March 10th, 2009

Offensive woes continue as Tigers lose again

JUPITER, Fla. — The Tigers failed to get anything going offensively again, mustering just six hits in a 6-2 loss to the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium on Tuesday. Yes, the potential Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5 hitters in the order are playing in the World Baseball Classic, but manager Jim Leyland said he wishes some of the young guys that are here now would take more advantage of the opportunity. 

And the problem lies with them falling behind on counts early.
“It’s fastball, strike one. Curveball, strike two. Then they’re on the defense. You can’t let
that happen,” said Leyland, whose team struck out eight times Tuesday, after posting 11 Ks on Monday. 
“You can’t take a fastball down the middle and a breaking ball down the middle and expect to hit big-league pitching. It’s just not going to happen. I don’t care who you are.”
* In case you’re not scoring at home, the Tigers (3-8) have mustered two runs per game in their last five — all losses.
* Zach Miner wasn’t as sharp as Rick Porcello was yesterday — another candidate for the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. Miner gave up three runs and seven hits in three innings to move his record to 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA this spring. 

“I felt like I was throwing the ball well,” Miner said. “I just didn’t get
it down when I needed to to get results. The old saying is you can’t control
results. But I wish you could.”

* Miner said he didn’t feel pressured by the 20-year-old Porcello having a good outing on Monday: “You just want to do well no matter what. Whether everybody is doing great, or they’re doing terrible.”

* Ryan Perry pitched another scoreless inning on Tuesday. That makes 4 2/3 straight for the 22-year-old right-hander. 

Alden Gonzalez

Belichick, Leyland finally meet

JUPITER, Fla. — Boy, it sure would’ve been nice to be a fly on the wall at The Capital Grille in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Monday night. That’s where Tigers manager Jim Leyland, along with Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley all sat together in what seemed like a roundtable discussion between some of the most historic winners in sports (together, they share seven championships).

But although Leyland and La Russa go way back, Detroit’s skipper found himself spending most of his time talking to Belichick. Leyland said the two had spoken many times on the phone, but never had a chance to meet — until Monday.
“The conversation went a long time — a little later than we thought it was going to be — but it was fun,” said Leyland, who expects to meet with former Indiana men’s basketball coach Bob Knight on Tuesday. 
“He’s a brilliant guy and so down-to-Earth. I couldn’t have been more impressed. I was waiting for that day, to be honest with you. … He’s always been an interesting guy.”
Leyland said they mostly talked about the difference in philosophies and preparing for a game between MLB and the NFL. He also talked about the similarities between the kicker in football and the closer in baseball. 
Then, Leyland told Belichick about how he could’ve been a contributor to his three Super Bowl titles.
“I told him when I was in high school I could’ve played for him,” Leyland said. “I was pretty fast. I used to run back kicks, and I used to get called for roughing the kicker.”
— Alden Gonzalez

Tuesday happenings

JUPITER, Fla. — Here are some quick pregame notes that came out before the Tigers-Cardinals game at Roger Dean Stadium:

* Joel Zumaya (shoulder) played catch in Lakeland, Fla., today. Manager Jim Leyland said he’s more than likely going to go ahead and pitch him an inning during an intrasquad game on Saturday — which will also see Jeremy Bonderman pitch. 
* Backup catcher Matt Treanor was originally scheduled to make the trip to Jupiter, Fla., but Leyland scratched him because of lingering issues with his offseason sports hernia surgery. The Tigers’ manager said he isn’t sure how long he’ll be out, but for now, it’s just for precautionary reasons, and it doesn’t seem to be that serious at the moment. Besides, he has no idea what’s on those medical reports anyway. “I’m not a doctor,” Leyland began to joke. “I know I’ve got a heart, it has a beat,
and that’s about it. But other than that, I don’t know anything about that. … We’re going to take it slow [with Treanor].”
* Leyland stressed he isn’t tipping his hat, and that Zach Miner — Tuesday’s starter — still has as good of a chance as anybody to land that No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. But the skipper did have something interesting to say about the 26-year-old right-hander before his outing: “I think he needs to maybe prepare himself for relief. I’m not talking necessarily about right now. … We know he can start — we think he can start and do a decent job. He hasn’t shown for sure that he can relieve as effective as he should. So he needs to do that. … In his case, I think there will always be a situation where somebody may be looking for a little bit more of an edge from the starter, so he needs to learn how to make the adjustments to pitch out of the bullpen.”
* Tigers left-hander Fu-Te Ni is back from pitching with Chinese Taipei — which lost its only two games — and is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday. Ni gave up a run in 1 1/3 innings in the Classic.
* Leyland and Tony La Russa have always enjoyed a great friendship — ever since La Russa brought him to the big leagues as his third-base coach with the White Sox, in fact. Before the game, the Cardinals’ manager had a little fun with Leyland, sending him a lineup with Cardinals greats likes Ozzie Smith, Mark McGwire, Jim Edmonds and Stan Musial, with Bob Gibson pitching. “It was pretty good,” Leyland joked. “If those guys don’t hit today, I know the world’s coming to an end.”
* Score update: It’s the bottom of the third right now, with the Cardinals leading, 2-1. Chris Duncan hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first, and Marcus Thames hit a solo shot in the top of the second for Detroit.

