February 2009

Nervous day for Kibler

Jon Kibler normally has a good amount of jitters before a game, he said, but he usually gets past them pretty quickly after a game. Saturday’s jitters stayed with him throughout his outing, setting the tone for what could’ve been a pretty long day at the park had he not made the pitches he needed to get out of it.

In Kibler’s defense, though, he did make some quality pitches, including some with two strikes. The good news for him is that he’ll get another start Wednesday against Panama. When I asked Leyland in the wake of the Bonderman news if he had any plans to shuffle the pitching order around to have some other guys fill innings on the days Bonderman would’ve pitched, Leyland said he did not.

Other notes …

  • I’m sure this will get a mixed reaction from readers, but Brandon Inge’s home run today was very much a product of his adjustment to raise his hands at the plate. It was an offspeed pitch inside, and Inge was able to keep it fair with enough loft to get it down the line and out. If his hands were lower like before, Inge said, he would’ve either pulled that ball foul or plain missed it.
  • Very good read from Curtis Granderson on a low line drive from former Tiger Ramon Martinez, just left of straightaway center field. Granderson had to come in and make a diving catch. Granderson said afterwards that he’s working on reading balls like that better so that he can prepare himself for trying to do the same at Comerica Park, where low line drives can be tougher to read against the backdrop of fans sitting far back from the field of play. Look for more about that on the site tonight.
  • Leyland said he talked to his hitters today about not giving away at-bats this spring. His point was that they can’t afford to come out of the gate struggling at the plate like last year.

What to look for Sunday against the Pirates at historic McKechnie Field:

  • Ryan Perry is scheduled to make his first game appearance. Other pitchers include the starter, Justin Verlander, plus Zach Miner, Clay Rapada, Macay McBride, Casey Fien, Zach Simons, Alfredo Figaro
  • Regulars: Curtis Granderson (last game before World Baseball Classic), Gary Sheffield, Adam Everett, Brandon Inge, Placido Polanco, plus Marcus Thames. Matt Treanor will start again at catcher.
  • The weather is supposed to be crummy for Florida — mid-60s for a high with scattered storms and gusty winds all day.
  • When the Tigers went to Bradenton last year, Dick Vitale was in the crowd and paid a visit with Leyland. This year, with the game on a Sunday in the middle of college basketball’s stretch drive, I imagine he’s out somewhere on assignment. Villanova is at Notre Dame for the early game on Big Monday coming up.

Another injury for Team USA outfield

Colorado’s Brad Hawpe had to pull out of the World Baseball Classic with an injured left hand. No replacement was immediately announced, but suffice it to say, Granderson’s role on Team USA seems to be getting bigger.

Granderson is expected to play for the Tigers in Sunday’s game against the Pirates at Bradenton, weather permitting, before heading to Clearwater Sunday night for a Team USA. They’ll work out in Clearwater for most of next week and play a few Spring Training games before heading to Toronto next weekend for the opening round.

Today's game

Just a reminder that the game today is on Tigers radio back in chilly Detroit as well as online. It’s probably the last game for a while where the Tigers are going to have all their regulars, because players in the World Baseball Classic start reporting to their camps on Sunday night. Here are the lineups:

TIGERS (1-2)

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

PITCHING: Jonathan Kibler, Bobby Seay, Brandon Lyon, Eddie Bonine, Kyle Bloom

METS (2-1)

  1. Angel Pagan, CF
  2. Andy Green, 2B
  3. Daniel Murphy, LF
  4. Bobby Kielty, DH
  5. Nick Evans, 1B
  6. Jeremy Reed, RF
  7. Robinson Cancel, C
  8. Ramon Martinez, 3B
  9. Alex Cora, SS

PITCHING: Jonathon Niese, Bobby Parnell, Brian Stokes, Matt DeSalvo, Heriberto Reules, Valerio de los Santos, Jon Switzer, J.J. Putz

Jeff Larish is not available again today. He tried to give it a go in batting practice this morning, but his neck is still stiff.

No simulated game for Bonderman

UPDATE @ 11:50am: The simulated game for Jeremy Bonderman that had
been scheduled for this morning has been scratched. The Tigers medical staff has put Bonderman on anti-inflammatory medication in an effort to get rid of the stiffness, which is centered in his throwing shoulder. He’s basically day-to-day until the stiffness goes down.

Bonderman said he’s been told that the soreness comes from getting that last bit of extension out of his arm. He said he felt it during both of his live BP sessions.

“I expected it to feel sore,” he said, “but I expected it to go away.”

Larish day-to-day with stiff neck

Jeff Larish’s quest to crack the Tigers’ roster as a utilityman is temporarily on hold. The corner infielder and outfielder was scratched from Friday’s starting lineup and is considered day-to-day with a stiff neck.

Larish was slated to start at first base in Friday’s game against the Blue Jays, but woke up with restricted movement in the left side of his neck. The athletic training staff was able to loosen it up a little bit, but he still felt it during pregame batting practice.

“I’m trying to be optimistic and should be able to go tomorrow [at home against the Mets],” Larish said.

Larish started at third base Thursday against the Nationals. The Tigers are trying to use him at both corners, and they hope to give him some playing time in the corner outfield spots.

