April 2011

Saturday: Tigers at Indians

The Tigers are sticking with their lineup from Friday. No track records to go on for Detroit against Alex White, the Indians starter making his Major League debut.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Will Rhymes, 2B
  3. Magglio Ordonez, DH
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Brennan Boesch, RF
  6. Ryan Raburn, LF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B

P: Rick Porcello

No Toledo shuttle in sight (yet) for Tigers

You kind of got the idea where Jim Leyland was going with his conversation without naming the destination. And in some ways, you can see his point, at least at this point early in this season.

“If Magglio doesn’t hit, then I’m an idiot,” Leyland said.

A few seconds later, Leyland added to it.

“If Raburn doesn’t produce, then I’m stupid,” Leyland said.

Leyland is counting on Ordonez and Raburn producing. Ordonez, in particular, he’s counting on to hit in the third spot, as he has for years.

If any current Tiger fits the definition of a track record, it’s Ordonez, based on more than a decade of Major League at-bats. The rest are in varying degrees of experience.

The point remains that his lineup is interconnected. If Leyland wanted to give Scott Sizemore a shot, somebody out of the group of Ordonez, Raburn, Brennan Boesch or Victor Martinez would have to sit on a given day. It isn’t as simple as swapping Sizemore for Will Rhymes, at least not when Martinez comes back next week.

Once Martinez returns, the possibility of Raburn playing second base becomes one way the Tigers can fit him in with Boesch, Ordonez and Martinez in the same lineup. It’s difficult to envision the Tigers calling up Sizemore if they don’t have everyday playing time for him. But until they sort out the outfield mix, it’s hard to find the playing time.

Austin Jackson is in a little different scenario. Even with two singles Friday night, he struck out twice as he tries to work his way out of his early slump.

The offensive component involves a young man trying to find his decisive back at the plate, and track some pitches better. The defensive component is a Gold Glove caliber center fielder when he’s on, and one of the few players who can cover most of the ground in the gaps with Ordonez and Boesch on the corners. That aspect can’t be easy on the Tigers when they try to look for signs Jackson might be at least trying to get out of his rut at the plate.

Friday: Tigers at Tribe

No bus ride for this reporter, but still a drive down to Toledo and left onto the Ohio Turnpike for this series. Still one of my favorite trips, in part because it’s so easy to make.

Worth noting that Will Rhymes is 3-for-3 off Jeanmar Gomez. As long as he needs a spark, it’s worth a shot. I know a lot of folks are asking about how long the Tigers will stick with Jackson and Rhymes while they’re struggling. I think they’re going to show some more patience to see if they can come out of it.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Will Rhymes, 2B
  3. Magglio Ordonez, DH
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Brennan Boesch, RF
  6. Ryan Raburn, LF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B
P: Max Scherzer
INDIANS
  1. Grady Sizemore, CF
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  4. Carlos Santana, C
  5. Shelley Duncan, DH
  6. Orlando Cabrera, 2B
  7. Michael Brantley, LF
  8. Matt LaPorta, 1B
  9. Jack Hannahan, 3B
P: Jeanmar Gomez

Thursday: Tigers vs. Mariners

A day after the Tigers had four errors in the infield, manager Jim Leyland gave the left side the day to get some rest. Ramon Santiago gets the start at shortstop, with Don Kelly at third base. The moves also get two extra left-handed bats in the lineup against Michael Pineda, the Mariners’ stingy right-handed rookie.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ramon Santiago, SS
  3. Magglio Ordonez, DH
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Brennan Boesch, RF
  6. Ryan Raburn, LF
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Don Kelly, 3B
  9. Will Rhymes, 2B
P: Brad Penny
MARINERS
  1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  2. Chone Figgins, 3B
  3. Milton Bradley, LF
  4. Miguel Olivo, C
  5. Justin Smoak, 1B
  6. Adam Kennedy, DH
  7. Luis Rodriguez, SS
  8. Michael Saunders, CF
  9. Jack Wilson, 2B
P: Michael Pineda

Avila: “We’re way too talented to be playing like this”

One of the things that has been emphasized in the Tigers clubhouse this year is a steady approach — no panic, no overconfidence, but a day-in, day-out approach. That comes from the players. And to be clear, they’re not panicking now over back-to-back losses. But among the players who were around the clubhouse after Tuesday’s loss to Erik Bedard and the M’s, dropping the Tigers back to the .500 mark on the year, you could sense some frustration.

That springboard that sweeping the White Sox might have been hoped to provide is pretty well gone. And while the standings don’t mean much in April, it’s looking less likely that they’ll head into Cleveland this weekend with a chance to vault into first place.

