October 2009

Two-homer game for Sizemore

Scott Sizemore, quite possibly Detroit’s second baseman next year, is back for a stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he had a good early game Thursday. He homered in consecutive bats Thursday for the Peoria Javelinas in their 17-9 win over the Peoria Saguaros.

Sizemore hit out a slider for a solo shot in the fifth inning off Logan Ondrusek before adding a two-run homer in the sixth off Mike DeMark.

Oliver gets welcome to pro ball

Jason Beck / MLB.com

Tigers second-round draft pick Andrew Oliver made his pro debut Tuesday in the Arizona Fall League and took the loss for the Peoria Javelinas with a four-run third inning.

Oliver, the left-hander the Tigers drafted out of Oklahoma State, replaced Javelinas starter and fellow Tigers farmhand Scot Drucker, who gave up a run on a hit — a Brandon Laird RBI single — in two innings. A leadoff single and back-to-back walks — one on four pitches, the next on five — loaded the bases on Oliver. He fell behind on a 3-1 count to left-handed hitting Mets prospect Ike Davis, who got a fastball on the inside part of the plate and pulled it out to right for a grand slam.

Oliver retired the side from there, finishing with a 29-pitch inning. Tigers relief prospect Robbie Weinhardt came in later and gave up five runs on six hits over 1 2/3 innings.

Casper Wells went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Cale Iorg had an RBI single.

Tigers rank 4th among MLB clubs in TV ratings

According to Sports Business Journal, FS Detroit saw a 10.1% increase in its ratings for Tigers telecasts up to 6.89, fourth-highest among regoinal sports networks for Major League clubs behind the Red Sox on NESN (9.46), Cardinals on FS Midwest (7.97) and Phillies on Comcast Sports Net (7.13). The Twins on FS North (6.25) rounded out the top five, even though they had a big drop.

FS Detroit reported record ratings for at least two Tigers games down the stretch of this year’s playoff race.

All Tigers coaches invited back except Van Slyke

Jason Beck / MLB.com

The Tigers have invited back all but one of their coaches for next season, including hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and pitching coach Rick Knapp. Third-base coach Gene Lamont, bullpen coach Jeff Jones and infield coach Rafael Belliard are also invited back. The one coach not returning is first base coach and outfield instructor Andy Van Slyke, who “has decided to pursue other opportunities,” according to a Tigers press release.

Van Slyke was one of manager Jim Leyland’s first hires when he took over the Tigers. He said Friday he might return to a job in radio and television, either back home in St. Louis or nationally.

“I don’t actually have a game plan yet,” Van Slyke said, “but I’ll come up with one.”

Van Slyke would not get into how the decision came about or who decided, calling it “irrelevant.” However, he complimented the team for his four years there.

“I’ve had a great time in Detroit, and the Tigers organization has treated me well,” Van Slyke said.

Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Friday that while it “has not been totally decided” that the current coaches will all stay in their current roles, he called it “most likely” that they’ll be looking for a first-base coach who can also coach outfield and baserunning. Manager Jim Leyland said it’s “99.5 percent certain” that they’ll hire from within the organization. If that’s the case, organizational instructor Gene Roof would be a likely in-house candidate, having handled those duties in the farm system for several years.

Dombrowski on Cabrera, Polanco, coaching staff, etc.

Jason Beck / MLB.com

As expected, LOTS of stuff coming out of Thursday’s year-end media availability (no, it’s not a press conference) with GM Dave Dombrowski, first among them the Miguel Cabrera situation, which sounds like it’s being taken care of.

“We know he made a mistake. He knows he made a mistake,” Dombrowski said. “And I feel he’s going to take the steps.”

After talking several times with Cabrera and his agent, Diego Bentz, Dombrowski said he’s “very satisfied they are dealing with the issue that they need to address.”

Asked about his emotions when it happened, Dombrowski pointed to the situation.

“One part of that is obvious,” Dombrowski said. “You’re at home at 7:30 in the morning and you get a call to come to the police station and pick up one of your players. Of course you’re upset.”

That said, he later added, “Even though you’re upset, you have to give tough love.”

As far as why Cabrera played after the incident Saturday, when he went hitless with two strikeouts and an inning-ending double play, Dombrowski said, “The feeling was at the time, he was capable of playing in the game.”

