March 1st, 2009

Leyland: We need quicker outs!

Sometimes Jim Leyland will bring up a topic on his own without any prodding. His postgame remarks Sunday was one of those times, and given the pace of the last couple games, it stands to figure he wants quicker outs.

“A lot of our pitchers have to start getting some outs in earlier counts,” he said. “It’s something that we need to work on. We need to get more people to mishit the ball in earlier counts. You can’t go deep in couns on hitter after hitter.”

Leyland made a point to say he wasn’t looking at any pitcher in particular, but more the staff in general. But given the way the innings unfolded, he didn’t need to point fingers. Zach Miner threw a lot of pitches for two innings, including a full count that forced him to challenge Nate McLouth and pay for it with a three-run homer. Macay McBride had a long inning of work in the seventh. Justin Verlander had two walks on full-count pitches and a couple other full-count outs, including nearly losing Ryan Doumit after an 0-2 hole. Leyland, however, pointed to Sunday as progress for Verlander in his pitches and his pacing.

The problem with the deep counts, Leyland believes, is a matter of pitchers not having the pitch to finish off a hitter when they get ahead, and sometimes trying to be too fine. Remember, Leyland has talked for more than a year about needing to get more outs and deeper outings from his starters, and getting more outs in fewer pitches is part of it.

Other parting notes before this visit to Bradenton ends …

  • Not surprisingly, Ryan Perry said he was amped up for his first Spring Training outing, and it showed. But he also managed to get through it with two strikeouts and a broken-bat groundout. Both strikeouts came on sliders, including a particularly nasty one for a called third strike.
  • Curtis Granderson reached base safely in six of his last seven plate appearances before leaving for the World Baseball Classic. That includes a leadoff walk, a single and a solid home run to straightaway center Sunday. “He’ll be as ready as you can be at this point,” Leyland said.
  • Clay Rapada had a good 1-2-3 inning in the seventh. Tigers coaches are working with him on getting his breaking ball over to left-handed hitters, something they’re also working with Bobby Seay on doing. Rapada’s also making a point to refine his fastball command. Look for more on Rapada on the site later.

Sunday tidbits

By now, if you were interested in the starting lineups, you probably have them already from the radio, so I’ll get into a few notes …

  • Marcus Thames made the trip, but then left to be with his wife, who is due to have their first child anytime soon. Brent Clevlen started in his place and just blasted a ball to deep center field in the opening inning for a two-run triple.
  • Jeff Larish was on the travel roster but did not make the trip. His neck is still stiff, and a bus ride to Bradenton wouldn’t have helped.
  • Alexis Gomez also didn’t make the trip. He has a tender elbow.
  • Leyland confirmed that the Tigers had some offseason conversations about Juan Cruz, who just signed a two-year deal with the Royals.
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