March 2010

Porcello gets his work in

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.

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.

Tuesday: Tigers vs. Nats under the lights

The one night game in Lakeland has arrived, which makes for an odd day for players and writers alike. You can get up at the same time as you do every other day, but the team doesn’t work out until mid-afternoon. The fact that they play at night means you’re up later working. You can sleep in, but after waking up early so often, you fall into that sleeping pattern where you just wake up at a certain time. It’s a good odd as far as days go, though.

On another side note, get-well wishes go out to Lakeland public address announcer Sandy Shaw, who has been under the weather recently.

TIGERS

  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Damon, LF
  3. Inge, 3B
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Raburn, RF
  6. Laird, DH
  7. Avila, C
  8. Sizemore, 2B
  9. Everett, SS

P: Max Scherzer

 

NATIONALS

  1. Willy Taveras, CF
  2. Ian Desmond, SS
  3. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B
  4. Adam Dunn, 1B
  5. Josh Willingham, LF
  6. Ivan Rodriguez, C
  7. Kevin Mench, DH
  8. Roger Bernadina, RF
  9. Alberto Gonzalez, 2B

P: Scott Olsen

 

Seay says he never had tendinitis/bursitis

Bobby Seay has at least some preliminary information from his MRI exam taken on his shoulder over the weekend. We don’t know exactly what it is, and Seay doesn’t want to say until he consults with more specialists, but we know what it’s not.

“Never bursitis. Never tendinitis,” Seay said Tuesday afternoon.

Those were the initial parts of the diagnosis from team doctors last month. Seay received treatment to try to work his way through it and made some slow progress, but ran into more pain after trying to throw a second mound session.

Seay visited with Rays team physician Dr. Koco Eaton today. He’ll travel to Pensacola, Fla. for a visit with Dr. James Andrews on Thursday, then will consult with specialist Dr. Craig Morgan sometime next week.

“If it’s your career, you’re going to try to hear what everybody has to say,” Seay said.

Last weekend was the first MRI Seay had this spring. He did not have an MRI last month. Sorry for the mixup on that.

Monday notes: Hit or out, Laird making solid contact

Gerald Laird isn’t going to be a stellar hitter, or even necessarily a really good one statistically. I think we can agree on that one. What most people would settle for is for him not be overmatched nearly as often and for the ability to hit the ball hard when he makes contact.

Monday was that kind of day. Laird went 1-for-4 with a single and an RBI, but he also had a deep fly ball to the warning track in right-center field. It was the wrong place for him to hit the ball; he’ll readily admit he’s better off as a pull hitter. But it also shows the ability to make hard contact.

“I’m just excited that it’s coming,” Laird said. “I know I’m barreling the ball again. I’m getting back to where I felt comfortable when I had some good years in Texas. It’s exciting. I may not be getting the hits every time, but as long as I’m putting the barrel on the ball and hitting the ball hard, I’m excited. Save some of it for the season.”

Jim Leyland gave Laird some advice this spring: Hit a bunch of balls off a batting tee every morning, so that he has the same swing path every time.

Other notes …

  • Leyland wants to see his team bunting more. He counted opportunities that Ramon Santiago and Clete Thomas to lay down drag bunts with runners on base in recent days. He also said the bunt could be a weapon for Austin Jackson.
  • It got overlooked today, but Carlos Guillen had a smart piece of baserunning going first to third on an RBI single while nobody was paying attention to cover third. The throw home was cut off in plenty of time to nab Guillen, but nobody was covering the base. Not a fast baserunner anymore, but a smart one.
  • Leyland called the new deal between Joe Mauer and the Twins a no-brainer. “There’s certain guys you almost can’t let get away.” Leyland didn’t relate it to anything in Pittsburgh, but the Pirates had a guy or two that they arguably shouldn’t have let get away, either.
  • If you’re hanging around Lakeland and wondering what to do on the Tigers’ off-day Wednesday, Rick Porcello is throwing in a simulated game.
  • Joel Zumaya was on the pitching list for Monday’s game, but he didn’t make the trip because of flu-like symptoms. Apparently there’s a stomach virus that has been going around some of the Tigers, according to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.

Seay has test, awaiting word from doctors

Bobby Seay had his MRI exam over the weekend, but is awaiting word from doctors on the results. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said today that Seay will visit Rays team physician Dr. Koco Eaton on Tuesday and Dr. James Andrews on Thursday to go over what they see in the results.

As for Zach Miner, he’s going to be examined by team physician Dr. Stephen Lemos on Thursday and won’t throw until then.

Monday: Tigers at Blue Jays

The best-of-7 series reaches Game 5 today, as Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis try to continue their strong showing. This is Robertson’s third time facing the Jays this spring, all here in Dunedin, so it’ll be interesting to see how he reacts to some of the hitters.

TIGERS

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

P: Nate Robertson, Phil Coke, Joel Zumaya, Jose Valverde

BLUE JAYS

  1. Jose Bautista, 3B
  2. Aaron Hill, 2B
  3. Adam Lind, LF
  4. Vernon Wells, CF
  5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
  6. John Buck, C
  7. Randy Ruiz, DH
  8. Travis Snider, RF
  9. Alex Gonzalez, SS

P: Brian Tallet

For those who are interested, this game is on MLB Gameday Audio.

Leyland wants Bonderman to throw more splits

Yes, you’ve probably heard this before, but this time Jim Leyland has basically told Jeremy Bonderman that he needs the splitter as a third pitch if he’s going to be an effective pitcher.

