May 16th, 2010

Miner to get second opinion on elbow

Zach Miner told MLB.com Sunday he will get a second opinion on his ailing right elbow this coming week before deciding whether to opt for surgery now or try a rehab process.

An MRI exam in Detroit Friday suggested Miner has a partial tear of the ulnar colateral ligament in his right elbow. Surgery would cost him the rest of the season, but he could choose to try to avoid surgery and pitch through it by strengthening the muscles around the injury while it heals.

“Obviously I’m disappointed, but at the same time, not surprised,” Miner wrote in an email. “I could tell something hasn’t been right, but I was going to try to get through whatever discomfort I was having, hoping it would work its way out. I’m going to get a second opinion this week and go from there.”

Miner has been on the 15-day disabled list since the final days of Spring Training. Eddie Bonine and Brad Thomas have filled in well in his absence.

Sunday: Tigers vs. Red Sox

When we left manager Jim Leyland early Sunday morning, he was toying with the idea of starting Danny Worth at second base for this game. A few hours later, he followed through on it, putting Worth at second and batting him ninth.

Worth didn’t know he was starting when he got into the clubhouse.

“I don’t even know where the lineup is,” Worth said.

It will be a day with three rookies in the Tigers lineup, but not the reigning AL Rookie of the Month. Austin Jackson is getting a rare day off, replaced in center by Don Kelly and at leadoff by Johnny Damon. Ramon Santiago will bat second.

TIGERS

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

P: Armando Galarraga

RED SOX

  1. Marco Scutaro, SS
  2. Jeremy Hermida, LF
  3. J.D. Drew, RF
  4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
  5. David Ortiz, DH
  6. Mike Lowell, 3B
  7. Jason Varitek, C
  8. Bill Hall, 2B
  9. Jonathan Van Every, CF

P: John Lackey

Carlos Guillen gets his wish (seven months later)

In the end, Carlos Guillen got what he wanted, if only because the Tigers got what they needed.

When Guillen complained about his situation last fall, griped about being taken out for late-inning defensive purposes in the outfield last year, he gave the distinct impression that he would be happier playing in the infield. He had changed positions time and again for the good of the team since moving out from shortstop late in the 2007 season. He wasn’t injured as often as a Tiger, he said, when he played shortstop, though one could argue against that.
Beneath the talk about health, the second-guessing of moves, the complaints about an ever-changing lineup was his case to move to second base if the Tigers didn’t re-sign Placido Polanco. The Tigers shot down that idea quickly, saying they were committed to Scott Sizemore. They also came back to the belief that Guillen would have a hard time staying healthy playing the infield every day.
Seven months after those comments, Sizemore is struggling, Brennan Boesch is thriving in Guillen’s old left field/DH role, the Tigers need more offense in their lineup, and Guillen is close to returning from his left hamstring pull. The Tigers needed to get creative to find a way to keep Guillen and Boesch in the same lineup. They did so by deciding that idea of Guillen as an infielder again wasn’t so crazy after all.
“Carlos is a tremendous veteran player,” Leyland said. “Obviously, we want to find a spot for him every day. I think they would probably run me out of town if we sent Boesch down, so I don’t think that would be a very bright move. And you’ve got Johnny Damon, so what you do is because of the situation with Scott Sizemore. I think it’s going to give us another bat in the lineup.”
Manager Jim Leyland sat down with Guillen Saturday and talked about it, but he probably didn’t have to. Give Guillen an infielder’s glove, and he was probably going to be on board with this. The unanswered questions can come later.
If the Tigers felt last year, two years ago, three years ago like Guillen couldn’t stay healthy for a season as an infielder, what changed to make them feel like Guillen — who’s coming off a hamstring injury he suffered rounding third base — can hold up at second base? The realistic answer is the need was big enough for them to give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, they have other options at second. If Guillen gets hurt, hey, they gave it a shot.
“He’s obviously caught a lot of ground balls in his career,” Leyland said. “Over at second base, obviously, it’s not as strenuous as shortstop. We think that that’s going to give us another offensive bat that pushes some things down further. We think it’s a logical move.”
How long do the Tigers plan on going with this? I have no idea. There are so many moving parts that could change this, it’s almost not even worth discussing how long. Guillen’s health is only one of the factors, but it’s by far the biggest. How long Boesch can keep up this hitting as pitchers try to get him to chase bad pitches is another. What Sizemore does at Triple-A Toledo to recover and earn a trip back is still another. Injuries to other Tigers outfielders could change plans just the same.
Leyland definitely wasn’t talking about looking that far ahead. He’s looking at the potential spark to the lineup from Guillen batting sixth in the lineup between Boesch and Brandon Inge. Still, two important Tigers who had trouble communicating at season’s end are now seemingly on the same wavelength.

