Magglio Ordonez quietly worked like crazy to get himself to the point where the ankle was no longer. His happiness showed after his three hits in Game 2 of the AL Division Series, when he admitted he thought about quitting before deciding to slug it out through the season. He was swinging with a little more lower body strength, even if it wasn’t what it used to be.
One apparent twist of his ankle during pregame batting practice Saturday changed everything.
“My ankle is broke,” Ordonez replied in an email Sunday afternoon.
The Tigers confirmed the same later Sunday. He re-fractured the ankle in the same spot where he had it surgically repaired late last season. His season is over.
It’s not clear whether this is the same type of fracture he had last year, a vertical break that’s supposedly a lot trickier to heal. Even if it isn’t, though, he now has a history.
Just when he was feeling more like his old self, this happens.
“When I was in such good shape, this happens to me,” Ordonez told Venezuelan journalist Aflredo Villasmil on Sunday.
The quote is translated from Spanish.
“I was in BP before the game, I twisted my foot and it started to hurt. I thought it was because of the cold and the pressure I put on it, but nothing like that. It wasn’t that.”
You hope this isn’t how his career ends, that he can come back at age 38 and do it again. But if he’s going to have to go through the same rehab process to get back to this point, he has a decision to make — not just a baseball decision, a life decision. And at age 38 come next January, he’ll be making it without a contract for 2012.
Here’s hoping for the best for Magglio.
At this time, it’s anyone’s guess. From a roster standpoint, the pickings are few. Other than rehabbing Carlos Guillen, who will start playing in games in instructional ball on Monday, the Tigers are out of position players with Major League experience who have stayed fresh and are on the 40-man roster. Though it was originally believed that Will Rhymes was sent to Florida, he was not, and he isn’t expected to be a consideration for a call up.
They could wait and see whether Delmon Young (oblique) or even Brennan Boesch (thumb surgery) recover enough to be available for a pinch-hit or two later in the series. If they want to add a healthy outfielder, the only option left on the 40-man roster is Clete Thomas, who went home with the conclusion of the Triple-A Toledo season around Labor Day weekend. Ryan Strieby has played some outfield, as did Rhymes in Toledo, but he was a first baseman this season.
Realistically, whoever they call up will be an insurance option and nothing more. The more pertinent question is who plays right field in his place. On that, they have two options.
Don Kelly was a hero in the Division Series and provides a hot bat. But his time against left-handed pitching this year has been very limited. He’s 4-for-21 off lefties this season, and had even fewer plate appearances off southpaws last year. The Rangers have two lefties and a righty going over the next three games.
Andy Dirks hasn’t played at all this postseason, and he closed out the regular season with limited playing time. but he has more time — and more success — against lefties: 10-for-31, two home runs, nine RBIs.
For all those Tigers fans who kept wanting Miguel Cabrera to bat third, you get your wish. With Delmon Young out, Jim Leyland opts to move the middle of his lineup up a spot rather to slide Magglio Ordonez back to his old home in the 3-hole. That means Cabrera bats third for the first time since Interleague Play.
Leyland has always entertained the discussion over where Cabrera best fits, but his reasoning for cleanup has always been to try to get as many runners on as possible in front of him. Better to risk him not batting in the opening inning, the argument went, than to have him come up with two out and nobody on in the first.
1. Austin Jackson, cf
2. Ryan Raburn, 2b
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1b
4. Victor Martinez, dh
5. Magglio Ordonez, rf
6. Alex Avila, c
7. Jhonny Peralta, ss
8. Ramon Santiago, 2b
9. Brandon Inge, 3b
P: Justin Verlander
When the Tigers were taking batting practice Friday afternoon, there were some hints of optimism that Delmon Young’s strained left oblique would allow him to play in the ALCS. Jim Leyland described him in NFL terms as “probable” and said it would be a game-time decision. The optimism apparently dissipated today, when the Tigers replaced Young on their roster for the ALCS.
Infielder Danny Worth has been added in Young’s place.
