April 25th, 2012

Fister scheduled to throw side session Thursday

Finally, there are signs on progress again in Doug Fister’s injury situation. The Tigers right-hander, sidelined since the first weekend of the season with a strained left rib cage muscle, played catch on Wednesday is now scheduled to have a mound session Thursday morning.

It’ll be the first time Fister has thrown off a mound since last week in Kansas City, where he felt pain again in that left side while throwing another side session. Since then, the Tigers have been relatively cautious about his progress, though manager Jim Leyland sounded upbeat after Fister underwent treatment on Monday.

Bonderman has Tommy John surgery, eyes comeback

Former Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman confirmed Wednesday that he underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this week in hopes of making a comeback next spring.

Buster Olney of ESPN.com first reported the news. Bonderman confirmed his plans in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon with MLB.com, explaining his decision to give it one more try after disappearing from the game following the 2010 season.

“I just got the itch to give it another shot,” Bonderman said. “I’m going to work out, try to get a team to give me a chance. Hopefully I can get a team to give me a shot.”

Bonderman last pitched in 2010 with the Tigers, posting an 8-10 record and a 5.53 ERA in 30 games, 29 of them starts. He gave up 187 hits over 171 innings with 60 walks and a 112 strikeouts.

The Tigers announced at the end of that season that while they would be interested in inviting him back on a minor-league deal, they wouldn’t pursue him for a guaranteed contract. Bonderman stayed on the market all winter before staying home.

Bonderman said Wednesday he blew out his elbow that offseason while working out. He said his elbow was fine when he was pitching in 2010, having come off surgery and shoulder problems that limited him the previous two years.

Bonderman said he didn’t know the full extent of his elbow problems until he underwent a physical for the Cleveland Indians, who were interested in signing him. That deal obviously fell through once the results came back. A follow-up exam with noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum confirmed the damage.

“Dr. Yocum looked at it, told me it was pretty bad,” he said.

That’s when he decided to go home and hang it up, a retired player at age 28 coming off a four-year, $39 million contract. He visited the Tigers when they were in Seattle last season, but that was about it. That 2010 season, and the frustration that came out of it, lingered with him.

“I got a little bored at not throwing the ball very well,” he said. “Getting your [butt] kicked every day, it got old.”

After a year at home, he said, the itch came back. Once he’s recovered enough, he hopes to work out with a trainer this summer, find a team willing to sign him to a minor-league contract, then give it another shot in the spring, when he’ll be 30 years old.

Ironically, it’ll be 10 years after he won a spot in the Tigers rotation at age 20, jumping from Class A to the big leagues.

Wednesday: Tigers vs. Mariners

Leyland talked Tuesday night after giving Austin Jackson a night off Wednesday. However, he’s 3-for-10 lifetime off Felix Hernandez, which is pretty good as the Tigers go. I’m not sure if that’s the reason why Jackson is in there, but it can’t hurt. Don Kelly, who was going to start in Jackson’s place, starts in left field instead.

On the Mariners side, Casper Wells gets the start against old teammate Wilk. Jesus Montero is catching King Felix, with Miguel Olivo as the DH.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Brennan Boesch, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  9. Don Kelly, LF

P: Adam Wilk

MARINERS

  1. Dustin Ackley, 2B
  2. Brendan Ryan, SS
  3. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
  4. Justin Smoak, 1B
  5. Jesus Montero, C
  6. Alex Liddi, 3B
  7. Miguel Olivo, DH
  8. Michael Saunders, CF
  9. Casper Wells, LF

P: Felix Hernandez

Leyland: Tigers need “mean streak” to win

While the Tigers echoed their goal of winning a world championship before a record gathering for their annual luncheon at the Detroit Economic Club, manager Jim Leyland told the crowd that his team might need a “mean streak” to do it.

Leyland made the remark while praising his team for being so easy for him and the coaches to work with.

