April 2010

Friday: Home opener!

Running a little behind today after some travel adventures, but here are the lineups for today’s home opener at Comerica Park, featuring a Cabrera and a Sizemore for each side (none of them are related):

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: Rick Porcello

INDIANS

  1. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  2. Grady Sizemore, CF
  3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  4. Travis Hafner, DH
  5. Jhonny Peralta, 3B
  6. Austin Kearns, LF
  7. Luis Valbuena, 2B
  8. Andy Marte, 1B
  9. Mike Redmond, C

P: David Huff

Thursday: Tigers at Royals

Well, if Brandon Inge held out any hope of playing in all 162 games this season, his dreams are in serious jeopardy. Don Kelly gets the start at third base today, while Ryan Raburn starts at second. Carlos Guillen is the left fielder, with Johnny Damon getting a day at DH.

TIGERS

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

P: Willis

Scherzer impresses in Tigers debut

That regular-season intensity of Max Scherzer was on display in a regular-season game Wednesday, and Scherzer showed how he can channel it to his advantage.

Scherzer was visibly fired up when he got the call on the inside corner for strike three on David DeJesus to end the fifth inning with the bases loaded. His no-hit bid was gone, but he kept the game scoreless. Even more encouraging for him, he did it by pounding a fastball inside, a big point of his during Spring Training. He had fallen behind on a 2-0 count to DeJesus to put himself in serious trouble, but worked out of it.

“It wasn’t the strikeout; I really worked hard on locating the fastball in,” Scherzer said. “And on that pitch, when I needed it most, I located my fastball in. That’s where I can walk away from this outing knowing that in that situation I did something right.

Scherzer felt like Wednesday was a good starting point for him. His slider was off and on, but his changeup was generally solid. His fastball, obviously, was encouraging, and he changed speeds on it according to the situation, ranging from the low to mid-90s. He didn’t rack up a lot of strikeouts, just three, but walked just two while induced some quicker outs. He would’ve liked to have gotten into the seventh inning, but with 91 pitches through six — an average of just about 15 pitches per inning — he had to be encouraged. His manager sure was.

“Scherzer was terrific,” Jim Leyland said. “Used all his pitches, changed the speeds on his fastball, good changeup, slider.”

Wednesday: Tigers at Royals

It took until Game 2 this season for manager Jim Leyland to want to ward off questions about his day-to-day lineups, probably because he didn’t want to answer a bunch of questions about his changes for the second game. His past history shows that he usually tries to get in all of his position players within the first few games.

In the case of Alex Avila, that means he’s catching today. He’ll have Gerald Laird catching Dontrelle tomorrow and Rick Porcello for the home opener on Friday, so if he was going to get Avila a game within the first four days, now was the time.

“If I’m not going to catch him, I shouldn’t have brought him,” Leyland said. “I’m going to play everybody. That’s what a team’s all about, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Likewise, Leyland said Ryan Raburn will start at second base on Thursday, but said it doesn’t mean anything about Scott Sizemore’s status. He’s going to watch Sizemore and third baseman Brandon Inge and try to get them rest.

“We’re going to need them all,” Leyland said, “and I’m going to play them all.”

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. Santiago, SS

P: Max Scherzer

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. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
  8. Jason Kendall, C
  9. Chris Getz, 2B

P: Luke Hochevar

Minor-league tidbits: Crosby update, Jensen retires

Talked today with Tigers minor league operations director Dan Lunetta, who sounded pretty optimistic that Casey Crosby’s elbow injury isn’t going to require surgery. The highly-regarded pitching prospect will open the season on the disabled list, but the elbow is supposedly fine. The hope is to get him throwing again in about two weeks.

“There’s some inflammation and we need to get it quieted,” Lunetta said.

Any elbow injury with Crosby is obviously a big deal after he underwent Tommy John surgery following the 2007 draft. He’s slated to start out the season at Class A Lakeland.

