August 5th, 2011

Friday: Tigers at Royals

Standard lineup against Royals right-hander Felipe Paulino. Royals lineup features the major league debut of Johnny Giavotella.

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. Alex Avila, C
  9. Wilson Betemit, 3B

P: Rick Porcello

ROYALS

  1. Alex Gordon, LF
  2. Melky Cabrera, CF
  3. Billy Butler, DH
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  5. Jeff Francoeur, RF
  6. Johnny Giavotella, 2B
  7. Mike Moutstakas, 3B
  8. Alcides Escobar, SS
  9. Minny Pina, C

P: Felipe Paulino

Checking the schedule with Justin Verlander

Once again, Justin Verlander will take the mound in Kansas City Saturday night, bringing his 7-2 career record and 1.62 ERA at Kauffman Stadium with him along with an extra day of rest. Manager Jim Leyland kept his rotation in line after last Monday’s off-day to give him a little breather.

The question now is whether Leyland will do it again next week. The schedule suggests he will not.

The Tigers have another off-day coming up Monday before their three-game Central showdown in Cleveland Tuesday through Thursday. If Leyland keeps his rotation in order, Verlander would miss that series and start next Friday in Baltimore. For reference, here’s a link to the Tigers’ August schedule.

That was weighing on Leyland’s mind a couple days ago. He was looking not just at next week, but for several weeks down the line, including another series against the Indians at Comerica Park in two weeks — also following an off-day.

“He’s getting an extra day this time,” Leyland said Tuesday. “Next time’s up in the air. If he gets an extra day the next time, he’ll miss Cleveland.”

If Verlander starts on four days’ rest for the next three turns, he would pitch in both of those Tigers-Indians series. If he gets the extra day and misses next week’s series in Cleveland, it’s almost impossible for him to face the Indians when they come to Detroit.

Makes sense, right? The main reason there would be a question is the schedule after that. Thanks to a Sept. 1 makeup game against the Royals, the Tigers have 20 games in 20 days from Aug. 18 to Sept. 7. If you’re going to rest him up before the stretch run, these next couple weeks are the time to do it. After Aug. 18, the Tigers have just two off-days on the rest of the regular-season schedule.

“I’m working real hard on my rotation right now to figure some things out,” Leyland said. “It could get pretty tricky, so I’m working real hard on that to make sure. We do the best we can, but obviously you don’t him missing some teams if you can help him. But we’d never do anything at the expense of his health.”

This is the time of year when Verlander wants to be his strongest, the time when Verlander’s training really makes a difference. He leads the majors in innings pitched and pitches thrown, but he has done that the last couple years.

I’m not saying Leyland will or won’t do it. I suspect Leyland’s leaning towards making sure he faces Cleveland, but I don’t know that. He brought up the issue himself, not me. But we’ll see.

The next question, albeit a smaller one, is how Leyland would shuffle his rotation if he did move up Verlander. The way the rotation order goes right now, Thursday’s series finale at Cleveland is Rick Porcello’s day to pitch. He was skipped a couple times early this season, but he wasn’t on a roll then like he is now. The Tigers could skip him again, or they can move him to Friday at Baltimore. If it’s the latter, they can give others an extra day, or another pitcher could get skipped.

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