June 2011

Turner, Martinez headed to All-Star Futures Game

Tigers prospects Jacob Turner and Francisco Martinez have been teammates all season at Double-A Erie, but they’ll be on opposing sides in two weeks at Chase Field in Phoenix. They’ll represent the Detroit organization at this year’s XM All-Star Futures Game.

Barring any changes, it’ll mark the first time since 2007 that the Tigers have had two players participate. Detroit didn’t have anyone last year; Andy Oliver was selected, but was promoted to the Majors in late June, leaving Wilkin Ramirez as the lone Detroit representative.

Turner will be part of the pitching staff on the U.S. Team, while Martinez will take his skills at third base to the World squad. Both entered the year on Tigers top prospect lists and on an aggressive track of advancement, which placed them among the younger players in the Eastern League at age 20. Both have had their share of growing pains with the SeaWolves, but both have put up the recent performances that backed up their lofty reports.

Of the two, Turner has had the most regard nationally, ever since the Tigers made him their top pick in the 2009 Draft. After splitting his first pro season last year between Class A West Michigan and Lakeland, the Tigers promoted him to Erie to start the season, testing him in a more hitter-friendly league. So far, he has turned in a performance that has meant much more than wins and losses.

While Turner’s victory last week against Portland was a relatively rare one, improving his record to 2-1, his 2.94 ERA ranks just outside the Eastern League top 10. He has averaged more than six innings per start, tossing 79 2/3 innings over his 12 outings, while limiting opponents to 65 hits. His 1.09 WHIP ratio ranks him fifth in the league, scattering 21 walks while striking out 64 batters.

The Tigers could look to limit Turner’s innings down the stretch in his second pro year, having just turned 20, but an inning or so of work over the All-Star break won’t be an obstacle.

Martinez will turn 21 on Sept. 1, but the native Venezuelan is in his fourth pro season. And after a slow start at Erie, his numbers show he’s catching onto the pitching there. His .294 average on the season includes a .341 average (28-for-82) in June with two homers and 18 RBIs after batting .333 in May. He had three straight three-hit games last week.

Martinez’s seven home runs are one shy of his total over his previous three seasons combined. He has 17 errors in 59 games at third.

Major League Baseball, along with with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, MLB.com, Baseball America, USA Baseball and the 30 Major League Baseball clubs, selected the 25-man rosters for each club. Each organization is represented, and the World Team features players from 12 countries and territories. Players from all full-season Minor Leagues were eligible to participate.

Seventy-nine Major League All-Stars have come out of the Futures Game, including a record 38 last year. Tigers All-Stars Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Jose Valverde all took part in the Futures Game, as did potential Tiger All-Star Victor Martinez.

Inge reinstated from DL, Worth optioned

The question about Brandon Inge’s return from the disabled list (as mentioned in last post) didn’t last long. The Tigers announced this morning that Inge is being recalled from his minor-league rehab assignment and activated from the 15-day DL today. Danny Worth is optioned to Triple-A Toledo to make roster room.

There had been some question whether Inge might get in one more game with the Mud Hens to get ready for his return. And while Jim Leyland said Wednesday he assumed something would happen with Inge in the near future, there was nothing more announced before the Tigers headed back east Wednesday night. Today’s move means Inge will not rehab with the Hens tonight.

No news about Inge’s role accompanied the transaction. Leyland said Wednesday he has a plan with Inge, and that team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski is believed to be on board, but cautioned that it wasn’t final yet.

Keeping track of rehabbing Hens

Lots of moves in game for Jim Leyland in Wednesday’s win. Lots of player movement, actual and potential, to track after the game.

The one move the Tigers did announce Wednesday was the return of Ryan Perry. He’ll be recalled Friday from Triple-A Toledo; Adam Wilk was optioned out to make room. Leyland had been cautious for the last few weeks to emphasize that they needed to know Perry was really pitching well, getting hitters out on pitches in the strike zone rather than getting Triple-A hitters to chase. That apparently was taking shape, and the Tigers’ need for right-handed middle relief wasn’t diminishing.

The move that wasn’t announced was the pending return of Brandon Inge from his rehab assignment, but that appears close as well. While it isn’t clear whether Inge will play in Thursday’s game for the Hens while the Tigers enjoy their off-day, he told the Toledo Blade he plans to be back in Detroit on Friday when the homestand begins. Supporting that were the comments of Leyland, who said Wednesday morning he would expect a move on Inge fairly soon and has a plan on how to fit him back in.

