April 2009

Fidrych's gem vs. Yankees online

If you miss the replay of The Bird's nationally televised gem against the Yankees on MLB Network Saturday, it's running again online at the moment. You can get to it off the MLB.com home page or at mlb.com/live.

Tigers-White Sox rained out, rotation shuffled

Updated with pitching matchups in bold …

The first cold, rainy day of the season in the Motor City proved too wet for the Tigers and White Sox. Tuesday’s scheduled afternoon game has been postponed.

Rain was intermittent all morning and into the early afternoon. It was expected to continue throughout the day and into the evening.

No announcement was immediately available on a makeup date, but the two teams have plenty of options. In addition to common off-days April 30, June 15 and June 22, the White Sox come back to Detroit for two more series this year, a three-game set July 24-26 and the final weekend of the season, Oct. 2-4.

Tuesday was supposed to be the first career start at Comerica Park for Tigers rookie starter Rick Porcello. Given the conditions and the way they affected starters Zach Miner and Gavin Floyd on Monday, however, it might not have been a fair glimpse for fans at Detroit’s top prospect. Both Miner and Floyd seemingly struggled to find a grip on baseballs, and their command suffered.

With Tuesday’s rainout, plus scheduled off-days coming Thursday and next Monday, the Tigers shuffled their pitching rotation after the announcement. Porcello will make his next start Sunday at Seattle. Armando Galarraga will make his scheduled start Wednesday, followed by Justin Verlander on the road Friday and Edwin Jackson on Saturday. Galarraga is expected to start again next Tuesday against the Angels.

That leaves Zach Miner out of the rotation for the time being until the Tigers need a fifth starter again late next week.

Waiting on the rain

The tarp is still on here at Comerica Park, but it isn’t raining, and a few players are stretching and playing catch alongside the dugout. So for now, it looks like they’ll try to get this game in. The radar shows another band of showers heading here in a little bit, but it might be dry after that.

Jim Leyland waited a while to see whether he’d play Guillen or Thames in LF, but both were going to play regardless. As it turns out, Guillen will DH.

TIGERS

  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, DH
  6. Thames, LF
  7. Laird, C
  8. Inge, 3B
  9. Everett, SS

P: Rick Porcello

WHITE SOX

  1. Brent Lillibridge, 2B
  2. Josh Fields, 3B
  3. Carlos Quentin, LF
  4. Jim Thome, DH
  5. Jermaine Dye, RF
  6. Paul Konerko, 1B
  7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  9. Brian Anderson, CF (Grade 3 shoulder separation for Dewayne Wise, by the way)

P: John Danks

Guillen DHing, Santiago at SS, Laird scratched

Carlos Guillen said his sore Achilles tendon is feeling much better, but he’s going to DH today as a precaution. Jim Leyland said Guillen could be back out in left field Tuesday. Josh Anderson will play left today. Leyland said he wanted to get more left-handed hitters in the lineup against Gavin Floyd, which is partly why he chose today to start Ramon Santiago at short and give Adam Everett the day off.

Meanwhile, Gerald Laird was originally in the starting lineup but was scratched because he’s sick. Thus, Matt Treanor will make his second start of the year behind the plate.

TIGERS

  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, DH
  6. Santiago, SS
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Anderson, LF
  9. Treanor, C

P: Miner

WHITE SOX

  1. Brent Lillibridge, 2B
  2. Josh Fields, 3B
  3. Carlos Quentin, LF
  4. Jim Thome, DH
  5. Jermaine Dye, RF
  6. Paul Konerko, 1B
  7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  9. Dewayne Wise, CF (former Toledo Mud Hen)

P: Gavin Floyd

Jackson keeps comeback hopes alive

Jim Leyland pointed to Sunday’s game as an example of why his pitchers have to keep them in games when they’re trailing early or late. Edwin Jackson pointed to the game as an example of how he has matured as a pitcher.

“Today’s game was just a matter of keeping it close, battling and battling, and leaving it on the field regardless of the score,” Jackson said after his six innings of work.