Willis lifted after one-plus innings

He had two unearned runs (but no walks) in a 30-pitch third inning before a single, walk and hit-by-pitch led to his removal in the fourth. He threw 43 pitches, 25 strikes, compared with the usual 30-pitch mark in the first outing for pitchers being stretched out as a starter. Kevin Millar had a hard-hit liner to left-center off a hanging breaking ball before Rod Barajas did a solid job of going the other way with a ball that was supposed to break down and in but flattened over the plate.

UPDATE @ 4:20pm: The focus from Willis and the Tigers was on repeating his delivery. He didn’t fall into that ball-four, ball-eight, ball-12 mode when he started giving up damage. They’re looking at this as a building block.

“I knew what I wanted to do today and I felt it,” Willis said. “I just didn’t get it done.”

Or as Willis said later, “I’m happy with everything but the line.”

Leyland said that Willis had good sync in his first inning of work, but not as good in his second.

As for the pitch count, pitching coach Rick Knapp said he had an informal 45-pitch limit in mind for Willis when he went out for that second inning. Knapp paid a visit two batters into the fourth to let Willis know that would be his final hitter and to focus on getting in two good fastballs low. He did that, but then hit Wayne Lydon with his 0-2 pitch.

Granderson likely in CF for Classic

News today out of Indians camp is that Grady Sizemore has pulled out of the World Baseball Classic with a groin pull. Shane Victorino has replaced him on the Team USA roster. The move should probably mean a lot more playing time in center for Granderson in the Classic, though Victorino also plays center.

As I finish this, Granderson just made a lunging catch in right-center field to take a potential hit away from Rod Barajas and end the first inning for Armando Galarraga.

Larish scratched with stiff neck

Jeff Larish was in the lineup against the Blue Jays today and made the trip, but was a last-minute scratch after coming up with a stiff neck. Mike Hessman started at first place in Larish’s place.

Here’s the lineup the Tigers have trotted out against Toronto’s Matt Clement:

  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Sheffield, DH
  4. Thames, LF
  5. Hessman, 1B
  6. Laird, C
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Timo Perez, RF
  9. Iorg, SS

It’s worth noting that Iorg is making his first start (well, Spring Training start, at least) against his father’s old team.

Tigers pitching shows jitters, comes through

All in all, today was a good day for the Tigers pitching staff, though it could up being forboding if Jeremy Bonderman’s shoulder stiffness lingers deeper into the Spring Training schedule. Edwin Jackson reminded folks why he was one of baseball’s top prospects and made the Majors at age 20, though time will tell if he has the consistency. Nate Robertson recovered from hits against the first two batters he faced to salvage his two-inning performance. Rick Porcello gave up two solid hits and a run in his inning, but finished with back-to-back strikeouts. Joel Zumaya had the jitters but got through it. Not a perfect day, but usually two runs in a Spring Training game will net a victory.

Friday will be similar. Armando Galarraga, like Jackson, hasn’t generated a lot of attention this spring, but his first outing will start his effort to prove last year wasn’t a fluke. Dontrelle Willis will follow him — enough said.

Rijo's situation shouldn't affect Dominican academy

The Tigers have good reason to take interest in the controversy involving former pitching great Jose Rijo, who was reportedly dismissed as a special assistant by the Washington Nationals on Thursday. They rent part of Rijo’s baseball facilities in his native Dominican Republic for their Dominican academy, as well as their team in the Dominican Summer League.

At this point, however, it doesn’t look like the issue and its aftermath will have an immediate effect.

Rijo has been linked to Carlos Alvarez David Lugo, who previously called himself Esmailyn Gonzalez. The shortstop, who received a $1.4 million signing bonus from the Nationals in 2006, allegedly falsified his name and age. In Washington’s 2008 media guide, Lugo is listed as 19, but is really 23. Major League Baseball’s department of investigations is looking into the matter. Rijo has said he is innocent of any wrongdoing.

The Nationals also housed their Dominican academy at Rijo’s facility, but are planning to move out in the aftermath of their decision. The Tigers will be left as the one Major League team still using the facility.

Tigers vice president and assistant general manager Al Avila said Thursday that they have a lease with Rijo through this year to use the facilities, including a full diamond, half diamond, living and dining quarters, and they expect to serve that out.

“Right now, it has not affected us,” Avila said of Rijo’s situation. “There’s nothing to really to say. We’re functioning day-to-day normally. We have a contract. “

The only real effect Rijo’s situation could have is on the schedule for their Dominican Summer League team, and it could be good news. The Nationals have two teams that the Tigers club has played in its division. However, Avila said, the Tigers have talked to the league in the past about adding different teams to their schedule. The facility is located in San Cristobal, about an hour east of Santo Domingo.

The Tigers have used Rijo’s facility for the last several years, housing as many as 40 players there while also bringing in kids for tryouts. Avila said they review their situation in the Dominican each year.

“The facility has served us well to this point,” Avila said.

Several teams that once leased Rijo’s facilities have built their own academies, but that really isn’t a viable option for the Tigers given the current economy. Their realistic options would seemingly involve renting out facilities from someone else, whether it’s another club or someone in the Dominican. That isn’t something that’s anywhere close on the horizon.

“We don’t have a whole lot of options,” Avila said.