More important to the Tigers, they haven’t played good baseball the last couple days. And that’s clearly bothering Alex Avila.

“It is a little frustrating,” Avila said, “because we’re just way too talented to be playing .500 baseball right now. We need to figure it out, and kind of get things rolling. We show flashes of that, and then we take a couple of steps back. As the season goes on, as we can figure things out and kind of gel as a team, then hopefully we can kind of get on a roll, because we’re way too talented to be playing like this.”

When asked about the hitting of Miguel Olivo, who entered the series batting .164 but has suddenly raked in the cleanup spot the last two nights, Avila talked more in general.

“It seems like the entire Mariners team has our number, not just Olivo,” Avila said. “As a team, the numbers coming in, you see they haven’t been swinging well as a team. And then they play us, and they swing the bats great. We’ve just got to figure out a way to get them out.”

Guillen slowly progressing

Out of popular demand (in no small part on this blog), I checked around for an update on Carlos Guillen. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said today that Guillen is now back to running sprints and began hitting again this week. Unless something changes, he’ll resume more baseball-specific activities next week, including running bases.

Long story short: He still has some way to go before we can start talking about a rehab assignment, but he’s making progress in that direction.

Wednesday: Tigers vs. Mariners

If you’re detecting a pattern in the Tigers lineup against left-handed starters, you would be right. With the exception of Avila catching, it’s the same lineup that went up against Erik Bedard last Wednesday in Seattle. And it’s the exact same lineup that took its cuts against Mark Buehrle last Friday. The only different last Sunday against John Danks was Brandon Inge and Casper Wells being swapped in the batting order.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ryan Raburn, 2B
  3. Magglio Ordonez, DH
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  6. Brennan Boesch, LF
  7. Brandon Inge, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Casper Wells, RF

P: Justin Verlander

MARINERS

  1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  2. Chone Figgins, 3B
  3. Milton Bradley, LF
  4. Miguel Olivo, C
  5. Justin Smoak, 1B
  6. Jack Cust, DH
  7. Adam Kennedy, 2B
  8. Brendan Ryan, SS
  9. Michael Saunders, CF

P: Erik Bedard

V-Mart on track for return next week

With a gorgeous afternoon in Detroit, Victor Martinez hit the field to get in his first real workout since he went on the 15-day disabled list. The results were very encouraging for him to return from his groin strain once he’s eligible to come off the DL next week.

“I’m feeling great, man,” Martinez said. “This is the day that I can say it, because this is the first day I went outside and did something.”

Martinez did agility drills, played catch and hit, all without pain. He was among the many Tigers who came out to the ballpark early.

He’s eligible to come off the DL on Wednesday, May 4, the third day of their four-game series against the Yankees.

Around the same time, Rick Porcello was throwing his final side session before he jumps back into the rotation Saturday. They put him on the mound and threw some hitters at him, and he said the 45-pitch session went well. No radar guns that I could see, so unless you’re going on feel, it’s hard to tell whether Porcello was throwing harder.

Tuesday: Tigers vs. Mariners

If you have to find a way to score runs against Felix Hernandez, it can’t hurt to have a couple of speed guys at the top of the order. It’ll be interesting to see if the Tigers try putting Austin Jackson and Will Rhymes in motion if they’re on base. The two guys in the lineup who have hit King Felix in the past are Miguel Cabrera (7-for-14) and Jhonny Peralta (6-for-20). After that, the numbers are about as ugly as you would expect.

On the other side, the M’s have .164-hitting Miguel Olivo batting cleanup.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Will Rhymes, 2B
  3. Magglio Ordonez, DH
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Brennan Boesch, RF
  6. Ryan Raburn, LF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B
P: Phil Coke
MARINERS
  1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  2. Chone Figgins, 3B
  3. Milton Bradley, LF
  4. Miguel Olivo, C
  5. Justin Smoak, 1B
  6. Jack Cust, DH
  7. Brendan Ryan, SS
  8. Michael Saunders, CF
  9. Jack Wilson, 2B
P: Felix Hernandez

Tigers tweet-up is tonight

I’ve never really looked into how many blog readers follow Twitter. I figure there must be at least a few, what with blog links getting tweeted and now with the recent tweets showing up on the right-hand column of the page here. But if you’re interested, the Tigers’ first annual tweet-up is on for tonight.

A $10 ticket includes group seating in the pavilion section, a Tigers TweetUp t-shirt with space to write in your Twitter address, a pre-game gathering in the Labatt Blue Light Jungle including chances to meet Tigers tweeters in the organization and media, and tweet contests for prizes. Also, it’s Felix Hernandez against Phil Coke.

More info is at tigers.com/connect.

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