March 24th, 2010
Just finished watching a simulated game that featured Rick Porcello getting in his scheduled work. He did fine, went to his allotted pitch count. Others to pitch in the game included Macay McBride, trying to work his way back from elbow problems that limited him to one inning over the past two years. Also pitching was Austin Wood, the former University of Texas reliever best known for throwing 169 pitches in an NCAA Tournament game last spring before Detroit drafted him. He threw a solid inning.
Maybe Jim Leyland hadn’t lost his mind after all batting Gerald Laird at DH.
He joked that he had. He wrote it on the lineup card, in fact, beside Laird’s name: “I’ve lost my mind!”
“He gave me a hard time,” Laird said. “It was fun.”
Laird and Leyland laughed together about it. It wasn’t a move meant as a joke so much as it was a way for Leyland to get Laird some at-bats while also getting Alex Avila nine innings behind the plate. As you’ll see in the story on the Tigers site, the Tigers have a big decision looming on Avila and how much he can learn in the big leagues compared with catching every day at Triple-A Toledo.
Laird responded with a home run deep to left and a double to the left-field fence. To him, it was a chance to really focus on his at-bats without having the added duty of handling the pitching staff.
“It was actually kind of exciting being the DH,” Laird said. “When I’m catching, more of my focus on catching behind the plate, and you [otherwise] get those two or three minutes at a time of hitting, but today, it was one of those things I had to go in the cage with [hitting coach Lloyd McClendon] a little bit and kind to focus all my attention [on hitting]. It was nice.”
That’s not something Laird would not want to reflect on days when he’s catching. He doesn’t want to show any emotion about it, good or bad, because he doesn’t want pitchers thinking his loyalties are divided.
- Joel Zumaya and the Tigers are in a no-win situation right now. He needs to get in some pitching work, but he’s still ill with the stomach bug he caught a few days ago. He was told to stay home Tuesday. With the Tigers off Wednesday, the hope is to have him pitch Thursday afternoon against the Blue Jays. “He’s sick as a dog right now,” Leyland said, “He’s been throwing up for two days. … I’m going to watch him, but we have to get him going. He needs to pitch.”
- As well as starter Max Scherzer looked Tuesday night, holding the Nationals hitless until the fifth, Leyland said he could’ve gone further. He didn’t because the Tigers were worried about a spot on Scherzer’s right index finger that they thought could develop into a blister. “Looked like just the start of one, so we didn’t want to take any chances,” Leyland said.
- Non-roster reliever Enrique Gonzalez continues to get his innings around the back end of games, and he continues to throw strikes and make an impression. “It would not surprise me if Gonzalez is in the big leagues at some point,” Leyland said, noting Gonzalez is unlikely to make the Opening Day roster. “He’s not afraid. He’s very impressive.”
- Leyland continues to tout how impressed he has been with shortstop Brent Dlugach, to the point where you have to keep an eye on him this season assuming he opens at Triple-A Toledo as the regular shortstop. “He could be a utility player right now, from what I’ve seen, but he could also end up [someday] being an everyday shortstop,” Leyland said. “He looks like a totally different player.”
- If you were at the game or following, you might have noticed at Gene Lamont was not at his usual post coaching third base. Leyland said he had Lamont go home instead of sticking around for the game and making a late-night drive back home to Sarasota for the off-day. Leyland gave the same offer to pitching coach Rick Knapp, who instead wanted to stick around to watch Rick Porcello pitch in the camp game Wednesday morning. “Coaches, they don’t get any breaks, really,” Leyland said.