April 30th, 2012

Tigers-Royals rained out, rescheduled for Sept. 24

With the radar showing a steady line of showers coming through this evening, the Tigers postponed Monday’s series opener against the Royals. They’ll make it up as a single game on Monday, Sept. 24, which was a common off-day for both teams before the Royals’ third and final visit to Detroit Sept. 25-27.

Thus, the Tigers’ final homestand is now 10 games in 10 days. They’ll also close out their regular season with 16 straight games following their final scheduled off-day Sept. 17.

That could have a minor effect on the Tigers’ playoff push if those games still mean anything, or even if the Tigers are cruising to the playoffs at that point. Shorter-term, the postponement makes a big difference in the rotation.

While the Royals are pushing their starters back a day, the Tigers are scratching Duane Below and sending him back to the bullpen. The way manager Jim Leyland talked about Doug Fister’s road to return, this was sounding like a spot start for Below regardless.

If Fister gets through Wednesday’s rehab start for Triple-A Toledo well enough, Leyland said Monday afternoon, he’ll likely start Monday for the Tigers in their series opener in Seattle. It’ll be his first meeting with the Mariners since Seattle traded him to Detroit last July.

Below, meanwhile, moves back to the bullpen, which is where Leyland valued him most the way he was pitching.

Rick Porcello, who was already scheduled to pitch Tuesday, will still pitch Tuesday. He’ll just be pitching opposite Luke Hochevar instead of Jonathan Sanchez. Justin Verlander will pitch opposite Sanchez Wednesday afternoon.

MLB suspends Young for seven days

Delmon Young has been suspended by Major League Baseball for seven days, retroactive to Friday, and will undergo a treatment program for after an evaluation from an independent doctor Monday.

The recommendation is one of the first applications of the disciplinary program under MLB’s new Basic Agreement, which states that players involved in alcohol-related offenses should be sent to Major League Baseball’s Employee Assistance Program for diagnosis and treatment.

The Tigers placed Young on MLB’s Restricted List on Saturday until an independent doctor could evaluate him Monday. He’ll remain on the list until he’s eligible to be activated on Friday.

“Those associated with our game should meet the responsibilities and standards that stem from our game’s stature as a social institution,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement.  “An incident like this cannot and will not be tolerated.  I understand that Mr. Young is regretful, and it is my expectation that he will learn from this unfortunate episode.”

Young is accused of aggravated harassment after being arrested early Friday morning for an incident outside the Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan. The misdemeanor charge is also being investigated for possible hate-crime violations involving race/religion, for accusations he used anti-Semitic language in yelling at a group of tourists outside the hotel.

Young spent most of Friday going through processing and arraignment until he was released Friday evening on $5,000 bail. His next hearing is tentatively scheduled for May 29 in New York County Criminal Court in Manhattan.

On the field, Tigers manager Jim Leyland has said he’ll fill left field with a mix of Don Kelly and Andy Dirks, with Ryan Raburn also getting an occasional start against left-handed pitchers. All three started a game in left over the weekend against the Yankees, and Kelly is starting there for Monday’s series.

Young was being paid while he was on the restricted list. Now that he is suspended, he’ll miss out on that portion of his $6.75 million salary.

Monday: Tigers vs. Royals

No word yet on Delmon Young, who was expected to be evaluated today by an independent doctor after his arrest early Friday morning. The Tigers released their lineup already.

Don Kelly is starting in left field for tonight’s series opener against Kansas City. Andy Dirks is the DH. No Brad Eldred in the lineup after he went 2-for-13 with an RBI triple against the Yankees over the weekend.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (6-for-19 off Hochevar)
  2. Brennan Boesch, RF (4-for-11 off Hochevar)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (15-for-29, 2 HR off Hochevar)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Andy Dirks, DH
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS (3 HR, 5-for-23 off Hochevar)
  8. Don Kelly, LF
  9. Ramon Santiago, 2B

P: Duane Below

 

A few numbers on Scherzer’s outing

On April 22, 2010, Justin Verlander used 125 pitches to get through five innings against the Angels, a game in which manager Jim Leyland was determined to get Verlander through the fifth. It ended up earning Verlander his first win of the year, but Verlander said afterwards that it didn’t feel like a victory for him at all.

