July 2011

Waiting for update on Alburquerque

The Tigers medical staff checked out Al Alburquerque this morning at Comerica Park, but no information was available as of game time. He was at the ballpark this morning, but disappeared into the training room area of the Tigers clubhouse. So at this point, we’re hoping for an update after the game.

Two interesting factors to consider:

  1. The immediate concern is how long, if at all, he’ll be out, and how long the Tigers can go without him before they have to consider calling up somebody. From a numbers and workload standpoint, the Tigers bullpen is fine. But take away Alburquerque even for a day or two, and as Wednesday showed, it leaves first-year pro Chance Ruffin as the only right-hander available before the eighth inning.
  2. If Alburquerque’s elbow has resurfaced as a concern, do the Tigers have to look into more relief help before Sunday’s non-waiver trade deadline? Even if it’s a short-term absence, the off and on issues make the elbow a longer-term concern. The Tigers popped up in rumors about Orioles reliever Koji Uehara the other day, and that was before this issue. Detroit wouldn’t necessarily need a setup man as insurance, but simply a middle reliever might end up being something to consider. That said, the Tigers have seen Phil Coke as an effective reliever against left- and right-handed hitters alike. The two options for right-handed help from the farm would be Ryan Perry and Lester Oliveros, but Detroit essentially said Ruffin was a better option than Oliveros when making Sunday’s move.

Thursday: Tigers vs. Angels

Long, stormy drive from Chicago last night, so I’m playing catch-up a little bit. Here are the lineups:

TIGERS

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

P: Brad Penny

ANGELS

  1. Manny Aybar, SS
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Bobby Abreu, DH
  4. Vernon Wells, LF
  5. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
  6. Howie Kendrick, 2B
  7. Mark Trumbo, 1B
  8. Peter Bourjos, CF
  9. Jeff Mathis, C

P: Joel Pineiro

Alburquerque unavailable, to be checked out Thursday

While Chance Ruffin was warming up in the Tigers bullpen during the middle and later innings Wednesday, some were wondering why Al Alburquerque wasn’t, since he hadn’t pitched since Sunday. But a glance at the bullpen showed Alburquerque wasn’t out there.

The answer after the game was that Alburquerque wasn’t available. He played catch before the game, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, and was unable to go.

At this point, that’s about all that’s known. Manager Jim Leyland downplayed the situation, saying Alburquerque should be available for Thursday. Rand said Alburquerque will be re-evaluated by the team’s medical staff on Thursday, and they’ll know more after that.

It’s unknown whether it’s the same problem that was bothering Alburquerque last month, landing him on the disabled list July 1 to rest his elbow. He came back after the All-Star break and has pitched well since.

Wednesday: Tigers at White Sox

While the White Sox clubhouse was a cauldron Wednesday night with the trade of Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen and the benching of Alex Rios, it was a laid-back morning on the Tigers side. Brennan Boesch is out of the starting lineup today, Leyland said, because he’s going to start all four games against the Angels coming up.

TIGERS

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

P: Max Scherzer

WHITE SOX

  1. Juan Pierre, LF
  2. Omar Vizquel, 3B
  3. Paul Konerko, DH
  4. Adam Dunn, 1B
  5. Carlos Quentin, RF
  6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  7. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  8. Alejandro De Aza, CF
  9. Gordon Beckham, 2B

P: John Danks

Ilitch pushing hard for playoffs, maybe over prospects

In case there was any question lingering whether the pressure was on Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland to get Detroit its first division title since 1987, team owner Mike Ilitch reiterated his strong desire to win now. He didn’t say he expected a division title, but he wasn’t far off.

“I’d be extremely disappointed if we don’t [win one this year],” Ilitch said in a group interview recorded and posted by WXYT-FM 97.1. “We’ve got a good team.”

Though Ilitch was talking with Detroit media at the press conference for Red Wing Kris Draper’s retirement Tuesday morning at Joe Louis Arena, Ilitch spent a good amount of time talking about the Tigers. Like most Tigers fans, Ilitch is looking and waiting for his club to add a starting pitcher on the trade market before Sunday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. Payroll, Ilitch indicated, will not be an issue.

So far, by every indication, nothing is close. But judging by the owner’s comments, he’s open to plenty of possibilities, maybe even some that cost them coveted prospects.

“We need that No. 5 guy,” Ilitch said. “We’ve got some [pitching] prospects, but when you’re in a tough race like this, it’s hard to throw some of them in there when you’re a game or two this way or that way.”

Asked if he expects to have a deal by Sunday, Ilitch couldn’t say.

“I don’t know,” Ilitch said. “I haven’t been presented with anything. [Dombrowski] hasn’t been able to bring anything to me that he feels makes sense at this point.”

So far, the Tigers have been reluctant to part with top prospects in any trade since the Miguel Cabrera deal four years ago. Whenever the Tigers have been asked about Futures Game participant and potential 2012 starter Jacob Turner over the past year, they’ve indicated no willingness to deal him.

