July 2009

Guillen might not be long for Toledo

Amidst speculation the offensively challenged Tigers could call up Carlos Guillen in the next couple days, the Tigers sent special assistant Dick Egan to Toledo Thursday to watch Guillen in his second rehab start for the Mud Hens. Guillen went 3-for-4 with three singles before being lifted in what became a Mud Hens rout over Syracuse.

Besides deciding whether he’s ready at the plate and his timing is there, there are two issues the Tigers have to address, both of them health-related. First, is it important whether Guillen plays in the field? Right now, it doesn’t appear to be. Both of his starts in Toledo were at DH, not in the outfield.

Then there’s the matter of switch-hitting. According to the Toledo Blade, Guillen batted left-handed when Syracuse brought in a lefty reliever. Guillen told the paper after the game that he wanted to get more looks from the left side because the Tigers plan to use him primarily against the right-handers. But it’s also known that Guillen has had trouble with his sore right shoulder batting right-handed. He didn’t face a lefty pitcher Thursday.

Could it be a platoon situation at DH for Guillen with Marcus Thames? Possible, though Thames could still play the outfield to stay in the lineup against right-handers if that’s what manager Jim Leyland wanted to do.

Inge back in lineup

UPDATE: Game is starting at 1:30.

As for the lineup, Brandon Inge is back in, playing third and batting seventh. Dusty Ryan gets his first start since the All-Star break, batting eighth. Given the Tigers’ offensive struggles, one wonders if he might get more occasional starts to put a power bat in the lineup, except that Laird is so valuable for the pitching staff.

TIGERS

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

P: Luke French

MARINERS

  1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  2. Russell Branyan, 1B
  3. Jose Lopez, 2B
  4. Mike Sweeney, DH
  5. Wladimir Balentien, LF
  6. Ryan Langerhans, CF
  7. Rob Johnson, C
  8. Jack Hannahan, 3B
  9. Ronny Cedeno, SS

P: Jarrod Washburn

Tigers in wait-and-see mode with Zumaya

The Tigers are waiting to see how Joel Zumaya’s injured right shoulder responds in the coming days before deciding whether he can come back in the next couple weeks or undergo season-ending surgery.

Zumaya and team medical officials talked Tuesday with Dr. James Andrews, the noted orthopedic surgeon who has examined Zumaya over the last year or so. Zumaya didn’t travel for an exam, but the Tigers forwarded test results to Dr. Andrews to review.

The condition is the same as last winter, when he was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his shoulder. The sliver of bone hanging from the fracture aggravated his shoulder when he pitched Friday against the Yankees, though head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said it wasn’t as bad as a year ago.

Zumaya said he took two cortisone injections in his shoulder to reduce the swelling and resulting pain. Once the pain is out, they’ll see how he feels throwing and how well he throws, then make a decision from there.

Even if he’s fine, Zumaya said, he expects to have surgery to fix the fracture. The only question is whether he has to have it now or if it can wait until the offseason. The surgery will keep him out around eight weeks, Zumaya said, so to have it now would likely cost him the season, though he would be back in plenty of time to get ready for Spring Training.

If he doesn’t need the surgery yet, he could conceivably have a minimum stay on the 15-day disabled list, which would put him back in action as soon as August 2.

“If we can get [the pain] down in a reasonable enough time, him being not down from throwing for a long period of time, we’ll have a chance then that he wouldn’t down for any length,” Rand said. “Because he is a bullpen guy.”

Zumaya said he started feeling soreness in his shoulder about four weeks ago, but didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t major, and he was still able to fire fastballs around 100 mph. Not until Friday, he said, did it really flare up.

He’s still sore now, but a good part of that comes from the initial pain of the cortisone shots. Once that wears off, the Tigers can start figuring out just how well and how comfortably he can throw. If he opts against surgery, he can have one more cortisone surgery at some point this season.

Zumaya, for his part, was upbeat Tuesday, which should be a good sign.

