May 2011

Say, where’s Perry? Not in a good place right now

Ryan Perry tried his best to find his old form this week. He shaved off the hair he had grown out since last offseason to return to the short-haired look he had as a rookie and a collegian. He put in one bullpen session after another to lower his arm angle and get the sinking action he had on his fastball two years ago.

The result Thursday in his first game since the adjustments — four outs, four hits, four runs and a walk — was more frustration for him, and more searching for the Tigers.

“I just don’t think his command’s real good right now,” manager Jim Leyland said after the game. “He’s really struggling. My heart aches for him.”

It’s a real problem for the Tigers. Much like Joaquin Benoit and the eighth inning, the Tigers need an effective Perry to help provide some order to the bullpen in the seventh. He has the best combination of experience and stuff of the guys they have in middle relief, with the potential for more. Alberto Alburquerque and Daniel Schlereth can cover the seventh, but they’re also going to have their growing pains, as they’ve shown.

Problem is, Perry is a third-year pro at age 22, and he’s having serious growing pains, too.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” he said. “I’ve never really dealt with this my whole life, so to do it at this level, it’s tough. But you have to push it out of your head and come out tomorrow and be ready to work.”

He looked like he was searching for the right arm slot from one batter to the next Thursday. When he had it right, he made some nasty pitches with good velocity. When he was off, his pitches flattened out.

“Same old stuff, just really not feeling comfortable in my delivery and my mechanics right now,” Perry said. “I think that’s just a big factor playing in my head right now.”

The question the Tigers have to answer in a hurry is whether he can get those questions out of his head and fix his mechanics in Detroit, like the more experienced Benoit did, or whether it’s going to take a trip to Toledo. If the latter is the answer, they might have to take the loss of depth as an investment in his future.

The Tigers have a couple roster moves looming, with Andy Oliver coming up for his start Saturday and Brad Thomas due back from the disabled list at some point. Those moves will likely say plenty about how the Tigers see Perry learning and correcting.

Tigers-Jays makeup game June 27 moved up to 6:05

The Tigers have moved up the game time on their June 27 makeup game against the Blue Jays. It’ll now begin at 6:05 p.m. ET, rather than 7:05.

The move is a result of the City of Detroit’s annual fireworks display over the Detroit River that night. By moving up the game an hour, fans hopefully have a chance to attend both the game and the fireworks show.

The Tigers were scheduled to be off that day until their May 17 series finale against the Blue Jays was rained out. Fans holding tickets for the original date can use them on June 27 without having to exchange them.

Thursday: Tigers vs. Red Sox

After a couple days to “get him away from it,” as Jim Leyland said, Brandon Inge is back in the starting lineup. So is Don Kelly, but he’s playing left field today and batting second. Look for more on Inge in the Tigers notes today on the site, but Leyland said it’s a matter of Inge taking what he has been working on in the cage and carrying it into games. Inge said he feels like he has been hitting the ball well when he has made contact, but hitting it at fielders.

TIGERS

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

P: Max Scherzer

RED SOX

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
  4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
  5. David Ortiz, DH
  6. Carl Crawford, LF
  7. Drew Sutton, SS
  8. Josh Reddick, RF
  9. Jason Varitek, C

P: Alfredo Aceves

Another rainout in May, another makeup game in June

This time, at least, the Tigers got a few innings in against the Rays Wednesday afternoon before the rains came. On the stats sheet, though, it’s as if there wasn’t a single pitch.

The rainout leaves the Tigers with an interesting scenario coming up in June. As recently as two weeks ago, they had four scheduled off-days to look forward to. Wednesday’s rainout, along with last week’s rainout of the Tigers-Jays series finale, means half of those are now game days, as well as another scheduled off-day Sept. 1. They’ve had three rainouts in the past 11 days.

The good news is that the Tigers have managed to reschedule all these games without doing anything ridiculous. There was talk of rescheduling Wednesday’s rainout for June 23, which would’ve forced the Tigers to come back from Los Angeles without an off-day and start a new homestand. It also would’ve put the Tigers on track to play almost four weeks straight without an off-day. That wasn’t going to happen. The June 13 makeup date works a lot better, being in the middle of a homestand. It’ll still mean 20 straight days with games, the limit under the collective bargaining agreement. Anything more than that requires a vote of approval from the players on the club.

Still, it puts some extra work into a month that has proven big for the Tigers over the years. They have two West Coast trips between now and the All-Star break, and some challenging series. But the way the weather has been lately, they don’t have much choice. As Rays center fielder B.J. Upton pointed out by his reaction to a fly ball just before the rainout, they couldn’t have played on.

Wednesday: Tigers vs. Rays

Brandon Inge is out of the lineup for a second straight day, but not apparently for health reasons. I don’t think it’s a longer-term move so much as it’s an effort to get him away for a couple days and try out something different around the top of the order. Left-handed hitters are 17-for-46 (.370) off Andy Sonnanstine this year, compared with 11-for-50 (.220) from right-handed batters.

Jim Leyland talked this morning before the lineup was posted. Here’s what he said about Inge and Don Kelly yesterday:

“I’m looking to try to find some more combinations, keep guys sharp by playing them, and find some combinations to get a little more offense.”

