May 30th, 2011

Monday: Tigers vs. Twins

The Twins got into town from Minneapolis last night and are taking batting practice this morning as I write this. The Tigers, having been at the ballpark all day and half the night yesterday, are hitting inside. We’ll see if there’s any difference in energy level with the way the weekend unfolded differently for these two clubs.

The Twins arrive in town with the worst record in the Majors, and among American League clubs, there’s no one in their neighorhood. Minnesota has 17 wins; nobody else in the AL has fewer than 23. It’s a pretty competitive league in general, and then there’s the Twins. Leyland says they’ll be back in it, because they always are. You wonder, though, at what point they have to show signs of getting back in it before Minnesota starts thinking about next season. I’m not talking about signs of contention. I’m talking about at least not having the worst record in the AL, on which the Twins own a five-game deficit. They need to get some players back, obviously, and Joe Mauer is at the top of the list, though it sounds like Nishioka is close.

The encouraging sign for them is that their starting pitchers are coming around, with a 2.79 ERA and .218 batting average allowed in their last 12 games, and seven-inning performances in nine of them. Over that 12-game stretch, though, the starters are 3-3.

A couple ugly numbers for the guys in the Tigers lineup against Nick Blackburn: Brandon Inge is 4-for-22, while Jhonny Peralta is 3-for-20. On the flip side, Miguel Cabrera is 11-for-24 with two home runs off Blackburn, while Austin Jackson is 3-for-10.

TIGERS

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

P: Brad Penny

TWINS

  1. Denard Span, CF
  2. Alexi Casilla, SS
  3. Jason Kubel, RF
  4. Justin Morneau, 1B
  5. Michael Cuddyer, 2B
  6. Jim Thome, DH
  7. Delmon Young, LF
  8. Danny Valencia, 3B
  9. Rene Rivera, C

P: Nick Blackburn

Coke on track to return June 8

I speculated about this last night, but Jim Leyland confirmed it this morning: Phil Coke is on track to make a rehab start for Triple-A Toledo on Friday at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, then return from the disabled list five days later, June 8, at Texas. That’s the first day he’s eligible to come off the DL.

No word yet on a pitch count for that rehab outing, but considering he threw the equivalent of three innings in his bullpen session a couple days ago, I would assume they’ll stretch him out. He has another full bullpen session today before throwing a side session tomorrow.

Andy Oliver will get one more start. The Tigers could have skipped Oliver next weekend if they wanted, thanks to Thursday’s off-day. But with Justin Verlander now on track for an extra day of rest after 132 pitches, Oliver will start on turn Friday at Chicago. It’ll be a good test for him on what’s being forecast as a warm evening at U.S. Cellular Field.

As for Coke, he’ll start against one of his old stops in the Yankees farm system.

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