March 2010

Inge could rest a little more early in season

Brandon Inge might’ve had one of his first highlight plays of the spring when he went to the dirt to stop Ramiro Pena’s sharp grounder and then throw him out at first. He got up from it fine, but Leyland says highlight plays don’t worry him.

“I think I am concerned more about playing a lot right off the bat [in] cold weather, damp weather, rain delays. I’m more concerned about that than I am about any particular play.” Leyland said.

He’ll take that into account, he said, when he’s making out his lineup cards in April.

“He’s bullheaded, like he always is, and that’s one of the reasons he’s good,” Leyland said. “But I’m also going to watch it, because I can see from time to time. If you really watch close, you can tell it’s not just right, if you really watch close. But it’s good, and he’ll be ready to go. And I don’t want him to start thinking, because he’s swinging good right now. Obviously he’s not going to be a part-time player, but I’ll just use common sense. … He’s not going to want it, but I’m going to do it.”

Asked who his next-best defensive third baseman is, Leyland said, “Probably Belliard, Rafael Belliard.”

Starting lineup is just about set

The only question left in the Tigers’ Opening Day lineup, according to manager Jim Leyland, is whether to bat Gerald Laird and Scott Sizemore in the seventh and eighth slot, or flip-flop them.

Other than that, the starting lineup for Saturday’s game against the Yankees is the lineup you should expect to see against Zack Greinke and the Royals a week from Monday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

“That was pretty much the Opening Day lineup,” Leyalnd said after Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Yankees. “I hope they do a little better offensively.”

It’ll have its growing pains, certainly with two rookies. But it’ll also have different ways of scoring runs besides the homer.

On leadoff man Austin Jackson, Leyland said, “I think that he pretty much would’ve had to fall on his face not to make the team, and he certainly hasn’t done that. Let’s face it: We made a trade for a guy, made a trade for a real good player, a very popular player. He would’ve had to really show us that he’s not ready, and he hasn’t done that. He’s done very, very well. I’ve been very impressed.

“Is he going to struggle some? Yes, he’s going to struggle some. He’s going to have moments, like all players do, particularly young players. But he’s the Opening Day center fielder and he’s going to lead off, and he’s going to get a good opportunity to break in. And I feel really good about that. I really like what I’ve seen. I’ve been very impressed.”

In case you missed the lineup from today …

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Johnny Damon, LF
  3. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Carlos Guillen, DH
  6. Brandon Inge, 3B
  7. Gerald Laird, C
  8. Scott Sizemore, 2B
  9. Adam Everett, SS

Zumaya strikes out side, including Granderson

Joel Zumaya and Curtis Granderson were roommates in Detroit in 2006, their rookie season. They were teammates for three years after that. On Saturday, for the first time in their pro careers, they were opponents.

At least, it was the first time against each other officially.

“Curtis was probably 2-for-2 off me before that,” Zumaya said. “He got me a couple times in live BP [last year].”

Granderson doesn’t remember that, but he remembers facing him during fall instructional ball in 2003.

“The one at-bat I remember was in 2003, the instructional league,” Granderson said. “I hit the ball to the shortstop, live drive. But he was throwing 93. This is a lot harder.”

That explains why he went down swinging in the sixth inning. Zumaya threw a fastball by him at 100 mph for strike three.

“Stay like that,” was Granderson’s advice afterwards. “You locate first pitch great, then get some movement on the second and third pitch, to be able to get movement [throwing] that hard and be around the zone, it’s pretty neat.”

Zumaya acknowledged their history with a head nod as Granderson stepped in. At that point, they became opponents.

“As soon as the at-bat’s over, [the friendship] pops right back up again,” Granderson said.

At that point, Zumaya became another hitter’s problem. He threw a fastball, then a changeup, then spotted a curveball for a called third strike on Randy Winn. His last pitch hit 101 mph to send down Ramiro Pena swinging.

“I’m real pumped,” Zumaya said. “I’m in good form now. I mean, that’s what Spring Training is for, to get the blues out of you and start working on stuff. I’m starting to feel pretty good now.”

Zumaya was originally slated to pitch again Sunday to test him out on back-to-back days, but manager Jim Leyland pushed him back to Monday. He’ll probably pitch back-to-back days at some point next week, just not quite yet.

“He’s been better the last few times,” said Leyland, who pushed for Zumaya to better mix his pitches.

Seay has torn rotator cuff, will rehab

UPDATE @1:45pm: Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand expressed some confidence Saturday afternoon that Seay can get back with rehab and avoid surgery. “I have a pretty good feeling we can get him through all that,” Rand said.

