June 2010

Verlander pitches Braves backwards

verlander062710.jpgNo, Justin Verlander didn’t physically pitch backwards against the Braves Sunday. But when his heavy dose of heaters early prompted Atlanta’s hitters to go looking for it, Verlander changed course and began mixing in different pitches, including nine straight offspeed pitches at one point in the middle innings.

Verlander’s first 11 pitches of the game were fastballs to Martin Prado and Brooks Conrad, topping out at 99 mph in the opening inning. All 10 of his second-inning pitches were fastballs, as were 11 of his 14 pitches in the third. Once the Braves put up their damage on him in the fourth and fifth, all but one of the pitches they hit were fastballs.

Starting in the fifth inning, Verlander and catcher Gerald Laird began making adjustments.

“They were looking for his fastball,” Laird said. “A lot of teams see him and dial in on his heater. Today, we just started trying to pitch backwards a little bit. I think he was able to get some guys out and get them off the fastball and then, when we were able to go to the fastball, he was beating them. We’re just trying to change it up a little bit. They were being real aggressive with his fastball.”

Said Verlander: “It was kind of a reaction to the situation we got in. In the fourth and fifth, after we scored a bunch of runs, I’m trying to go out there and not [say], ‘Here it is. Hit it,’ but make quality pitches and have them put it in play and hopefully have some quick innings so I can get real deep in the game. But I wasn’t making quality pitches, and they were putting them in play, but they were base hits. Then I got in situations where I had to go to my offspeed stuff more than I would have liked.”

It probably wasn’t as much as Leyland would’ve liked, at least early on. After Leyland was ejected from the game, he watched the game on TV from the clubhouse and could concentrate on Verlander and what he was doing mechanically.

“When you’re watching the game as a spectator, I can see it on the monitor. You can see him flying off,” Leyland said. “That’s what we’re talking about with him. He just has to continue to work like the sixth inning. He made it look real easy — real smooth delivery, easy inning for him. But I was worried from the first inning on, because the first inning he was laboring already. That’s not good.

“I think the other thing that I’ve talked to him about, still convincing him about it: I think he’s got to get away from throwing 95 percent fastballs in the first inning. When you get into situations, I think it’s OK to use your other pitches in the first inning. When you come out of the bullpen, I think it’s important to be prepared to throw some other pitches besides fastballs in the first inning. I know you want to establish your fastball, but that doesn’t mean you just pump one right after another.

“But he’ll be fine. He’s a horse. He showed why he’s a horse today. That’s pretty hot out there, plus he had to go through a grueling inning. That’s not an easy day to pitch. But that’s why he’s a horse. He came through. We needed it.”

Leyland still miffed over blown call

Jim Leyland heard the answer from home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom on the third strike he called on Johnny Damon to turn a potential game-tying walk into a game-ending strikeout Saturday. It didn’t make Leyland feel any better about it.
“I called him after the game,” Leyland said. “I just said, ‘I hope you take a look at the pitch.’ He said, ‘Well, I kicked it.’ I knew that right away, but it was brutal on TV.”
Cederstrom told reporters after the game Saturday that he watched the replay and “it didn’t look good.” 
Leyland agreed. “He’s right,” Leyland said. “It wasn’t good.”
Cederstrom worked Sunday’s game as the umpire at third base, right in front of the Tigers dugout. Leyland didn’t expect any lingering issues.
“I think it’s one of those things where you have to turn the page,” Leyland said.
Turning the page, though, does not include forgiveness, at least not from Leyland.
“That’s just not acceptable in those situations,” Leyland said. “It’s just not acceptable. That’s just the way it is.”

Sunday: Tigers at Braves

As expected, Magglio Ordonez has the day off. The ripple effect from that has Brennan Boesch moving from left field to right, Johnny Damon back in the starting lineup in left and batting third, and Ramon Santiago batting second for the third straight game. Danny Worth will start Monday at Minnesota and give Santiago a break.

Brandon Inge is also off, replaced by Don Kelly. Gerald Laird is behind the plate for Justin Verlander.

TIGERS

  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Santiago, SS
  3. Damon, LF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Boesch, RF
  6. Guillen, 2B
  7. Kelly, 3B
  8. Laird, C
  9. Verlander, P

Saturday: Tigers at Braves

If you guessed that Johnny Damon would get Saturday off, and that Magglio Ordonez would be rested for the day game after the later day game, you’re correct. Ramon Santiago is back in the second spot in the order, this time backing up Austin Jackson.

TIGERS

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

BRAVES

  1. Martin Prado, 2B
  2. Melky Cabrera, RF
  3. Chipper Jones, 3B
  4. Brian McCann, C
  5. Troy Glaus, 1B
  6. Eric Hinske, LF
  7. Yunel Escobar, SS
  8. Gregor Blanco, CF
  9. Kenshin Kawakami, P

Leyland: Porcello needs to pitch (in Toledo)

If anyone was expecting Rick Porcello’s eight innings of one-hit ball to earn him a quick return to Detroit, it isn’t happening. Manager Jim Leyland put an end to that speculation before it had a chance to begin.
“He needs to pitch,” Leyland said.
Leyland added that left-hander Andy Oliver will make his next turn in the rotation, which comes up Wednesday afternoon against the Twins in the finale of their three-game series at Target Field.
A double to left field was the lone hit the 21-year-old Porcello allowed in his first Triple-A start. He induced 15 ground-ball outs compared with just six fly balls. Organizational reports said he had a good amount of success with his slider, a huge development for him as a third pitch.
“It was a step in the right direction,” Knapp said of the slider.
The outing drew comparisons to the brief Toledo stint of Max Scherzer, who proved after two starts that he had made the adjustments he needed to be an effective Major League pitcher. Leyland isn’t going to bite on comparisons.
“Porcello needs to pitch,” Leyland reiterated. “I’m not going to talk about Porcello right now. Everybody’s all excited [after] one start. He needs to go down there and pitch and get himself straightened out. I’m not going to get all excited. He needs to go down there and get work in and pitch.
“And I love Rick Porcello, and I think he’s going to be back, and I think he’s going to be a great Major League pitcher. But he’s down in the Minor Leagues right now, and we’re handling issues up here.”

