April 2011

V-Mart to 15-day disabled list

The corresponding move in the Omir Santos call-up is indeed Victor Martinez. He’s headed to the 15-day DL with a strained right groin.

Tuesday: Tigers at Mariners

No Victor Martinez, obviously. No Magglio Ordonez, either, which considering the DH slot is open strongly suggests he’s not in an everyday playing mode quite yet.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Will Rhymes, 2B
  3. Don Kelly, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Brennan Boesch, DH
  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, 2B
  3. Milton Bradley, LF
  4. Jack Cust, DH
  5. Miguel Olivo, C
  6. Brendan Ryan, SS
  7. Jack Wilson, 2B
  8. Chris Gimenez, 1B
  9. Michael Saunders, CF

P: Doug Fister

Tigers adding Santos, but waiting on Martinez

The Tigers know enough about Victor Martinez’s groin injury that he won’t be catching again for a while. Thus, they’re adding Omir Santos as a backup catcher.

What they don’t know yet, but will decide later today, is whether Martinez will be out long enough to justify a stint on the disabled list. Until they determine that, they’re keeping the back half of their roster move open until sometime before first pitch.

Martinez aggravated a right groin injury in his first plate appearance Monday against the Mariners and was lifted for a pinch-runner. He was hobbled enough that manager Jim Leyland already planned on not using him at catcher for at least the next few days, instead starting him at his usual spot as Detroit’s designated hitter.

After Monday’s setback, the question now is whether Martinez can play at all for a while. Either way, though, the Tigers are down a catcher, which led them to purchase Santos’ contract from Triple-A Toledo.

The Tigers gained roster flexibility by having Martinez simultaneously serve as their primary designated hitter and second catcher, but they also put themselves in a position where they can’t go long without him. After Avila and Martinez, the next catcher on the depth chart was utilityman Don Kelly, who added catching duties to his resume this spring in case Detroit had an injury during a game or needed to make some late-game switches.

Under no circumstances, though, was Kelly seen as more than an insurance measure. That’s why the Tigers signed Santos to a minor-league contract over the winter. The soon-to-be 30-year-old shared catching duties with the Mets in 2009, batting .260 with 14 doubles, seven home runs and 40 RBIs in 96 games before suffering an injury-shortened 2010 season.

Santos missed most of Spring Training with a broken toe, but returned to catching duties last week at Triple-A Toledo, where he went 6-for-14 with four RBIs in four games.

If Martinez ends up going on the disabled list, the Tigers will have some juggling to do with their lineup to replace the hitter they signed to bat behind MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera.

Martinez had shown strong signs in recent days of climbing out of a slow start. His second-inning single Monday was his fifth hit in 10 at-bats since Saturday, and it raised his average to .250 to go with two home runs and nine RBIs. Earlier in the at-bat, though, he had aggravated his groin strain moving on a pitch he took from Mariners starter Jason Vargas.

Martinez jogged gingerly to first, then advanced slowly to second on Brennan Boesch’s single. That was enough for manager Jim Leyland to lift him for pinch-runner Casper Wells.

After the game, Martinez hoped he might be able to return in a few days. But Leyland, who had taken a risk by putting him back in the lineup so soon after he originally strained his groin Saturday, was already plotting some sort of roster move.

“I’m sure we’re going to have to do something,” Leyland said.

Martinez isn’t likely to play at all for the next few days, which might actually provide a small silver lining if it allows Magglio Ordonez to ease back into the lineup at DH and limit the wear and tear on his surgically repaired right ankle.

No nerve damage for Zumaya, but still no diagnosis

The good news for Joel Zumaya is that there’s no nerve damage in his right arm. The bad news is that there’s still no firm diagnosis what exactly is causing the trouble that has him again shut down from throwing.

Zumaya had another visit Monday with noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who conducted another battery of tests. This time, however, they added a nerve conduction study. Like all the other tests, it came up with nothing glaring.

“Nothing really jumped out at us any more than what we had already determined,” Rand said.

The test results are being forwarded to Tigers team physician Dr. Stephen Lemos. He’ll look them over and then join in on a conference call Wednesday with Andrews, Rand, Zumaya and one of his agents. Together, they’re going to decide whether it’s better for Zumaya to go through the strengthening and rehab process again or go with a diagnostic arthroscopic surgery.

The rehab process without surgery would probably take another six weeks. The surgery would knock him out for longer, but they might get to the bottom of the issue.

Monday: Tigers at Mariners

Remember when I said a couple weeks ago that Ryan Raburn wouldn’t be playing second anytime soon? Yeah, well, I stand corrected. Sometimes, tough times change plans, though I wouldn’t expect any long-term shift. Victor Martinez is limited to DH this series while he deals with a sore groin, leaving Magglio Ordonez in right field. Otherwise, Alex Avila would probably have been the odd man out.

