April 2011

So much for spring training Scherzer

Four weeks ago, Max Scherzer stood in the visiting clubhouse in Sarasota and looked like someone in deep, deep — well, concern.

“I’m not going to write anything off,” Scherzer said after giving up more runs (11 earned) and hits (nine) that day than he recorded outs (seven). “I wanted to be dialed in today, and I wasn’t. I look forward to making the adjustments I need to make going into my first start.”

Mechanically, he was off, and it was hurting his velocity. His normal power fastball was coming in around the low 90s rather than mid-90s, leaving not a whole lot of difference between that and his changeup. And it clearly bothered him.

For the spring, Scherzer allowed 20 earned runs on 25 hits over 17 1/3 innings with 10 walks and 12 strikeouts. The thing was, for all the issues with his fastball and his overall command, his slider was biting better than it ever had.

Four weeks later, that’s turning out to be a valuable pitch for him. Now that he has his workhorse pitches in order, he has a better three-pitch package than ever, and he isn’t afraid to mix it.

I remember talking with Scherzer about his pitches at one point in the spring, and his slider seemed like a distant third on the confidence level. That seems to be changing. More and more, it’s looking like an offspeed pitch he can play off his changeup. A look at the stats so far on fangraphs.com shows he’s throwing it slower, and getting more movement out of it.

According to the data from MLB.com Gameday and posted on brooksbaseball.net, he threw more sliders than changeups Sunday against the White Sox. That might not be all that accurate, since the two pitches can look similar at times. But even if it’s a little bit off, it shows he’s throwing it more after getting away from it the last couple years.

Meanwhile, a mechanical adjustment over his first two starts has him back in form with his normal fastball-changeup combination. The result is a difficult mix for hitters to handle.

The next couple starts are going to be interesting for Scherzer. No team had more base hits off Scherzer last year than the Indians, and that was largely without a healthy Grady Sizemore. Travis Hafner and Shin-Soo Choo are a combined 11-for-19 off Scherzer, and they’ll get their first look of the year at him Friday night in Cleveland. After that, it’s a rematch with the Yankees, who used the friendly dimensions of their stadium to homer four times off him April 3. He has a challenge ahead, but at least it looks different than the challenge he faced coming out of spring training.

Sunday: Tigers vs. White Sox

Not a whole lot of good numbers for the Tigers against John Danks, including 1-for-8 from Brennan Boesch. The one exception is Magglio Ordonez, who’s 14-for-23 off Danks. He’s in the lineup for a fourth consecutive game.

Magglio, for what it’s worth, says his ankle is feeling good, like he can play every day now.

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. Casper Wells, RF
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B

P: Max Scherzer

WHITE SOX

  1. Juan Pierre, LF
  2. Omar Vizquel, 2B
  3. Carlos Quentin, RF
  4. Adam Dunn, DH
  5. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  7. Mark Teahen, 1B
  8. Brent Lillibridge, CF
  9. Brent Morel, 3B

P: John Danks

So, about that no-hit bid …

Brad Penny (AP)I’m not looking to start an argument here about thankless jobs. I know a lot of people who would give just about anything to get paid to watch a ballgame. This isn’t about that. But when it comes to people in a baseball press box during a game, the official scorer has one of the more thankless jobs.

The pay is nice, but it’s not like you can make a living doing it. Above all, people do it because they love baseball. They’re generally good at scoring games, and they’re very good at remembering the scoring rules, because there are a lot of them. And if they’re good, they’re able to take the rules that they read and apply them to what they see on the field. But they generally don’t get a lot of credit for it.

Which brings us to Saturday’s game.

I’ve never heard a crowd react to a call as loudly, or as immediately, as they did to Ron Kleinfelter’s call that Brent Morel’s sixth-inning grounder was a hit rather than a Brandon Inge error. I mean, the words were barely out of his mouth when about 35,000 fans booed. I can’t imagine what that’s like, to hear that many people react at the same time, in the same place, to a decision you make. I have a nice, loyal Twitter following, and they’re only about one-seventh of that crowd size. Besides, you don’t hear noise on Twitter.

But here’s the thing: For all the second-guessing this call is going to get, it’s more of an interpretation than a decision. The borderline on a play like that is reasonable effort. And while we’ve all seen Inge make plays like that down the line often enough that it seems like an ordinary effort for him, I have a hard time calling that a reasonable effort for most third basemen. And that’s the criteria.

I look at the replay, and I see Inge make the stop with enough time to set his feet for a throw, but I don’t see him able to get his weight behind it. For a throw that far across the infield, that seems key.

Inge didn’t want to make an excuse, but he also hinted it was a factor.

“If you can plant there, you get all your weight transfer going, and then the ball comes out fine,” Inge said. “But when that back foot falls out, you have to use all arm, so then maybe it tails a little bit on you.”

When asked if that was the case, Inge said, “My foot slipped a little bit when I went to plant, and maybe that had something to do with it. But I don’t like using anything as an excuse. I still had plenty to get it over there. My aim was slightly off.”

Inge said third-base umpire Fieldin Culbreth told him just three third basemen he knew could make that play. Inge was one of them. But there’s a difference between could and should, and where Inge’s expectations lie compared to those of others.

“It’s not an average play,” he said, “but I should’ve made the play.”

And there’s the problem: It’s hard to call an above-average play an error if it isn’t made. I can think of some decidedly average third basemen in the big leagues, and I imagine you can, too. No need to name names, because that’s a whole other discussion. Now think: Could they make that play?

