Day 3: The road back for Alburquerque

While Tigers pitchers build up their arms on the bullpen mounds at Tigertown, lined up one after another, Al Alburquerque is back in the weight room, working out on his own.

Some days, he’s getting in cardio work, getting his body in shape. Other days, he’s strengthening his arm around his surgically repaired elbow. All the while, he’s trying to keep his focus in the weight room, not letting it wander out to the fields.

It isn’t easy for him, but he’s pretty steadfast about it right now.

“I keep my mind only on working, working, working,” he said. “That’s it.”

For somebody coming off a breakthrough season before a bone fracture in his elbow cost him the first half of this season, Alburquerque’s spirits are remarkably high. He has talked with teammates who have been through the rehab process, including new Tiger Octavio Dotel, and he’s confident he can make it back. He’s determined to make it back by the All-Star break, as Tigers medical personnel have cautiously forecast.

So far, it is difficult to see him on a given day without a smile on his face.

Like Alburquerque, Joel Zumaya had a screw inserted into his elbow to stabilize the joint after a fracture. When he tried to come back last spring, he made it through one outing before pain in his elbow shut down. Eventually, Zumaya had to undergo the surgery again, this time with noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews inserting a titanium screw.

There’s a difference in the situations. For one thing, Alburquerque said, the fracture is in a different location. Also, Dr. Andrews didn’t do Zumaya’s first surgery, but he did Alburquerque’s. He also used a titanium screw.

As long as Alburquerque makes it back, he’s supremely confident he can be effective. He also could be somebody who makes a big impact on this team down the stretch.

Early arrivals piling up: Brandon Inge has never been a particularly early arrival at Tigers’ Spring Training, except for maybe the days when he was a catcher and had a responsibility to work with Detroit pitchers. That was never going to change this year at age 34. So the fact that he isn’t here yet shouldn’t be a surprising development, and probably not a statement about his feelings about his situation.

He knows what he needs to do to get ready for the season, and he knows what early workouts entail. He also knows his situation with the Tigers isn’t going to change whether he shows up early or not.

What makes Inge’s status stand out this year compared to others is the fact that so many others have reported early. Andy Dirks, who was in the Dominican Republic for winter ball from mid-December until Feb. 10, reported to Tigers camp on Wednesday, ending his brief trip home to Kansas to rest up. He was probably the last player besides Inge with report with a realistic chance to make the 25-man roster.

There are others on the 40-man roster who haven’t yet reported, but they’re coming from other countries, such as Avisail Garcia and Hernan Perez from Venezuela. Victor Martinez hasn’t yet made an appearance, but his knee injury makes his situation different. He’s expected to stop in at some point, but won’t be doing much with the team, mainly rehabbing on his own while he awaits his surgery to repair his ACL.

Inge has a conversion to do if he’s going to compete for the job at second base, but that work doesn’t begin until full-squad workouts do this weekend. Most of what position players do this week has involving hitting work in the cage and batting practice on the field.

Actual workout item of the day: Though Doug Fister made his name as a Tiger down the stretch run and postseason last year, you can make the case that the coaching staff is still learning him. After all, this is his first Spring Training with the club. What they’ve seen so far is looking just as impressive.

Jim Leyland doesn’t usually like to rave about particular pitchers and their bullpen sessions, because they’re bullpen sessions. But Fister stood out to him on Wednesday.

“You can see why he’s successful,” Leyland said. “He does the one thing that we preach forever in this game, and preach long after I’m gone: Command your fastball. He’s really good at it. I mean, he was throwing today, and wherever [the catcher] wanted to catch it, that’s where he threw it.

“To me, he’s really a guy that I’d be watching if I was a young guy, just because of what he can do with the ball, where he could put it. I mean, he’s a perfect example of what we’ve talked about for a thousand years: Command your fastball. It’s only his second time throwing down here, and he was throwing the ball pretty much right to where he wanted to every time.”

Others who watched Fister on Wednesday added it wasn’t simply fastball command. He could make his fastball move one way or another, seemingly at will, and hit the spot. It’s something not often seen from tall, lanky pitchers, and certainly not at a young age.

Non- workout item of the day: The folks behind Justin Verlander’s Fastball Flakes were at Joker Marchant Stadium on Wednesday, giving up free boxes for players and reporters. And Verlander, whenever he saw somebody snacking on it, asked them how it was.

The reviews are good. They’re corn flakes with a frosting of sugar, and according to the box, they’re a fat-free food. If you live in Michigan, they’re available at Meijer store, with Verlander donating his share of the proceeds to the VA medical centers in Detroit and Ann Arbor.

The company behind the cereal has been successful with similar products in other cities. In Cincinnati, for instance, you will soon find a cereal named for Joey Votto, fittingly resembling Cheerios. In Pittsburgh, you will find Fleury Flakes cereal, named for Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

Non-workout item of the day, part 2: Octavio Dotel and Daniel Schlereth are both listed at six feet tall, which led to the question of which one is actually taller. So Schlereth, being a good sport, stood next to Dotel in the clubhouse and measured. Turns out Dotel is a little bit taller.