TIGERS

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

P: Brad Penny

RAYS

  1. Sean Rodriguez, SS
  2. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  3. Johnny Damon, DH
  4. Evan Longoria, 3B
  5. Matt Joyce, RF
  6. B.J. Upton, CF
  7. Casey Kotchman, 1B
  8. Justin Ruggiano, LF
  9. Kelly Shoppach, C

P: Andy Sonnanstine

Tuesday: Tigers vs. Rays

Jim Leyland said he’s trying to get some different combinations going and keep guys fresh, when asked about his decision to start Don Kelly at third base and bat him second tonight. Brandon Inge is healthy but out for the day, which could have something to do with Wade Davis’ .286 average allowed to left-handed hitters compared with a .228 clip for righties.

The other big decision will come in the ninth inning if the Tigers need to go to the bullpen. Closer Jose Valverde is off tonight, having pitched three of the last four days.

“Not sure who the closer is tonight,” Leyland said, “but I do need a closer tonight.”

It could be Joaquin Benoit, who has shown good signs in his last couple outings. In fact, Benoit might be the most likely candidate, given the rest of the field. He could also play specific matchups, but we’ll see.

TIGERS

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

P: Justin Verlander

RAYS

  1. John Jaso, C
  2. Ben Zobrist, 2B
  3. Johnny Damon, DH
  4. Evan Longoria, 3B
  5. Matt Joyce, RF
  6. B.J. Upton, CF
  7. Casey Kotchman, 1B
  8. Sean Rodriguez, SS
  9. Sam Fuld, LF

P: Wade Davis

Coke to DL, Wilk called up, Oliver starting Saturday

Phil Coke’s ill-fated step coming off the mound Monday night will cost him at least the next couple weeks. It will also push prospect Andy Oliver into the Tigers rotation.

The team knew enough Tuesday morning to make a roster, placing Coke on the 15-day disabled list with a bone bruise in his right foot. Detroit purchased the contract of lefty Adam Wilk from Triple-A Toledo to take his place for now as an extra reliever, giving the Tigers an eight-man bullpen for the next four days until Coke’s rotation spot comes back around Saturday.

The Tigers took the mystery out of that spot quickly by announcing they’ll recall Oliver from Toledo to make the start Saturday night against the Red Sox at Comerica Park. He’s expected to then stick in the rotation to fill the spot the following weekend at Chicago against the White Sox.

Coke suffered the injury when he tried to chase down Ben Zobrist’s bunt attempt in the fourth inning Monday night. Though the intiial diagnosis was an ankle injury, a later exam revealed an extra bone in Coke’s foot, the left-hander said after the game. It collided with another bone in his foot when he stepped awkwardly on the cutout between the mound and home plate.

Coke had no idea how long it would need to heal, guessing it would be day-to-day. A follow-up diagnosis clearly suggested longer than that, though the Tigers didn’t announce a timetable for recovery when they announced the roster moves Tuesday morning.

Coke owns a 1-5 record and 3.81 ERA, but owns a 2.89 ERA in five May outings along with a .238 opposing batting average. He’s winless since April 14 through a combination of run support and bullpen woes.

Wilk is 3-4 with a 3.86 ERA in eight starts at Toledo, but the Tigers have seen the 23-year-old as a relief prospect ever since he made an impression in Spring Training. He’ll give the Tigers a third lefty reliever for the time being, joining lefty specialist Daniel Schlereth and long man Charlie Furbush, whose 3 2/3 scoreless innings in Coke’s place earned him his first Major League win Monday.

Oliver and Furbush had been viewed as the Tigers’ best two starting prospects at Toledo, but with different styles. Oliver has a 4-3 record and 3.26 ERA in eight starts for the Mud Hens, striking out 48 batters over 49 2/3 innings while showing the ability to get quick outs and work deep into games.

Oliver went 0-4 with a 7.36 ERA in five starts for the Tigers last June and July, filling a rotation spot after Rick Porcello was sent down until just after the All-Star break to work through a sophomore slump. Oliver’s success led to speculation on when he might return to Detroit, but the success of the Tigers’ current startesr ensured that his path was blocked.

The Tigers did not say what the roster move will be to make room for Oliver when he’s recalled. To make room for Wilk on the 40-man roster, Detroit designated right-handed reliever Robbie Weinhardt for assignment. The 25-year-old sinkerballer was briefly up with the big club in April, but has struggled at Toledo. Detroit will wait to see if he clears waivers and can have his contract outrighted to the Mud Hens.

Leyland apologizes, but stands by comments

Manager Jim Leyland either caught word of how his pregame remarks about second-guessing Sunday’s move with Porcello played out, or he had a chance to think about the tone he used. He apologized for some of the language he used, but he stood by his general sentiment.

It sounds less about being questioned, and more about repeating himself.