Wednesday: Tigers vs. Mariners

UPDATE @ 7:10: The tarp is now off. Game is expected to start around 7:40. The radar suggests they should be fine the rest of the night now that this storm cell has passed north.

When it does start, Clete Thomas will be batting cleanup for the first time in his career. Jim Leyland weighted the lineup with left-handed hitters against Mariners starter Felix Hernandez, who has given up a .305 batting average and .842 OPS to lefties compared with a .241 average against righties.

TIGERS

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

P: Armando Galarraga

MARINERS

  1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  2. Russell Branyan, 1B
  3. Jose Lopez, 2B
  4. Ken Griffey, DH
  5. Wladimir Balentien, LF
  6. Ryan Langerhans, CF
  7. Rob Johnson, C
  8. Jack Hannahan, 3B
  9. Ronny Cedeno, SS

P: Felix Hernandez

Inge struggling with left patella tendinitis

Manager Jim Leyland gave third baseman Brandon Inge a night out of the lineup, even though Inge didn’t request it, as a way to give Inge a rest from the patella tendinitis that has been bothering him. But the way it sounds, it’s a problem that could well bother Inge the rest of the year.

Inge said he has been dealing with pain in both of his knees for at the last couple months, starting with soreness early in the season. Recently, he said, the pain has been “excruciating,” and he has felt it in his swing as well as in the field. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Inge has a series of microtears in his left patella tendon, and more minor in the right.

He took a cortisone shot in each leg earlier this summer, but it hasn’t helped substantially. At this point, he said, team doctors are trying to find something that might alleviate the pain with a minimal amount of time missed.

“If they said [you would miss] 15 days and you wouldn’t feel it again and you could come back, I would probably do it,” Inge said.

Anything that requires more time off than that, though, and he’ll probably elect to play through it.

“This year, we’re in the hunt,” Inge said. “We’re playing hard and we feel we have a great chance. How would I come out in a race this close when the fans in Detroit are going through what they’re going through?”

The hope for now, at least on the Tigers’ part, is that having Wednesday allows Inge to feel better playing the day game Thursday, then into Friday’s day-night doubleheader and weekend series against the White Sox.

“In my opinion, I’ll probably be playing with this the rest of the year,” Inge said. “That’s just my gut feeling.”

Bonine to start Game 2 Friday

The Tigers will call up Eddie Bonine from Triple-A Toledo to make the spot start in the second game of Friday’s day-night doubleheader against the White Sox. He was the one candidate who stood out among the Tigers’ options at Triple-A Toledo and Double-A Erie, and he was on schedule to start for the Mud Hens on Friday. Most likely, the roster move will come between games Friday.

In case you missed it, here’s the story from Monday on how Bonine has gotten back to pitching after his mom lost her battle with breast cancer last month.

Other injury news

Joel Zumaya, according to manager Jim Leyland, “doesn’t feel very good,” not a good sign after he injured his shoulder four days ago. He didn’t want to get into specifics other than the fact that the shoulder is still hurting. MRI results didn’t show anything structurally different with it compared to last time, but this is also a shoulder that hasn’t been completely healthy since last year. When he pitched through it this year, he did it with a stress fracture that doctors compared to what many NFL quarterbacks go through. At some point, Leyland said, they’re going to have to figure out how to get the shoulder right.

Nate Robertson said he made close to 100 throws from 120 feet on flat ground Tuesday, three weeks after he underwent surgery to remove four masses of tissue from his left elbow. He’s on track to start pitching off a mound soon, which would seemingly set him up for a rehab stint in August. The big test Robertson wants to feel is how his arm responds unrestricted once he starts pitching off a mound in side sessions.

“The big thing,” Robertson said, “will be building it back up and seeing how much [surgery] freed it up.”

Jeremy Bonderman, meanwhile, threw a 5-minute side session Tuesday and felt fine.

“I know it feels better,” Bonderman said of his arm. “Velocity, I have no idea, but it feels a lot better, a lot freer. Hopefully the third time’s the charm.”

