May 2012

Avila leaves game after foul tip off mask/nose

The Tigers, who have battled a rash of injuries over the last two weeks, had another from an unexpected player. Catcher Alex Avila left Thursday’s series finale against the Red Sox after taking a third-inning foul tip hard off his catching mask that busted up his nose.

Avila was pulled from the game for precautionary reasons, the Tigers announced later. An examination from doctors revealed no symptoms of a concussion.

Avila is known for taking a slew of foul tips and pitches off his body and enduring, earning him a reputation as one of the toughest catchers in the Majors. That toughness allowed him to catch 133 games last year, making him a fixture down the stretch after his backup, Victor Martinez, suffered a knee injury.

That said, Avila was clearly rattled when Ryan Sweeney fouled off a 96 mph fastball from Max Scherzer went up off Sweeney’s bat and into Avila’s mask before rolling.

Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand immediately attended to Avila as manager Jim Leyland joined him out from the dugout. A broadcast replay caught blood streaming down from Avila’s nose as Rand attended to him.

After a lengthy discussion, Avila walked off the field on his own power, with Rand and Leyland joining him. Avila’s backup, Gerald Laird, replaced him behind the plate.

Ironically, the Tigers called up a third catcher, Omir Santos, on Wednesday. He was brought up to allow Leyland to use one of his other catchers at designated hitter without worrying about what to do if his other catcher was injured. He didn’t envision this kind of scenario.

Brookens ejected again

For the second time in a week, Tigers first-base coach Tom Brookens was ejected from a game. This time, first-base umpire Jeff Nelson ejected him in the second inning for arguing over a close play at the bag in the first inning.

The play in question happened with the second batter of the game. Brennan Boesch grounded out to short, but replays showed it was a very close call as to whether he beat Mike Aviles’ throw.

Brookens immediately exchanged words with Nelson on the call, then continued it later in the inning. Once Brookens took the field again for the second batter of the game, he apparently picked up the argument with Nelson, who promptly tossed before the Red Sox defense was in place.

Infield coach Rafael Belliard quickly jogged out of the Tigers dugout to take Brookens’ place in the first-base coaching box.

It came exactly a week after Brookens was ejected by first-base umpire Paul Emmel in Cleveland for arguing that Indians pitcher Justin Masterson balked with a runner on first. Replays showed Masterson never came set before going into his delivery.

Brookens said earlier this week that Emmel had warned him that he wasn’t going to hear any more argument, then promptly tossed after the next thing Brookens said. Brookens said he did not use a curse word.

Neither Brookens nor the Tigers staff knew if umpires were operating under a new philosophy on not allowing continued arguments, but the same stance seemed in place when third-base umpire Tim Tschida ejected Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont on Monday.

There does seem to be a limited tolerance,” Brookens said Tuesday.

The Tigers have to wonder. Leyland and members of his coaching staff have been ejected six times on their 10-game road trip.

Thursday: Tigers at Red Sox

Apparently the Andy Dirks Achilles injury is more serious than a simple day off could remedy. He’s not in the lineup. Don Kelly takes his place. Brennan Boesch moves back to the second spot.

TIGERS

  1. Quintin Berry, 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. Don Kelly, LF
  9. Danny Worth, 2B

P: Max Scherzer

RED SOX

  1. Scott Podsednik, CF
  2. Daniel Nava, LF
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, 3B
  4. David Ortiz, DH
  5. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
  6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  7. Ryan Sweeney, RF
  8. Mike Aviles, SS
  9. Nick Punto, 2B

P: Josh Beckett

Fister to DL, Crosby to start Friday

Add another key injury to the Tigers, who just placed Doug Fister back on the 15-day DL with a left side strain, similar to the injury that cost him a month earlier this season.

The move was just announced, so it doesn’t sound like something that was anticipated. There was no sign of trouble with Fister coming out of Monday’s outing against the Red Sox.

Casey Crosby will take Fister’s spot in the rotation and start Friday against the Yankees for his major league debut. Rick Porcello has been moved back to Saturday.

Wednesday: Tigers at Red Sox

The big advantage of having three catchers on the 25-man roster is that if you have a good-hitting catcher, you can use him as a designated hitters on days when he’s not behind the plate and still have a catcher on the bench. When Detroit called up Omir Santos this morning, you had to wonder if Alex Avila might get a game or two at DH. You probably weren’t thinking about Gerald Laird there.

This will be Laird’s first start at DH as a Tiger. He started four games at DH with the Rangers in 2008.

Danny Worth starts in the second spot because, well, there isn’t really an obvious alternative without putting back-to-back left-handed bats atop the order. Look for Worth to get more starts than a simple lefty-righty platoon.

Andy Dirks gets a day off to rest a sore Achilles heel.