Just because Jackson had tossed seven tremendous innings in his Tigers debut last Tuesday at Toronto, he hadn’t yet proven his value in the Tigers rotation. He’s had outings like that before, yet followed up with rough returns and quick exits. Even in last year’s breakout season, he had at least a couple points where he couldn’t build off of the momentum of a good outing, or overcome trouble early.

And maybe not last year, but a couple years ago, he admits games like Sunday would’ve been trouble for him to try to contain after two-run homers from Josh Hamilton in the first inning and Ian Kinsler in the third gave the Rangers an early 4-0 lead. He would’ve tried to get too precise with his pitches instead of maintaining his approach against hitters.

“Pretty much, I probably would’ve been out of there in the third, fourth or the fifth,” Jackson said.

Instead this time, he said, “I just wanted to keep attacking the strike zone, just keeping pounding it regardless of the results. I felt like some of those pitches were close on the walks. Against a power-hitting team, you have to keep the ball down. It’s imperative. They got their runs off me early, but I still kept going after them. … That was something in the past I probably would’ve let get to me instead of keeping my composure, staying loose and staying relaxed.”

The situation he kept coming back to was the fifth, when he lost Kinsler from an 0-2 count to a one-out walk ahead of Michael Young’s double to put runners at second and third. He got Hamilton to chase a two-seamer down early in the count for a groundout with the infield in, then induced Hank Blalock to pop out on the next pitch.

“That could’ve easily went the other way. Fly ball, that’s another run. Base hit, that’s two runs.”

Jim Leyland liked the fact that Jackson came back out after that fifth-inning jam and retired the side in order in the sixth in relatively short order, giving them an extra inning before having to go to the bullpen.

“That last inning he was out there, he showed me why he’s a warrior, and why he’s going to be an excellent pitcher for us,” Leyland said. “He ate that extra inning for us, really got pumped up and took it up a notch. That was good tonic.”

Leyland said before the game that he’d like to get Justin Verlander to the point where they can count on getting seven innings consistently from him, hoping within the next handful of starts. It’s still early, but Jackson is shaping up as that kind of pitcher for them right now.

Guillen day-to-day with sore Achilles

Guillen’s right Achilles tendon was sore on him before Sunday’s game, and running out the double in the eighth inning only worsened it. He’s day-to-day. One could envision him being the designated hitter tomorrow to kind of limit his running.

Bullpen fact from Elias

From Elias Sports Bureau: Those four perfect innings from Nate Robertson, Bobby Seay, Ryan Perry and Fernando Rodney Saturday marked the first time since 2004 that Detroit’s bullpen had thrown four innings in a game without allowing a runner to reach base.

In case you were curious, that game was June 27, 2004 against Arizona at Comerica Park, one of the walkoff victories against the Diamondbacks that weekend. Danny Patterson replaced Mike Maroth with nobody out in the sixth and retired all four batters he faced before Jamie Walker went 2 2/3 perfect innings with three strikeouts. Detroit came back from a 5-2 deficit to tie it before Carlos Pena hit a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

TIGERS

  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, LF
  6. Larish, DH
  7. Laird, C
  8. Inge, 3B
  9. Everett, SS

P: Edwin Jackson

RANGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Michael Young, 3B
  3. Josh Hamilton, CF
  4. Hank Blalock, DH
  5. Nelson Cruz, RF
  6. David Murphy, LF
  7. Chris Davis, 1B
  8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  9. Elvis Andrus, SS

P: Kevin Millwood

Zumaya starts off rehab stint with one inning

Joel Zumaya’s Minor League rehab stint began Saturday night with a two-run inning at Class A Lakeland against the Tampa Yankees.

Zumaya began the season on the disabled list with a sore shoulder after suffering a setback in early March from his shoulder recovery. He walked the first two batters he faced Saturday before a double-steal set up one run on a fielding error from third baseman Shawn Roof. Another run came home on a single from Yankees prospect Brandon Laird, younger brother of Tigers catcher Gerald Laird.

From there, Zumaya regrouped to retire the next three batters in order. Damon Sublett popped out to short. Austin Romine grounded into a fielder’s choice. Then, after a wild pitch advanced the runners, Zumaya got a called third strike on Wady Rufino to end the inning.

