March 6th, 2010

Leyland upbeat about Tigers camp

Jim Leyland doesn’t usually talk a lot about the vibe of a spring training without being prompted. He says even less about a team chemistry, as a Tigers fan might imagine.

But there he was on Saturday, bringing up his feelings on how Spring Training has played out so far.

“I’m really happy about this group,” Leyland said. “I’m really excited. What’s really happened so far is that the veteran players have been tremendous. And when the veteran players by into your program, that’s big.”

The cooperation of the veterans is big to Leyland, because of the example it sets for the younger players. Win over your veterans, the thinking goes, and your younger players will follow.

“We’ve got really good personalities. And I see some guys who were a little more reserved being a little more gregarious.”

One example Leyland used is how shortstops Adam Everett and Ramon Santiago have tried to make the adjustment easier for second baseman Scott Sizemore. They’ve put in their time working with him on turning double plays on the back fields at Tigertown, but they’ve also been giving Sizemore advice on a lot of things.

“Everett’s been helping him out,” Leyland said. “He’s really been a blessing for us. Adam Everett, he’s as fine a human being as you’re going to meet.”

 But Leyland could just as easily look at how Tigers outfielders have taken to the addition of Johnny Damon, who has meshed in with the clubhouse as if he belonged in Detroit all along.

Other tidbits from Saturday:

  • Brandon Inge is thinking he’ll be ready to play in Spring Training games within a week. If these were big regular-season games, Inge thinks he’d be able to play now. Obviously, these early Spring Training games don’t quite fit that category.
  • Leyland has said in recent days that this is the most prospects and young talent that he has had in a Spring Training camp. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t rather be a player. “I’d trade 19 years of managing for five years of playing,” Leyland said. “I can tell you that. My pension wouldn’t be as good. Like I’ve said, I never wanted to be John McGraw. I wanted to be Yogi Berra.”
  • Look for lots of regulars Sunday for the Tigers’ second trip to Dunedin in five days to take on the Blue Jays. Every Tigers outfielder except Clete Thomas is scheduled to be on the trip. So is Gerald Laird and three other catchers. Miguel Cabrera and Ramon Santiago are the lone infielders not on the travel squad.

Seay still not throwing, but no re-exam yet

Lefty reliever Bobby Seay was held back from throwing once again Saturday, furthering his absence to two weeks and counting since he reported pain from his first bullpen session. But he has not yet been sent out to be re-examined, and probably won’t until next week.

Seay has been diagnosed with bursitis around his left biceps and tendinitis in his rotator cuff. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Friday afternoon that they were hoping to get Seay throwing again Friday or Saturday after trying a different course of treatment. Neither day did Seay feel well enough to play catch, let alone throw off a mound. He’s feeling better than he was a few days ago, Rand said, but still not well enough to pitch.

Any second look at Seay’s shoulder probably won’t take place until at least Monday, when team doctors are in town for minor league physicals. There has been no talk of sending Seay to a specialist quite yet, and probably won’t be until team doctors get another look at him.

Saturday: Tigers vs. Orioles

Odd seeing the O’s in Lakeland for a game, but a good odd. Never saw them around these parts when they trained all the way down in Fort Lauderdale. In fact, I think the last time we saw O’s third base coach Juan Samuel in Lakeland, he was trying to teach center field to Alex Sanchez. That was his last year as a Tiger in 2005. Now that the O’s have moved their spring base to Sarasota, one would expect this to be a regular matchup.

You’ll notice Austin Jackson isn’t in the starting lineup, but it’s a regular day off. Tigers had him working on his bunting on the practice fields this morning with Adam Everett and Gerald Laird. This session wasn’t about sac bunting so much as bunting for hits.

“You just try to give them another weapon,” manager Jim Leyland said. “And if anything, you try to get the third baseman on top of them [defending the bunt]. It’s an offensive weapon.”

None of those three guys are starting today, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jackson enter later in the game.

TIGERS

  1. Thomas, CF
  2. Damon, LF
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, DH
  6. Kelly, 3B
  7. Avila, C
  8. Sizemore, 2B
  9. Santiago, SS

P: Justin Verlander, Brad Thomas, Ryan Perry, Jose Valverde, Daniel Schlereth, Jay Sborz

ORIOLES

  1. Felix Pie, LF
  2. Robert Andino, 2B
  3. Nolan Reimold, DH
  4. Ty Wigginton, 3B
  5. Lou Montanez, RF
  6. Brandon Snyder, 1B
  7. Jeff Salazar, CF
  8. Michel Hernandez, C
  9. Blake Davis, SS

P: Kevin Millwood, Brandon Erbe, Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate, Alberto Castillo, Cla Meredith

Bonine as Mr. Reliable

Eddie Bonine said he’s fine if Jim Leyland says he knows what to expect from him. In fact, he’s kind of flattered. If he’s Mr. Reliable in the race for rotation spots, that’s cool with him. He hasn’t really been that kind of guy before.

He has been the overlooked guy before, but he has had a habit of defying expectations.

“It sounds like a compliment,” Bonine said of Leyland’s remarks after his two innings Friday against the Astros. “I think I’ve kind of been that kind of pitcher the last few years. Just being in that discussion as far as a guy that could possibly start for them, that’s where I want to be. There’s definitely a business side of it, but I know that when it comes to on the field, Dave [Dombrowski] and Jim [Leyland], they want to go out there and win ballgames. The rest of that stuff is going to take care of itself.”

Right now, Bonine is trying to take care of his pitches, The knuckleball, that unpredictable pitch that the Tigers like and want to see him throw, is the last pitch in the package, and it was the pitch that gave him some trouble Friday.

Bonine gave his three doubles in his two innings of work, and two of them came off knuckleballs that didn’t knuckle. It sounds like the pitch isn’t coming along, but it’s a pitch that he can only really hone in games. It isn’t a practice pitch for him.

“It’s one of those pitches that when I throw it, it’s full arm speed,” Bonine said. “It’s not just a different grip. It’s a different type of pitch. It seems like that’s the last pitch that comes for me, that good release point on that pitch. It’s definitely a feel pitch, and last year I got to the point where I could take some off it and kind of pitch off of it at different speeds. That’s one of those things that just comes from being out there and throwing it and getting a better feel for it. That’s where I’d like to be. I’m going to get back to that, how I finished last year as far as being able to add and subtract from that pitch. But it’s just a feel pitch.”

Once he gets that pitch down, you’re probably going to see more swings and misses from him. But it takes time, which is a tough situation for someone fighting for a roster spot. For now, once he got into trouble, he said he “had to go to work.” In other words, he had to get away from the knuckler for a little bit.

That goes back to the difference between Bonine and a knuckleballer like Tim Wakefield. Bonine throws a knuckleball — throws two, if you count the different speeds — but he isn’t a knuckleball pitcher. In other words, he doesn’t live and die on that pitch. He’ll throw not only fastballs, but a breaking ball that some confuse with the knuckler.

With all those variables, it’s new for him to be considered Mr. Reliable. But he’ll take it.

“I’m just still that guy who’s trying to get up there and continuing to prove myself,” Bonine said. “It’s a tremendous compliment, obviously, what Skip was saying, that he knows what he’s getting with me.”

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