August 2010

St. Pierre finally gets call to big leagues

Max St. Pierre is finally coming to the big leagues. He won’t be the most glamorous September call-up, but he might well be the happiest.

After 978 games over 14 minor league seasons, the longtime Tigers farmhand will join the big club as an extra catcher when rosters expand on Wednesday. The club hadn’t announced the move as of game time Tuesday night, but St. Pierre confirmed to the Toledo Blade after the Mud Hens’ game earlier in the evening that he’ll be joining the club in Minnesota.

For the Tigers, the move gives them a third catcher, something they could’ve used in recent days with Gerald Laird out with a back strain. Laird said Tuesday evening he hoped to be back for Wednesday, but that didn’t diminish the need for insurance.

For St. Pierre, the move is a dream finally fulfilled not only after years of trying, but years of questioning whether it would ever happen. The French Canadian began his pro career as a 17-year-old in 1997, and with the exception of one year in the Brewers organization and a brief stint as a pitcher, has been in the Tigers system ever since. He has made no secret that he kept going for a chance to get to the Majors.

He has been a regular with the Tigers in Spring Training, but has never spent a day on the Major League roster. That is set to change. He’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster in order to be eligible, but the Tigers have an opening there.

St. Pierre batted .274 with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo, where he has bounced back and forth for the last three seasons. He has been with the Mud Hens for parts of five years.

Tuesday: Tigers at Twins

Good to be back on the beat in Minnesota, where the air is sticky tonight and the clouds are threatening but the worst weather so far is staying to the south and east. Should be able to get in tonight’s game on time.

Tigers still don’t have Gerald Laird available, but he’s feeling pretty good and hopes to be back tomorrow for lefty Francisco Liriano. Alex Avila gets his fourth straight start behind the plate.

TIGERS

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

P: Armando Galarraga

TWINS

  1. Denard Span, CF
  2. Orlando Hudson, 2B
  3. Joe Mauer, C
  4. Jason Kubel, RF
  5. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
  6. Delmon Young, DH
  7. Danny Valencia, 3B
  8. Jason Repko, LF
  9. J.J. Hardy, SS

P: Brian Duensing

Tigers to recall Weinhardt Wednesday

The original plan for the Tigers’ September callups was that nobody was probably coming up until Triple-A Toledo’s season ended on Labor Day. There just isn’t much depth left in the farm system. However, Jeremy Bonderman’s rib cage muscle issues might have put a little more urgency in the works. The team announced Tuesday that right-handed reliever Robbie Weinhardt will be recalled Wednesday, the first day rosters can be expanded.

The Tigers sent down Weinhardt a couple weeks ago to work on his slider to go with his sinker. In general, manager Jim Leyland said at the time, his stuff was “up, up, up, up, up.” He has six innings with the Mud Hens since then, allowing an unearned runs on three hits with three walks and seven strikeouts.

Detroit had to go short in the bullpen when Alfredo Figaro made a spot start for Bonderman over the weekend. The Tigers haven’t announced their rotation for next weekend at Kansas City, so we don’t know yet whether Figaro will have to start for Bonderman again on Friday.

Thursday: Tigers at Blue Jays

I’m actually off of this series (just a few days off, back on for Minnesota leg of trip), so no news updates. But here’s the lineup the Tigers will throw at Jays lefty Ricky Romero:

TIGERS
  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Santiago, 2B
  3. Damon, DH
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Raburn, LF
  6. Peralta, SS
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Wells, RF
  9. Laird, C
P: Max Scherzer

Magglio to undergo season-ending ankle surgery

Tigers All-Star outfielder Magglio Ordonez will undergo surgery Wednesday to stabilize his fractured right ankle, a procedure that erases any possibility he had of returning this season.

With that operation now set, it’s possible that the July 24 slide into home plate on which Ordonez suffered his injury will be the final play in his illustrious Tigers tenure.

Ordonez spent Tuesday in Los Angeles visiting with Dr. Philip Kwong, a foot and ankle specialist at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic. The doctor measured the healing in Ordonez’s ankle that has taken place in the month since the injury and recommended surgery.