“It’s a fine line. I can imagine it’s tough on a scorer,” Inge said. “They do a pretty good job. I know I’m not helping them, saying what I’m saying, but I’m always going to be honest.”

Here’s another way to look at it: Take the situation out of it. Think of it in the first inning of a scoreless game, or the eighth inning of a 12-3 game. Don’t think of it with a no-hitter riding on it. If that’s called a hit, are you still disagreeing so strongly. Because like it or not, you can’t factor the game setting into the ruling. Some argued otherwise on Twitter, and I strongly disagree.

As for the call itself, I agree that it was a hit. I can understand those who say it should be an error, but the more I replays I watched, the more comfortable I feel about it being a hit.

Saturday: Tigers vs. White Sox

Magglio starts for the third straight game at DH. Will Rhymes is back in at second and batting second, with Ryan Raburn batting sixth in left field.

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: Brad Penny
WHITE SOX
  1. Juan Pierre, LF
  2. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  3. Carlos Quentin, RF
  4. Paul Konerko, 1B
  5. Adam Dunn, DH
  6. Alex Rios, CF
  7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  8. Gordon Beckham, 2B
  9. Brent Morel, 3B
P: Edwin Jackson

Porcello pushed back in rotation to next weekend

With two off-days in a five-day span, manager Jim Leyland had a choice to make on shuffling his rotation. He wasn’t going to give Justin Verlander extra rest, since Verlander doesn’t feel comfortable pitching with anything more than a normal turn. He also worked it so that Phil Coke starts next week against both Seattle and Cleveland.

The result is that Rick Porcello will be skipped next turn through the rotation. He’ll start next Saturday against the Indians at Progressive Field, giving him nine days’ rest after his last start at Seattle.

The break will allow Porcello to get him some extra work done. He threw his regular side session today, and he’ll get another one Wednesday, which could include hitters in a live session. He estimates he’ll also get in a few extra long-tossing sessions, which is key for him to continue to build up his velocity.

“It’s slowly coming back,” Porcello said this afternoon. “It was a little bit better last time out, but again, it’s not near where I want it consistently.”

Friday: Tigers vs. White Sox

If you’re in Michigan, or pretty much anywhere in the Midwest today, you know the deal with the weather: Rainy and cold. The hope as of a little bit ago is that they get a window to start the game around 7:30 or 8 p.m. and get in a good chunk of the game.

With Mark Buehrle on the mound for the Pale Hose, Ryan Raburn starts at second base for the third time in four games. Casper Wells gets the start in right field.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, RF
  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

WHITE SOX

  1. Juan Pierre, LF
  2. Omar Vizquel, SS
  3. Carlos Quentin, RF
  4. Paul Konerko, 1B
  5. Adam Dunn, DH
  6. Alex Rios, RF
  7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  8. Gordon Beckham, 2B
  9. Brent Morel, 3B

P: Mark Buehrle

Six more weeks of rehab for Zumaya

The Tigers medical staff had a conference call Wednesday with Dr. James Andrews on Joel Zumaya, who opted to try rehabbing his ailing elbow again rather than undergo exploratory surgery. If he had opted for surgery, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, his chances of pitching this year would be “remote,” based on the advice from Dr. Andrews.

“The timetable [if he has surgery] is not favorable for him to pitch in 2011,” Rand said, “so he’ll undergo another six weeks of rest, rehab, strengthening.”

As it is, Zumaya will be rehabbing for six weeks before he can throw again. If he feels fine after that, the throwing progression would be expected to take him well into June at least, if not July.

Wednesday: Tigers at Mariners

Ryan Raburn gets his second start at second base in three days. Jim Leyland said he’s doing it in an effort to get some thump going in the lineup, since it allows him to clear a corner outfield spot for Casper Wells. It’s mainly something he’ll only do against left-handed starters, but it says something about the need to get the offense going. Keep in mind, Raburn did not work at second base this spring.

Omir Santos, meanwhile, gets his first start behind the plate.

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. Casper Wells, RF
  9. Omir Santos, C
P: Rick Porcello
MARINERS
  1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  2. Chone Figgins, 3B
  3. Adam Kennedy, 1B
  4. Jack Cust, DH
  5. Michael Saunders, CF
  6. Luis Rodriguez, SS
  7. Carlos Peguero, LF
  8. Jack Wilson, 2B
  9. Chris Gimenez, C
P: Erik Bedard

Ryan Perry up, Enrique Gonzalez down

In case you hadn’t seen it elsewhere (including the Twitter feed going down the right-hand rail of this page), Ryan Perry is back in the Tigers bullpen, having been activated from the 15-day disabled list on Wednesday morning. Enrique Gonzalez was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo to make room.

Gonzalez had to pass through waivers unclaimed to be outrighted, so the decision on him came before his four-walk outing last night. So did the decision on activating Perry, who said he landed in Seattle late yesterday afternoon. He wasn’t eligible to be activated until today’s game, so he couldn’t have pitched last night even if he had arrived at the park in time.

No Perry roster move yet

Jim Leyland said Tuesday afternoon that Ryan Perry would be returning “very shortly,” but it didn’t happen after Tuesday’s loss to the Mariners. The Tigers had no roster move to announce in the postgame media session. They could still announce it Wednesday in time for the series finale, or they could simply wait until the Tigers return home Friday.

The original rehab plan that Perry discussed last week put him on track to be ready to be activated from the disabled list on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if Perry was in Seattle Tuesday night.

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