April 2010

Saturday: Tigers vs. Mariners

As expected, Ryan Raburn is in right field today, with Magglio Ordonez at DH. Raburn is batting second today in place of Johnny Damon, who gets the night off.

That was expected. What wasn’t expected was that Gerald Laird was iffy for today with back soreness. That was the reason Jim Leyland took him out of last night’s game for the late innings. It wasn’t just a matter of resting some regulars in a game that was out of hand. However, Laird said today he feels good enough to play, so he gets the start behind the plate. Laird and Sizemore flip in the batting order, though. Alex Avila will start Sunday with Max Scherzer on the mound.

TIGERS

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

P: Justin Verlander

MARINERS

  1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  2. Chone Figgins, 2B
  3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
  4. Jose Lopez, 3B
  5. Ken Griffey Jr., DH
  6. Milton Bradley, LF
  7. Casey Kotchman, 1B
  8. Adam Moore, C
  9. Jack Wilson, SS

P: Ryan Rowland-Smith

Friday: Tigers at Mariners

Greetings from Seattle, my favorite American League city to visit on the road. Great ballpark, great food, great climate, great city. None of them seem likely to disappoint tonight, where the weather is clear and right around normal, though there’s a chance for showers later in the evening.

The lineup is standard tonight for the start of this 11-game, 11-day road trip. Look for the movement to rest people over the course of the trip to begin tomorrow with Magglio Ordonez at DH and Ryan Raburn in RF against lefty starter Ryan Rowland-Smith. Carlos Guillen will play left field, with Johnny Damon getting the night off. Not sure whether Johnny Damon or Carlos Guillen would have the night off with the DH spot gone.

Look for the Tigers and Mariners to all be wearing No. 42 tonight. Yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day, but Detroit and Seattle were both off.

TIGERS

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

P: Jeremy Bonderman (Washington native)

MARINERS

  1. Ichiro, RF
  2. Chone Figgins, 2B
  3. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
  4. Jose Lopez, 2B
  5. Ken Griffey Jr., DH
  6. Milton Bradley, LF
  7. Casey Kotchman, 1B
  8. Rob Johnson, C
  9. Jack Wilson, SS

P: Felix Hernandez

Wednesday: Tigers vs. Royals

As expected, Austin Jackson has the day off, his first such day this season. Jim Leyland said he went with Ryan Raburn to lead off over Johnny Damon because he didn’t want to stack Raburn, Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera back to back to back, right-handed hitters all. Damon breaks up that stretch in the second spot.

Leyland said he’s going to try to give Zumaya day off today, but that he could use him if needed.
TIGERS
  1. Raburn, CF
  2. Damon, LF
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, DH
  6. Inge, 3B
  7. Laird, C
  8. Sizemore, 2B
  9. Everett, SS
P: Rick Porcello
ROYALS
  1. David DeJesus, RF
  2. Scott Podsednik, LF
  3. Billy Butler, 1B
  4. Jose Guillen, DH
  5. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
  6. Mitch Maier, CF
  7. Jason Kendall, C
  8. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
  9. Chris Getz, 2B
P: Kyle Davies

Tuesday: Tigers vs. Royals

Currently drizzling at Comerica Park this morning, but all forecasts suggest that weather will clear out of here in time to get this game played, possibly starting on time.

Once they do get going, the opening day lineup is in for this one for Detroit. The bullpen will be down a few guys today. Eddie Bonine gets another day off, not so much because of the cramp but because he threw so many pitches Sunday. If the Tigers get some innings from their starters today and Wednesday, the Tigers would probably hold Bonine until Friday’s series opener at Seattle.
Fu-Te Ni and Brad Thomas are also likely to sit today after the number of pitches they threw Monday. That leaves Phil Coke, Joel Zumaya, Ryan Perry and Jose Valverde as the relievers.
TIGERS
  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Damon, LF
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, DH
  6. Inge, 3B
  7. Laird, C
  8. Sizemore, 2B
  9. Everett, SS
P: Dontrelle Willis
ROYALS
  1. David DeJesus, RF
  2. Scott Podsednik, LF
  3. Billy Butler, 1B
  4. Jose Guillen, DH
  5. Rick Ankiel, CF
  6. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
  7. Jason Kendall, C
  8. Willie Bloomquist, 2B
  9. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
P: Brian Bannister

Monday: Tigers vs. Royals — The Rematch!

The Royals are in town to enact their revenge on the Tigers, and they have the same pitching matchup from the game they won Wednesday. The odd part about it is that both Luke Hochevar and Max Scherzer have 0-0 records and 0.00 ERAs from that outing.

