April 28th, 2010

Wednesday: Tigers vs. Twins

The big change in the lineup is on the Twins, who are without Justin Morneau tonight and most likely Thursday after he left Tuesday’s game with back issues. The shuffle essentially means both Delmon Young and Jim Thome are in the lineup at left field and DH, respectively.

On the Tigers side, Jim Leyland is giving Ryan Raburn another start at second in place of Scott Sizemore. It isn’t a matter of his miscue last night, but just part of Leyland being wary of Sizemore’s surgically repaired ankle. He still thinks the ankle is bothering Sizemore, though not nearly enough to be a major factor.

TIGERS

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

P: Max Scherzer

TWINS

  1. Denard Span, CF
  2. Orlando Hudson, 2B
  3. Joe Mauer, C
  4. Jim Thome, DH
  5. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
  6. Jason Kubel, RF
  7. Delmon Young, LF
  8. J.J. Hardy, SS
  9. Luke Hughes, 3B (Major League debut)

P: Scott Baker

More fun with Verlander and pitch counts

UPDATE Wednesday @ 5:30pm: Manager Jim Leyland said in his pregame remarks Wednesday that he’s going to strictly watch Verlander’s pitch counts from here on out and hold him to a certain number. He wouldn’t say what that number is, whether it’s the 120-pitch mark he had in mind last night or something lower.

“I’m going to be strict with the pitch count with him,” Leyland said. “That’s the way it’s going to be, whether it’s the seventh inning, the eighth inning or the fourth inning. I’m going to take care of him. …

“I’m not a big pitch count guy, but I’m not going to have [an injury] happen on my watch.”

You might remember the little statistical nugget from Justin Verlander’s start last week, when he became the first Major League pitcher since 1997 to throw 125 pitches over just five innings and earn a victory. Well, he couldn’t do that again, though he came close on both counts, but he still had something noteworthy out of this one.

With 121 pitches over 5 2/3 innings, Verlander became just the fifth Major League pitcher since 1992 to throw 120 or more pitches over back-to-back outings without getting through the sixth inning in either of them. The others: Scott Erickson and Wilson Alvarez in 1999, Dwight Gooden in ’96 and Mark Langston in ’02. It’s probably worth noting that those other four all did it at the end of May or later in their respective seasons, while Verlander pulled it off in April. It’s also worth noting that Erickson and Gooden had an extra day of rest in between their starts, while Alvarez and Langston — like Verlander — both pitched on their normal four days’ rest.

It’s definitely worth noting that Verlander would’ve finished the sixth if not for the Ryan Raburn error. But then, he wouldn’t have needed that out had he not walked Jim Thome a batter earlier for the third time in the game.

It might well be up for debate whether Verlander should’ve gone out there for the 6th with his pitch count at 105, especially given Jim Leyland’s postgame comments that he had his mind made up pregame that Verlander was going to throw 120 pitches. But before you debate it, you have to consider the circumstances of the Tigers bullpen, which has been worn down by this recent stretch without an off day, arguably more than any other part of the team.

You might well have seen the impact on Eddie Bonine tonight, who came in to try to finish the sixth after Raburn’s error and clearly didn’t have it, hitting Brendan Harris and walking Denard Span on five pitches.

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