Sizemore, Scherzer to Toledo; Worth coming up

The first Saturday night fireworks of the season at Comerica Park weren’t just on the field. After the Tigers’ comeback win over the Red Sox, they made three key changes to their roster, optioning starting second baseman Scott Sizemore and key starting pitcher Max Scherzer to Triple-A Toledo and anointing Carlos Guillen as the new starter at second when he returns from the disabled list.

Armando Galarraga, who was already being recalled from Toledo to start Sunday’s series finale against Boston, will stay in the rotation. To replace Sizemore, the Tigers purchased the contract of infielder Danny Worth, who could make his Major League debut as soon as Sunday at second base.

Manager Jim Leyland said he’ll fill second base with some combination of Ramon Santiago, Worth and utilityman Don Kelly until Guillen is ready. Guillen, currently on the 15-day DL with a strained left hamstring, has been taking ground balls the past couple days and is expected to begin a rehab assignment sometime next week after the Tigers’ current homestand ends Tuesday.

The moves and announcements came just before midnight after Detroit’s 12-inning victory, and they came in a flurry.

The Tigers tabbed Scherzer to fill the void in the middle of their rotation immediately upon acquiring the gifted 25-year-old from Arizona in the Edwin Jackson trade last December. After four encouraging April starts, however, he fell into a deep four-start struggle that saw him battle his mechanics moreso than hitters.

Scherzer gave up 27 runs on 33 hits over 18 innings in his last four starts, the last three of them losses. The capper came Friday night, when he surrendered three home runs — including a 450-foot drive from David Ortiz — tagged him with six runs on six hits over five innings.

Scherzer has given up nine home runs this season, tying him for second in the American League entering Saturday.

Scherzer would’ve been on track to start next Thursday at Oakland. Instead, the Tigers will likely slot Dontrelle Willis into that outing, pitching him in his hometown. Galarraga can then start Friday against the Dodgers on his regular turn after starting Sunday.

Galarraga has boasted impressive numbers in Toledo, owning a 4-2 record with a 3.92 ERA. With a strike-to-ball ratio of better than 2-to-1, his command seems to have improved since last season with the Tigers, where he posted a 6-10 record in 25 starts before being relegated to bullpen duties.

The 25-year-old Sizemore has struggled for the vast majority of this season to date, but has fallen on particularly tough times lately. His two strikeouts against Red Sox lefty Jon Lester Saturday night extended his current slump to 0-for-14 and dropped his average to .206. He hit one home run and added eight RBIs, part of the struggles at the bottom of the Tigers order.

The telling sign came Saturday night, when manager Jim Leyland used Ramon Santiago to pinch-hit for Sizemore in the eighth inning of a tie game with Red Sox left-hander Hideki Okajima and the potential go-ahead run on third with one out. Santiago lined out to third and stayed in the game at second base before drawing the walkoff walk to drive in the winning run in the 12th.

The 24-year-old Worth was once among the Tigers’ shortstop prospects, having been drafted in the second round of the 2007 Draft out of Pepperdine. He largely struggled as a hitter in his first three seasons, but has proven valuable around the infield this year at Toledo, where he entered Saturday batting .274 with five doubles, two homers and 14 RBIs.  He has played at shortstop, second and third.

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