It marked Zumaya’s second rough outing this week, having done so in an extended Spring Training game on a windy afternoon in Lakeland. While the statistics weren’t good again Saturday, the important part for the Tigers from this stint is whether Zumaya’s arm feels fine the next day. If he can continue to do that while maintaining a good velocity, he’ll continue to progress, eventually going to Double-A Erie or Triple-A Toledo to face more advanced hitters before the Tigers decide whether to bring him to Detroit.

What to make of Verlander

The day after Justin Verlander struggled on Opening Day, manager Jim Leyland talked about him needing to pitch at less than maximum effort.

“He’s probably better off if he pitches at 92-93 [mph], maybe 94, than
trying to pitch at 96,” Leyland said Tuesday, “because it’s max effort, and I
think his ball moves good. In those [Spring Training] games at Atlanta,
he wasn’t throwing that hard until he needed it. … With the way he
pitches, the assortment he’s got, he doesn’t have to pitch [at] max
effort, in my opinion.”

On Saturday, Verlander’s velocity were actually higher than on Opening Day, including several 98 mph pitches in his fifth and final inning. His pitch count was high even before errors from Brandon Inge and Adam Everett extended his inning by three batters and eight pitches. He walked four Rangers in his five innings, including back-to-back batters after retiring his first two hitters in the second inning, extending it to a 21-pitch inning.

From that standpoint, it didn’t look like much change at all. However, Leyland considered it progress because the effort level was lower.

“It was pretty effortless today,” Verlander said. “I feel like some of the adjustments I’ve been making are really starting to show. Ever since I lowered my arm angle just a little bit, I feel a click, you could say. I kind of got back to what I feel like is my old slot. Why I got out of it, we talked about that before, but who cares, as long as I get it back.”

One of the reasons Leyland talked about max effort was the challenge of going through an entire outing throwing that hard. Verlander felt comfortable enough, he said, that he could pitch at that level an entire game.

“Today maybe 10 pitches were max effort,” Verlander said. “I noticed a couple of them, just good, clean mechanics, not trying to overthrow, just trying to make a quality pitch, and I looked back and saw 96-97. That’s what I worked on getting back to.”

One big difference today was that his fastball was tempting enough to send Rangers hitters swinging and missing. They never seemed to adjust to the high fastball, not even by the time Fernando Rodney entered in the ninth and struck out the side in order.

Does it mean anything going forward? We’ll see. Leyland liked what he saw.

“It just doesn’t happen overnight,” Leyland said. “He’s getting better all the time. He’s going to be fine. I think he’s going to have a big year for us, and he was very, very good today.”

Interesting test for Verlander today

This will be the first game for Justin Verlander since manager Jim Leyland’s talk about pitching more often at 92-93 mph than 96 and up. So what will we see out of Detroit’s young ace?

Leyland is hoping not an overhauled pitcher, but one pitching a little more under control.

“We’re not trying to turn him into a 92-93 mph pitcher,” Leyland cautioned Saturday morning. “We’re not trying to make him the same type of pitcher as Zach Miner, Nate Robertson, Kenny Rogers.”

What they’re trying to do is get him to vary his speeds on the fastball more often, and throw more pitches at less than maximum effort, with the idea of getting him better command and getting him to maintain his stamina deeper into the game.

It’ll be interesting to see how that translates against the Rangers. Armando Galarraga’s performance showed there’s a value in mixing pitches against Texas hitters and getting their timing a little bit off. Verlander isn’t really that type of pitcher, but he can certainly mix his pitches well if he has the breaking ball working.

TIGERS

  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, LF
  6. Thames, DH
  7. Laird, C
  8. Inge, 3B
  9. Everett, SS

P: Justin Verlander

RANGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Michael Young, 3B
  3. Josh Hamilton, CF
  4. Hank Blalock, DH
  5. Nelson Cruz, RF
  6. David Murphy, LF
  7. Chris Davis, 1B
  8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  9. Elvis Andrus, SS

P: Matt Harrison

The Twitter page is still up and going, for those who asked. It’s at http://twitter.com/beckjason. The updates aren’t going to be as frequent as they were in spring training, admittedly, but I’m trying to keep them going.

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