Raburn worked exclusively as an outfielder this spring, though. This will be his first start at second base since last August 15.

TIGERS

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

P: Max Scherzer

MARINERS

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

P: Jason Vargas

Easy inning for Perry in latest rehab outing

The second, and presumably final, rehab appearance for Ryan Perry went much smoother than the first. It was an easy 15-pitch seventh inning today in Toledo’s win at Columbus. He retired the side in order to go with one strikeout.

The plan called for one inning out of Perry Monday after his 27-pitch outing for the Mud Hens on Friday back at Fifth Third Field. The original plan also called for Perry, as long as he feels fine, to be ready to travel here to Seattle on Tuesday in preparation for Wednesday, when he’s eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list in time for the Tigers’ series finale against the Mariners.

Zumaya moved to 60-day disabled list

Joel Zumaya’s latest visit with Dr. James Andrews is scheduled for today, but the Tigers got the procedural portion of his injury out of the way already by transferring the hard-throwing but oft-injured right-hander from the 15- to 60-day disabled list.

For practical purposes, the DL move doesn’t mean much, other than to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Even if Zumaya was pain-free and cleared to begin throwing again tomorrow, he’d still be at least a couple weeks away from throwing in games, then would face a minor league rehab assignment. That would likely take him well into May anyway. Now that he’s on the 60-day DL, the earliest he can be activated is around the end of May.

For personnel purposes, the move opens up a 40-man roster spot, meaning Detroit now has the room to call up a non-roster guy if they so choose. Probably not a harbinger of anything quite yet, but good to know.

Messing with Texas: CoPa factor plays again?

Inge (right) celebrates walkoff homer with Miguel Cabrera (Getty Images)Interesting point from Brandon Inge after Wednesday’s win when talking about the Rangers offense cooling off following its fast start over the previous nine games. He gave credit to the pitching staff, and he also gave credit to the ballpark.

To him, there’s a Comerica Park factor going on. And when you consider the home-road disparity that has been going on with this team since at least last year and maybe earlier, it’s worth consideration.

“These guys have been swinging hot bats,” Inge said. “This is where our ballpark plays in our favor a lot. A team like that coming in swinging hot bats, they had three or four balls hit in the last two or three games that probably would’ve been home runs in their ballpark, and that would’ve given them momentum and they would’ve just kept running the bases and putting runs up. But they don’t go out, and those guys now are scratching their heads when they come back in the dugout.

“Our pitchers have more confidence knowing they can go up in the zone and get outs, and you can see where the momentum transfers back over to us. A lot of people complain about this park, but it’s a big park, and both teams have to play in it.”

Ryan Raburn, of course, had the catch to take away a home run. Texas had a double off the right-field wall in the series opener and another that hit the wall on a hop. They had countless others that took Austin Jackson towards the warning track in center field.

The stats suggest this park plays pretty even over the course of a season. But it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest maybe this park plays a little diffferently before it warms up than it does during the summer.

As for both sides playing in it, Inge says he has talked with new Tiger Victor Martinez about the ballpark factor.

“Victor, he has hit a couple balls [that would've been out elsewhere],” Inge said. “But you know what, it’s not really a bad thing if you embrace it. Hopefully he’ll understand that coming into it. I’ve tried to talk to him a few times. I told him there’s a lot of RBIs to be had in these gaps right here. And that’s where we’re going to win ballgames.

“We’re not here for personal stats. No one should be here for personal stats. And if you get runners on base in this ballpark, and if you can swallow your pride and understand that your home run numbers are probably going to come down a little bit but you can get just as many RBIs by those gaps, it’s just a matter of understanding it and letting it happen.”

On a side note, I’ll be off for the next few days before rejoining the team in Seattle. I’ll be watching the Oakland games on TV and might chime in with a post now and then, but it won’t be the daily lineups and routines that I usually have. Please excuse me while I finally unpack some of the last items in the suitcase from the road.

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.”

Wednesday: Tigers vs. Rangers

No Magglio, as expected, but Jim Leyland sounded pretty optimistic about getting him back in the lineup in the next few days. He said they’re looking to get him back sometime during this upcoming road trip.

Without Ordonez, the lineup again features Ryan Raburn in the third spot against Rangers spot starter Dave Bush.

TIGERS

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

P: Max Scherzer

RANGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Elvis Andrus, SS
  3. Michael Young, DH
  4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
  5. Nelson Cruz, RF
  6. David Murphy, LF
  7. Mike Napoli, C
  8. Mitch Moreland, 1B
  9. Julio Borbon, CF

P: Dave Bush

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