What happens to the Tigers lineup without Young around is the next issue. MLB.com’s Barry Bloom wrote a good piece yesterday detailing what Leyland could do with the lineup now that Young is out. Here’s the link:
Justin Verlander threw his side session in the visiting bullpen at Yankee Stadium earlier today, well before batting practice. If you were still hoping, after all that Jim Leyland has said the last couple days about not using him in Game 5, that he would be available in relief tonight, that’s definitive news that he won’t. If he was going to pitch in relief, the Tigers would have held him back from his side session and saved those throws. The fact that he threw today means the Tigers want him ready for Game 1 of the ALCS, if they get there.
Max Scherzer is another story. Leyland told reporters after his press conference that Scherzer told pitching coach Jeff Jones he felt he could throw 100 pitches tonight. Doesn’t mean he will, obviously, but it means he has a fresh arm if they need it.
“If we need to go long, I’m going to go to Scherzer,” Leyland said. “If we get to the late innings, I’m going to [Joaquin] Benoit and [Jose] Valverde. It’s that simple. If I need Coke to get one lefty out in a big situation, I would probably go to him. Other than that, you would probably not see any other pitchers tonight. If you do, we got beat.”
In fact, if Leyland has to go to his bullpen in the middle innings, he might turn to Scherzer.
If the Tigers use any relievers besides those four, and it isn’t extra innings, it’s not a good sign.
Considering Jim Leyland answered many of the questions about his lineup in his press conference yesterday, there wasn’t much suspense left. Second base, however, he hadn’t answered. Ramon Santiago gets the start there, batting ninth and getting the shot against Ivan Nova that he didn’t have in Game 1 (since Raburn was in the lineup to originally face Sabathia).
As for the batting order, Don Kelly moves into the second spot, where he had a string of starts back in June while Brandon Inge was out with mono. Magglio Ordonez bats sixth to provide a veteran bat in an RBI situation behind Victor Martinez.
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Don Kelly, 3B
- Delmon Young, LF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- Magglio Ordonez, RF
- Alex Avila, C
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Ramon Santiago, 2B
P: Doug Fister
- Derek Jeter, SS
- Curtis Granderson, CF
- Robinson Cano, 2B
- Alex Rodriguez, 3B
- Mark Teixeira, 1B
- Nick Swisher, RF
- Jorge Posada, DH
- Russell Martin, C
- Brett Gardner, LF
P: Ivan Nova
Remember how closely Jim Leyland guarded his lineup and rotation leading in the postseason? With his team’s strengths and weaknesses pretty well known by now, he was much more open Wednesday when talking about Game 5.
“I’m playing Don Kelly at third base tomorrow, and Magglio Ordonez in right field,” Leyland said.
When asked about Al Alburquerque’s struggles in this series, Leyland admitted he’ll be tight with his bullpen tomorrow. And he named names.
“Basically, being totally honest with you, I would like to get through this game tomorrow with Fister, Coke if necessary, Benoit and Valverde,” Leyland said. “There’s no secret to that. That’s what we would like to get through the game with.”
In other words, he’ll go with his experienced relievers.
On the list of possibilities at third base, Kelly might have been viewed as Plan C. Wilson Betemit struck out three times over three plate appearances and 10 total pitches Tuesday night, dropping him to 0-for-8 in the series. That seemingly pointed to Brandon Inge starting Game 5. But as well as Inge has been hitting, so has Kelly, and he’s a left-handed bat.
Ordonez, meanwhile, provides a veteran bat in right field. If Kelly was going to play regardless, the choice would’ve been between Ordonez and Inge.
When it comes to naming the best closer of the season, it’s hard to beat perfection.
Statistically, Jose Valverde had it, going 49-for-49 in save opportunities. Now, he has the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year award to go with it. He becomes just the second Tiger ever to win the annual honor for the game’s most outstanding relief pitcher.
Valverde didn’t win any of the six Delivery Man of the Month awards. There was always somebody with a better performance over the short term. For the entire season, however, Valverde’s performance ranks among the best of all time.
Only former Dodgers great Eric Gagne saved more games without blowing an opportunity than Valverde, whose 49 regular-season saves obliterated Guillermo Hernandez’s franchise record of 32 straight saves in 1984. He also toppled Todd Jones as the Tigers’ single-season saves king.
Jones set a Tigers record with 42 saves in 2000, earning himself what was then called the Rolaids Relief Man of the Year award. He paid Valverde high honors Tuesday night by impersonating Valverde’s save celebration after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Game 4 of the AL Championship Series at Comerica Park.