Meanwhile, at Double-A Erie, the SeaWolves will open the season without either of the relievers who tied for the team lead in saves last year. While Cody Satterwhite is on the disabled list with his shoulder injury, Brett Jensen unexpectedly retired. He’s just 26 years old, and he’s healthy, but by all accounts, he’s ready to do something else.

“He just decided it was time for him to take his life in a different direction,” Lunetta said.

Jensen wasn’t a highly-regarded prospect by any means; he was left off the 40-man roster over the winter. But as a 6-foot-7 right-hander with a sidearming delivery, he had some ingredients to maybe develop into a big-league reliever down the road. Jensen went 5-5 with a 3.19 ERA and 12 saves at Erie last year, striking out 59 batters over 53 2/3 innings.

On the minor-league wire, Kory Casto and Ryan Roberson have joined Jason Stokes among the veteran hitters to be released by the Tigers this spring.

Something to track with Cabrera tonight

While Max Scherzer’s Tigers debut is a pretty big deal tonight for those following the game, there’s a little bit of history on the line whenever Miguel Cabrera steps to the plate against Royals starter Luke Hochevar. Cabrera has hits in his last eight plate appearances against Hochevar dating back to May 14, 2008. Hochevar struck out Cabrera his first time up in that game, and Cabrera has been perfect against him ever since — two hits in that game, 3-for-3 on July 21, 2008, then 3-for-3 last August 15.

Trent McCotter at SABR went through the work of looking through Tigers games on Retrosheet since 1954, as far as the necessary records go back. According to his research, Cabrera’s 8-for-8 streak is tied for the longest run of consecutive hits a Tigers hitter has had against an individual pitcher in that time. The list …

HITS – BATTER VS. PITCHER, YEARS
8 – Harvey Kuenn vs. Dick Donovan, all in 1958
8 – Al Kaline vs. Bill Monbouquette, 1961-63
8 – Lou Whitaker vs. Charles Nagy, 1994-95
8 – Miguel Cabrera vs. Luke Hochevar, 2008-09

Much thanks to Mr. McCotter for the information. He also passes along that the Major League record for consecutive hits is held by Don Hoak, who went 13-for-13 with two walks against Joe Nuxhall from 1956-60.

What also stands out about Cabrera’s streak is the type of hits. Cabrera doesn’t have a home run against Hochevar. His only extra-base hit off him is a double. The other seven hits were singles, including an infield grounder last August.

Zumaya hits 102 on radar gun

zumaya040510.jpgJoel Zumaya is no longer looking over his shoulder at stadium radar gun to see how hard he’s throwing. He knows his manager doesn’t like it when he does that. The only way he had any idea he was hitting 102 mph at Kauffman Stadium on Monday was from his teammates in the bullpen.

“To tell you the truth, I didn’t feel like I was throwing that hard today,” Zumaya said later.

It wasn’t exactly a priority for him. He was more concerned about throwing his curveball for strikes. The result was a nasty combination for Royals hitters and a seven-pitch sixth inning in which Zumaya sent down the side in order, getting the Tigers back to the plate for the top of the seventh to take the lead.

“Basically, I just wanted to go out there and get the hitters back in, so they could go out there and provide the runs they did,” Zumaya said.

Zumaya got second-pitch grounders from Jose Guillen and Willie Bloomquist, both on 101-mph fastballs, before he unleashed a nasty three-pitch combination to Yuniesky Betancourt. He spotted back-to-back 83 mph curveballs to start off Betancourt — the first for a called strike, the next one fouled off — before blowing his 102 mph fastball past him for a foul tip into catcher Gerald Laird’s mitt for strike three.

“I know when he’s got the good fastball, and I know the days when he’s going to have to use his breaking ball a little more,” Laird said. “I can tell [how fast it is] by receiving it. But his curveball was really good tonight, and that’s going to be a plus pitch for him to have.”

It’s that curveball that had Zumaya really pleased.