It isn’t a major procedure, but it’ll require enough recovery time that he won’t be able to come back in September as previously hoped. The original timetable on Ordonez’s recovery was 4-6 weeks, but the fact that Ordonez was still on crutches after his follow-up exam last week in Detroit put that very much in doubt.

Ordonez is expected to be fully recovered in time for next season. Where he’ll be playing next season, though, is anyone’s guess. When asked about Ordonez’s contract situation, team president/general manager Dombrowski said Tuesday night that any discussion on any players for next season won’t take place until the end of this season, an organizational policy.

If the Tigers decline Ordonez’s option, he would become a free agent this winter. They could still try to re-sign him as a lower salary, though Ordonez could still try to test the market to see what offers he can get from other teams. Teams have a 15-day period after the end of the season in which they hold exclusive rights to negotiate with their own free agents.

The 36-year-old Ordonez was batting .303 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs this year at the time of the injury. His loss has had a big impact on the Tigers lineup, where he would usualy be batting in front of AL MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera.

Damon claimed on waivers, must accept or decline move

A waiver claim has given Johnny Damon has a decision to make: Return to the Red Sox and join a potential playoff race in the city where he won his first World Series, or stay with the Tigers and finish out a season with an organization he has grown to love.

It’s a much more complex decision than one might think.

“It’s probably as tough of a decision for me to take right now as it was for me to leave Boston for New York,” Damon said Monday at Comerica Park, where he was in the Tigers’ starting lineup for Monday night’s game against Kansas City. “It’s something that fortunately we have some time to think about it.”

Damon confirmed the Red Sox had put in a claim for him off waivers Monday afternoon. Boston and Detroit have until Wednesday afternoon to work out some sort of deal, but the decision essentially hinges on Damon thanks to a no-trade clause negotiated in his contract when he signed with Detroit in February.

Damon’s contract requires his approval to be traded to any team except for eight on a list he submitted before the season began. The Yankees and Rays are on that list, but the Red Sox are not.

Thus, Damon has the right to accept or decline any move. If he accepts, he’ll return to the city where he became a star from 2002-05, including a World Series title in 2004 that broke the Curse of the Bambino. If he declines, the Tigers will have to pull him back off waivers and won’t be able to trade him for the rest of the season.

The Red Sox have an outside chance to get back to the postseason. They began Monday 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East race and 5 1/2 games behind the Rays for the Wild Card.

“At this moment, I’m not sure I want to leave Detroit for that,” Damon said. “I enjoy playing here. I enjoy the kids I’m playing for, the coaching staff. But obviously [Red Sox manager] Terry Francona is amazing. But it’s something that I’m going to have think long and hard over.”

Damon’s issue with Boston appears to be the way things ended after the 2005 season. He signed with the Yankees as a free agent after that season, but his issue seems to date back before that decision was made.

“I had a great time playing there,” Damon said. “But I think once it was apparent that I wasn’t a necessity to re-sign there, it started to get ugly. And that’s why I’ve got to think long and hard. I have to think if they do have a strong chance to make the playoffs with the guys beat up there. I have to think long and hard if I’m going to once again be probably one of the nicest guys in baseball, but  be once again the most hated guy in baseball. That’s what it boils down. You guys see how I get booed in every ballpark already.”

Damon said he received the call from the Tigers around 3 p.m. Detroit has a 1 p.m. ET game against the Royals Wednesday afternoon, so he’ll most likely need to decide by then.

The 36-year-old Damon is batting .270 this season with 30 doubles, seven home runs and 40 RBIs. He has struggled in August, batting .219 (16-for-78) with no homers, four doubles, a triple, eight RBIs and 20 strikeouts.

The Tigers signed Damon to a one-year contract in February with the idea that he could be the offensive piece that could help them contend again. For a while, they did, leading the AL Central as recently as last month before a month-long slump out of the All-Star break knocked them double-digit games back of the division lead. Detroit recovered with a three-game series sweep of Cleveland this past weekend, but remains in third place, 11 games behind the Twins.

Damon said last week that he understands why the Tigers might look to deal him and try to save some money or get a prospect in return. He also said he would like to be back with the Tigers next year, whether or not he’s traded. He reiterated that on Tuesday.