“I think we’re both right-handed, but I think after that, the comparisons kind of go away,” Jones said. “Jose has had an amazing year. He’s an amazing closer. People don’t really realize how hard 50 out of 50 saves is until you watched me or had a chance to go out there yourself.
“He’s a fierce competitor, and I think everybody enjoys him in the clubhouse. Everybody on the team has said nothing but great things. He’s just had an amazing year.”
Valverde posted a 2-4 record and a 2.24 ERA, allowing 52 hits over 72 1/3 innings with 34 walks and 69 strikeouts. Opponents batted just .198 against him, demonstrating what manager Jim Leyland has called a tremendous ability to keep hitters from centering his pitches.
In just save situations, the numbers were even more formidable, with just three runs allowed on 26 hits over 49 innings with 20 walks and 50 strikeouts. Two of those runs scored on home runs.
Those numbers complemented the bottom line, the saves converted. Though Milwaukee’s John Axford, Atlanta rookie Craig Kimbrel and Pittsburgh’s Joel Hanrahan received votes, they weren’t going to beat out Valverde.
The results for a Tigers team that won its first division title since 1987 provided the substance behind a style that has made Valverde one of the game’s unique personalities. Time and again, his save celebrations have delighted fans and irked opponents, whether it was a crossing of his arms or a dance around the mound. His superstitions before he throws a pitch have become ingrained in Tigers fans’ memories.
“I don’t know what I do [after the game],” Valverde said earlier this year. “You guys can tell me what I do, but I don’t know. Somebody told me you do something different. I told him I have no idea what I’m doing. I swear to God. When I’m pitching, I’m not paying attention to what I’m doing. My mind is on doing my job quick and that’s it.”
For all the celebration he displays puts on a save, Valverde has downplayed every individual honor that has come his way this year. His goal, he said, is for the team, not himself.
“I’m not looking at what I do this year,” he said. “What I look at all the time is how my team’s doing. I have to figure out how to win the game, enjoy the game. My numbers stay over there. If we go to the World Series, we’ll remember this for a very long time.”
Jim Leyland said he put Don Kelly in the lineup to get a little more speed going. Coincidentally. A.J. Burnett had 25 wild pitches in the regular season, 10 more than anybody else in baseball.
All in all, the Tigers don’t have terribly good numbers off A.J. Burnett, who doesn’t have terribly good numbers in general. He has been effectively wild (or wildly effective?) in his AL years against Detroit, and the Tigers have to find a way to use his wildness against him without having to rely on the long ball.
- Austin Jackson, CF (1-for-2, HR off Burnett)
- Ramon Santiago, 2B (1-for-4)
- Delmon Young, LF (3-for-15, 6 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (3-for-14 off ex-teammate)
- Victor Martinez, DH (7-for-27, 2 2B’s, HR, 6 walks)
- Don Kelly, RF (0-for-2)
- Jhonny Peralta, SS (3-for-13, HR, 6 RBIs)
- Alex Avila, C (1-for-2)
- Wilson Betemit, 3B (6-for-23, 3 2Bs, 9 K’s)
P: Rick Porcello
- Derek Jeter, SS (0-for-9 off Porcello)
- Curtis Granderson, CF (2-for-5)
- Robinson Cano, 2B (5-for-11)
- Alex Rodriguez, 3B (1-for-4)
- Mark Teixeira, 1B (1-for-10)
- Nick Swisher, RF (3-for-10, HR, 4 RBIs, 2 BBs)
- Jorge Posada, DH (3-for-9, 2 BBs)
- Russell Martin, C (1-for-4, 2 BBs)
- Brett Gardner, LF (1-for-9)
P: A.J. Burnett
When Alex Avila was seen hobbling around the Tigers dugout in the seventh inning following a play at first base, the fear was that he had turned his ankle stepped on the bag thanks in part to a wild throw from Alex Rodriguez. Turns out it was actually his knee, which gave way a little on the shift below.
He stayed in the game, obviously, and he said after the game he was fine. But coming off a foul ball in which he slipped on the wet on-deck circle and had manager Jim Leyland terrified he’d pulled a groin, he seems to be creating concern.
“Just a little tweak in my knee,” Avila said. “The contact, that’s going to happen when you step on somebody’s foot running at full speed.’