May 21st, 2011

Saturday: Tigers at Pirates

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As expected, Alex Avila gets to catch tonight. Victor Martinez gets the day off. Meanwhile, Andy Dirks moves up to the third spot in the order, with Boesch filling in for Victor at the five spot.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  3. Andy Dirks, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Brennan Boesch, RF
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Brandon Inge, 3B
  9. Max Scherzer, P

PIRATES

  1. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  2. Jose Tabata, LF
  3. Garrett Jones, RF
  4. Neil Walker, 2B
  5. Lyle Overbay, 1B
  6. Ryan Doumit, C
  7. Brandon Wood, 3B
  8. Ronny Cedeno, SS
  9. Kevin Correia, P

Thomas to 15-day DL, Furbush called up from Toledo

Charlie Furbush’s rapid rise through the Tigers farm system has landed him his first shot in the big leagues. The Tigers called up the deceptive left-hander from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday morning to take the place of lefty reliever Brad Thomas, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left elbow inflammation.

Furbush makes the trip from Toledo presumably to fill Thomas’ bullpen spot, and some have projected him as an eventual strikeout lefty in the Majors. But his numbers at Toledo this year, and at three different levels last year, came as a starter with multiple out pitches. After ranking second among all Minor League pitchers last year with 183 strikeouts over 159 innings, the 25-year-old southpaw leads the International League with 55 strikeouts over 46 1/3 innings this season with the Mud Hens.

Just as impressive, and a big step in his development, he has managed to largely hold down hitters even when they put the ball in play. His 4-3 record over eight starts belies a 2.91 ERA, which kept him in some low-scoring affairs. Two of his starts were one-hit performances over seven and eight innings, the latter coming in defeat against Charlotte on the same day Justin Verlander pitched his no-hitter at Toronto.

The numbers and the pitching made Furbush one of the primary prospects to watch in Toledo alongside fellow lefty Andy Oliver, while another southpaw, Duane Below, has pitched himself into the conversation. Speculation had been building for Furbush and Oliver to get their shot shortly if they kept up this stingy pitching.

Furbush’s opportunity came from injury with Thomas, whose left elbow locked up on him Friday and left him unavailable for the series opener here against the Pirates. Thomas was scheduled to be checked out Saturday morning, but the Tigers couldn’t wait long without a roster move. His absence for any stretch would’ve left Daniel Schlereth as the lone left-hander in Detroit’s bullpen.

While there was talk out of Spring Training about the Tigers possibly getting by with one lefty, that depended on having an effective Joaquin Benoit pitching the eighth inning and a healthy Joel Zumaya fastball for the seventh. Neither of those have happened so far, though Benoit looked more like last year’s form in a mop-up inning Friday night.

Play catch for Diamonds and Dreams, earn a ball for Think Detroit PAL

Normally, I don’t tweet a lot of play-by-play or game updates during Tigers games, figuring the telecast is readily available enough that most people who are following tweets are watching anyway. It’s going to be a little different tonight, the first game this season — and one of two this year — that aren’t televised on any channels because to the FOX blackout. There will be a broadcast online at MLB.TV and radio, of course.

Whether folks watch online or not, hopefully it’ll be a night for some online buzz, which I’ll try to help with some updates for those of you out and about. In turn, hopefully we can turn that activity into a good cause by “playing catch” online.

It’s an idea from the Diamonds & Dreams program, which is sponsored by Chevrolet and MLB. While many have the privilege of watching and playing baseball on well-equipped fields, there are many children across America that never get that opportunity. Diamonds & Dreams provides prizes, which include field makeovers, clinics and equipment packages for youth baseball communities across America.

Anyone can enter for a chance to win the prizes as well as a trip for four to the MLB All-Star Game or a new Chevrolet. You can find out more and even play a mini baseball game here: http://on.fb.me/g2H59j

If you’re on Twitter today or tonight, you can help by either retweeting my #playcatch tweet, or by starting a game on your own that includes the #playcatch hashtag and a link to the Diamonds & Dreams Facebook tab: http://on.fb.me/g2H59j

Every unique “thrower” or retweet today earns a real baseball for Think Detroit PAL, which runs baseball programs in the city of Detroit from t-ball all the way up to high school or RBI level play. Hopefully we can hit the top contribution of 100 balls.

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