire. They’re unlikely to pick up a big contract like what is owed to Cincinnati’s Mike Stanton or San Francisco’s Steve Kline, but they’ll undoubtedly check out some of the other lefties that teams try to pass through waivers.

At this point, they’re unlikely to go in-house for a lefty. Clay Rapada is only throwing off of flat ground at this point after he felt more shoulder stiffness in his return to game action last week. They haven’t really given serious thought to Macay McBride, who they spent all spring preparing to work as a starter at Triple-A Toledo and breaking some of those relief habits. But then, it was a similar need that made McBride a lefty reliever in Atlanta a few years ago, too.

As for the final position guy, that seems to be boiling down to extra outfielder or extra catcher. Clete Thomas is again with the big club, starting in RF, and Sardinha is starting at catcher with Pudge spending the day back in Lakeland.

So basically, this appears to be a roster that won’t be set until sometime this weekend in Houston. They don’t have to physically set their 25-man roster until Sunday afternoon.

Byrdak released

Just announced this morning that lefty Tim Byrdak was released.

When BP means bathroom problems

Img070It has to take a lot for Jim Leyland to see something completely new to him, but this did it.

Poor Brennan Boesch gets a chance to make the trip and play with the big club for a day, and when he runs into the dugout bathroom during BP, the lock trips on the door and won’t let go. And the adventure begins.

In most places, this probably wouldn’t have been a spectacle. In this case, however, the hinges were on the inside of the doorway, so the grounds crew couldn’t simply unhinge it. And the bathroom in the visitors dugout at Space Coast Stadium is literally at the end of the dugout, right in plain view from field level.

So as everyone from Leyland to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand to the clubhouse kids tried to figure out how to break out Boesch, more people notice. Pudge Rodriguez, Placido Polanco, Magglio Ordonez, all of them look over on their way into the dugout and stand around and watch. Even Nate Robertson, the starting pitcher for the day, walks out of the clubhouse to figure out what’s going on. Eventually, this attracted quite a crowd, especially once the crew had to resort to a crowbar to try to pry open the door.

Finally, the crowbar apparently worked, a good half-hour after Boesch realized he was locked in. He came running out with a sense of relief and hugged the grounds crew guy who broke him out of there.

"That’s why I love the game," Leyland said. "I’ve never seen that in my career. If it was me in there, that door would’ve been down. I would’ve figured out somehow to get out of there. I would’ve panicked. I’ve never seen that in my life."

Inge "probably" in CF for opener

Leyland left open the possibility something could change, but he plans on starting Brandon Inge in center field next Monday in place of injured Curtis Granderson. To further complicate things, Detroit’s starting center field will also be its backup catcher.

Leyland said he had a long conversation with Inge on Sunday and that everything went well.

"I think he’s happier leaving camp than he was coming in," Leyland said.

As for the lineup, Leyland said he’ll probably lead off Edgar Renteria against right-handers, even though Leyland would rather not move him out of an RBI slot. Jacque Jones, Pudge and Inge will bat in some combination from seventh through ninth. Leyland said Pudge is a "strong possibility" to lead off against left-handers.

Here’s what you have for lineups today:

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

And for Washington:

  1. Cristian Guzman, SS
  2. Lastings Milledge, CF
  3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
  4. Dmitri Young, 1B
  5. Austin Kearns, RF
  6. Paul Lo Duca, C
  7. Elijah Dukes, DH
  8. Felipe Lopez, 2B
  9. Willie Harris, LF

On a lighter note, minor league player Brennan Boesch is available to play the outfield off the bench for the Tigers. That wasn’t really guaranteed an hour and a half ago, when he was stuck in the bathroom in the visitors dugout here at Space Coast Stadium. Apparently the lock stuck, and because the hinges are on the inside, they couldn’t simply unhinge it. Well, he was stuck in there for about a half hour before stadium workers took a crowbar and finally were able to pry the door open, much to Boesch’s relief.