Other matters:

  • The opinions Dombrowski gave about the final few weeks of the season and the division lead that evaporated was very much a view of a team that didn’t necessarily collapse, but a team that wasn’t very good in the first place. “I never felt we had a powerhouse club,” he said. “I felt we had a good club. We have a club with shortcomings.”
  • Later, Dombrowski said, “I really didn’t think we’d win a lot more than 86 games this year. For a very long time, I thought 86 wins would win the division. Unfortunately, I was wrong, 87 won.”
  • More Dombrowski: “I don’t think our club lacked for urgency whatsoever. But it was a club that was befuddling at times.”
  • No major changes were announced in the session, which was why they didn’t label it a press conference. Dombrowski gave a vote of confidence to Lloyd McClendon, whom he called “a very good hitting coach.” However, Dombrowski would not say that all of the coaches would be back, nor would he say there were changes coming. “We’re not done with all those conversations,” Dombrowski said, referring to his talks with manager Jim Leyland.
  • In regards to moves, though Dombrowski hasn’t yet talked about a budget with owner Mike Ilitch, he compared this coming offseason to last one, when the Tigers didn’t go big into free agency and made more complementary moves. “It’s really very similar to the challenge we faced last winter, to me,” Dombrowski said. “It’s a situation where you have to make wise decisions with some of our acquisitions. … I would think there would be a lot of similarities at this time, and that’s what we would look to do.”
  • Not a whole lot of insight on free agents, whether they could keep both Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon, and what it would take to bring back Placido Polanco. He stated the obvious, that they would not be able to keep all of their free agents. Keep in mind, Jarrod Washburn and Aubrey Huff are also free agents.
  • Though he didn’t get into the chances of resigning Polanco, he sounded very much like a GM who’s prepared to move on and give prospect Scott Sizemore a shot unless they can get a reasonable deal done with Polanco. “We think he’s ready to play,” Dombrowski said. “He’s a good hitter. He has a nice, short stroke. And he has more power than you think.”
  • By contrast at shortstop, Dombrowski said, “I don’t think Cale Iorg is ready to play.”
  • Expect another rotation in the designated hitter role, rather than a full-time guy. “Most likely, we won’t have a full-time DH,” he said. “We have candidates, Ordonez and Guillen, who could DH.”
  • After the trio of Verlander, Porcello and Jackson, Dombrowski sounded like he expects to fill out the rest of the rotation internally. He expects Bonderman to be back in the rotation next season, that the stuff is back. He sees Galarraga and Robertson as candidates for the fifth spot. “I can’t even exclude a guy like Eddie Bonine,” Dombrowski said.
  • Dombrowski supported the decision not to pitch Verlander or Porcello on short rest last Saturday. “We were never close,” he said. “They both volunteered.”
  • He said in his 20 or so years as a Major League GM, he doesn’t think he has ever had a young pitcher come back and pitch on three days rest. It isn’t something I’ve had a chance to look up.
  • On Porcello: “If he came back and pitched on three days rest, he’s in a spot where if anything happened, you’d never forgive yourself.”
  • He still sees Granderson as a leadoff hitter, but he has to make some adjustments, especially against left-handed pitching. “We debate that all the time,” he said. “The Curtis Granderson we saw this year was not an effective leadoff hitter.”
  • What surprised Dombrowski the most, he said, was that they finished last in the league in doubles.
  • Part of the team’s upgrade offensively is going to have to come from the players they have. He doesn’t see anyone who had a career year at the plate, including Granderson despite his 30 home runs.
  • Very telling remarks from Dombrowski on the future of their offense. He plans to have meetings with his staff about discipline at the plate, and how to improve that at all levels, not just in Detroit.
  • Dombrowski: “We also have to realize there’s been an adjustment in the game the last couple years. I don’t think you can live and die with the home run all the time.”
  • Asked if they have an internal candidate at closer if they can’t bring back Rodney or Lyon, he said they might. His remarks later seemed to be referring to Ryan Perry, though they haven’t decided that. “Some people in our organization thought Perry was ready,” he said.
  • On Zumaya, Dombrowski cited doctors’ opinions that he should be fine after surgery to get rid of the bone shard in his shoulder in August. “They think he should be able to throw the ball as well as he had this year [before getting hurt again],” Dombrowski said.

It's not THAT kind of talk

Jason Beck / MLB.com

After a day to try to get over Tuesday’s loss, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski is going to talk with the media Thursday morning. However, media relations is emphasizing, it’s NOT a press conference. It’s a media availability. A press conference after the end of a season, of course, usually means that something’s going down. At the moment, that does not appear to be the case, at least not for anything big enough to warrant a press conference.

Nonetheless, what Dombrowski says Thursday should be very interesting. He didn’t say a whole lot during September, so we don’t know a lot about his views on the division lead that slipped away. We can gather his feelings on the Miguel Cabrera situation. He has been pretty up-front about his opinions at past seasons’ end, especially last year.

