May 2012

Leyland: Raburn leash “probably not very long”

Jim Leyland went on air with Mike Stone and Bill McAllister on 97.1 FM in Detroit this morning and talked about his postgame rant on the Mike Aviles call yesterday, saying among other things that the umpiring crew wasn’t going to take any argument over the call and that he isn’t in favor of a big expansion of instant replay. He also was asked about Ryan Raburn, and how long of a leash he has at second base.

That leash, Leyland said, is “probably not very long right now, to be honest with you.”

He didn’t expand on that. When asked about Quintin Berry’s hot start and how he could stick with the team after Austin Jackson’s return, however, Leyland said they’ll “put the best players on the field.”

It’s something Leyland has hinted at before. What it means, and how much time it means, at this point remains to be seen. Ramon Santiago has also struggled to a slow start, though not to the same degree, in starts at second and short. Danny Worth is 4-for-22 with seven strikeouts so far. One of them, though, could get some extended stretch here.

One more interesting note which could impact a lot of this: Leyland said the Tigers aren’t sure Jackson will be returning Friday when he’s eligible to come off the 15-day DL. As reported Monday, Jackson did not join the team in Boston because he wasn’t ready for baseball activities yet. Hard to see Jackson jumping back into the lineup without so much as batting practice in front of team medical staff.

Leyland rants about umpires, accountability

Jim Leyland’s postgame remarks lasted all of about five minutes, but he got in all he wanted. Actually, he didn’t want to say as much about the missed call as he wanted to talk about accountability for it.

Clearly, replay showed that Gerald Laird caught the 0-2 pitch to Mike Aviles before it bounced in the dirt, and replay strongly suggested that Aviles didn’t foul off  the ball in the first place. Home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson made the ruling on the foul tip, while first-base umpire Bill Welke overruled him on whether Laird caught it.

“You guys need to write something and hold people accountable,” Leyland said. “You know what, we’re all accountable in this business. All of us are accountable. And when I say all of us, I mean everybody that’s involved in the game needs to be held accountable. That’s exactly what needs to be done.

“There should not have been a rally in that inning. Now, anybody that saw that, have the nerve to write what you saw and say it, because I’m not going to sit here and rip umpires. But you saw what you saw, clearly saw what you saw. I just saw it for the tenth time. Write it and say something.”

Umpires make mistakes. The problem Leyland and Laird seemed to suggest was that Welke made his ruling from a worse view than Nelson had, even though Nelson asked for help on the call.

Leyland: “I’m sorry. I’m the most patient man in the world with umpires, protect them more than anybody, and I understand the human element involved in the game. But you’re 120 feet away. Clearly, you have to be 110 percent sure. You can’t be guessing at that call. I mean, that’s that simple. I mean, come on. We gave up seven runs. Ok, that’s part of it. We did that. But we all need to be held accountable. Everybody involved in the game needs to be held accountable. Everybody. That’s all of us. And you can figure out who the people involved in the game are.”

Laird: “It’s a tough call. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t understand how somebody from 120 feet sees it better than someone back here, when you can clearly look at the baseball and see if there’s a dirt mark or a scuff. Because if you foul a ball in the dirt, it’s going to make a mark. And I even showed him the ball. There’s no mark.”

Leyland mentioned accountability several times, even during the minute and a half of the interview that made it to television. He did not have an answer, though, for how to hold umpires accountable, preferring to leave that up to the commissioner’s office.

“I don’t have anything to do with that,” he said.

Laird said several times that umpires have a tough job, and he has respect for the work they do. He also sounded less than enthusiastic about the idea for more replay.

“They’ve got the home runs now,” Laird said. “If you have to stop for little things like that, it’s just going to prolong this game, and you’ve already got games that last three, three and a half hours. That would’ve been quick, but then you have to stop every little thing, and that’s going to add up time. Honestly, you’ve just got to hold yourself accountable. I know they have a tough job, and I know they’re doing their best. It’s just seeing it night in and night out.”

Laird seemed more open to the idea of getting umpires together to confer on a call such as that.

“I mean, get them all together. See who has the best view,” Laird said. “I mean, Prince was hugging [the line]. He was behind him. Go ask them all. Don’t put it on one guy. That’s tough on him, because he’s taking all the heat for it.”

But then, one of the problems was that there was a limit to how much heat they were taking on the call from the Tigers dugout. Third-base coach Gene Lamont, the first guy ejected, said third-base umpire Tim Tschida told him enough was enough, and ejected him after the next thing Lamont said.

“Somebody in our dugout was yelling at Tschida. He yelled and I said, ‘Tim, you’re going to have to take some heat when you make calls like that.’ And I said, ‘Well, you cost us three runs.’ And he pretty much told me that was enough, and I said something else, and he kicked me out.”