TIGERS

  1. Quintin Berry, CF
  2. Danny Worth, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, LF
  6. Brennan Boesch, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Gerald Laird, DH

P: Drew Smyly

RED SOX

  1. Daniel Nava, LF
  2. Mike Aviles, SS
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, RF
  4. David Ortiz, DH
  5. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
  6. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
  7. Marlon Byrd, CF
  8. Kelly Shoppach, C
  9. Nick Punto, 2B

P: Jon Lester

Santos called up to replace Raburn on roster

The mystery move to take Ryan Raburn’s spot on the Tigers’ 25-man roster is going to Omir Santos, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Toledo. He’ll be the third catcher on the Tigers roster for the time being, at least until Austin Jackson comes back from the disabled list.

It seems like an odd return move to wait until the next day to do. The only complication in the move is that Santos had to be added to the 40-man roster. It’s also a move that doesn’t follow any sort of catching injury to either Alex Avila or Gerald Laird.

Was this a Plan B move after something else didn’t work out? Possible, but remember, when the Tigers designated Brandon Inge last summer, they waited until their trade for Wilson Betemit was finalized and then announced both parts of the move at the same time.

Was this a reaction to Austin Jackson not being ready by Friday? Jim Leyland said Monday’s game was a last-ditch effort to get Raburn going. If the Tigers weren’t going to do anything until Jackson was eligible to come off the DL on Friday, why make a last-ditch move on Monday?

Was this more about getting Raburn to Toledo than getting anybody to Detroit? Very possible.

Was this a move that was more about getting Raburn to Toledo than getting anybody to Detroit?

Raburn optioned to Toledo, Santiago/Worth at 2nd

That leash on Ryan Raburn that Jim Leyland said wasn’t very long on Tuesday afternoon ran out by the end of the night.

The Tigers announced after Tuesday’s loss that they had optioned Ryan Raburn to Triple-A Toledo, but Leyland said it had been a decision in the works for a while. His decision to bat Raburn second in the batting order on Monday was a last-ditch effort to get Raburn out of his season-long funk.

Once Raburn struck out three times on called third strikes that afternoon, the Tigers’ wait for him to find his annual summer groove ended.

“I knew this was the end of the rope if I didn’t get something going, so I put him in the two-hole,” Leyland said.

They’ll still look for him to get that spark, but he’ll have to find it in a Mud Hens uniform first.

“You have to understand, this is not a punishment,” Leyland said. “We have to try to get him going. He has gone down before and got it going and come back and helped us out. We’re hoping that’s what happens. But right now, we’re beating a dead horse. It’s just not working.”

No return move was announced. They’ll have a call-up on Wednesday, but Leyland said it will not be a second baseman.

“I have a combination of [Ramon] Santiago and [Danny] Worth,” Leyland said, “and I think that combination will stay intact.”

Neither Santiago nor Worth have hit particularly well, either, but neither had been getting the regular at-bats Raburn was. The move doesn’t make way for a replacement so much as it gets Raburn out of a situation that wasn’t working.

Raburn’s slow starts and midseason streaks have been almost an annual storyline since 2009, but his numbers this year’s have been particularly bad. His .146 batting average (18-for-123) was the lowest in the Majors among players with at least 100 plate appearances this year.

“It’s kind of something I didn’t want to think would happen,” Raburn said, “but the way I’ve been swinging, I just hadn’t really gotten the job done. It was kind of inevitable, just to help the team and help me kind of get it going. It’s just unfortunate I wasn’t able to help the team out much.”

Raburn had brief stints at Toledo in three straight seasons from 2008-2010 before spending all of last season in the big leagues. Two years ago, he went 12-for-27 with six doubles as a Mud Hen and never looked back. The hope clearly is that he can have a similar spark that he never found here.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the end of him,” Leyland said. “I’d be shocked if he doesn’t get going.”

Raburn doesn’t feel like he’s embarking on a major project.

“I don’t feel like I’m trying to rediscover my swing or anything like that,” he said. “It’s just a matter of getting hits. That’s the bottom line. This game is based on production and right now I just wasn’t going. … I know I can help this ballclub. It’s just a matter of getting it going and getting back.”

The difference in Toledo, Raburn said, is that the pressure for immediate production isn’t as great.

“I think the main thing down there is really it’s not based on production,” he said. “I can go down there just trying to find me again. I don’t think it’s that far off. It’s just a matter of going down there and getting some at-bats. Sometimes having somebody else’s piece of mind can trigger something.

“I wish I had an answer why I wasn’t getting hits, but that’s part of the game. They’re out there making their money too.”

 

Leyland: Jackson return “not going to be as soon as we’d hoped”

For all the attention given Jim Leyland’s remarks about Ryan Raburn’s not-so-long leash and instant replay, his closing quote that Austin Jackson might not be ready Friday really got overlooked. That outlook went from “might not” to “not going to be” in his remarks this afternoon.