“We just have a wonderful group of guys. In fact, to be honest with you, if we’re going to win this thing, we’ve got to find that little mean streak that’s in all of us,” Leyland said. “We need that, and we’re going to have to have that. We are going to need that little mean streak, I can assure you, that little swagger, because we’re the hunted. But I’ll take my chances with this group. We’ve got a lot of characters, a lot of wonderful guys with great, great personalities.”

If that sounds familiar, it’s similar to what he said about his first Tigers team back in 2006. During spring training that year, he had a lengthy talk with reporters about how that team needed a swagger, something that has hard to find from a franchise that hadn’t finished with a winning record in a decade.

This team, obviously, has a lot more star power, but they also have a lot more teams targeting them, something Leyland also referenced in his speech.

“We have our stars that are nationally recognized, but I think the most important, the best part about our team, when our stars speak, we’re a team of 25 guys. We work hard together, we have tremendous talent.

“The only thing now we have to do is fight that bulls-eye that’s on our back, because there is one on our back, and that’s a good thing, because it means you have a good team. Everybody talks about the anticipation, the expectation. The reality is that’s a good thing, too, because you have a good team. The most important thing is how you handle those expectations. Do you embrace them, or do you run from them? I can assure you this team will embrace them. We’ve had a little hiccup the last couple days. We’re 17 games into the season. We were 4-0, and we were going to be the first team in the history of baseball to go undefeated. We found out how that works.”

Leyland went into further details about his remarks later in his pregame remarks to reporters, saying it was “just a message to the fans and to the team.”

As Leyland put it, “I’ve never really seen many good players or good teams that didn’t have a little mean streak, a little selfishness in them, to be honest with you. I mean that in a good way. … In our case, I think it’s particularly important because a lot of people have talked about our club, blah blah blah. There’s time to be a real nice guy and a gentleman, but it’s not when the game starts. You have to have a little bit of [a-hole] in you, if you want to know the truth.”

Other items of note from the luncheon, who drew 1,053 in attendance (most for any Tigers gathering since they began their annual meeting with the Economic Club in 2005):

  • Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said the team now has the equivalent of more than 21,500 full-season tickets, compared with 15,000 last year and projections of 17,000.
  • Dombrowski said he does not believe there’s a hard salary cap in baseball’s future. “The game is very successful at this time,” Dombrowski said. “When I say never, maybe way, way down in the future, but nowhere in the near future, because the game’s growing, it’s very successful, and I think that we would end up having such a labor strife taking place that it wouldn’t be worth it for the game at this point.”
  • Leyland said he would be in favor of a limited expansion of replay to include fair or foul calls, something he referenced in spring training, but he would not want to go too far. “I’ll be honest with you: I don’t want to make a circus out of replay,” he said. “I know the other day we had an incident where a fellow was hit on the knee, on a bunted ball. Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t cost us a ballgame. But I don’t want to turn it into a circus.”

Leyland: “It’s not about Brandon Inge”

The Tigers have had enough going on that manager Jim Leyland hasn’t had to say much on the topic of Brandon Inge, who has arguably become the biggest baseball debate in Detroit since Tiger Stadium was torn down. The topic came up after Tuesday’s game, and Leyland waded into it.

To sum it up best in one quote: “The fact of the matter is, the Detroit Tigers right now — the manager and the entire group of players — are not doing enough to win games. That’s what it is. It’s not about Brandon Inge per se. …

“If you’re [ticked] off because the Tigers are losing right now, personally I don’t think it makes sense to take it all out on Brandon Inge, because I don’t think that’s the reason the Tigers are losing right now.”

The boos have been spreading around over the course of four wins in five days. He had been 0-for-12 after his home run off Royals lefty Danny Duffy, including 0-for-7 in Saturday’s doubleheader, and the boos grew with each at-bat. His third-inning double off Michael Saunders’ glove in deep center field brought out some cheers, but his strikeout an inning later brought them back out again. So did a ground ball that Inge couldn’t quite grab but that Ichiro Suzuki seemed set to beat out anyway, and a probably double-play ball that Inge bobbled before getting the lead out on a shovel pass to Jhonny Peralta.