— Alden Gonzalez

Beautiful morning in Jupiter

JUPITER, Fla. — It sure feels like baseball weather here at Roger Dean Stadium, as the Cardinals and Tigers are about three hours away from getting going. I’ll be with you guys for one more day, then Jason Beck will jump back in when the Tigers play in Lakeland, Fla., on Wednesday.

Should be interesting to see how Zach Miner pitches today after seeing how well Rick Porcello threw the ball on Monday. That fifth-starter race is definitely heating up.
Here are the lineups:
Will Rhymes, 2B
Gerald Laird, C
Clete Thomas, DH
Marcus Thames, LF
Jeff Larish, RF
Brandon Inge, 3B
Don Kelly, 1B
Brent Clevlen, CF
Ramon Santiago, SS
Starter: Miner

Skip Schumaker, 2B
Chris Duncan, LF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Rick Ankiel, CF
Ryan Ludwick, RF
Khalil Greene, SS
Joe Mather, 3B
Bryan Anderson, C
Tyler Greene, DH
Starter: Kyle Lohse
— Alden Gonzalez

Everett ready to get back on track

JUPITER, Fla. — Got a chance to speak with Tigers shortstop Adam Everett on Monday. It’s been a rough last couple of years for the 32-year-old right-handed hitter, who was limited to just 114 total games with the Astros and Twins because of injuries to his right fibula, in 2007, and right shoulder, in ’08. 

But he says he’s finally healthy.
“I feel good, I’m ready to go,” said Everett, who is back in Lakeland, Fla., Tuesday and won’t be present for the Tigers-Cardinals game at Roger Dean Stadium. “I got those two years behind me, thank God, and now I’m ready to move forward. Everything’s been good. Actually, it’s been better than expected — nothing lingering — so it’s exciting.”
During a 1-0 loss on Monday, Everett had the only multi-hit game for the struggling Tigers offense when he went 2-for-3. That’s a good sign for Everett, who came into the game 2-for-16. But the Georgia native is a career .246 hitter who will likely bat in the bottom of the lineup.
And he knows he was brought here particularly for one thing: defense.
“I know it’s an old cliche, but you put pressure on yourself, you don’t do too well,” Everett said. “I’ve been able to play great defense my whole career, and hopefully I can continue to do that.”
Manager Jim Leyland certainly thinks so.
“He’s got tremendous range at shortstop,” the skipper said. “He’s still working on his hitting, but he’s going to be one of those guys that you bunt with, hit-and-run with.
“Now, is he going to knock in 75, 80 runs? No, that’s not going to happen. But we got him to shore up the middle [infield], and he’s definitely going to do that.”
— Alden Gonzalez

Monday postgame notes, etc.

JUPITER, Fla. — The Tigers lost, 1-0, to the Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. But manager Jim Leyland isn’t too concerned with the offense at this point, considering some of his best hitters are playing in the World Baseball Classic. The pitching, on the other hand, was dominant. One day after yielding 12 runs to the Yankees while walking 10, the Tigers’ pitching staff didn’t walk a single batter while surrendering nine hits.

* Nobody pitched better than Rick Porcello, who started the game and tossed three shutout innings. A lot of it was thanks to a great sinking fastball, which got him five groundouts. “Tonight, I think he showed a lot of poise,” Leyland said.
* Bobby Seay, Brandon Lyon — who gave up the only run — Freddy Dolsi and Clay Rapada combined to pitch six innings of one-run ball, giving up four hits while striking out seven.
* The Tigers struck out 11 times, however. “We just have to do a better job of putting the ball in play and making people handle it a little more,” Leyland said. “[Sunday] it was too many walks, and too many times tonight we swung and missed or didn’t swing.”
* Adam Everett had the only multi-hit game for the Tigers, going 2-for-3 from the leadoff spot. That’s a good sign for Detroit’s shortstop, who had injuries plague his previous two seasons and was 2-for-16 going in.
* Here are some pregame thoughts from Leyland on the World Baseball Classic: “I think it’s
doing a lot for like Venezuela, the Dominican and those places. How much it’s
really doing for the United States, I’m not sure. I think it’s really good for [people in other countries]. They’re really
into it. I mean, they’re taking it like it’s the Caribbean World Series or
World Series, which is great.” 
— Alden Gonzalez