Brian Powell dead at 35

Not that Tigers fans needed any more shocking news, but news came out yesterday that former pitcher Brian Powell is dead at age 35. He apparently died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

From the story in his local paper, the Post-Standard in Georgia:

Powell was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 1995 and continued playing professional baseball until retiring in 2005.

He owned and operated South Georgia Sports in downtown Bainbridge and attended Bainbridge Church of God.

Following Powell’s funeral service, interment will follow at West
Bainbridge Cemetery with Jason Andrews, Pete Arenas, Rodney Close, Stan
Killough, Greg McDonald and Chris Bibby serving as active pallbearers.
Visitation will be held Wednesday, Oct. 7, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Ivey
Funeral Home, which is in charge of services.

Born Oct. 10, 1973, in Bainbridge, Mr. Powell died Monday, Oct. 5,
at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare after a self-inflicted gunshot.

He was preceded in death by his father, Larry Powell.

Survivors include his wife, Glee Putnal Powell of Bainbridge; his
son, Will Powell of Bainbridge; his daughters, Chloe and Bree Powell,
both of Bainbridge; his mother, Brenda Ingram Powell of Bainbridge; his
sister, Leah Bibby of Bainbridge; his maternal grandmother, Jewel
Addison Powell of Bainbridge; three nieces, one nephew and several
aunts and uncles.

Funeral services will be held Thursday at 11 a.m. at Bainbridge Church of God.

Rodney wanted one more inning

Before anyone second-guesses Jim Leyland on his decision to send closer Fernando Rodney back out for the 12th inning after he entered for the final two outs of the ninth, keep this in mind: Rodney called it.

He told his manager he wanted to go back out.

“He said he wanted one more,” manager Jim Leyland said, “so I had to give it to him. He’s a horse. I don’t have any problem with that.”

Rodney was at 36 pitches entering the 12th, already one off his season high. But it was also a must-win situation, and he felt like he had it in his arm.

“I’ve never seen something like that,” Rodney said of that game. “I feel ready to go. I say one more.”

Rodney’s 48th and final pitch hit 95 mph.

Inge's highlight game was a play through pain

The way Brandon Inge was ranging around third base Tuesday night, one would’ve thought his knee felt the best it had in months. Truth is, however, that it was the worst he has felt it, maybe all year.

This was Inge’s game to push his knee to the breaking point if he had to. He has all offseason to recover.

“It was last game,” Inge said. “It could be last game, so I’m leaving it all on that field, whether my kneecaps blow off. Actually, to be honest with you, it was one of the more painful games that I’ve played in, by far. I just blocked it out. I put my team first and tried to do what I could.”

Two stellar stops stand out. One was Matt Tolbert’s leadoff single in the third inning, which brought out one of those diving stops down the line that seemed almost routine before the knee injuries. He hit the ground down the line to stop it, then got up enough to fire across the infield and at least make a play. Tolbert beat it out, but the play was impressive nonetheless. Plus, pushing off that painful left knee, those are the ones that usually give him the most pain.

Then, of course, came Inge’s diving stop towards the hole to rob Orlando Cabrera of a potential go-ahead single in the ninth.

“I could give you 20 instances [of pain],” Inge said. “Me personally, looking on the game, I know that I felt everything on the field. The funny thing is, it’s not only me. I can look at every guy on the team, and everyone played their heart out. Sadly, it’s over.”

Now that it’s over, he’s going to have time to get his knees fixed. Depending on what more doctors find in there, it could be as simple as allowing the knees to rest for a long period, or it could involve surgery, potentially major if the microtears have been more like regular tears.

Cabrera heartbroken

Miguel Cabrera was looked devastated on television when reporters interviewed him after the game. Once the cameras left, he might’ve been even worse.

He sounded like he was blaming the loss on himself.

“I don’t know what to say right now,” Cabrera said. “I feel bad.”

It was difficult to make out what he was saying because he was so emotional, so it was hard to tell if he was blaming his hitting — later in the game after his double and two-run homer in his first two at-bats — or his run-in with authorities Saturday becoming a distraction.

Still, it sounded like he was ready to move on. Asked if he might spend his offseason getting his life in order, Cabrera seemed to agree.

“Yeah, I think I’m going to,” Cabrera said, trying to find the term.

Right now, though, he’s going to go through a pretty tough time.

“It’s very tough, very tough,” Cabrera said. “It’s a very tough loss.”

At that point, Cabrera broke down.