Perry headed to Toledo for rehab

Ryan Perry got the go-ahead from the Tigers to start his rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo after throwing a second successful mound session Thursday. If all goes well, it could be a rather quick assignment.

Perry headed out after Thursday’s game to join the Tigers in Indianapolis. He’s scheduled to pitch one inning there Saturday night, then two innings Monday night, after which the Tigers will evaluate where he’s at. That doesn’t mean he’s coming up right after that, but it leaves open the possibility.

There’s no bigger-picture project for Perry on assignment, manager Jim Leyland said. He’s just there to build up his arm again and face hitters, not to adjust anything to make any tweaks. That, too, would suggest this should be a short assignment.

Friday: Tigers at Braves

The puzzle of squeezing four outfielders into three outfield spots is a little clearer now thanks to the way Brennan Boesch is hitting lately. Jim Leyland said today that Boesch will play all three games here against the Braves this weekend. Austin Jackson, Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez will catch three games each. Jackson is out tonight. Not sure which game Damon or Ordonez will have off, but the key point is that Boesch is playing all three.

“I just think I’d be pretty foolish to take him out right now,” Leyland said. “I try to make it common sense when it’s all said and done, and I thought this makes sense.”

But as he also pointed out, “Our club pays a pretty big price for Interleague on the road.”

TIGERS

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

BRAVES

  1. Martin Prado, 2B
  2. Jason Heyward, RF
  3. Chipper Jones, 3B
  4. Troy Glaus, 1B
  5. Brian McCann, C
  6. Yunel Escobar, SS
  7. Omar Infante, LF
  8. Melky Cabrera, CF
  9. Kris Medlen, P

Thursday: Tigers at Mets

The way Brennan Boesch and Magglio Ordonez are hitting, it’s becoming clear that the outfield mix this week is likely to leave either Austin Jackson or Johnny Damon out of the lineup when they don’t have a DH. On Thursday, it’s Damon on the bench for the second time this series. Ryan Raburn gets the start at second base with Carlos Guillen getting a scheduled day off. Guillen supposedly felt a little tightness in his hamstring after Wednesday’s loss, but there’s no indication that it’s a big deal.

The other question for Thursday involves whether there’s anything to the notion that facing a nasty knuckleball pitcher can mess up a hitter for the next couple days. Manager Jim Leyland doesn’t buy it.

“Guys always say they worry about stuff like that,” Leyland said. “I don’t really buy that stuff. I think that’s just good talk.”

TIGERS

  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Raburn, 2B
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Boesch, LF
  6. Inge, 3B
  7. Laird, C
  8. Worth, SS
  9. Galarraga, P

METS

  1. Jose Reyes, SS
  2. Jesus Feliciano, CF
  3. David Wright, 3B
  4. Ike Davis, 1B
  5. Jason Bay, LF
  6. Jeff Francoeur, RF
  7. Henry Blanco, C
  8. Ruben Tejada, 2B
  9. Hisanori Takahashi, P

Turner promoted to Lakeland

As the Grand Rapids Press reported last night, Tigers top pitching prospect Jacob Turner is getting bumped up a rung on the developmental ladder. Detroit has transferred his contract from low Class A West Michigan to high Class A Lakeland.

If this was part of the plan, it wasn’t evident. A month ago, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told the paper a month ago that there were “no immediate plans” to move Turner, that their current thought process was to leave him there. Dombrowski did caution, however, that the plans could change as the season moves on.

Turner’s performance apparently changed some plans, though it wasn’t particularly evident in the numbers. The 19-year-old gave up 10 earned runs on 31 hits over 28 innings in his last five starts, striking out 20 batters and walking five. After beginning the year on the disabled list, Turner went 2-3 with a 3.67 ERA as a Whitecap.

 

Wednesday: Jackson sits vs. Mets

It isn’t a strained back this time, but the strain of four Tigers outfielders and three lineup spots that’s apparently keeping Jackson out of the lineup tonight. He says his back feels fine, and Jim Leyland doesn’t doubt it, but he hinted last night that Brennan Boesch is hitting too well right now to take out of the lineup.

Johnny Damon is back in the lineup, batting leadoff and playing in left. Ramon Santiago is the No. 2 hitter tonight, with Alex Avila behind the plate.
TIGERS
  1. Damon, LF
  2. Santiago, SS
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Boesch, LF
  6. Guillen, 2B
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Avila, C
  9. Bonderman, P
METS
  1. Jose Reyes, SS
  2. Angel Pagan, CF
  3. David Wright, 3B
  4. Ike Davis, 1B
  5. Jason Bay, LF
  6. Jeff Francoeur, RF
  7. Henry Blanco, C
  8. Ruben Tejada, 2B
  9. R.A. Dickey, P
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