Tigers reliever Bobby Seay told MLB.com Saturday morning that he has a torn rotator cuff, but will try to rehab through the injury rather than undergo surgery that could threaten his career.

The veteran left-hander visited Thursday with orthopaedic specialist Dr. James Andrews, who gave him his options. Surgery, he was advised, should be a last resort and only if rehab doesn’t work, because the track record of pitchers coming back from it and throwing effectively isn’t as good as it is for other procedures. It would cost him at least a year, and it’s far some certain he would be come back as the same pitcher.

“It’s an injury you have to try to rehab through,” Seay said. “You have to exhaust all your options.”

Seay said the injury was called a Grade 2 undersurface tear. It nearly qualified as a Grade 3 tear, which would be the most severe on the scale and close to a complete tear. It involves the supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendons, and it doesn’t heal itself. The hope for rehab is to strengthen the muscles and everything around the injury to take as much pressure off it as possible.

The minimum time for a rehab program, Seay said, is six weeks. There is a history of pitchers who have avoided surgery and pitched effectively with a rotator cuff, including Todd Stottlemyre. On the other side, Pedro Martinez underwent rotator cuff surgery a few years ago and has come back to pitch effectively.

Still, the news is basically a worst-case scenario for the Tigers, and certainly for the 31-year-old Seay, who was coming off a season where he set a career high with 67 appearances. He was on track to be a critical part of the bullpen this year, and he’s eligible for free agency at season’s end.

The Tigers placed Seay on the 15-day disabled list Saturday. With Seay sidelined, fellow lefty Phil Coke becomes critical in Detroit’s bullpen. So, too, could Fu-Te Ni, who was effective pitching alongside Seay for the second half of last season.

Seay has had pain in his shoulder ever since he began throwing again this winter. He tried to pitch through it, but was shut down after his first side session of Spring Training produced pain he hadn’t felt before.

The injury was originally diagnosed as bursitis in his upper arm and tendinitis in his shoulder, and he tried to throw again after taking medication and getting some rest. His first side session went well, but he couldn’t lift his arm into position to throw when he tried to do it again. Seay underwent an MRI exam last week.

“At least I have some clarity as far as what’s going on,” Seay said.

It’s entirely possible Seay was pitching with the injury down the stretch last year, and that the pain only surfaced once his shoulder cooled down over the offseason.

Roster moves: Seay, Miner to DL

The latest round of roster cuts is in, and they include the two expected DL moves. The Tigers placed Bobby Seay on the 15-day DL with a left shoulder strain, and Zach Miner on the 15-day DL with right shoulder tendinitis. Both moves were made retroactive to Friday, which would allow them to miss as few as five days of the regular season if theyre ready to come back. Thats highly unlikely with Seays injury, but possible with Miner, who still isnt pain-free but is on a strengtening program.

Other roster moves involved Daniel Schlereth and Wilkin Ramirez optioned to Toledo, and Phil Dumatrait, Enrique Gonzalez and Max St. Pierre assigned to minor league camp.

X-rays negative on Clete Thomas

Tests on Clete Thomas’ injured right shoulder blade came back negative, according to manager Jim Leyland, confirming the diagnosis of a bruise. He’s considered day-to-day. He was originally on the travel roster for today’s game against the Braves at Disney World, but that obviously wasn’t going to happen. 

Friday: Tigers at Braves

No Clete Thomas today, as expected. He was in street clothes when I saw him in the clubhouse this morning. Don Kelly is on the trip, though. In fact, he’s batting leadoff today with Austin Jackson and Scott Sizemore off.

TIGERS

  1. Don Kelly, 2B
  2. Johnny Damon, CF
  3. Carlos Guillen, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Brandon Inge, 3B
  6. Gerald Laird, C
  7. Ryan Raburn, RF
  8. Ramon Santiago, SS
  9. Justin Verlander, P (guessing he’s under orders to not swing)

BRAVES

  1. Melky Cabrera, LF
  2. Martin Prado, 2B
  3. Chipper Jones, 3B
  4. Brian McCann, C
  5. Troy Glaus, 3B
  6. Jason Heyward, RF (reportedly he has made the team)
  7. Nate McLouth, CF
  8. Omar Infante, SS
  9. Derek Lowe, P

Zumaya bounces back with heat

Joel Zumaya couldn’t hold down solid food for two days, could barely get up to throw and play catch. He felt badly enough that he was miserable. He looked bad enough that the Tigers medical staff sent him home from camp on back-to-back days so that he wouldn’t spread whatever he had to the rest of the clubhouse.