Leyland understands some of the reaction, because the numbers are ugly. But he also thinks Inge’s visibility over the years, and his struggles in the last year or two, have exacerbated it.

“Normally, they’re not getting on the person personally,” Leyland said. “They’re getting on performance. And you know what? We have to take that. So you really can’t do anything about it. People say, ‘Do you take it personally?’ Well, nobody likes to get booed. Nobody likes to get ripped. But the fact of the matter is, if you’re not performing, that’s part of our business. You just have to not take it like somebody’s getting on you as a person. If you can’t handle that, you’ve got a problem.”

Leyland reiterated some of his stance on Inge.

“This probably means nothing to the fans, but this is what I personally think: I think Brandon Inge can be a contributor, particularly against left-handed pitching,” Leyland said. “But I truly believe that there’s too much focus on Brandon Inge’s impact right now on this team. He can help us, but if we don’t do good, it won’t be because Brandon Inge doesn’t do good, in my opinion. …

“I think Brandon Inge can contribute against left-handed pitching. But it just seems to be — I’m not asking anyone to change their opinions — I’m talking about fan-wise — but I think they’re carried away with the impact. That’s what I mean. I think people have to understand that it’s never one guy that’s going to make you win and it’s not one guy that’s going to make you lose.

“I think Brandon can contribute. For some reason, it seems like every town picks a guy. It just seems to be one of the things that happens, and it seems like they’ve targeted him. I can’t figure some of it out, but I do think it’s overexagerated. I think we have more with the Tigers to talk about than that situation.”

Leyland also believes it’s too soon to make an adjustment on Inge, now 2-for-20 since coming off the disabled list a week and a half ago.

“I do agree with this: Up here it’s about production,” Leyland said. “But I think it’s a little early to say that somebody’s not going to produce something or enough to help you. If it comes to that point with any player, you do something about it. …

“I don’t think you can set a timetable for that. I just think you use your expertise and how long you’ve been around. You use the expertise of your coaches. You use the expertise of your general manager. And you just kind of go about your business.

“I don’t think Inge has swung as bad as the average shows and I don’t think [Ryan] Raburn has either. But people are all hyped up and they should be. We’re not perfect. We all know that. And we all know that this is not going to be easy, but everybody’s hyped up. But sometimes people don’t see the forest through the trees. They just focus on one thing.”

Cabrera ties Comerica Park homer record

The way Miguel Cabrera hits, the Comerica Park home run record figured to be inevitable. The Tiger he’s about to pass for the mark, on the other hand, might be a surprise.

Cabrera’s fifth-inning drive to left field Tuesday night was his 76th career home run at Comerica Park, moving him into a tie with Brandon Inge. Cabrera has amassed his total in just 333 games there, including 75 homers in 330 games as a Tiger. Inge’s home runs have come over 719 games.

 

Jackson could get day off Wednesday

Though the Tigers offense broke out of its funk a little bit in Tuesday’s 7-4 loss, it didn’t come from Austin Jackson, who went 0-for-4 with a walk. He didn’t strike out, and he made contact in two-strike counts, but he fell to 2-for-21 for the homestand and 2-for-29 over the last eight days.

He has played every inning of every game so far this season, but manager Jim Leyland said after Tuesday’s game that he might give Jackson the game off Wednesday and start Don Kelly in center for a game.

Kelly started at third and first base over the weekend, and in left field last Thursday. He has been a late-inning substitute in right field four times. He hasn’t started in center field since last May 5, but with Andy Dirks coming off a left hamstring injury, he’s the best option for a spot start the Tigers have.

For what it’s worth, Jackson is 3-for-10 with a double for his career off M’s starter Felix Hernandez. Kelly is 0-for-3 against him.

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