While Jackson is rehabbing his abdominal strain back in Detroit, he is not doing any baseball activities yet, and he doesn’t figure to do any until the Tigers get back. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said they’ll re-evaluate Jackson on Friday, which is also the day he’s eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list.

Even if he looks healthy by then, however, it’s hard to see him being ready to play that night without any on-field work in the days leading up.

Thus, Leyland said of Jackson’s return, “It’s not going to be as soon as we’d hoped, obviously.”

That’s a tough break for the Tigers, who could use Jackson’s glove and bat in center and leadoff even if it means shifting Quintin Berry somewhere else. But it also means delayed the much-speculated roster decision on how to make room for Jackson if Berry’s going to stick around.

Tuesday: Tigers at Red Sox (updated)

Remember what I wrote two hours ago about Delmon Young not being in the lineup tonight? Well, disregard it. He’s in the lineup now. I hadn’t seen him in the Tigers clubhouse as of just before 5pm but he’s expected to be back in time to get in enough work to be ready. Jim Leyland had said in his pregame remarks that this was probably a trying day for him, and a good day to give him a night off, but he apparently changed his mind.

Ramon Santiago, meanwhile, starts in Ryan Raburn’s place at second after Leyland said on the radio that Raburn’s leash is “probably not very long.”

TIGERS

  1. Quintin Berry, cf
  2. Andy Dirks, lf
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3b
  4. Prince Fielder, 1b
  5. Brennan Boesch, dh Delmon Young, dh
  6. Jhonny Peralta, ss Brennan Boesch, rf
  7. Alex Avila, c
  8. Ramon Santiago, 2b Jhonny Peralta, ss
  9. Don Kelly, rf Ramon Santiago, 2b

P: Justin Verlander

RED SOX

  1. Daniel Nava, lf
  2. Ryan Sweeney, rf
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1b
  4. David Ortiz, dh
  5. Kevin Youkilis, 3b
  6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c
  7. Mike Aviles, ss
  8. Scott Podsednik, cf
  9. Nick Punto, 2b

P: Daniel Bard

Sunday is Magglio Day at Comerica Park

Magglio Ordonez spent the last six months as a man without a team. He’s about to receive a proper retirement party from the team he helped lead into a new golden era.

The Tigers announced Tuesday that they’ll remember their longtime right fielder and postseason hero with a  Magglio Ordonez Day celebration on Sunday at Comerica Park, where the former batting champion will make his retirement officially.

It’s a proper way to remember one of the best Tigers hitters of his generation, and one of baseball’s most consistent hitters for more than a decade in his prime.

The Tigers will honor Ordonez in a ceremony prior to Sunday’s series finale against the Yankees at Comerica Park. They’ll do so at 12:40pm ET on the same field where he homered off Oakland’s Huston Street in Game 4 of the 2006 AL Championship Series to send the Tigers to the World Series, one of the biggest hits in the Tigers’ illustrious history.

Ordonez will retire with 2,156 hits amassed over a 15-year Major League career. Just under 1,000 of those hits came as a Tiger. While Ivan Rodriguez represented the landmark signing of the Tigers’ renaissance from baseball’s doormat in 2003, Ordonez helped vault them towards an American League pennant after signing a landmark seven-year contract as a free agent just before the 2005 season.

It was a risk for both parties — the Tigers gambling that Ordonez could stay healthy after experimental knee surgery, and Ordonez taking the chance that the Tigers were serious about contending. It worked beautifully on both sides.

After missing part of the 2005 season with a sports hernia, Ordonez came back with a 24-homer, 104-RBI season in 2006 that helped send the Tigers to their first postseason birth in 19 years. His walkoff home run in the ALCS  sent them to their first Fall Classic since 1984.

The next year, Ordonez became the Tigers’ first batting champion in 46 years, batting .363 with go with a league-high of 54 doubles as well as 28 home runs and 139 RBIs. He finished as the runner-up to Alex Rodriguez for AL MVP honors.

Injuries and age took their toll in the ensuing years, but Ordonez quietly saved some of his biggest hits for when the Tigers needed him most. His .439 average and 11 RBIs in September and October of 2009 provided the biggest contribution as the Tigers tried to hold onto their division lead. Then he batted .419 over the final month of last season to help lead Detroit to its first division title in 24 years.

Ordonez went 5-for-11 in the Tigers’ AL Division Series win over the Yankees, including a three-hit performance in a Game 5 upset at Yankee Stadium. He fractured his ankle for the second time in as many years in Game 1 of the ALCS at Texas.

That ended up being the last game of Ordonez’s career. He worked his way back from a second ankle surgery, but went into the season without a team. By the end of Spring Training, he said he was on the verge of retirement.

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