May 9th, 2009

No personal catcher for Verlander

Dane Sardinha has caught Justin Verlander’s last two starts, both of them gems, and gotten rave reviews both times. Still, don’t expect Sardinha to become Verlander’s personal catcher, starting every time he takes the mound.

It’s not meant as an offense. Leyland called him “a heckuva catcher.” It’s just that Leyland doesn’t do the personal catcher thing.

“I won’t do that,” Leyland said. “It’s been done. It’s been successfully done. There’s nothing wrong with it, in my opinion. But there’s nothing good that can come out of it sometimes. I know that there’s issues going on with that right now in baseball, and I don’t think it’s good.”

Postscript on Granderson's catch

Curtis Granderson said he saw the replay of his highlight catch on television last night while he was flipping through the channels on his way to the Lakers-Rockets game. He’s usually a Nick at Nite viewer at night when he gets back to the hotel, he said, because it helps him get to sleep.

“I like Fresh Prince and the Cosby Show, even Roseanne,” Granderson said. “I go through my phases with Roseanne.”

Progressive Field, he said, is a pretty decent park in which to see the ball. The only challenge he cites is that the light towers are so high up. But then, he has to admit that he likes going to a lot of ballparks in other towns, largely because of how much less territory he has to cover compared to at home.

“I love going on the road,” he said. “Every other ballpark seems so much smaller. Even Texas, as big as it is, you feel like you can just cover more ground because of the fact that it’s in the South. The grass is that warm-weather grass, so they keep it cut low. It’s almost like running on a track. You can gain more speed.”

For a combination of conditions, he said Angel Stadium is up there among his favorites. As for Progressive Field, he said, “This is a good one.”

Outfield coach Andy Van Slyke said Otis Nixon’s catch of one of his drives in ’91 ranks as the best he’s seen. He also ranks Granderson’s catch from two years above this one.

“Curtis had a great catch,” Van Slyke said. “It was a great catch under the circumstances. But what Otis Nixon did was one story above.”

Van Slyke, like Leyland and everyone else, didn’t think Sizemore’s fly ball would carry that far.

“I didn’t think it was going out,” he said. “And it didn’t.”

Van Slyke said he does try to challenge Granderson with some fly balls at the fence to give him some practice during BP, including Friday night. That said, Van Slyke added, “Joel [Zumaya] actually made some better catches than he did.”

Ordonez sits, Granderson bats 5th

Manager Jim Leyland followed through with his plans to get in as many left-handed bats as he could against Fausto Carmona. That means Jeff Larish getting a day at first base, Miguel Cabrera a day at designated hitter, and Magglio Ordonez a day out of the lineup. Josh Anderson will lead off for the second time this week, with Curtis Granderson hitting fifth.

“Carmona, that’s a tough ticket whyen you’re going good, let alone when you’re struggling,” Leyland said.

Adam Everett is also sitting in favor of Ramon Santiago, but it isn’t for his health. He said Luis Valbuena’s hard but clean side got him in his left ankle, the one he sprained in Spring Training, but it didn’t do much damage. If he didn’t have the ankle taped because of the sprain, it would’ve easily been worse.

Don’t be surprised to see the Tigers on the run again if they get guys on base, especially Anderson, Thomas and Granderson. Victor Martinez is back behind the plate, where he has thrown out one out of 10 would-be basestealers so far this season.

TIGERS

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

P: Edwin Jackson

INDIANS

  1. Grady Sizemore, CF
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  3. Victor Martinez, C
  4. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  5. Mark DeRosa, 3B
  6. David Dellucci, DH
  7. Ryan Garko, 1B
  8. Ben Francisco, LF
  9. Luis Valbuena, 2B

P: Fausto Carmona

By the way, it’s really windy and cooling off in Cleveland. The flags suggest the breeze is either coming from left or blowing left ro right.

Highlight plays and Gold Gloves

To me, one of the factors that adds to the impact of Curtis Granderson’s incredible catch Friday night was the player it came against. Grady Sizemore has probably had more highlight catches over the course of his career, certainly more memorable catches at the fence or near the track. In fact, one of his highlight catches last year or two years ago was a diving catch going back in the gap that robbed Granderson in Cleveland.

So when somebody mentioned Sizemore to Granderson, his thoughts went to that catch pretty quickly.

“He’s robbed me of a few, too, here in this ballpark,” Granderson said after the game. “That’s the only place we seem to do it. Our ballpark’s so big, you can’t play deep enough, and if we do, we can’t hit it to center field. He’s definitely taken away a lot of balls against our team, and against me in particular. I get the chance to even it out, sure enough. He’s probably going to be trying to get me tomorrow.”

When you think about the ballpark comments, it’s a great point. Most of Granderson’s highlight catches in his career have been sliding or diving grabs in front of him. The one memorable grab at the fence from him in my mind is the catch he made to rob then-Red Sox player Wily Mo Pena on July 8, 2007. You can watch the replay here under the top play link and realize how far he had to run to get to the fence.

It raises an intriguing question that has come up before: How big of a role do highlight plays factor in Gold Glove awards? These are the plays coaches around the league see and hear about the next day in their respective clubhouses, and coaches make the vote. Granderson was arguably been underrated as an outfielder, though his stats took a little bit of a dip last year.

Well, already this season you have the incredible throw to the plate Granderson made on the fly last month, and now this. If Granderson can put up the stats — he put a LOT of emphasis on his defense this spring — will highlight plays become a factor that gets him serious Gold Glove consideration?

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