February 26th, 2009
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.
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.
Jeremy Bonderman will still pitch on Saturday, but he’ll do so in a simulated game on the back fields rather than in the Tigers’ game against the Mets at Joker Marchant Stadium. He still has some lingering soreness in his shoulder, manager Jim Leyland said, so they’re going to put him in a more controlled setting for his first spring outing — 15 pitches, sit down, then 15 more pitches for a total of 30, the same pitch count he would’ve had in an actual game.
Jonathan Kibler will make the start Saturday in Bonderman’s place.