It was not a profanity, Lamont added.

“I said something more, but it wasn’t cursing or anything,” Lamont said. “It’s kind of the same thing as when Brookie got kicked out the other day, I’d say. I guess when they say enough, you’re not supposed to say anything else.”

Lamont, Leyland ejected as contentious trip continues

Memorial Day turned out to be a short day at work at Fenway Park for Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont and manager Jim Leyland, both of whom were ejected as the club’s contentious stretch with umpires continued.

Both ejections came in the wake of a disputed 0-2 pitch to Red Sox shortstop Mike Aviles with two outs in the second inning. Home-plate umpire Jeff Nelson said Aviles swung and missed at a Doug Fister offering, but Aviles claimed he fouled off the ball and catcher Gerald Laird caught it on a bounce.

First-base umpire Bill Welke overruled Nelson and said the ball wasn’t caught. Replays showed Laird did indeed catch the ball and that Aviles might have missed the pitch entirely. Laird held up the ball to try to show the lack of marks on it, but it was to no avail.

Two pitches later, Aviles hit the first of three straight RBI singles and likely ruffle the Tigers further over the call. Lamont exchanged words with third-base umpire Tim Tschida almost as soon as the inning ended and soon earned his first ejection of the year.

Leyland stormed out of the dugout and picked up the argument, waving his arms at Tschida, who did not eject him. Once he kept arguing from the dugout, Welke ejected Leyland.

It marked Leyland’s third ejection of the season and second of the road trip. He was ejected from Thursday’s game in Cleveland, along with first-base coach Tom Brookens, over a disputed missed balk on Justin Masterson.

Brookens took over in the third-base coaching box for Lamont on Monday. Rafael Belliard, who filled in for Brookens at first base last Thursday, took the same post Monday. Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, who was ejected last Wednesday in Cleveland over a disputed 3-0 strike to Miguel Cabrera, took the lineup card from Leyland and took over as manager.

Memorial Day: Tigers at Red Sox

Happy Memorial Day from Fenway, where the weather is a lot more mild than it was back in the Midwest. Forecast high in the 70s under sunny skies with a nice breeze.

The Tigers will have holiday caps today, but they’re different than in years past. They look like the regular road caps except that the inner part of the Old English D is in camouflage colors. They actually look pretty neat.

Jim Leyland went with the righty-heavy lineup against lefty Felix Doubront. One exception is Andy Dirks, who stays in the lineup the way he’s hitting. However, he moves down and Ryan Raburn moves up, avoiding back-to-back left-handed hitters atop the order.

TIGERS

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

P: Doug Fister

RED SOX

  1. Daniel Nava, LF
  2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
  3. Adrian Gonzalez, RF
  4. David Ortiz, DH
  5. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
  6. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
  7. Mike Sweeney, CF
  8. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
  9. Mike Aviles, SS

P: Felix Doubront

Sunday: Tigers at Twins

Waiting for my flight to Boston. In the meantime, here are your lineups for today’s series finale over in Minnesota. Delmon Young gets replaced by Don Kelly in the Tigers lineup, while Ryan Doumit returns for the Twins, who also give Brian Dozier the day off at short.

TIGERS

  1. Quintin Berry, CF
  2. Andy Dirks, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Brennan Boesch, DH
  6. Alex Avila, C
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Don Kelly, RF
  9. Ryan Raburn, 2B

P: Rick Porcello

TWINS

  1. Denard Span, CF
  2. Ben Revere, RF
  3. Joe Mauer, C
  4. Josh Willingham, LF
  5. Justin Morneau, 1B
  6. Ryan Doumit, DH
  7. Trevor Plouffe, 3B
  8. Alexi Casilla, 2B
  9. Jamey Carroll, SS

P: P.J. Walters

Saturday: Tigers at Twins

Ramon Santiago gets the start at second base. He’s 5-for-15 lifetime off Carl Pavano. Ryan Raburn is 3-for-8 with a double and a triple, but he’ll get the day game after night game off.

TIGERS

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

P: Max Scherzer

TWINS

  1. Denard Span, CF
  2. Ben Revere, RF
  3. Joe Mauer, DH
  4. Josh Willingham, LF
  5. Justin Morneau, 1B
  6. Brian Dozier, SS
  7. Alexi Casilla, 2B
  8. Drew Butera, C
  9. Jamey Carroll, 3B

P: Carl Pavano

Friday: Tigers at Twins

I’m off this weekend, flying to Boston on Sunday ahead of the Memorial Day afternoon opener, but the Tigers lineup is out for tonight’s opener at Minnesota. Though Jim Leyland said Thursday he wasn’t sure if he’d be throwing Ryan Raburn into the starting lineup right away, the Tigers’ struggles to get much production at second base might have forced his hand. Raburn’s in the lineup, the only change being that he’s batting ninth.