Guillen's shoulder checks out fine, headed to Toledo

The Tigers recalled left fielder Carlos Guillen from his Minor League rehab assignment Tuesday, but he isn’t coming back to the Tigers roster. Instead, he’s heading to Triple-A Toledo to pick up his stint Wednesday after having his sore right shoulder examined by doctors Tuesday in Detroit.

The Tigers and Guillen seemed optimistic about his situation, but wanted to be cautious. The recall showed they were concerned enough that the shoulder could shut him down. Instead, since he’ll be back out on rehab Wednesday, the recall move was essentially revoked. He’ll have up to 11 days remaining in his assignment before the Tigers have to decide whether to activate him, though it probably won’t take that long.

Guillen went on the 15-day disabled list in early May with inflammation in his right shoulder, later diagnosed as the result of years of playing shortstop and throwing. After experiencing little to no progress for several weeks, Guillen and team medical staff said they would keep trying to get him back until the All-Star break before approaching the possibility of shoulder surgery.

Guillen’s progress over the last few weeks raised realistic hopes that he might not just get back to playing this season, but could even be back with the Tigers by the end of July. He went 3-for-12 with a double and four walks over five rehab games for Class A Lakeland last week, with almost all of that damage in his final three games after starting out 0-for-6.

Guillen reported soreness in his shoulder, including when he swung from the right side. The Tigers’ original hope was to promote Guillen from Lakeland to Toledo Monday, but his shoulder concerns put that on hold.

Guillen was upbeat about his situation when he arrived in the Tigers clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.

“It feels better. It feels good,” Guillen said of his shoulder. “It just takes time. When you come back, you’re not going to feel the same way every day. I know my body. I feel better.”

How he feels as he progresses in rehab could be big in how the Tigers proceed for the home stretch. For an offense that has struggled to score runs for most of the season, Guillen has the potential to have the effect of a deadline trade acquisition. However, that hinges on a return to the healthy Guillen of old, rather than the injury-hampered Guillen of this season.

“Guillen could be our trade,” manager Jim Leyland said earlier this month. “Guillen, if he comes back, could be the bat we’re looking for. If it’s Carlos Guillen, to me, that’s a nice bat to have.”

Guillen not rehabbing in Toledo just yet

Carlos Guillen has not yet had his rehab assignment moved to Triple-A Toledo, as was originally the organization’s hope for Monday. While Mud Hens officials haven’t heard anything on when Guillen might arrive, the best guess at this point is that he arrives later in the week once he gets a few more at-bats and gets any reported soreness of his shoulder.

Guillen began his rehab stint in Lakeland a week ago. He entered Monday batting 3-for-12 with a double and four walks, but all of those hits and walks came in three games Thursday through Saturday after starting out 0-for-6 with three strikeouts.

Guillen could be Tigers' bat addition

While the Tigers continue to search for a spark to their offense,
including on the trade market, their best option could still be a
healthy Carlos Guillen. He’s going through the process of regaining his
timing at the plate in his rehab assignment at Class A Lakeland,
doubling and walking Thursday, as he nears an end to his nearly
two-month stint on the disabled list with inflammation in his right
shoulder.

A two-week rehab assignment would bring back Guillen
around July 27. Guillen is hoping to return sooner than that, giving
the Tigers the end of next week’s homestand plus a three-game series
against the Rangers to evaluate him and how much he can contribute
before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. If he can regain his
hitting form from 2006-08, he adds quite a bit, possibly more than any
hitter on the trading block. If he simply continues his hitting
struggles from April and May, the Tigers still have problems.

That’s
the risk the Tigers have to weigh. But with the trade market moving
slowly — president/general manager Dave Dombrowski continues to say
there aren’t many sellers right now — Detroit has time to wait and see.

“Guillen
could be our trade,” manager Jim Leyland said last week. “Guillen, if
he comes back, could be the bat we’re looking for. If it’s Carlos
Guillen, to me, that’s a nice bat to have.”

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