Schlereth considers himself to be a tick over 5-foot-10. He is not the shortest pitcher in the league. Royals left-hander Tim Collins, for one, is listed at 5-foot-7. Schlereth broke into the big leagues in 2009 with the Diamondbacks as a teammate of Tom Gordon, who’s listed at 5-foot-9.

Quote of the day: “I know they’re really good, but even if you’re really good, you burp.” — Jim Leyland on the Detroit Red Wings’ NHL record home winning streak, now at 23 games.


Gotta get me some “Verlander Flakes.”

Best of luck to “Q”. That is not going to be an easy thing to get over especially with his type of release. I really like the guy and hope he can find a way through this.

did i read that right: Inge isn’t showing up early even if others have shown up early? Ugh dang it – maybe he should be released if he doesn’t get the backup 2B/3B position(s).

And furthermore, not until i read this article did i think about Q being Zumaya v2.0. But I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if that is the case….easy come, easy go!

I don’t understand why so many people are anti-Inge. The man can play ball. I know he struggles at the plate but he’s a magnate at any position he plays. I have no doubt he will adjust to 2nd base with no problem.

He may need your prayers Gary.


Just saw that Kenny Rogers is there to work with the pitchers – think he can help Max on that pick off move?

Re Alburquerque: like Zumaya, there’s a reason pitchers don’t routinely throw at 100+mph or snap off other-worldly sliders for very long. Commented on this last year.
On Inge: even if he is able to become a 2ndbaseman, Santiago and yes, Raburn are still better options there. Inge doesn’t bring enough offensive contributions to the game. As far as why there are anti-Inge and pro-Inge people, one could write a book on the subject. A psychology book.
On Scherzer’s pickoff move: he improved in that area as last season progressed. And I think Kenny Rogers can help anyone that’s willing to listen to him.

rich: How many games do you have Delmon starting LF? I am guessing 105 and am predicting RABURN to start about 45 games in LF this year. Why? Raburn LF defense > Raburn 2B defense. Thus I have Inge starting 40-something games at 2B.

oh, and pastor gary, I don’t hate Inge at all but i do feel like he can get an attitude sometimes. Trust me, almost everyone is more sick of Inge than I am.

(i have Santiago starting closer to 115 games at 2B and about 23 at SS)

I don’t try to predict numbers like that. I only take a stab at an annual team win total every opening day. Now if it was me, I’d rather carry Worth in the utility role, but there are five million reasons why Inge will go north with the team, and each reason bears a likeness of our first President.

I mean – honestly predicting the # of starts is silly because it doesn’t account for injuries. But for my mental peace – i have to sort it all out.

The important issue is having plenty of good options the Tigs now have so that as situations change, the players involved accept their new roles for the good of the team.
The numerous strong leaders – JV, VV, Miggs, Alex, Victor and probably Prince, no doubt helped by them being the premier players and their equally strong burning desire to win will no doubt quash any sense of ‘me’ developing too far among the lesser mortals.

I don’t see Raburn in LF much at all. Dirks is going to start there against most RHs and Young against all LHs.

With all the fire power the Tigers now have, I thought this could be Santiago’s year to help solidify the infield while not having too much pressure put on him to produce offensively. (Even though he will do his share…as he always does). As the off season progressed and no deal was made for a second baseman, I thought he might just earn the spot after waiting patiently in the wings. I still think he is the best option.
It’s not like JL doesn’t appreciate defense but he is ultimately an offensively minded manager, and as he did playing Bobby Bonilla at 3B, he will trade errors for run production when faced with that decision.
The experiment with Inge at second doesn’t really fit this line of thinking though. Ultimately his run production in the last couple of seasons has not been there. That said, at least it will be interesting to see what he can do at 2B. I hope it doesn’t end up a distraction. I’ve always liked and rooted for Brandon over the years, but I just don’t see him as a regular starter any more. That said, I’ll still root for him to secure a roster spot at least for this last year, and maybe he can be a part of a World Champion team. He has given a lot to the team and the city. I guess that’s about the best way I can describe my feelings regarding his situation. Maybe he’ll surprise us all and have some kind of breakout year, but the odds are not with him I think.
At this point I still believe you have to give Ramon his shot at second.
Hey Rich, I’m impressed you remembered my spring training story from last year. It could only happen to me:-) Unfortunately my wife and I won’t be getting down there this year. And DB, enjoy your stay at Marco Island. I’ve always enjoyed the Gulf coast and the Everglades.
Thanks for the great reporting Jason. You are outdoing yourself this year.

How could I forget that story? When we got down there last year, I was able to identify the gate through which you made your escape. It’s almost up there with the Brennan Boesch trapped in the bathroom story.

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