September 26th, 2011

Monday: Tigers vs. Indians

As you can read below, Wilson Betemit isn’t ready yet. So Don Kelly gets another start at third base. Other Tigers are simply getting a day of rest, including Jhonny Peralta and Austin Jackson.

TIGERS

  1. Will Rhymes, 2B
  2. Don Kelly, 3B
  3. Delmon Young, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Ryan Raburn, RF
  8. Ramon Santiago, SS
  9. Andy Dirks, CF

P: Doug Fister

INDIANS

  1. Kosuke Fukudome, RF
  2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
  3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  4. Travis Hafner, DH
  5. Shelley Duncan, LF
  6. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
  7. Matt LaPorta, 1B
  8. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
  9. Lou Marson, C

P: Ubaldo Jimenez

Betemit’s knee flares up again, not ready yet

UPDATE: Team doctors examined Betemit later Monday afternoon. According to Betemit, everything was fine aside from the inflammation. He’s hoping for good news Tuesday.

Wilson Betemit came to Comerica Park early on Monday with a plan to start at third base, his first start in a week and a half. It was supposed to be his first of three games to get ready for the postseason. Then he tried to push off with his left knee moving for a ball.

Now, his situation is a question mark once again, and his manager is increasingly concerned.

“He’s not right,” Leyland said. “I’m worried about Betemit. And I’ll leave it at that.”

Betemit sounded a little less concerned as he tried to clear up his own situation, but nonetheless anxious. He played in three straight Division Series with the Braves and Dodgers from 2004-06, and he has a very good chance to start for the Tigers in this one coming up. But he has to be healthy to do it.

He thought he was. Right now, he said, his knee’s “so-so.”

“I went out today to go work on the field,” Betemit said. “and I felt something push on my knee.”

Betemit was diagnosed a week ago with inflammation in the knee after injuring it on a slide Sept. 16 at Oakland. He still has swelling on the inside of the knee, which is where he felt the problem when he went to push off. He also feels discomfort, he said, when he goes into an all-out sprint. He feels fine when he’s batting.

“Hopefully I’ll be fine,” Betemit said, “because, man, I want to play. I have to do everything I can to play.”

With Betemit out, Don Kelly started at third base for the third time in the last four days and the fifth time in Detroit’s last eight games. Cleveland has right-handed pitchers starting every game in this series to end the regular season, so it’s uncertain whether Brandon Inge, Detroit’s defensive replacement and part-time starter at third, might get a start.

Once the postseason begins, that question becomes a lot more interesting, depending on the opponent. The Yankees, for instance, are expected to start lefty CC Sabathia to open their Division Series, then have a handful of right-handed candidates.

Leyland is keeping pretty mum on his postseason roster, and he isn’t going to map out how the Tiger would replace Betemit if he can’t go. While team officials met Monday to discuss the roster, among other topics, they didn’t announce anything. Kelly could be a big part of it, but dedicating him to third base would also take a candidate out of right field. The Tigers also have infielder Danny Worth, but he has played all of four innings at third base this month since rejoining the club from Triple-A Toledo.

Maroth returns to Tigers as Lakeland pitching coach

Mike Maroth had been looking to get back into baseball after injuries ended his pitching career last winter. He’ll get his start in coaching with the same organization where he broke into the Majors as a pitcher.

The Tigers announced Monday that they’ve hired Maroth as their pitching coach at Class A Lakeland. He replaces Joe Coleman, who was let go a few weeks ago.

It’ll be the first pro coaching job for Maroth, who brings a wealth of experience and a strong work ethic into the role. The obvious point that will be made is that if you’re looking for a coach who can help prospects deal with struggles for often the first time in their careers, Maroth can relate. He’s best remembered for his 21-loss season on the Tigers’ 2003 team that lost 119 games, and drew national attention for the way he handled it and bounced back.

There’s a side beyond the numbers, though, and it starts with somebody who became a pretty crafty pitcher and adapted his game without a power pitch in his arsenal. He knew how to pitch, just not throw. He also has a high character that seems natural for a coaching job.

Maroth, who lives in Orlando, had been interested in a coaching career after he finally had to end his comeback attempt last winter.

Cabrera takes lead in AL batting race

Miguel Cabrera went into the weekend at least seven points behind Adrian Gonzalez in the American League batting race, and talking about how happy he’d be to see his old Marlins minor league teammate Adrian Gonzalez win the crown. He wasn’t even second at that point; Michael Young owned that honor.

As he came out of the weekend, Cabrera now has a three-point lead over Young and Gonzalez with three games to go against a team he has hit well this year. Put the matchups together, he’s potentially on the doorstep of becoming the second Tigers batting champ in five years, joining Magglio Ordonez with the honor.

Three days flipped the race. Cabrera went 8-for-12 in the last three games against Baltimore, raising his average from .333 to .341. Gonzalez, meanwhile, went 2-for-12, including 1-for-8 in Boston’s day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium Sunday. His average fell modestly from .340 to .338, but it was enough to give Cabrera a few points of breathing room. Young went 4-for-7 against the Mariners before getting Sunday off. He bumped his average up a few points.

Now, it’s entirely possible that Gonzalez has one more charge left in the race. As Cabrera points out, Gonzalez has a wild card race to play for, and a Red Sox offense to ignite after a week they’d like to forget. He’s batting .500 (31-for-62) with eight doubles this season against the Orioles, who finished out their season against the BoSox the next few days. He went 10-for-16 against them last week at Fenway Park, which allowed him to charge into the batting lead in the first place by bumping his average from .333 to .341. He 11-for-27 (.407) at Camden Yards this year.

Young, meanwhile, gets three games at Angel Stadium, where he’s batting .500 (14-for-28) this year.

The one big difference is that Cabrera has been the hottest hitter in baseball over the last month. Nobody’s batting batter over the last 30 days than Cabrera’s .427 clip or 1.280 OPS. He went from batting in the .3-teens in mid-August to more than 20 points higher, and he has just six hitless games all month.

His Sunday performance included a first-inning home run, a big two-out single that extended the fifth inning for Victor Martinez’s go-ahead three-run homer and a hard-hit line drive in his final at-bat. He left after that with dizziness, something manager Jim Leyland said teammates brought to his attention, but word from the clubhouse after the game was that it isn’t anything serious. He should be available Monday.

If he can keep on hitting, he’ll have pulled off a career Triple Crown with three league titles in four years as a Tiger. He led the AL in home runs his first season in Detroit in 2008, had an stellar year in 2009, then led the league in RBIs last year. It counts as a Triple Crown only if you do that all in the same year, but doing it this way still puts him in the company of Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez.

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