Ideally, Jim Leyland might’ve preferred to give Zumaya a day to build up his strength before sending him to the mound again, but he has to get Zumaya innings to get him ready for the season. So out goes Zumaya to the mound, still not looking all that healthy.

And then comes his first pitch in at 101 mph on the Joker Marchant Stadium radar gun. The next two come in at 100 each.

More impressive to Zumaya, his last pitch was a breaking ball to strike out Randy Ruiz.

“That’s what they want me to work at,” Zumaya said afterwards, “and that was a pretty dang good curveball.”
Zumaya said he felt like he had to show the Tigers that he’s going to be ready for the start of the season, which is why he was glad to come out firing triple-digit fastballs. But he also admitted he needed the confidence boost of a good outing. He was struggling a bit before he fell ill, and he was working with coaches on tweaking his delivery to help his fastball.

The best way to make his fastball work better on Thursday was to work in the breaking ball.

“That’s a big confidence boost for me,” Zumaya said. “I needed this one.”

Other tidbits …

  • No follow-up word was available on the status Clete Thomas, who left Thursday’s afternoon game with a bruised right shoulder blade a couple innings after being hit there by a pitch. Leyland said Thomas couldn’t throw once the swelling settled in.
  • Don Kelly amazingly stayed in that same game despite a collision with first baseman Randy Ruiz, but he was hurting a little bit after the game too. He said he took the worst contact on the inside of his left knee. He was able to play through it, but he wasn’t sure how it was going to feel once he cooled down and wasn’t moving around later.

Thursday night: Tigers vs. Nationals

A between-games trip across Florida brings us to Viera for Jeremy Bonderman’s portion of today’s pitching performance. He’ll have Detroit’s starting outfield and double-play combo behind him.

TIGERS

  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Damon, LF
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Larish, 1B
  5. Avila, C
  6. Sizemore, 2B
  7. Everett, SS
  8. Dlugach, 3B
  9. Dirks, DH

P: Jeremy Bonderman

NATIONALS

  1. Nyjer Morgan, CF
  2. Ian Desmond, SS
  3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
  4. Adam Dunn, 1B
  5. Josh Willingham, LF
  6. Ivan Rodriguez, C
  7. Mike Morse, RF
  8. Alberto Gonzalez, 2B
  9. Eric Bruntlett, DH

P: J.D. Martin

Thursday: Tigers vs. Jays

Jim Leyland will admit that having split-squad games at different times in different towns this late in the spring is a pain, partly because of planning out the two rosters this late, partly because of the effort to try to make it to both games to evaluate. Still, he isn’t downplaying the importance of the two split-squad games today — Dontrelle Willis starting in the day, Jeremy Bonderman starting at night.

“This is a big day for us, a big day and night,” Leyland said.

Here are a few things that should be big to look for:

  • Dontrelle’s command and velocity: How hard can he throw while commanding the strike zone? He showed the 93 mph fastball Monday against the Jays while throwing eight of his 11 pitches at 90 mph or above. He needs to do that while pounding the strike zone.
  • Bonderman’s splitter: Leyland wants to see him throw the pitch, and he’s emphatic enough that he’ll have catcher Alex Avila calling for the splitter and made a strong suggestion that Bonderman should not shake it off. Can Bonderman command the pitch and get good results from it, to the point where it’s a little more than a show pitch?
  • How hitters react to Dontrelle’s pitches: Can he get swings and misses on pitches in the strike zone? When they do hit it, how well do they hit it? This should be particularly intriguing, since he’ll be facing the Jays for the second time in four days.
  • Endurance: Dontrelle is slated to go to 60-65 pitches, while Bonderman will be stretched to 75 pitches for the first time in quite a while. Bonderman doesn’t expect it to be an issue, because his arm has felt good all spring, but it’ll be watched.

TIGERS

  1. Thomas, RF
  2. Raburn, 2B
  3. Guillen, DH
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Laird, C
  6. Ramirez, LF
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Kelly, CF
  9. Santiago, SS

P: Willis

BLUE JAYS

  1. Mike McCoy, 2B
  2. John McDonald, SS
  3. Adam Lind, DH
  4. Vernon Wells, CF
  5. Randy Ruiz, 1B
  6. Jeremy Reed, LF
  7. Edwin Encarnacion, 3B
  8. Travis Snider, RF
  9. Jose Molina, C

P: Marc Rzepczynski

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