In case you didn’t see the preview story for this game on the site, I talked with Scherzer yesterday about the challenge of facing the same team in back-to-back outings. 
“For me, it’s really tough,” Scherzer said. “I had to do it a couple times last year, and, for the most part, it was a much bigger challenge for me to face that team the second time in consecutive starts. They’ve seen what you’ve got. You’ve shown your strengths. They’re really good about making adjustments to what your strengths are, so that’s where I’m still learning how to deal with a situation like this.”
The stats back him up: Every time Scherzer faced the same team in consecutive starts, he gave up more damage the second time around. Even when there was another start in between, facing the same team twice in three outings wasn’t easy for him, either. So it’ll be interesting to see how he approaches this and if he goes as heavily to the slider in strikeout counts.
As promised, Leyland is playing the roster again, going with Ryan Raburn at second base and Alex Avila behind the catcher. Avila, you might remember, faced Hochevar last week, too. Johnny Damon is at DH today, while Carlos Guillen is in left. Ramon Santiago is back at short; he faced Hochevar last week too.
TIGERS
  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Damon, DH
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, LF
  6. Inge, 3B
  7. Avila, C
  8. Raburn, 2B
  9. Santiago, SS
ROYALS
  1. David DeJesus, RF
  2. Scott Podsednik, LF
  3. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
  4. Billy Butler, 1B
  5. Rick Ankiel, CF
  6. Jose Guillen, DH
  7. Jason Kendall, C
  8. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
  9. Chris Getz, 2B

Why Santiago hit with game on the line

I talked about this in my game story on the Tigers site, but I figured the question’s going to come up: If Johnny Damon was going to pinch-hit in the ninth inning, why not have him hit for Ramon Santiago rather than Gerald Laird?

I asked Jim Leyland about it after the game. If Damon bats in Santiago’s place and draws a walk, it loads the bases for Gerald Laird with Alex Avila and Adam Everett as the remaining two hitters on the bench. And there was a good reason to lean against sending up Avila in that situation.

“I wanted a veteran guy up there,” Leyland said. “That’s why I hit Damon
[for Laird] instead of Avila. I just thought the veteran guy would take
closer pitches for balls. I felt comfortable with Santi. If I hit
Damon [for him], they might walk him, and then I hit Avila for Laird.”

I think it says a lot of what Leyland thinks of Santiago as a hitter, and with good reason. He’s 30 years old now with more than 1,400 Major League plate appearances under his belt.

Sunday: Tigers vs. Indians

A couple days off for some regular Tigers today: Don Kelly starts in place of Johnny Damon in left field, while Ramon Santiago (8-for-15 career off Jake Westbrook) is at short.

TIGERS

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

P: Justin Verlander

INDIANS

  1. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  2. Grady Sizemore, CF
  3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  4. Travis Hafner, DH
  5. Jhonny Peralta, 3B
  6. Matt LaPorta, 1B
  7. Luis Valbuena, 2B
  8. Lou Marson, C
  9. Michael Brantley, LF

P: Jake Westbrook

Perry relishes first big league save

perryavila041010.jpgRyan Perry has always been a pitcher running on adrenaline, no matter what the inning. When he made the Tigers roster out of Spring Training a year ago, he had to learn how to handle that even in lower-pressure outings, let alone spots where he was protecting a lead.

One can imagine, then, how Perry would react to his chance at his first Major League save. The fact that all that energy didn’t make him a wreck on the mound should give an idea how much he worked on controlling that adrenaline.

“Perry’s always amped up for everything,” catcher Alex Avila said. “I knew he was going to be, and he’d be throwing hard. This year, I’ve seen that every time he comes out, he has a little bit of a different presence on the mound. Where last year he might’ve been a little bit wild at some points, this year he’s always in control.

“Like today, his first save opportunity, most guys would be overthrowing and stuff like that, but he was just letting it fly and he threw fantastic. I mean, his stuff was pretty unhittable today. I wouldn’t have wanted to face him, that’s for sure.”

No many guys had the chance. Though he ended up coming on in the eighth to try to get a four-out save, it was a four-up, four-down outing in which nobody made solid contact off of him.

Perry got the chance because closer Jose Valverde, Joel Zumaya and Phil Coke were all being rested. All of them pitched Friday’s home opener. Zumaya and Coke pitched multiple innings. Valverde had pitched in each of the Tigers’ first four games, including three straight days, so he had to rest.

That reduced Saturday’s available to Perry, Fu-Te Ni, Brad Thomas and Eddie Bonine. Leyland said in the morning that Perry would close if there was a game to save.

“When we took a 2-0 lead, the whole time I was just excited and ready to get out there,” Perry said.

Leyland didn’t say Perry would close in the eighth, but once Ni struck out Travis Hafner for the second out of the inning, Leyland likely didn’t want to chance Ni facing a right-handed hitter after giving up a .298 average to them last year.

