April 3rd, 2011

What to make of Max Scherzer’s week

Until Sunday, the last time we saw Max Scherzer facing hitters, the Orioles were teeing off on his pitches for home runs, doubles, and all kinds of hits on his way to 12 runs, 11 earned, over two-plus innings. The last time we saw him throw, period, was Opening Day at Yankee Stadium — in the bullpen during batting practice.

The goal was to make some mechanical tweaks in his delivery, similar to what he battled last year but not exactly the same. For the most part, he felt like he accomplished that.

Then he made his regular-season debut Sunday against the Yankees and gave up four home runs over five innings. But two of those homers seemed to be a product of the conditions, both for the cozy dimensions to right field and for the breeze blowing out in that direction. And while four home runs are obviously a lot, his ability to limit the rest of the damage kept some runners off base in front of the homers, meaning those four homers accounted for just six runs total.

So how should Scherzer be judged this week? It’s a good question for debate, especially while I sit on the train going from New York to Baltimore. Two things to keep in mind, though:

First, Scherzer’s velocity Sunday was pretty well normal at 93-95, which is a few mph better than what he had going in Sarasota last Monday. So while maybe Scherzer’s arm was too far out in front while throwing sometimes, it didn’t impact his arm strength this time.

Second, Scherzer still proved quite deceptive to Yankees hitters on Sunday, racking up six of his 15 outs by strikeout, including three of the final nine batters he faced. Of course, that also means the Bronx Bombers had a really strong average on balls put in play, but it certainly suggests he’s not hurting for life on his pitches. The slider, which Scherzer has been pleased about for much of the spring, is one of them.

Magglio quietly optimistic about Monday

Talked briefly with Magglio Ordonez on his way out of the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium. He wasn’t guaranteeing he’ll play tomorrow in Baltimore, but he sounded pretty positive about it.

“Yeah,” he answered when asked if he’s OK for Monday. “We’ll see.”

Ordonez was moving around the clubhouse without any noticeable discomfort. Combine that with manager Jim Leyland’s statements that it’s nothing serious, and the fact that the weather should actually be warm tomorrow at Camden Yards, and everything indicates that Ordonez should be ready to go.

Sunday: Magglio not in lineup

As expected, Magglio Ordonez is not in the lineup for today’s series finale between the Tigers and Yankees. Brennan Boesch gets the start at DH and the third spot in a getaway-day batting order that includes Don Kelly in right field, Victor Martinez behind the plate and Ramon Santiago at second base.

The lineup:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  3. Brennan Boesch, DH
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, C
  6. Ryan Raburn, LF
  7. Don Kelly, RF
  8. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B

P: Max Scherzer

Casper Wells is the one Tiger left who has yet to get into a game.

Saturday’s defensive plays: Could’ve, or should’ve

Lost in Brad Penny’s mighty struggles to keep his pitches low Saturday was a Tigers defense that had a difficult afternoon on a few plays, two of them in the big second inning that put the Yankees ahead comfortably. They wouldn’t have changed the inning, let alone the game, but they still made the highlights and might have shown players trying to do too much.

“A couple tough plays that might have been made, that we just didn’t make, were costly,” manager Jim Leyland said.

The Tigers insist the first was an out. With Brett Gardner on second and one out, Jhonny Peralta fielded Derek Jeter’s ground ball in the hole at short and fired to third to try to get Gardner. It was going to be a close play, but when Peralta’s throw forced Brandon Inge to the home plate side of the bag to try to field the ball and make the tag, third-base umpire Dale Scott ruled him safe.

“The guy was out,” Leyland said. “That’s not being negative towards the umpires or anything. He was out. We looked at it. That’s no problem. That happens. It was a tough call.”

Inge said the explanation he got from Scott was that he didn’t make the tag. But since the play happened so quickly, Scott wasn’t at a great angle to make the call once Peralta’s throw went to the other side of the bag.

It would’ve meant one runner on and two outs, not two runners on and one, for Mark Teixeira when he hit his home run, so given the way the game unfolded, the impact is debatable. Will Rhymes’ throwing error three batters later had no impact, since Penny struck out Nick Swisher to end the inning. But it still happened, a second baseman trying to make a play and end the inning right there.

Rhymes caught Robinson Cano’s liner and instantly turned to first to try to double off Alex Rodriguez. It would’ve been a tough play, but he obviously had no chance when the throw went wide and into the Yankees dugout, putting Rodriguez on third.

“I think there were some tough plays early in the game that might have been made, but they would’ve been real good plays,” Leyland said. “They were a couple tough plays that could’ve been made. We just didn’t make them. I want to emphasize could’ve been made. I’m not saying should’ve been made. If they could’ve been made, it would’ve helped out a little bit.”

They would not have changed the game.

“Bottom line, we haven’t kept the ball in the ballpark.”

Austin Jackson added an error in the eighth when he came in too far on an Eric Chavez fly ball.

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