June 4th, 2009

Leyland ejected, apologizes

What was shaping up to be a long afternoon actually became a short game for Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

First came Miguel Cabrera’s hamstring injury, which forced him out of
the game after two innings. Minutes later, Dontrelle Willis suffered a
third-inning breakdown, walking four batters and hitting another. But
the cap came after Leyland went to the mound to remove Willis from the
game, then was ejected by home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson on his way back
to the dugout.

Leyland got into Nelson’s face to get his ejection’s worth, but said later he was at fault.

“I was wrong,” Leyland said. “I want to apologize. I think what
happened [was] some of our players, including our catcher, thought a
couple pitches were strikes. And I was wrong. I think everybody wanted
it so bad for Dontrelle and you get three runs on the board and you
think there’s a couple close pitches. But when you’re that wild, you’re
not going to get close pitches.

“There were a couple close pitches, but the umpire was right. I was totally out of line, and I apologize for that.”

It marked the second ejection of the season for Leyland, who was tossed
from a game last month at Minnesota after umpire Paul Schrieber put his
hand on Magglio Ordonez’s back to direct him towards the dugout
following a called third strike. That, too, was a game Willis pitched,
but that played nothing into it.

Thursday was a situation where
the support for Willis clearly came into play. He held down Boston’s
offense on a walk and two strikeouts through the first two innings, but
seemingly came apart in the third after hitting Jacoby Ellsbury with an
0-2 pitch. He walked Julio Lugo on five pitches, struck out Chris
Kottaras on a called third strike, then walked Dustin Pedroia, J.D.
Drew and Kevin Youkilis consecutively to bring in two runs.

Somewhere in those pitches was one that Willis thought was a strike,
because Willis said after the game that he let a call get to him.
Apparently Leyland did, too.

“It was silly for me to get thrown out,” Leyland said. “It appeared
that I was frustrated, and maybe I was, maybe a little frustrated for
Dontrelle, I don’t know. You want it so bad for a guy, and everybody
else wants it so bad for him. I overreacted. I’ll pay whatever the
penalty is, obviously.

“You get three runs, you’re pumped up. Looks like you have a chance to
have a good day. And when you get in a situation like that, it’s a
helpless feeling, trust me. Control has not been a problem for
Dontrelle, but today for the first time, after you could see what was
starting to go on for a little bit, you were hoping that he threw a
strike. And that’s a bad feeling. But it’s not an excuse to get run or
anything. I wish I wouldn’t have. I’m kind of ashamed of myself,
really, because it’s not very professional.”

D-Train's command woes

According to research on baseball-reference.com, Dontrelle Willis is the first Major League pitcher to allow at least five runs without a hit since then-Angel Mark Hutton on Aug. 20, 1995. He walked four batters, hit another one, then watched Anaheim’s bullpen clear the bases.

The last pitcher to reach that statistical anomaly while still pitching at least two innings in a game? Try the great Sandy Koufax, who did it on June 3, 1958.

Cabrera leaves with pulled left hamstring

Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera left Thursday afternoon’s game against the Red Sox with a pulled left hamstring.

Cabrera came up limping as he rounded second base following Curtis Granderson’s second-inning single. He remained in the game at that point after manager Jim Leyland and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand came out to attend to him, but Cabrera was clearly hobbled as he trotted home on Brandon Inge’s ensuing RBI double, and Granderson appeared to help him back into the dugout.

Jeff Larish replaced Cabrera at first base for the top of the third inning. A Tigers spokesperson said Cabrera will be further evaluated Friday.

Cabrera has had nagging leg injuries, including a tight quadriceps that lingered early last season, but he had been fine so far this season until now. His health had helped him out to a fast start at the plate; he entered Thursday fifth in the American League with a .351 batting average to go with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs.

Any lengthy absence would be especially damaging for a Tigers offense that has struggled around him.

Laird, Granderson on bunt attempt

Gerald Laird nearly broke up Josh Beckett’s no-hit bid had his bunt remained fair, which might have created some controversy had it worked. But to the Tigers, it was a close enough game at that point — 4-0 in the sixth — that you do what you can.

Laird said he was bunting on his own, which makes sense since it was on an 0-1 pitch. In that situation, leading off the inning, he had no qualms about doing it.

“You’ve got to win that game,” Laird said. “It’s only 4-0. It’s in the sixth inning. It’s not like it was the eighth inning. When you’re only down four runs in the sixth inning, what does he want us to do? You do whatever you can to get on. …

“It’s the sixth inning and it’s 4-0. If I get on base and we get something going, the hole’s open for [the next hitter] or somebody. Next thing you know, [we've got runners on] first and third.”

Like most everyone else in the ballpark, Laird made the connection between his bunt attempt and the Beckett pitch that hit him in the eighth. He has no problem with that.

“It’s all right,” Laird said. “It’s part of the game.”

It goes back to baseball etiquette, which is a murky area in some situations in today’s game.

“I would say this: If that’s part of your game, I think that’s quite all right,” Granderson said. “I have bunted, and if there was a situation where I wasn’t getting a good read on him but I felt I could and it’s 4-0, why not at that point? For example, if the first baseman and third baseman were playing me back [in the seventh], which is the time when I would normally bunt, why not? Because at that point, Magglio’s on first base, I can put pressure on, and we’ve got another lefty coming up behind me who has home-run power. Next thing you know, there’s a potential to be down one.

“Is there anything wrong with that? I don’t think so. The main goal is to try to win, and you take away part of your goal.”

Time to face the knuckleballer

Jim Leyland isn’t sure if he buys the whole notion of right-handers doing better against knuckleball pitchers. But he wants to get Ryan Raburn a game today, rather than let him rust while his bat is hot, so he gets a game in left field.

TIGERS

  1. Thomas, RF
  2. Santiago, 2B
  3. Ordonez, DH
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Granderson, CF
  6. Inge, 3B
  7. Raburn, LF
  8. Everett, SS
  9. Sardinha, C

P: Dontrelle Willis

RED SOX

  1. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  2. J.D. Drew, DH
  3. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
  4. Jason Bay, LF
  5. Mike Lowell, 3B
  6. Rocco Baldelli, RF
  7. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  8. Julio Lugo, SS
  9. George Kotteras, C

P: Chris Kottaras

Guillen not likely back anytime soon

About a week has passed since Carlos Guillen received the MRI results that showed no need for surgery in his shoulder. Still, he appears no closer to getting back on the field for baseball activities, either throwing or swinging a bat. And the Tigers are relegating themselves to the likelihood that he has a long-term injury (by this season’s standards) with his shoulder.

“From everything I understand from the medical people, it’s going to be a while,” manager Jim Leyland said. “Exactly what it means, I can’t answer that. I don’t really know. It just appears that he’s got a pretty worn shoulder. It’s a pretty used shoulder, and evidently, it’s roughed up a little bit, from what I understand. But it sounds like it will be a while.”

It’s clearly frustrating for Guillen, who doesn’t want to say much about it at this point.

Exactly what that means for the Tigers heading into the summer isn’t yet clear. They’ve gotten a boost from having Clete Thomas and Josh Anderson in left field for their defense and their speed on the bases. But Guillen is also one of the veteran hitters on the team who could produce big hits. Marcus Thames’ expected return could be huge.

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