June 28th, 2009

Figaro sent down, French to start Friday

We have a rotation switch: Alfredo Figaro was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo after the game, and Luke French is coming back up. He’ll join the Tigers in Oakland, work briefly out of the bullpen there and then start Friday’s series opener at Minnesota.

“We just felt like giving French a shot against them,” manager Jim Leyland said.

The move seemed to have less to do with Figaro’s performance in Houston Saturday, though that certainly didn’t help, and a little more to do with the matchup. Adding French gives the Tigers a left-handed starter to put up against Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, though Leyland didn’t really want to talk about that.

French has been on an absolute tear recently, basically for the last month. He has given up four earned runs on 16 hits with 26 strikeouts over 23 innings in his last three starts, though he hasn’t won any of them. Further back than that, he has lasted at least 6 2/3 innings with two earned runs or less in five of his last six starts, bringing down his ERA for the year to 2.98.

Postscript on Figaro: Tipping pitches?

A day after the Astros roughed up Alfredo Figaro in his second Major League start, there was more dicussion about his pitch selection, and why a pitcher who made his mark throwing fastballs at Double-A Erie and in his Major League debut would go so often to a breaking ball.

“The normal reaction for a young pitcher when they see certain teams and names,” manager Jim Leyalnd said, “is that everybody up here can hit a fastball and they think you’ve got to trick them. And it’s the total opposite of that. He got caught in a trap.”

But there was also the thought that the Astros might’ve been picking up on something in Figaro’s mannerisms on certain pitches, in effect tipping his pitches. After all, if you look at the pitch selection, Houston pounded breaking balls and offspeed pitches, yet did next to nothing with Figaro’s fastball. It’s an amazing thought for somebody who just made his second Major League start.

Figaro talked about it after the game, but said he couldn’t tell.

Leyland dismissed the idea.

“He was trying to trick them instead of throwing the ball, but I don’t think there was anything they were picking up,” he said.

Still, just in case, Figaro might well end up doing some side work between starts to shore that up.

UPDATE: Any work Figaro does on that will have to come at Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers sent him down after the game and called up Lucas French to start in his spot Friday at Minnesota. Though no one would say it, they’re getting a lefty starter in there against a Minnesota lineup headlined by left-handed hitters.

Laird back in lineup

Gerald Laird’s back spasms eased up quite a bit thanks to some serious treatment during the game last night, enough that he’s back in the lineup for today’s series finale against the Astros. He’s part of a heavily right-handed lineup to face Astros starter Russ Ortiz, who’s giving up a .302 batting average to right-handed hitters this season compared to .215 versus left-handed batters.

TIGERS

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

ASTROS

  1. Michael Bourn, CF
  2. Jeff Keppinger, SS
  3. Lance Berkman, 1B
  4. Carlos Lee, LF
  5. Geoff Blum, 3B
  6. Hunter Pence, RF
  7. Ivan Rodriguez, C
  8. Kazuo Matsui, 2B
  9. Russ Ortiz, P

Robertson to DL; Ni in Houston

The Tigers placed Nate Robertson on the 15-day DL this morning with a mass in the medial portion of his left elbow. The move is retroactive to Saturday. To take his place, they purchased the contract of Fu-Te Ni from Triple-A Toledo. He flew to Houston this morning and should be available for the game today.

UPDATE: Robertson is flying back to Detroit to have his elbow checked out team doctor Stephen Lemos. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said the tissue mass in his elbow is like a cyst, and it has been aggravating his nerves, causing numbness and tingling in his ring and pinky fingers. They expect he’ll have to undergo minor surgery to have the mass excised, but they hope to do that along the same area where he had Tommy John surgery years ago. The timetable on any return depends on how that procedure goes.

As for Ni, he arrived in the clubhouse a little bit ago, as did his translator, Fox.

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