“I thought I clearly explained myself,” he said. “I did clearly explain myself. It doesn’t matter to me whether people agree or disagree. I’m always willing to explain why I did something, but I’m not going to sit there and keep getting badgered about it or argue about it. I’m not going to do that. I explained why I did it. If people still disagree, that’s their business. That’s [their] every right. That’s the fun part about it. I tried to explain that properly, but I’m not going to get into all that. I’m not going to defend every decision I make. I explained why I did it. If you don’t agree with it, that’s fine. Write it. Broadcast it. Do whatever you want. But it’s not going to change.

“I can’t worry about that. I tried to explain it like a man and get the benefit of the doubt, but I’m not going to get badgered about stuff like that. I don’t give a care about what some talk show people or what readers think. I can’t worry about that. I have to make decisions based on what I think is best for the team. It doesn’t offend me if someone disagrees. That’s their right. That’s what’s fun about me. But once I explain my reasoning, I’m not going to get into an argument about it.

Or as he eventually said, “I’m not going to defend my decisions day after day to nobody.”

Monday: Tigers vs. Rays

Johnny Damon does get the start against former longtime teammate Phil Coke, after all. Andy Dirks, meanwhile, shifts back to the third spot against Jeremy Hellickson, while Brennan Boesch moves back to third.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Scott Sizemore, 2B
  3. Brennan Boesch, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Andy Dirks, LF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Brandon Inge, 3B
P: Phil Coke
RAYS
  1. B.J. Upton, CF
  2. Johnny Damon, DH
  3. Evan Longoria, 3B
  4. Ben Zobrist, RF
  5. Sean Rodriguez, 2B
  6. Felipe Lopez, 1B
  7. Kelly Shoppach, C
  8. Elliot Johnson, SS
  9. Sam Fuld, LF
P: Jeremy Hellickson

Leyland doesn’t mind second-guessing, does mind talk radio apparently

One of the things about Jim Leyland is that he doesn’t like repeating himself when he talks to the media. If he address something once, he doesn’t like doing it again. He also says he doesn’t mind second-guessing, but he’ll pick apart an argument if he has the chance.

Which brings us to Leyland’s pregame session this afternoon, when Jeff Riger of WXYT asked him if he was surprised at the fan reaction over his decision to lift Rick Porcello for closer Jose Valverde after eight innings Sunday.

“That’s you guys,” Leyland answered. “You’re a radio guy, aren’t you? Well, that’s radio stuff.”

He wasn’t necessarily talking about the radio medium so much as the talk-show format, apparently.

“I think that’s the entertainment business,” Leyland continued. “I think that’s what we’re in, and I don’t blame any fan ever who second-guesses taking out Rick Porcello. I would never blame somebody like that. But I don’t listen to talk shows, guys that don’t know about baseball. If you’re asking if I listen to those guys, no, I don’t. If I listen to somebody that has a legitimate second-guess like the one yesterday, I respect that opinion. It’s not going to change mine.

“I’ve said a million times that I manage for the fans, not with the fans. I don’t manage with every Tom, Dick and Harry that calls a talk show, I can promise you that. But that one yesterday was a legitimate second-guess. But you know what? Everybody forgets that the Tigers won the game. And if Jose Valverde is not better in the ninth inning than Rick Porcello after eight innings, and Jose Valverde’s a top closer, then we might as well not have a closer. That’s the way I look at it.”

He went a little further into it. And whether or not he listens to the radio, it’s clear he does read quite a bit, because he knew the reaction.

“I don’t get sentimental into all that about, ‘Oh, he has a chance to have a one-hitter.’ I don’t get into all that,” he said. “I’m here to win games, and I felt that gave us the best chance to win the game. And he won the game. It could’ve backfired, and I would’ve still stuck by my decision. So it doesn’t bother me. No, that’s you guys’ business.”

He was still apparently talking about radio and talk shows with that last part.

“There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong with that at all,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with talk shows and people’s opinions and arguing and having some fun. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what you do for a living. But I don’t listen to those people, period.”

Leyland seemed to try to go to length to delineate between fans second-guessing him and radio callers.

“There’s a legitimate fan that calls that show that has real interest and has some knowledge and makes some sense,” he said. “There’s a bunch of other people that call in that don’t know about what they’re talking about. They just want to hear themselves on the radio and hear themselves talk. There is some definite, legitimate second-guessing, which is fine. That’s the sport. That’s fine. They’re interested in the Tigers. They want to know what’s going on. I have no problem with that stuff. But I don’t get into that. It has no bearing on what decision I make.

“Somebody was chewing me out the other day. The fans were second-guessing me because I hadn’t gotten the relievers enough work. Well, if you want me to take Verlander and Scherzer out in the fourth inning from now and pitch Villarreal and Gonzalez, I’ll do it for you. Is that what you want?”

He brought it back to Porcello after that. And he brought it back to repeating himself.

“I don’t blame the fans for second-guessing,” he repeated. “What else do you want me to say? I don’t blame the fans for second-guessing that move. I said it yesterday in my press conference. I explained why I did it. I explained that I didn’t blame them for second-guessing. So what else do you want me to say? Do I wish I had not done it. No, I’m glad I did it. And I’ll do it again tonight if we’ve got the same situation, if I think it gives us the best chance to win the game. “

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