May 2nd, 2011

Sizemore coming to Detroit

When Will Rhymes was named the Tigers’ Opening Day second baseman, manager Jim Leyland said he was getting the first shot at the job. Scott Sizemore is now getting the next shot.

With the Tigers’ offense sputtering and Rhymes’ playing time diminishing, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski pulled the switch Monday night, recalling the hot-hitting Sizemore from Triple-A Toledo and optioning Rhymes back to the Mud Hens.

The move is the Tigers’ first step in their attempt to fix an offense that batted .249 in April and has played a major role in Detroit’s seven-game losing streak, the latest a 3-2 loss to the Yankees Monday night at Comerica Park. Rhymes certainly didn’t bear the brunt of responsibility, but his struggles to escape his early slump looked bad while Sizemore kept hitting up a storm in a Mud Hens uniform.

Sizemore was a late scratch for the Mud Hens Monday at Pawtucket once the Tigers made the decision. He made the move up with a .408 average (31-for-76), seven doubles, two home runs and 15 RBIs for the Hens. He hit .452 (14-for-31) in his past 10 games with seven walks, four doubles, a home run and nine RBIs.

His return to Detroit comes almost a year after he lost the starting job at second base last season, having struggled early while working his way back from ankle surgery the previous offseason. His improved health was obvious in Spring Training by the way he moved around the infield defensively. It was not as evident in his hitting.

With Carlos Guillen opening the season on the disabled list, Rhymes won the starting job in Spring Training based in part on his success last year, and the fact that he hadn’t done anything to lose the job. A .221 average (15-for-68) in 19 games with only one extra-base hit and two RBIs hurt his chances, despite 10 walks.

The Tigers’ other offensive struggles didn’t help Rhymes, either. Part of his strength is the ability to move runners in the second spot, and Austin Jackson’s struggles atop the batting order didn’t give him many opportunities. Likewise, Magglio Ordonez’s slow start behind him impacted the way opponents pitched Rhymes.

Monday: Tigers vs. Yankees

Turns out Austin Jackson will indeed be back in the leadoff spot tonight. Magglio returns to the third spot in the order. Ramon Santiago gets the start at second based on his 8-for-17 history against Yankees starter Bartolo Colon.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ramon Santiago, 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: Justin Verlander
YANKEES
  1. Derek Jeter, SS
  2. Curtis Granderson, CF
  3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
  4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
  5. Nick Swisher, RF
  6. Jorge Posada, DH
  7. Russell Martin, C
  8. Brett Gardner, LF
  9. Eduardo Nunez, 2B
P: Bartolo Colon

Tigers meet after Sunday’s loss

Compared to the news overnight, the day-to-day dealings of a baseball team are minutiae. Still, it’s my job to chronicle it. So if you’ve been looking for some emotion from the Tigers over the course of their slow start, then Sunday’s game was it.

While Jim Leyland talked in his office with reporters after Sunday’s 5-4 loss in Cleveland, the doors to the clubhouse were closed, something that rarely if ever happens after games. A few of the voices inside were loud enough to be heard in Leyland’s office down the hall. The door slamming after one exchange could easily be heard.

Once the doors opened, it was a very subdued, quiet clubhouse, with players and coaches inside. At one point, Brandon Inge and Alex Avila were talking with Joaquin Benoit, who took the loss Sunday with a three-run eighth inning.

Not sure whether it could be called a closed-door meeting, or a session, or a reaction to something else. One player indicated it wasn’t something as formal as a meeting. Suffice to say, it was not a pep rally.

Nobody went into details on what was said.

“It’s good,” Inge said. “It’s one of those [things] I think can unite the team. We’re good, anyway, but I think we’ll be better in the long run for it.”

Said Avila: “After the game, doors are closed. It’s just us, and we’ve just got to figure things out.”

Leyland didn’t say anything about what was going on inside, though the commotion could be heard ongoing while he talked. When asked what he can say to players during struggles like this, though, without putting too much attention on the struggles, his remarks hinted at something.

“All you can do is try to relax guys as much as you can,” Leyland said. “That’s what you try to do. And then at some point, you have to say something else. I mean, all you can do is support them. But at some point, you have to step up. That’s just the way it is.”

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