Tuesday notes: Leyland loses his mind on Laird?

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.
 
Other tidbits:

  • 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.

7 Comments

Funny stuff there with Laird. I didn’t even notice it yesterday when I looked at the boxscore that Laird was at DH. Funny.
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Hope Zumaya starts to feel better with his outings this spring he needs all the help he can get.
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I know Gonzales is pitching in the late innings so is he really getting the meat of the order, however whatever happened to the best make the roster?? He has been better than a few others that I suspect will make the roster. Maybe he should pitch earlier in a game so you can see what he is really all about?? I don’t know.
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GK

GK – that makes an abundance of sense, but does sense always get used?
It is funny about Laird, but also kind of scary, kind of leads me to believe Gerald won’t hit any better this year than last, but I hope I am wrong.

Opening day will be here before we know it!

Regarding the best making the roster, one of the characteristics of ST is that you have veteran regulars who will obviously be on the team, and they spend their time honing their skills for the upcoming season. Trying different things and such. These guys have the track record. Then there are those trying to make the team who have to go pretty much all out. Willis, Robertson, and Bonderman fall into that category. Bonderman in particular is facing a conundrum because he needs to work on a third pitch but he also needs to show that he’s ready to go north in the rotation. Scherzer, after his first couple of poor outings, commented that he had to stop experimenting for awhile and get some hitters out. Many times in ST you have to look past the results. When judging pitchers, I always try to assess the reaction of the hitters. They may score four runs on bloops and soft grounders but if they’re off balance, that pitcher is doing his job. Do the hitters look comfortable up there and so on. And just to lightly tap a dead horse, the radar gun has little to do with it.
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I think Laird will hit better for the reasons Gerald himself gave. He won’t have to spend so much time learning the pitchers this season since we have pretty much the same guys back. One of the few knocks on Pudge, for what it’s worth, was that he didn’t do that, instead relying on his significant athletic skills behind the plate. When I say Laird will hit better, I’m talking about .250 along with his bunting skills and a few extra base hits.
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All in all and with 1.5 weeks left, it’s been a pretty good spring in my estimation. There are always some question marks heading north. The one time that wasn’t the case was 2008, when the star-laden Tigers had a flat spring and then fell on their faces at the season’s outset. We’re quietly moving into position for a run here.
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–Rich

ST numbers can be misleading. Hopefully for Austin Jackson, it will lead into a strong start. One bad outing for a reliever can lead to a high spring ERA and a majority of their outtings can be stellar, like Ryan Perry this spring. Numbers do not always mean who is the best. Contracts and 40 man roster spots always enters into the picture. If, Willis and Robertson were pitching like they were last year, they would both be gone. You can handle releasing a player in the last year of a deal. You hate to eat multiple years. At this point, those two and Bondo deserve to start the season on the roster. I think Zumaya should stay in Florida for an extended ST unless he really shows something in the next 1.5 weeks.
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I like Avila’s bat, but I would go with Diaz as the back up for at least the first six weeks of the season. He has the potential to be an excellant catcher and needs to start the season playing every day. Blocking balls in the dirt continues to be an issue as he learns the position.
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It has been nice to see the bats going strong this spring and the work to get ready for the season does seem to be going well.
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Mark

It seems to me the biggest change with this team to past years is having the unofficial team leaders that have talent and are at their peaks – JV, Valverde and JD.
Todd Jones would be the first to admit he is no Valverde but he at least held the bullpen together which like the dugout too often went cold for extended periods when the chips weren’t falling our way.
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Maybe everyone is rightly loose at the moment but JL seems to be very proactive this spring particularly with players involved in upcoming big decisions.

Thanks Jason for the reassuring note on Everett. Having struck out only once in 29 AB’s, hopefully the holes will come in a few weeks time.

Rich- you may recall that, in 2008, Curtis Granderson was hit on the hand by a pitch from Tyler Yates, then on the Phillies, breaking his finger and putting him out for six weeks. With all the sluggers in that lineup and no speed or no catalyst, Curtis was about the worst player to lose at the time. After getting swept by the Royals and starting 0- 7, hitters started trying to hit 5 run homers, and things went down very quickly.
Questions for 2010:
1. No. 4 and 5 starters
2. Who sets up for Valverde?
3. 25th man
4. When does Dlugach replace Everett?

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