March 6th, 2009

Leyland: Opponents have game plan vs. Verlander

Justin Verlander escaped his opening inning without allowing a run, but he needed 24 pitches to do it. He gave up three runs in the third, but his efficiency made Leyland happier than that inning than the opening one.

When Leyland talks about wanting quick innings, it isn’t difficult to surmise that Verlander is one of the targets. His high pitch counts and very high average pitches per inning last seaso nbecame something opponents pounced on, and Leyland sees the same approach coming into this year, including from the Yankees tonight.

“Particularly with a guy like Verlander,” Leyland said, “you can see that teams are going to try to make him pitch, to get his pitch count up. So strike one, it’s critical to every pitcher, but particularly to him, to get ahead. If he does that, with the stuff he’s got, then he ought to be able to go to work and get a lot of outs, and I think he will.

“But you can see what the plan is. You combat that plan by throwing strike one and throwing strike two. That takes that game plan away. Everybody knows he’s got good stuff, and they’re going to try to work him and get his pitch count up by the fifth inning.”

Leyland took out Verlander at exactly 50 pitches, 29 of them strikes, with two outs in the third. Though he gave up hits in the third, Leyland liked the efficiency. His mistake pitch, Leyland said, was a hanging breaking ball to Johnny Damon for an RBI double.

Other notes:

  • Add Bobby Seay to the list of Tigers with minor injuries. He left tonight’s outing with a tight right quadriceps. His next turn to pitch, if he’s fine, would come during the two-game trip to Jupiter early next week.
  • One more note on Joel Zumaya: Unlike Jeremy Bonderman, who started his progression back by playing catch the last couple days, Zumaya supposedly can go right back onto the mound in a couple days once the dye in his shoulder passes. That’s according to Leyland.
  • Clete Thomas might be ready to return to the outfield sooner than originally planned. He’s currently throwing long toss at 150 feet, with the next step stretching him out to 180 feet. That could put him on track to beat the projected timetable of March 23 for when he’d be ready for outfield work. The sooner he can come back, the better his chances could be for making this team.

Zumaya's ok, basically

By now, you’ve probably already read the Zumaya update, which I had to scramble to write before I blogged. If you haven’t, the short version is that his visit with Dr. Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. turned up no structural damage. The shoulder discomfort he’s had the last few days is normal Spring Training inflammation, according to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, but the precautionary exam — which Zumaya requested — was meant to make sure, and hopefully provide some peace of mind.

Whether peace of mind comes out of this depends on how Zumaya takes this. The scary part of it is that he threw very well in his last outing Monday, and was the most upbeat I’d seen him about the way he was throwing. I really didn’t have to ask him many questions that day, because he readily talked about how he felt and what he was throwing. To come off of that outing and feel something in your shoulder the next day can’t be a good feeling, even if it’s just inflammation. But then, it’s just inflammation, and it’s supposedly unrelated to his previous shoulder issues. He doesn’t even have to take any medication. The only reason he can’t throw right now is because of the dye placed in his shoulder to get a better image on the MRI. So he has to feel like he can keep progressing the way he’s been without hesitation. He can’t afford to be tentative, worrying about re-injury.

As for the game, lineups are below. I’ll keep a running tab on the Twitter page until I head to the clubhouse, since you can’t see the game here from there.

TIGERS

  1. Raburn, RF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Sheffield, DH
  4. Thames, LF
  5. Hessman, 1B
  6. Clevlen, CF
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Sardinha, C (no Laird or Treanor this trip)
  9. Everett, SS
  1. PITCHING: Verlander, Lyon, Seay, Dolsi, Simons, Figaro, Darrow

YANKEES

  1. Brett Gardner, CF
  2. Johnny Damon, LF
  3. Nick Swisher, 1B
  4. Jorge Posada, DH
  5. Shelley Duncan, RF
  6. Cody Ransom, 3B
  7. Jose Molina, C
  8. Angel Berroa, 2B
  9. Ramiro Pena, SS

PITCHING: Sabathia, Alfredo Aceves, Jose Veras, Steven Jackson, David Robertson and Anthony Claggett

Friendly reminder about wristbands

If you’re going to buy single-game tickets at the Comerica Park box office, you can pick up a priority wristband beginning at 3pm ET today at the Tiger Club lobby, located on the Witherell Street side of the park by the Pro Shop. The first 500 will get wristbands numbered (you guessed it) 1-500 and will get the first 500 spots in line when tickets go on sale at 10am ET. That way you don’t have to camp out Friday night or anything, and you can enjoy the warmer weather Friday night.

One of those wristbands will be selected at random for the first place in line between 8:15 and 8:30am. The rest will line up in order by 9:30.

Injury updates

Amazing how strange it feels to sleep in past 8:30 after so many days of answering the alarm clock in Spring Training. Still, I wanted to get out some injury updates that didn’t get in last night:

  • Gerald Laird will not make the trip to Legends Field tonight. He’ll be held back with tightness in his left quadriceps. Laird said Thursday afternoon that he felt it tighten up as he ran down the first-base line, kind of the feeling he had when he pulled his hamstring in the past. Manager Jim Leyland said he’s had enough of those kinds of situations over the last 40-some years that he’s going to be cautious about it.
  • Michael Hollimon is not on the travel roster for Friday or Saturday. No word whether he still has the nail on his right middle finger, but regardless, they’re going to give it a couple days.
  • Jeremy Bonderman is supposed to play catch again today at some point, but players who aren’t on the travel roster for tonight’s game don’t have to come in until mid-afternoon.
  • Macay McBride is being backed off his throwing schedule. He last pitched Sunday against the Pirates, and it was a rather long inning with command issues before stranding the bases loaded.
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