“I talked to Bondo last night,” Leyland said Saturday morning. “With the equipment he has right now. I think he needs to become a three-pitch pitcher. He can’t pitch like he did before, throwing 95, 94 [mph]. He needs to use the three pitches to be effective. I think he can do that.”

That makes a difference how? Consider Bonderman’s comments after his first outing of the spring against the Blue Jays:

“I’ve got to throw it,” Bonderman said on March 3. “If I want to be any good,
I’ve got to take risks. I’m not going to go out there and just use what
I know works all the time. To be successful and have a full year, I
want that other pitch. If someone beats me out for the fifth spot,
fourth spot, whatever it is, then good for them.”

Now here are his comments four days later, after he was knocked out in the second inning:

“I don’t have a job,” Bonderman said. “Shoot, there’s five guys fighting for two jobs, maybe six guys. I don’t know exactly, but there’s enough guys fighting for them. [There's] nothing in stone that it’s my spot. Until [Leyland] comes up to me and says, ‘It’s your job,’ I don’t think I have a job. Just because you’re under contract doesn’t mean anything. I haven’t played in two years. I just need to get more consistent and get ahead in the count.”

Now, if Bonderman is feeling like he has to get ahead in counts and fight for a job, how much is he going to focus on working on a third pitch?

That’s where Leyland’s remarks make a difference. Ideally, they’re reassurance.

“I think guys are trying what they think is their best shot to make the team,” Leyland said Saturday morning.

Other items of interest from Saturday:

  • If Ramon Santiago looked a little faster running out his triple on Saturday, there’s a reason. He spent a good amount of time in the offseason doing workouts designed to help his quickness, including instruction from a former Cuban track and field coach now living in the Dominican. He also has worked with new coach Tom Brookens on how to hit the bases on the inside and get around quicker. He thinks he can steal some bases if the team asks him, but more important, he feels he can go from first to third on more hits to set up easy RBI chances.
  • Leyland reiterated what he has said about young lefty Daniel Schlereth so far: Good stuff, but a little inconsistent. Then he added this: A person he respects from another organization said he felt Schlereth had the best left-hander he saw all year in 2009. Wouldn’t say who it was.
  • Robbie Weinhardt is still in camp, albeit a long shot by Leyland’s admission to make the roster. Still, Leyland believes he isn’t far off. “He’s a good breaking ball from being a Major League pitcher right now,” Leyland said. “He has a true big-time sinker, but he needs to do more with his breaking ball.”
  • Today was a quick day back at work after being off Thursday and Friday. I’ll be off again Sunday. Always fun to get a break hanging out and watching March Madness. It’s one of those few sporting events where you can talk about a banker, an IT guy and a garbageman walking into a sports bar and not have it be the start of a joke.

Seay definitely out, set to have MRI

Bobby Seay had a setback in his bullpen session Saturday morning and will have another MRI exam on his ailing left shoulder.

Seay said he will have the exam in the next couple days was expected to have the exam Saturday and have the results checked out by a few specialists, including orthopaedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Seay had an MRI last month after he was first shut down from throwing, but results showed no structural damage.

Manager Jim Leyland said Saturday it’s a certainty that Seay will begin the season on the disabled list.

The news was somewhat better on fellow Tigers reliever Zach Miner, whose MRI results came back negative. He has been diagnosed with a muscle strain around his elbow and hopes rest and treatment will allow him to start throwing again in the coming days.

Miner is still hopeful he can be ready for Opening Day. Leyland indicated he isn’t sure.

Seay was originally diagnosed with bursitis in his upper left arm and tendinitis in the shoulder. He had started throwing last week and began throwing off a mound earlier in the week. His latest attempt, though, stopped before it started.

“Throwing in the bullpen today, I couldn’t get my arm in a throwing position,” Seay said.

That was the indication that it was time for another look in the elbow. His next exam will include a dye injection in the elbow to give a more detailed view.

Seay just wants to know. He’s been dealing with discomfort since he started his throwing program in January, and he wants to get it healthy rather than make it worse.

“At this point, I’m just fed up with the pain associated with trying to get loose and feelings in my arm I shouldn’t be having,” he said. “Whether it’s major or minor, I have to get some peace of mind to know what’s going on.”

With Seay out, the Tigers go from having a potential surplus of left-handed relievers to trying to fill in without their veteran lefty specialist. Phil Coke is all but certain to be part of the group, having been taken out of consideration for a starting role a couple weeks ago. Sidearmer Fu-Te Ni was a valuable reliever down the stretch last year after a midseason call-up. Offseason signing Brad Thomas has had success this spring. Daniel Schlereth is a valuable relief prospect after coming over from Arizona in the Edwin Jackson trade, but he has had his share of spring struggles.

Tigers re-sign Casey Fien

The Tigers announced Saturday morning that they’ve re-signed Casey Fien to a minor-league contract, three weeks and two teams after they designated him for assignment to make room for Johnny Damon on the roster.

You might recall that the Tigers designated Fien Feb. 23 after signing Damon. Fien worked out in the Tigers minor league camp for the next week or so while he waited to see whether anyone claimed him on waivers. The Red Sox did on March 1, but no sooner did Fien report to their big league camp than the Red Sox tried to get him through waivers. The Blue Jays then claimed him March 4, and Fien headed back up I-75 to report to camp with them. Then Toronto released him on Thursday.

Fien will now report back to the Tigers’ minor league camp.

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