March 16th, 2011

On Robbie Weinhardt and pitching opportunities

I went to the ballpark this morning fully planning to write about the Tigers’ stingy pitching numbers this spring and when they go from pitchers being ahead of hitters in Spring Training to some pitching staffs being ahead of other pitching staffs. I should have known better as soon as I saw Albert Pujols on the Cardinals travel roster.
Funny thing, though, is that I still ended up writing about the pitching, each step along the way until finding one of the few Tigers bright spots of the entire game.
Phil Coke said he felt good until his fourth and final inning, but realistically, he was pitching damage control for much of his day before losing it in the fourth with back-to-back walks. He made no secret of wanting another shot at Albert Pujols after retiring him twice already, but back-to-back walks to load the bases and force in a run took that opportunity away from him.
“I feel like if you leave me out there, I could’ve gotten Pujols again,” Coke said. “But that’s just me. That’s my competitive nature. His at-bats were the ones I physically felt best in. He’s a very dangerous hitter, but I was locked in.”
His walks put Adam Wilk in almost a no-win situation when he entered the fourth inning with the bases loaded and Pujols up, but it’s a test for a reliever. Two innings later, Daniel Schlereth’s four straight walks put a big blemish on his spring pitching line, but it created an opportunity the Tigers no doubt valued for testing ground-ball specialist Robbie Weinhardt. 
Weinhardt didn’t get the ground-ball double play, but a strikeout and a ground ball allowed him to escape the jam without giving up an inherited runner. But he obviously never would’ve gotten that opportunity to prove himself without Schlereth’s control issues.
That’s how Spring Training outings can work out for players, whether they’re ready or not. One guy’s rough afternoon is another pitcher’s opportunity. And through it all, there always seems to be a story. It just might not be the story you planned on writing this morning.

Leyland: Decision on rotation coming soon

Lost in the battles for the final bullpen spots and the second base job is the fact that the Tigers haven’t decided yet who will start the second game of the season or the last game in Baltimore before the home opener. Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello already have their assignments, but Phil Coke and Brad Penny do not. One of them is expected to make those two starts, and the other will either be held back or work out of the bullpen for the first week of the season.

“Somebody’s going to be skipped a turn,” Jim Leyland said this morning. “That’s going to be worked out shortly.”
It’s a short-term decision made necessary by having two off-days in the first week. Once the Tigers get back to Detroit, they have a long stretch of games without an off-day, and the five starters will slot in turn. But the decision could have a big impact on the road trip and what kind of momentum they take home with them.
Coke (who starts today) and Penny (who starts Thursday against the Twins) have been starting back-to-back this spring, so you can’t make out anything from the pitching order. Penny would have to take an extra day of rest to fall in line for the March 2 game at Yankee Stadium. Coke would have two extra days, so he might throw an extra side session or something.

Martinez scratched with stiff neck

Victor Martinez was walking around the clubhouse Wednesday, but his stiff neck is going to keep him out of the starting lineup as a precaution. John Murrian, just sent to minor-league camp Tuesday, heads back across the street today to start at catcher.

Leyland confirmed Magglio Ordonez and Jhonny Peralta are getting days off. They were here for the workouts, but they’ll be heading out shortly.
The new Tigers lineup:
  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Will Rhymes, 2B
  3. Clete Thomas, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Brennan Boesch, LF
  6. Brandon Inge, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, DH
  8. Ramon Santiago, SS
  9. John Murrian, C
P: Phil Coke, Adam Wilk, Ryan Perry, Jose Valverde, Daniel Schlereth, Robbie Weinhardt.
  1. Ryan Theriot, SS
  2. Colby Rasmus, CF
  3. Albert Pujols, 1B
  4. David Freese, 3B
  5. Lance Berkman, DH
  6. Allen Craig, RF
  7. Skip Schumaker, 2B
  8. Yadier Molina, C
  9. Jon Jay, LF
P: Chris Carpenter, Brian Tallet, John Gast, Joe Kelly, Lance Lynn, Raul Valdes

Tigers assign Brendan Wise to minor league camp

Add one more pitcher to the Tigers’ early round of cuts. Right-handed reliever Brendan Wise was assigned to minor league camp this morning, making him the 19th subtraction.

The 25-year-old Wise was an intriguing arm to watch coming into camp off a strong arm at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo. Combine the stats from his SeaWolves and Mud Hens stints, and he owned six saves, a 6-2 record and 1.87 ERA in 2010. But his six appearances this spring didn’t seem to do much for his case. He allowed four runs, three earned, on five hits in 5 1/3 innings with a walk and two strikeouts.
With that, the Tigers now have 39 players in camp.

Wednesday: Tigers vs. Cardinals

Another good test today for Tigers lineup against Chris Carpenter. Magglio is off, so Boesch moves into the third spot. If you want to complain about days off in Spring Training, fire away.

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Will Rhymes, 2B
  3. Brennan Boesch, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, C
  6. Clete Thomas, RF
  7. Brandon Inge, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Ramon Santiago, SS
P: Phil Coke