Then there’s Brad Thomas, who could be on his final steps of rehab. He pitched two innings the other night, and he’s scheduled to go two innings again Thursday or Friday.

Wednesday: Tigers at Dodgers

With an off-day tomorrow, the only one the Tigers have in a 38-day span, you had to figure Jim Leyland was going to give some guys a rest to try to get them two days off before they get through the next 17 days.

Austin Jackson is off, and Casper Wells gets his first start in center this year. He also gets to lead off for the first time in his Major League career. Brennan Boesch gets a start against left-hander Ted Lilly.

Alex Avila probably would’ve been off anyway against Lilly, but a nice sized bruise from a ball he fouled off last night pretty much sealed it. Leyland is going to give him the extra day to recover. “I’ve got a baseball in my leg right now,” Avila joked.

With Don Kelly out and a left-hander on the mound, Leyland had a decision to make on who to bat second. He chose Ryan Raburn over Danny Worth. I’m not sure it was something he wanted to do so much as the choice he gave himself with the guys in the lineup.

Don’t be surprised if there’s a roster move coming after the game. I expect it would involve Brandon Inge, but that part isn’t confirmed.

TIGERS

  1. Casper Wells, CF
  2. Ryan Raburn, 2B
  3. Brennan Boesch, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, C
  6. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Danny Worth, 3B
  9. Rick Porcello, P

DODGERS

  1. Aaron Miles, 2B
  2. Juan Uribe, 3B
  3. Andre Ethier, RF
  4. Matt Kemp, CF
  5. James Loney, 1B
  6. Marcus Thames, LF
  7. Dioner Navarro, C
  8. Jamey Carroll, SS
  9. Ted Lilly, P

Tuesday: Tigers at Dodgers

Sorry about not blogging the lineup yesterday. Got caught up in notes. Anyway, as Jim Leyland said yesterday, Miguel Cabrera is off tonight. It also appears this is the game Magglio will have off for this series. Jhonny Peralta is also off against Chad Billingsley.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Don Kelly, 3B
  3. Brennan Boesch, RF
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B
  5. Andy Dirks, LF
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Ryan Raburn, 2B
  8. Ramon Santiago, SS
  9. Max Scherzer, P

DODGERS

  1. Dee Gordon, SS
  2. Juan Uribe, 3B
  3. Andre Ethier, RF
  4. Matt Kemp, CF
  5. James Loney, 1B
  6. Aaron Miles, 2B
  7. A.J. Ellis, C
  8. Tony Gwynn Jr., LF
  9. Chad Billingsley, P

 

Verlander likely out for All-Star start

If you were wondering how the rotation works out for Justin Verlander and his chances to pitch in (or start) the All-Star Game, the answer probably came today. Jim Leyland said this afternoon that he’ll keep his rotation in order through the All-Star break. That would (barring a postponement or something like that) put his starts this coming Saturday, the following Thursday, then Tuesday and Sunday in the final week before the break. And that would leave Verlander ineligible to pitch in the All-Star Game two days later. Thursday’s off-day is the last day off before the break, so there are no other situations in which the rotation would be shuffled.

Leyland didn’t talk about the all-star part.

“Our rotation will fall in line the rest of the way,” Leyland said.

Verlander said the right things about it. He also said having pitched in a couple All-Star Games already makes a difference in that.

“I’m not sure I’m going anyway,” Verlander said. “If I were to be selected and I pitch the last game (beforehand), I’ve had the opportunity. I’ve pitched in a couple. That’s personal, and that’s not what this game is about. It’s about winning baseball games for this team. My job is helping this team win games. Give some other guys a chance.”

Saturday: Tigers at Rockies

Kelly returns to third base, with Alex Avila heading to the bench. I would guess we’ll see Avila back behind the plate for Justin Verlander’s outing tomorrow, but we’ll see. With Kelly in, he returns to the second spot in the lineup, with everyone else shifted back down to their usual spots. Magglio gets the night off, with Andy Dirks getting a start.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Don Kelly, 3B
  3. Brennan Boesch, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, C
  6. Andy Dirks, LF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Ryan Raburn, 2B
  9. Phil Coke, P

ROCKIES

  1. Carlos Gonzalez, CF
  2. Chris Nelson, 2B
  3. Todd Helton, 1B
  4. Troy Tulowitzki, SS
  5. Ty Wigginton, 3B
  6. Ryan Spilborghs, RF
  7. Charlie Blackmon, LF
  8. Chris Iannetta, C
  9. Ubaldo Jimenez, P

 

Friday: Cabrera bats third, Avila plays third

I’m actually not covering the series in Colorado this weekend, but I figured I’d pass along the lineup, because it’s an interesting one. We expected Jim Leyland would start Alex Avila at third, since he had mentioned on Thursday that it was a good chance. What we didn’t see, what we didn’t ask for (my bad), was the after-effect on the lineup.