“The only reason why I would be considering it is to help out this team in the future,” Damon said. “I love the Tigers organization and I love the fact that they’re up-front and honest. If somehow they can get a good prospect back, a player that can help this team in the future, it would be beneficial for them. I would like to remain a Tiger, so I think that’s why these next hours are pretty important.”

Damon reportedly claimed on waivers

If the Tigers were hoping to push Johnny Damon through waivers for a possible late August trade, they might be disappointed. The veteran outfielder was claimed on waivers by an unknown team, according to FOXSports.com.

The question then would become whether Damon was claimed to set up a possible trade or to block him from being traded to another club. If it’s the former, the Tigers would have 48 hours to try to work out a deal with the team that claimed him. If they can’t finalize a trade, they would have to either pull him back off waivers or let the claiming team take his contract — including what’s left of his $8 million salary due — and receive nothing in return.

There was nothing going on the trade front with Damon as of Sunday, but if Damon was placed on waivers Thursday, as previously reported, teams had until Monday to put in a claim on him. Claims placed on players are processed by league — American League first in this case, then National League — then by record, in order from worst to first.

Casper Wells heading to Detroit

The Tigers were on the verge of yet another player move from Triple-A Toledo Sunday night. But the move appears to be a simple call-up, likely to get the Tigers back to their usual number of position players on the 25-man roster, rather than a precursor to any larger move.
Casper Wells was in the Mud Hens’ starting lineup for their game Sunday at Columbus before he was pulled and sent to Detroit in time for Monday’s series opener against the Royals, MLB.com has learned. However, the move is not believed to be related to any trade talks on current Tigers. Indications suggest the Tigers have nothing going on the trade front at the moment, though reports stated they placed Johnny Damon and Brandon Inge on waivers last week.
The Tigers went to an eight-man bullpen ahead of their series last week in New York to help ease the strain on their exhausted bullpen, sending down outfielder Jeff Frazier and calling up lefty reliever Daniel Schlereth. Detroit swapped pitchers with Toledo on Friday, sending down Robbie Weinhardt and calling up Alfredo Figaro, but decided to stay with an extra reliever after three consecutive starters lasted just five innings against the Yankees.
Detroit’s bullpen is in much better shape now after back-to-back seven-inning performances against Cleveland Friday and Saturday from Armando Gallarraga and Max Scherzer and an eight-inning outing from Justin Verlander Sunday. Manager Jim Leyland said Sunday they would not be staying with eight relievers for long. Still, who’s heading back to Toledo isn’t yet clear.
Wells was up with the Tigers in May, starting two games and entering two others as a defensive replacement. He’s hitting .233 for the Hens this year with 21 home runs and 46 RBIs, but his recent numbers are outstanding. He’s batting .354 (23-for-65) in August with seven doubles, three triples, five home runs, 12 RBIs and a 1.246 OPS. His OPS since the All-Star break is 1.040 to go with a .295 second-half average.

Sunday: Tigers vs. Indians

Johnny Damon returns to the lineup as the DH. Not surprisingly, Don Kelly stays in left field. The way he’s hitting the Indians, he has to play.

TIGERS
  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Rhymes, 2B
  3. Damon, DH
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Boesch, RF
  6. Peralta, SS
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Kelly, LF
  9. Laird, C
P: Justin Verlander
INDIANS
  1. Trevor Crowe, CF
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  4. Travis Hafner, DH
  5. Jayson Nix, 3B
  6. Andy Marte, 1B
  7. Shelley Duncan, LF
  8. Jason Donald, 2B
  9. Lou Marson, C
P: Jeanmar Gomez

Saturday: Tigers vs. Indians

Don Kelly is 9-for-17 against the Indians this season. Don Kelly plays tonight. He’s at first base, batting ninth. Miguel Cabrera is the DH. Johnny Damon is off.

TIGERS
  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Rhymes, 2B
  3. Raburn, LF
  4. Cabrera, DH
  5. Boesch, RF
  6. Peralta, SS
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Avila, C
  9. Kelly, 1B
P: Max Scherzer
INDIANS
  1. Trevor Crowe, CF
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  4. Travis Hafner, DH
  5. Jayson Nix, 3B
  6. Shelley Duncan, LF
  7. Matt LaPorta, 1B
  8. Jason Donald, 2B
  9. Chris Gimenez, C
P: Josh Tomlin
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