It ended up being a big turning point for him in the season, though he still needed 121 pitches to last 5 2/3 innings against the Twins five days later. Verlander got on a roll from there, and when he made some changes the next offseason to try to get into midseason form sooner, he set himself up for that historic 2011 season.

What happens from here with Max Scherzer is anyone’s guess, but Sunday’s loss had the feeling like one of those outings that could send Scherzer’s season in one direction or the other.

Verlander didn’t walk a ton of batters in his outing two years ago, just four in fact. He suffered from pitches fouled back and from rearing back and firing fastballs all out early in the game. Scherzer, while not wild with his pitches, was still off.

“I was struggling all day with command of the fastball,” he said. “I was just flying open with my front side, and the ball felt like a cue ball today. I just wasn’t able to consistently pound the zone. That’s something I usually pretty good about, working ahead. So today, that was frustrating.”

In other words, he was struggling to feel the seams on the ball. He tried to make up for it, he said, with his offspeed pitches.

“Even though I was caught in some situations that I didn’t want to be in, I didn’t want to give in,” Scherzer said. “And I thought I had a good enough changeup and I had a good enough slider to get outs. Even though I struggled a little bit, I was still able to collect some outs when I needed to.”

The numbers on pitch counts seem to go back reliably about 20 years. No Tigers pitcher in that time threw as many pitches as Scherzer’s 119 Sunday without getting through the fifth. The closest comparisons:

  • C.J. Nitkowski threw 117 pitches over 4 1/3 innings (six walks) against the Angels on July 23, 1996. Ten days earlier, he threw 114 pitches over 4 2/3 innings (seven walks) against the Red Sox. He made a few more starts with mixed results, then went to the bullpen for September before the Tigers traded him to Houston that offseason.
  • Edwin Jackson threw 115 pitches over exactly four innings on July 31, 2009 in Cleveland. He didn’t even come out for the fifth inning, even though he only walked one batter that game. It got overlooked because Detroit had just acquired Jarrod Washburn that morning. It also got lost because that game went 13 innings before Cleveland won it.

Doing it this early in the season, suffice to say, is rare. When Verlander had his outing around the same time as this, it became a big moment for him. We’ll see what it means for Scherzer, because statistically, it’s pretty signficant.

Other notable numbers:

  • Other than a pair of Dontrelle Willis outings, the only other Tiger in the last 10 years to walk seven batters without getting out of the fifth inning was Jeremy Bonderman, who walked seven Rangers over 4 2/3 innings on April 24, 2008. He also struck out seven that day while allowing two runs over 4 2/3 innings. He needed one more out to be eligible for the win.
  • It’s Scherzer’s highest April pitch count of his career, topping his previous high of 113 last year. He has topped 120 pitches six times, but none earlier than July 22.
  • It’s the first time since 1998, and just the sixth time since 1990, that a Tigers pitcher threw 119 pitches or more with just 62 strikes or less. Bryce Florie threw 119 pitches and 61 strikes on Aug. 21, 1998 against the Oakland, but he did it in seven innings of three-run ball with five walks and eight strikeouts. In fact, the only guy who didn’t get through the seventh was Jeff Robinson on June 29, 1990, and he fell an out short.
  • No Major League pitcher has thrown that many pitches and that few strikes in a game since then-Phillie Brett Myers on April 24, 2009. He had 119 pitches, 62 strikes that day, same as Scherzer, but had a quality start: 6 innings, 3 runs, 6 walks, 5 strikeouts against Florida.

Nobody knows where Scherzer’s season goes from here, though many Tigers fans hope it goes the way of 2010. If the Tigers are going to be successful this year, they need Scherzer, bottom line. Talk as fans might about sending Scherzer to Toledo to work out his mechanics, there is nobody to replace him. Replacing him with Doug Fister and keeping Duane Below up once Fister returns leaves the bullpen short an arm.

The Tigers could trade for an arm, and the expectation among scouts the last few days is that Detroit will check the market for a starter this summer, even if Drew Smyly keeps going like this. But nobody’s coming through that door anytime soon. They need to get Scherzer going.

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