Part of that reflects Ilitch’s desire to build a strong farm system. But with the Tigers fighting to maintain their division lead, Ilitch hinted that waiting for prospects to emerge might have its limits. It was an interesting comment.

“We’ve done a fairly good job,” Ilitch said. “We’ve been competitive. I put a lot of emphasis on the farm system, and you can’t get carried away with the farm system. That Tommy John [surgery] always seems to surface.

“It looks like when you look at the system, geez, we’ve got six [top prospects] here. For sure, two are going to be stars. It just doesn’t work that way in baseball. It’s much different than some of the other sports.”

Tuesday: Tigers at White Sox

Delayed on the lineups tonight, but better late than never.

TIGERS

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

P: Justin Verlander

WHITE SOX

  1. Juan Pierre, LF
  2. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  3. Paul Konerko, 1B
  4. Adam Dunn, DH
  5. Carlos Quentin, RF
  6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  7. Alex Rios, CF
  8. Mark Teahen, 3B
  9. Gordon Beckham, 2B

P: Jake Peavy

Why Ruffin entered in tie game with traffic

Jim Leyland admittedly didn’t know much about Chance Ruffin when the Tigers made the decision Sunday to give him a shot at the big leagues. He knew enough to have a chance.

“I think this boils down to one simple thing: It appears to me that our people in the organization felt that he was better for us at this point than [Lester] Oliveros was. Period,” Leyland said Monday afternoon. “That’s what it sounds like to me.”

He knew enough to give him a shot in the tightest of situations Monday night once left-handed starter Duane Below lost left-handed slugger Adam Dunn to a two-out walk. Carlos Quentin stepped to the plate. Ruffin was already warming up, preparing for a right-handed hitter.

It wasn’t the situation Leyland would’ve liked to use to debut Ruffin, but it was where he needed a right-handed reliever. And the way Al Alburquerque has been used for the past several weeks, it was too early to use him.

Yes, Leyland didn’t know much about Ruffin. But he also knew the White Sox didn’t know much about Ruffin.

“That’s an awfully tough spot for him,” Leyland said. “They hadn’t seen him. I was just hoping they could get that guy out, maybe get him out and then we’ll go from there.”

Welcome to the big leagues, Chance Ruffin.

“Major League debut in middle of a pennant race, bases loaded and [Carlos] Quentin’s up,” Alex Avila said with a smile. “Good luck.”

It was a rare, for sure. According to Elias Sports Bureau, no Major League pitcher had debuted with the bases loaded in a tie game since Brian Lawrence did it in the sixth inning against the Dodgers on April 15, 2001.

Lawrence allowed one run to score on a sacrifice fly, but that was it. Ruffin started off Quentin with back-to-back 94 mph fastballs before putting a slider where he probably didn’t want it. Quentin pulled it into the left-field corner for two runs.

“It’s a high-pressure situation,” Ruffin said. “It’s fun to be in. You just want to be that guy to come up with the big out. Just didn’t happen for me on that one.”

Monday: Tigers at White Sox

Back to work for me, and back to third base for Ryan Raburn. He hasn’t started there since 2009, though he was an in-game substitution there twice last year.

Why Raburn, you ask? Well, he’s heating up at the plate, and though his 6-for-26 numbers off Mark Buehrle aren’t that impressive, his two home runs against him are. Wilson Betemit, by comparison, is 1-for-6 with four strikeouts against Buehrle.

TIGERS

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

P: Duane Below

WHITE SOX

  1. Juan Pierre, LF
  2. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  3. Paul Konerko, 1B
  4. Adam Dunn, DH
  5. Carlos Quentin, RF
  6. Alex Rios, CF
  7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  8. Gordon Beckham, 2B
  9. Brent Morel, 3B

P: Mark Buehrle

Saturday: Tigers at Twins

Austin Jackson gets a day off despite his 5-for-11 history off Twins starter Scott Baker. That gets Andy Dirks a game in the lineup for the first time since last weekend. Don Kelly, 2-for-4 with a home run off Baker, gets a game at third.

TIGERS

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

P: Brad Penny

TWINS

  1. Ben Revere, CF
  2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
  3. Joe Mauer, C
  4. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
  5. Jason Kubel, DH
  6. Danny Valencia, 3B
  7. Delmon Young, LF
  8. Trevor Plouffe, RF
  9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS

P: Scott Baker

Friday: Tigers at Twins

The mystery position for Ryan Raburn is left field, giving Brennan Boesch the night off against Minnesota left-hander Brian Duensing. It’ll be Raburn’s first start in left since May 31, which was also against the Twins, though at Comerica Park.

In addition, Miguel Cabrera gets a game at DH, with Victor Martinez starting at first base. Hey, if Joe Mauer can do it and make a diving play …

TIGERS

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

P: Max Scherzer

TWINS

  1. Ben Revere, CF
  2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
  3. Joe Mauer, C
  4. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
  5. Jason Kubel, RF
  6. Danny Valencia, 3B
  7. Jim Thome, DH
  8. Delmon Young, LF
  9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS

P: Brian Duensing

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