March 27th, 2009

Bullpen blues

It’s only Spring Training, but it was pretty amazing how quickly Friday’s game fell apart once Justin Verlander left the game. A leadoff error didn’t help Fernando Rodney in the eighth, but the ensuing single and double put him in major trouble. He settled down to retire the next three batters and keep the game tied, but as manager Jim Leyland pointed out, he could’ve used that earlier.

“When the horse got out of the barn, Rodney showed that everything’s fine,” Leyland said. “But in a 2-0 game, you’ve got to come in there [like that] right away. I’m just grateful and thankful that he did have it and show it, and that’s something that can be easily cured. But it was too late. The horse was out of the barn by the time he started throwing the ball.”

That’s four straight outings, including a camp game, in which Rodney has surrendered multiple runs after looking dominant for the first half of Spring Training. Total damage in that stretch: 12 runs, 11 earned, on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings. Rodney had been working on a slider as a third pitch, which the Tigers had been encouraging last year, but expect to see a whole lot of fastballs and changeups from here on out.

Enter Brandon Lyon for the ninth, his first outing since giving up four consecutive homers to the Red Sox on Monday. He didn’t give up an extra base hit, but after a leadoff walk, two singles sufficed to end it. The only batter he retired was on a sacrifice bunt. He has given up multiple baserunners in six of his last seven outings.

Again, it’s Spring Training. But with Joel Zumaya now all but certain to stay back in Florida when the regular season starts, Rodney and Lyon are a little more important than if Zumaya was ready. What this means for Ryan Perry’s chances of making the team remain to be seen, but it could make for an interesting decision. Leyland pointed out Friday that he doesn’t have many decisions to make in the bullpen.

A few other notes before you go watch basketball …

  • Dontrelle Willis threw another side session today, according to Leyland, and had some encouraging results. He’s now set to follow Jeremy Bonderman on Sunday. How many innings or pitches, I don’t know.
  • Joel Zumaya will be pitching in a camp game Saturday afternoon. If you’re in the area and not going to Dunedin to watch the Tigers and Jays, the camp game supposedly starts at 1 p.m. ET.
  • Yes, I did notice Omar Infante at shortstop today.

Verlander on Opening Day, Jackson next day

Jim Leyland finally made official what was pretty much assumed, that Justin Verlander will start on Opening Day at Toronto. Edwin Jackson will start the second game of that series. After that, it’s still uncertain, but Leyland made it pretty clear that he might like to start Armando Galarraga for the home opener April 10, depending on how the rest of the rotation works out. It would be a reward of sorts for the season he had last year, though I also imagine Galarraga’s temperament lends itself to not getting caught up in the atmosphere.

Look for more on the site.