The result: Miguel Cabrera bats third, Victor Martinez hits cleanup. It’s something Leyland has said all year he didn’t want to do. Cabrera’s last start in the third spot was July 23, 2009. Marcus Thames was the cleanup hitter that day, with Magglio Ordonez batting fifth.

Don Kelly had normally been batting second lately, ever since he became the regular third baseman. But with Avila at third, Kelly is out. Raburn has batted second several times in the past, but, well, you know how his hitting is going. So basically, Leyland chose to move everybody up rather than shift up somebody he doesn’t want hitting second, such as Jhonny Peralta.

The upshot of the move is that there isn’t a long stretch of right-handed hitters at the top of the order. Instead, it’s right, left, right, switch, right, left, then righties.

TIGERS

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

Leyland using Alburquerque judiciously

A month ago, it would’ve been difficult to envision Jim Leyland turning to Al Alburquerque to protect a lead with the bases loaded. He can get a strikeout when he needs one, but the risk of backfire with a walk and no base open would just be too big the way he was pitching.

If Leyland had some alternatives, he might not be turning to him either. But with Joaquin Benoit pitching setup and Jose Valverde closing, and four left-handers in the bullpen, Alburquerque is the only right-hander available for the seventh inning or earlier.

“The point is,” Leyland said, “who do you bring in?”

For more reasons than one, Leyland has to watch his situations with Alburquerque. For better or for worse, Thursday was one. Alberquerque’s fly out from Adam Everett for the third out made it for the better.

It isn’t a situation where a strikeout is any better than an out put in play, but under the circumstances, Leyland felt Alburquerque had the best chance at an out there. He could’ve let Scherzer face Everett and put in a lefty against Sizemore, but he didn’t want to wait for that.

Alburquerque needed two sliders to get Everett. The first, he spotted for strike one. The second got a swing and a fly ball. He stayed on to pitch the seventh, albeit with a pair of 3-0 counts, and handed the lead to Benoit for the eighth.

It marked Alburquerque’s first string of pitching back-to-back days since the end of May, and his first string of three outings in four days in nearly a month. It’s a little unusual for an improving young reliever, but Leyland has to protect the arm right now.

“I got a little problem one week ago in my elbow,” Alburquerque said after Thursday’s game.

It was pain, Alburquerque said, when he threw his slider. That’s not necessarily unusual. But for someone whose slider unusually accounts for more than half of his pitches, obviously, that’s not good. But some rehab work with the medical staff, he said, has it feeling better.

It puts a little extra importance on the fastball, potentially to keep him from throwing too many sliders and putting too much more stress on the elbow. If he’s going to throw the fastball, he has to command it.

“Right now, I’m trying to come back with my fastball,” Alburquerque said. “I got sometimes scared to trust my slider. I tried to come back working with my two-seamer, too.”

Alburquerque hasn’t given up a run over his last 10 outings, covering nine innings in which he has struck out 16.

It’s an interesting factor for a bullpen that doesn’t have anyone else who can do quite what he can. At some point, the Tigers are going to add a right-handed reliever. Ideally, it would be Ryan Perry, if he can show he has fixed his early-season issues at Triple-A Toledo. If that doesn’t happen, though, it isn’t hard to envision right-handed middle relief on the Tigers’ priority list before the July 31 trade deadline.

Thursday: Tigers vs. Indians

Leyland said he was weighing whether to catch Alex Avila or use him at DH. He opted for the DH spot. Combine that with another Leyland point, that he’s weighing whether to start Avila at third base on Friday, and it’s possible he’ll get back-to-back games at a position other than catcher.

TIGERS

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

P: Max Scherzer

INDIANS

  1. Grady Sizemore, DH
  2. Carlos Santana, C
  3. Michael Brantley, CF
  4. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  5. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  6. Matt LaPorta, 1B
  7. Travis Buck, LF
  8. Cord Phelps, 2B
  9. Adam Everett, 3B
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