Tigers call up Alburquerque, option Weinhardt

Alberto Alburquerque didn’t last to the final cuts of Spring Training before he sent out of camp. The way he pitched after that, he didn’t last a week into Triple-A Toledo’s season before getting the call back.

The Tigers recalled Alburquerque from Toledo to join them on their upcoming West Coast trip. He’ll take the roster spot of Robbie Weinhardt, who was optioned back to the Mud Hens.

With Wednesday’s move, Alburquerque will be the next Tigers youngster to try to help shore up middle-inning relief and bridge the gap between Detroit’s starters and setup man Joaquin Benoit. That includes the seventh inning, which has become a committee task 11 games in.

Alburquerque isn’t necessarily going to change that. But he gives them another arm to try.

“I gave Dave [Dombrowski] a lot of credit. We talked about it,” manager Jim Leyland said. “Hey, we all know what’s going on. We’re not going to be afraid to try some things if we see something that we think, ‘Hey, this might be a little bit [better].’ We need to do that until we get in sync. “

Alburquerque’s power arsenal in winter ball sold the Tigers on signing him to a Major League contract over the offseason rather than a spring invite. While those pitches impressed team officials in Spring Training, his command did not. He struck out 11 over 6 2/3 spring innings, but he also walked five, including a pair of two-walk performances in the first week of games. He spotted his curveball, but couldn’t command his fastball, a basic no-no.

That has not been an issue so far. Alburquerque racked up eight strikeouts over four scoreless innings in three appearances, including five strikeouts in a six-out performance Monday at Indianapolis. He threw 21 out of 32 pitches for strikes that day. Organizational reports tabbed his fastball range at 94-98 mph, with an 87-88 mph slider that has shown improvement.

“I know what Alburquerque is,” Leyland said. “If Alburquerque throws the ball over the plate, and not over the middle of the plate, he’s going to get a lot of outs up here.”

Major League hitters’ reactions to those same pitches could be far different. That’s what separates Triple-A from the big leagues. But he wasn’t going to get much closer to that while overpowering Triple-A hitters. And the Tigers weren’t going to get closer to filling their seventh-inning void.

By almost every account, Alburquerque has a late-game reliever’s type of stuff. Whether the 25-year-old veteran of two other organizations has the command and temperament remains to be seen. The Tigers are going to find out.

Weinhardt pitched in two games since his recall from Toledo last week. The right-handed sinkerballer gave up two runs on four hits over 1 2/3 innings.

“They’re just going in a different direction,” Weinhardt said. “I’ve got to get more work in. If you don’t pitch well, you don’t stay. That’s the bottom line.”

9 Comments

The White Sox blew 3-run final inning leads twice during the Oakland series. White Sox outfielders have dropped 5 flyballs in 11 games. Ozzie brought in young Chris Sale to close a game after Sale threw 34 pitches the day before. Ozzie got upset with Chicago fans making derisive cheers when a Sox outfielder actually caught a flyball. My point? Every team has issues.

I don’t think Thornton or Sales have been very effective closing games so far this year. Yikes five dropped balls in the outfield?
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What’s driving me crazy are the wild pitches/ passed balls. Way too many and costing runs. Not to mention that neither of opit catchers coukd throw out a turtle trying to steal.

we do have to improve on keeping the runners from stealing, we seem to have a ton against us so far – credit to Laird for what he was able to do behind the plate. Wish I would have seen the pickoff yesterday, will have to look for it on the Tiger’s site.

For what its worth, Dan Dickerson and Jim Price were blaming a lot of the steals on the pitchers lately. Maybe that is why Villareal is so good at picking off. The other pitchers don’t keep track of runners and they assume the young kid will do the same.

The vast majority of all stolen bases are on the pitcher, and we’re no exception. Neither of our catchers have had much chance to cut down steal attempts. Even Laird’s percentage dropped last season, which tells me our 2009 staff was better at holding runners than the 2010 pitchers.
The wild pitch number, although wildly excessive so far, is a necessary evil of a staff that throws a lot of hard sliders down and away. Laird took a lot of flak (understatement) for his hitting, but I think his defense was also underrated by many fans.

Let’s not forget (being the unabashed fan of AA that I am), his prior success in throwing out base-runners. I am pretty sure it was up over 33%. The guy has a very strong and accurate arm, good footwork, and quick release.
The stolen bases are Rick Knapps problem IMO.

If anyone is in a stat checking mood (I’m at work right now), it would be interesting to see stolen base pct vs pitcher.

I got ya Rich...

Here are the Starting 5's Caught Stealing percentage:

JV: 44% Career - 17 pickoffs
2010: 23% - 24 stole - 7 got caught
2011: 0% - 2 stole

 Scherzer: 41% Career  - 2 pickoffs
2010: 43% - 17 stole - 13 caught
2011: 25% - 3 stole - 1 caught

Porcello: 27% Career, 1 pickoff
2010: 33% - 10 stole - 5 caught
2011: 0% - 1 stole

Penny:24% Career, 3 pickoffs
2009 (he didn't play much in 2010): 10% 28 stolen 3 caught 
2011: 0% - 6 stole

Coke:  50% Career (only 3 stole, and 3 were caught), 0 pickoffs
2010: 0% - 1 stole
2011: 100% - 1 caught

Hey, good stuff, Dave. Thanks a ton. The surprise here is Scherzer. I wouldn’t think he’d have that good of a percentage. Verlander has all those pickoffs but he gets those as he’s coming to the set position. Once set, the runner is free to go. I knew the obvious worst would be Penny because he’s so slow to the plate (and everywhere else). His career number is higher to he must be slowing down with age. And who isn’t? Either that or they have slower runners in the NL. Coke has the advantage of being left handed and it’s my opinion that Porcello doesn’t hold runners as well when he’s being hit around. Understandable for his age.
My take is that Martinez may as well catch Penny because nobody will be thrown out anyway.

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