Enter Perry, who struck out Peralta on a nasty slider, then had to sit through the bottom of the eighth until the Tigers went down in order. It would’ve been a perfect time for that energy to overtake him, but all the time, he said he was focused on mechanical points and the opponent.

“Mentally, I was sitting in the dugout trying to visualize it as best as I can,” Perry said. “That’s kind of been a big thing for me lately. Since probably halfway through spring, I’ve really been trying to focus, kind of get a visual picture of what I’m trying to do in my head, and then do it.”

That doesn’t mean he was completely calm.

“Especially coming in in the eighth, my heart’s pounding a little,” he admitted. “But I think my confidence has just grown since last year, so I’m able to control it, keep my body in position to succeed instead of just sporadically trying to just throw the ball.”

Perry used a 97 mph fastball to get a leadoff groundout from Matt Laporta. He had to scramble when Mark Grudzielanek hit a comebacker, but he hurried a throw that first baseman Miguel Cabrera stretched to grab.

That left Perry one out away, and brought the crowd of 35,332 to its feet. That’s when the energy really picked up.

“Two outs in the ninth, you just hear the roar of the crowd,” he said. “I looked up and you see everybody get up out of their seats. That was kind of a moment that you never really forget.”

The extra adrenaline boosted Perry’s fastball up to 98 mph on pinch-hitter Luis Valbuena, who fell into an 0-2 hole before meekly popping out in foul territory on the third-base side.

The celebration was a matter of style. Instead of something animated, Perry looked almost relieved, and shook some hands. He also got the game ball, which he stashed in his locker.

“That’s one ball I’ll definitely keep,” he said.

It was his first save, but he’s certainly hoping it isn’t his last.

“That’s definitely what I would like to work towards, for sure,” Perry said. “That would definitely be a dream come true. But I know there’s still some work involved, so I’m just trying to get there.”

Avila catches; Valverde, Zumaya rest

Remember the concern going a week or two ago about how many starts Jim Leyland would find for Alex Avila behind the plate? That seems to be dissipating now, because it’s becoming obvious Leyland is finding his spots. The fact that Gerald Laird is still looking for his first hit of the season might not hurt, but still, if Avila gets a couple games a week, they’re going to be happy.

If they can get Jose Valverde outings three days in a row, the Tigers are going to be happy too. But they aren’t going to go beyond that, which is why Valverde is off today. So are Joel Zumaya and Phil Coke. If there’s a save situation today, Leyland says Ryan Perry is going to get it. He does not have a Major League save yet.

TIGERS

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

P: Jeremy Bonderman

Mystery pitch for Zumaya?

Joel Zumaya says he has a new pitch that he’s developing and hopes to unveil shortly, a tease that might result in nothing more than a show pitch or could represent an effort to further expand his pitch selection. As it is, his current fastball-curveball combination seems to be working nicely so far.

As excited as Zumaya gets about a big strikeout, he seemed more excited about the double play he induced to erase the Indians’ seventh-inning scoring opportunity Friday. It wasn’t the triple-digit fastball he’s been powering all week, but a 98 mph fastball with some movement, which Mike Redmond pounded up the middle for rookie second baseman Scott Sizemore to start the twin-killing.

With that, the two walks with which the inning began resulted in nothing. Zumaya bounded off the mound and pumped his fist.

“A double play doesn’t come too often with me,” he said, “but it’s just as good as a strikeout — a BIG strikeout, bases loaded, two outs. That double play was kind of exciting for me. I didn’t quite try to show excitement, but I was kind of pleased that I got a big double play right there.”

For what it’s worth, Zumaya has been inducing more ground balls than fly balls, based mainly on his inning of work on Opening Day Monday at Kansas City. He has just two strikeouts so far, but that’s not a problem for him so far.

He’s looking for outs, and he’s looking for results out of a mix of pitches. He was pretty much all fastballs in his first inning Friday, then had more of a mix when he came back out for the eighth. He’s also mixing in two-seamers with his four-seam fastball to try to get more balls on the ground.

“In ’06, I was known to be a thrower,” Zumaya said. “I was going to just rear back and try to throw it as hard as I can past hitters. I’ve got a breaking ball that I’ve been working on really hard and it’s coming along really good. I’ve got another pitch that I’ve been working on. I’m not going to spill it to you guys just yet, but when you see it you’re going to ask me what the heck it was. And I’ve just been trying to locate my fastball in pretty good spots — in, out, 0-2, rise the ladder. It’s working to my advantage right now.”

That new pitch isn’t a cutter, Zumaya said, and we can safely say it’s not a knuckleball. After that, it’s anybody’s guess.

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