“I wanted to do what I did, get my breaking ball over early, feed off of that and climb the ladder on the fastball,” Zumaya said. “It happened just the way I wanted it to.”

It happened at the same place where Zumaya has had defining moments in his career. He made his major league debut here in 2006, when the Tigers opened the season in Kansas City. It was here, too, that Zumaya had the first of his many injuries over the past few years when he ruptured a tendon in his right middle finger while warming up in the bullpen. He’s clearly hoping this is the start of something big for him again.

Verlander got out of rhythm

verlander040510.jpgThe much-anticipated showdown with Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke trying to outpitch each other never quite materialized. Still, Verlander felt pretty good about his outing, despite a no-decision and no quality start.

Though Verlander gave up a two-run homer to Yuniesky Betancourt in the second inning and a two-run single to Billy Butler in the fifth, Verlander felt good about the innings he put up in between. He found a rhythm in that stretch, something it took him a handful of starts to find last year.

“I really didn’t have that feeling in the spring,” Verlander said. “But today I definitely felt it, and it’s something I can build off of.”

Velocitywise, he was strong from the outside, hitting 100 mph on the Kauffman Stadium at least twice in the first five batters he faced. Betancourt’s homer came on a 99 mph fastball, and it culminated a nine-pitch at-bat in which Betancourt fouled off three two-strike pitches. He took a 100 mph pitch to run the count full before getting Verlander’s 99 mph heater.

“Betancourt had one of the great at-bats of the day, for either team,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He fouled off some tough pitches and finally got one out there over the plate, and he whacked it. I’m always worried when a guy sees a lot of pitches in one at-bat. They normally hit it hard somewhere. They might not always get a hit, but they normally hit it hard somewhere.”

Verlander retired 10 straight hitters after that, striking out four of them, to keep it a one-run game. He gave up four straight baserunners in the fifth however, capped by Butler’s line drive to right on Verlander’s second straight 100 mph fastball.

“I think the biggest at-bat was [Scott] Podsednik,” said Verlander, referring to the walk that loaded the bases and extended the inning for Butler. “He was the catalyst for that inning, i think. I got a little out of rhythm. I had that rhythm early, the third and fourth [inning] especially, and I just kind of fell out of sync a little bit.”

Verlander threw 33 pitches that inning — many of them fastballs giving him 93 pitches through five. In hindsight, it cost him a chance at a victory, since one more inning would’ve put him in line as the pitcher of record going into the seventh. However, Leyland said he had no problem with Verlander’s pitching and expects him to settle in.

The no-decision leaves Verlander winless in three straight Opening Day starts. In those three outings, he has given up 16 runs on 18 hits over 11 2/3 innings, racking up 16 strikeouts.

Opening Day: Tigers at Royals

Running a little behind on lineups, but here it goes …

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

ROYALS

  1. David DeJesus, RF
  2. Scott Podsednik, LF
  3. Billy Butler, 1B
  4. Rick Ankiel, CF
  5. Jose Guillen, DH
  6. Willie Bloomquist, DH
  7. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
  8. Jason Kendall, C
  9. Chris Getz, 2B

Satterwhite update

Just talked with Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand about bullpen prospect Cody Satterwhite, who’s opening the season on the disabled list at Double-A Erie with a shoulder injury. Rand classified it as a posterior impingement in his shoulder, otherwise known as a rotator cuff injury.

Satterwhite met last Friday with Dr. James Andrews, who recommended a rehab program. He gave Satterwhite a cortisone injection in his shoulder and scheduled him to be re-examined in two weeks.

Satterwhite and Robbie Weinhardt are regarded as the two up-and-coming relief prospects in the upper levels of the Tigers system. Weinhardt will open the year at Triple-A Toledo after an impressive Spring Training. The hard-throwing Satterwhite, if healthy, will at least start the season with the SeaWolves, for whom he shared the team lead in saves last year.

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