April 4th, 2011
Maybe it’s the struggles of Tigers pitchers to locate breaking balls, a trend that started in the cold, damp air of New York on opening day. Maybe it’s mixed signals crossing up Tigers pitchers and catchers. Maybe still, catchers are having trouble keeping pitches in the dirt in front of them.
Manager Jim Leyland doesn’t want to pinpoint a cause quite yet. But the Tigers’ wild pitch total, six of them through four games, is a little disconcerting. The latest, a Porcello slider in the dirt that got past catcher Alex Avila, brought in Baltimore’s first run Monday with two outs in the second inning. Without it, Porcello and Avila get through the inning unscathed upon Felix Pie’s fly out.
“I want to look at that before I comment on it,” manager Jim Leyland said.
Given the possible reasons, it’s understandable. Not only does Detroit’s total top the Majors, it doubles that of almost every other big league team entering Monday night. The only other club with more than three is Pittsburgh, with four. Thirteen teams entered Monday without any wild pitches.
The Tigers survived their trip from warm, sunny Florida to chilly New York last week, but their Sunday night trip here has them worried about a stomach bug.
Jose Valverde was the first to have it. He said he was awake all night and couldn’t hold down food Monday. Then American League MVP runner-up Miguel Cabrera came to the clubhouse feeling bad Monday morning. By mid-afternoon, he was coming back into the clubhouse between innings to throw up.
“He’s sick as a dog,” manager Jim Leyland said.
Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said that was the known extent of it. However, Valverde said “at least three or four” players had it.
The belief right now is that it could be food-related. Valverde said he ate something on the flight to Baltimore last night and felt ill back at his hotel. Cabrera, however, said he didn’t fall ill until Monday morning. He was laying on the couch in the visiting clubhouse at Camden Yards a few hours before game time, but didn’t suggest anything was wrong.
Cabrera went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. If he feels the way Valverde feels, Valverde said, it’s no wonder he had a bad day.
“I feel [terrible] right now,” Valverde said.
Justin Verlander could relate. He had a nasty bout of food poisoning that confined him to his bed in his New York hotel room all day Friday, he said. His case, however, is supposedly unrelated, and he’s regaining strength ahead of his scheduled start here Wednesday.
“At least I know what it was,” Verlander said.
It’s home opener day in Baltimore, and the weather is unbelievably gorgeous. The atmosphere is festive, and after the O’s swept the Rays over the weekend, the fans are nuts. Also a few Tigers fans here, though.
I think even if it weren’t so warm (like 70s warm), Magglio Ordonez probably would’ve been back in the lineup. There wasn’t so much as a limp on his ankle, and he seemed perfectly fine this morning when he showed no inclination to talk about his sore right ankle. With weather resembling spring training, there’s no doubt.
“I felt pretty good about him yesterday,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He could’ve pinch-hit.”
With that issue solved, the next question is how Leyland fits him into the lineup and who’s the odd man out. Today, it’s Ryan Raburn. Boesch starts in left field, Victor Martinez at DH and Alex Avila at catcher.
The bullpen will be interesting to watch today. Phil Coke isn’t available after his two innings Sunday, and unless he gets an inning Wednesday, Leyland said he probably won’t pitch again until he makes his first scheduled start Saturday. That means some other guys are going to have to step up if they have a lead in the seventh inning.
If they take a lead into the ninth, Jose Valverde is available, but he’s also battling a suspected case of food poisoning that he said had him throwing up all night. It doesn’t appear to be spreading around the clubhouse, but it’s probably worth keeping in mind in Valverde’s case.
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Will Rhymes, 2B
- Magglio Ordonez, RF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- Brennan Boesch, LF
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Alex Avila, C
- Brandon Inge, 3B
P: Rick Porcello
- Brian Roberts, 2B
- Nick Markakis, RF
- Derrek Lee, 1B
- Vladimir Guerrero, DH
- Matt Wieters, C
- Adam Jones, CF
- Mark Reynolds, 3B
- Felix Pie, LF
- J.J. Hardy, SS
P: Jake Arrieta