April 2nd, 2012
UPDATE @5pm: Leyland said after Monday’s win that Inge will not play in Tuesday’s Grapefruit League finale, and he isn’t sure about Wednesday’s exhibition in Toledo. Wednesday’s game might not matter, as Leyland indicated they’ll set the roster sometime Tuesday.
“I think we’ll have everything etched in stone by tomorrow,” Leyland said.
Leyland confirmed that the Inge issue, specifically his health, is the one question holding up the process.
“We have to figure out the health issue,” Leyland said. “We’re not holding off for any other reason.”
Brandon Inge sounded somewhat confident this morning that he could be healthy for Opening Day, but said he’ll leave the decision up to the Tigers on whether they want to take the chance, especially if he doesn’t get into another game this spring.
“It’s something I just need a couple days,” he said. “I’ve been getting treatment on it and feel good. I’m at the end stages on it, so I don’t want to go backwards. They’re going to have to make their decision whichever way they want. I don’t like going onto the DL, but it’s not my decision. I left it in their hands. They can make those decisions.”
Inge missed his fourth straight game Monday with a sore left groin.
The ultimate factor in the decision might come down to whether he plays Tuesday or Wednesday. Manager Jim Leyland has said he would ideally like to have Inge play in a game before the season starts if he’s going to be ready for the season. Inge doesn’t sound positive that he could do that.
“It’s just one of those things where I’m getting towards the end part of this thing, and I don’t want to go backwards,” Inge said. “I don’t anticipate it being a problem. I don’t know. They’re going to make their decision whatever way they want. I told them I thought I’d be ready by Opening Day, but I want to push it too much before, because I don’t think it’s a benefit to anyone to take a step backward.”
The Tigers are fielding what looks awfully close to an everyday lineup, with one possible exception: Jays have lefty Brett Cecil on the mound, but Tigers have Ramon Santiago starting at second base. That might just be a reaction to Brandon Inge still being out, or maybe it isn’t.
Leyland hinted at it after batting practice: “Depending on what goes on, you could be looking at my Opening Day lineup.”
For what it’s worth, there’s no news on Inge this morning. He was in the clubhouse and went to get treatment on his sore groin. As Tom Gage of the Detroit News pointed out, he is not on the lineup card, but that’s usually common with injured players.
I’ve written this already, but it bears repeating for those waiting for roster moves: If Inge opens the season on the DL, and the Tigers use Drew Smyly’s roster spot to carry an extra position player until they need Smyly on April 12, then Detroit does not have to cut another player.
Interesting quote yesterday from Drew Smyly when asked if this start becomes lower-pressure now that he knows he’s in the rotation:
“Maybe [there's] almost more pressure, just to make sure you do well,” he said, “but I don’t know. You just go out there and continue to throw, I guess.”
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Brennan Boesch, RF
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B
- Prince Fielder, 1B
- Delmon Young, LF
- Ryan Raburn, DH
- Jhonny Peralta, SS
- Alex Avila, C
- Ramon Santiago, 2B
P: Drew Smyly
- Rajai Davis, CF
- Omar Vizquel, SS
- Ben Francisco, RF
- Adam Lind, 1B
- Eric Thames, LF
- Jeff Mathis, C
- Luis Valbuena, 2B
- Marcus Knecht, DH
- Kevin Ahrens, 3B
P: Brett Cecil
The Tigers go into the season with a downright scary offense, a top-four rotation that can cover innings, and a bullpen that can carry a lead for a good while if they have to. They play in a division they have the potential to win running away. and an established rotation that pretty much could map out a postseason staff tomorrow if it had to.
No matter what some might say about leaving nothing to chance and taking a proven arm, if you were ever going to paint a situation to break in a young starter, this might be it. If the Tigers couldn’t find that starter out of 5-6 in-house candidates, it would’ve been an indictment of a farm system built around young pitching.
If Drew Smyly makes it, he’ll be a very nice triumph for the Tigers system, especially the scouting department. He wasn’t the typical big, hard-throwing pitcher the Tigers usually draft with their early picks, and he wasn’t necessarily the kind of risk the Tigers have shown they’re willing to take in some years when they get past the first day. There was a risk, since the Tigers couldn’t be sure he was willing to leave after his breakout sophomore season at Arkansas, but he was better known for the pitches he throws than how hard he throws them.
That happened in the summer of 2010. Less than two years later, he’s in the big-league rotation. Starting with last spring at Lakeland, he pitched his way onto the fast track. When he got his shot at big league camp to give the Tigers brass a look at him, he kept it up.
“I wouldn’t say [I was] confident that I would be the guy,” Smyly said of his approach coming into camp, “but I was definitely confident that I could show them that I’m capable of being the guy. I mean, it’s up to them to pick who they want to be up there, but from the first day of spring training until now, I was just excited to get to show everybody what I had, because last year I didn’t really get to pitch, and they didn’t really get to see me much at either high-A and Double-A.”
When they told him he was heading north with the Tigers, he called it the best news he has ever been told, topping the day the Tigers drafted him. He made his case as a cool customer on the mound, as manager Jim Leyland put it, right down to the last start he had against the Cardinals in Jupiter.
“He was a little not-quite-so-cool,” Leyland described him in his reaction to the news. “He did handle it pretty mature, really, but he was excited.”
Did he benefit from some other guys struggling? Sure. Leyland’s comments Sunday morning made it sound like Andy Oliver definitely had a shot to win the job the way he was going until his control problems flashed again, and Jacob Turner’s shoulder tendinitis never really allowed him a chance to recover from his early spring struggles. But in Smyly, they have a pitcher who keeps showing since draft day that he can handle the next level he’s at. And in the end, he had more pitches, and more good pitches that he could spot, than anyone else in the field. It’s a good day for the Tigers scouting department.