TIGERS

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

P: Drew Smyly

Did Chris Perez take a shot at the Tigers?

Considering Chris Perez has already been in headlines for things he has said about the Indians not getting the respect they deserve, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he brought the Tigers into it after the Indians had just swept them. A reporter asked him after Thursday’s Cleveland win whether this sweep should get the Indians more national attention, and that’s where he fired his final pitch:

“I hope so. I don’t think we care. We’re not like flipping on ESPN to see if we’re leading off SportsCenter. We don’t care. They do their thing. They cover the Yankees and the Red Sox and how bad the Angels are. We’re doing our own thing. They’ll eventually turn. I saw a couple articles. We’re starting to get some love. It’s just we don’t have the star power. You look over there and you’ve got Cabrera and Fielder and Verlander and Valverde. But that doesn’t win baseball games. Good teams win baseball games.

On the one hand, it’s a pretty good line. But when you look at where the Tigers are right now compared with the expectations built up, you’ve gotta believe he isn’t the only one thinking this. The fact that it came from Chris Perez makes it a headline.

Verlander: It’s not early anymore

Justin Verlander struck out the top of the Indians lineup in order on 11 pitches in his eighth and final inning Thursday afternoon, firing two 100-mph fastballs, another at 101 and one at 102. He then fired some pretty good statements about the state of the team, probably the best to come from a player so far:

  • On whether the Tigers’ struggles are mystifying: “It’s not mystifying, no. That’s the game of baseball. It’s just disappointing the way we’ve been playing as a team. Obviously I think we all expected better. You can only say it’s still early for so long. We have to get this thing turned around.”
  • On what it’ll take: “I think we’ve just got to find our groove, and we’ve got to find it quickly. We’re a good team. We know that. And I think because we know we’re good, maybe it’s a little easy to sit back and say OK, it’s early. We’ll find it. We’ll find it. At some point it’s not early anymore, and you’re going to have to make adjustments to find it as a team. It’s just the game of baseball. That’s why it’s played on the field and not on paper.”
  • When does that point comes: “I would say, for me, now.”
  • What kind of adjustments: “I think we have to be more consistent as a starting staff. Really, you can look at every aspect of our team and say we have room for improvement. I think the starting staff can be more consistent. The bullpen can be more consistent. Offense, defense, everybody. This is a team, and right now this team isn’t getting it done. Will we? I think so. I’m a firm believer in that. But we have to get it going. I think once we get some confidence and a couple things start going our way — tonight’s a perfect example of things just not going your way, two bloops score the winning run. And not just bloops in the gap, they were the little dying quails right over the infielders’ head. I mean, when it rains, it pours. That’s just kind of the way it is in this game.”
  • On the emotions surrounding the ejections the last couple games: “I think there’s a little tension. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think we’re all feeling that way. Emotions run hot. God, this is eerily similar to last year, isn’t it?”
  • Does last year’s comeback become a confidence boost or a crutch: “I don’t think it’ll become a crutch, but I think it’s nice to know that we can. There was never a doubt that we can. Obviously we would’ve liked to start the first 40-whatever games hot and be 30-10 right now, but that’s not the case. But we know it’s there. Just gotta find it.”
  • Do expectations make it tough: “You guys make the xpecations, not us. We were confident last year. We knew we were good last year. We had expectations internally last year. It may not have been the mind-blowing-everybody’s-writing-us-to-go-to-the-World-Series, but we believe that in here. So I don’t see how anything’s different in this clubhouse than it was last year.”
  • Was he trying to send a message in the eighth: “No, not send a message. I was just trying to light a spark.”
  • Did he notice the 102 mph fastball: “Yeah, I saw it. I heard the fans, so I looked.”
  • Does a team meeting benefit a struggling club: “I don’t think that’s always done by the players. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t. But I think that we and Skip have a good feel for when it needs to be done. It’s not like we’re not trying. It’s just we’re not getting it done right now. What’s the point in getting everybody [ticked] off if we’re already [ticked] off?”
  • Does this team need a meeting right now: “I don’t think so.”

Wednesday: Tigers at Indians

Indians have their Weather Day promotion today. It’s the third one the Tigers have seen this year, including their own a few weeks ago. It’ll be sunny and warm today at Progressive Field, but it’s overcast on the Tigers side. They wasted a good performance from Doug Fister last night, and they probably can’t afford to do the same with Justin Verlander on the mound for a noon getaway game.

TIGERS

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

P: Justin Verlander

INDIANS

  1. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
  3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  4. Carlos Santana, DH
  5. Michael Brantley, CF
  6. Jose Lopez, 3B
  7. Casey Kotchman, 1B
  8. Shelley Duncan, LF
  9. Lou Marson, C

P: Justin Masterson

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