May 2012

Wednesday: Tigers at Indians

As expected, Quintin Berry gets the leadoff spot.

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. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Doug Fister

RED SOX

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

P: Zach McAllister

Berry up, Balester DFA’ed, A-Jax in limbo

Austin Jackson, who was tentatively written into the Tigers lineup Tuesday afternoon, can’t swing at game intensity without feeling pain around his abdominal strain yet.

Don Kelly, though playing well in center field, isn’t really a center fielder.

The Tigers pitching staff is back to full strength with closer Jose Valverde back healthy.

Detroit has been going a position player short to have seven available relievers while Valverde was sidelined.

Collin Balester hadn’t pitched in a game since last Thursday. And when the Tigers had fallen behind Tuesday, they went to Duane Below and Luke Putkonen instead.

Put the pieces together, and you have a roster move.

As long as the Tigers have the room to add a position player, they figured they’d bring up a center fielder to fill in for Jackson for however long he’s out. Thus, they purchased the contract of speedster Quintin Berry, who made an impression in spring training and has stolen 19 bases already at Triple-A Toledo.

How long is Jackson out, you ask? Well, he’s pretty much out for Wednesday night. After that, it’s uncertain, but he’s clearly going to have to make some progress to get back into game action in the next few days.

“We can take this opportunity to try to buy a little more time, but not a whole lot more, to be honest with you,” Jim Leyland said of the Berry move. “We thought we could buy a couple more days with Austin, but right now, as we speak, it doesn’t look particularly good.”

How much time might come down to Ryan Raburn’s return. Leyland said earlier Tuesday that Raburn will be back on Friday, the first day he’s eligible to return from MLB’s Bereavement List. To do that, the Tigers will have to open up a roster spot. They could send back Danny Worth to Triple-A Toledo. But if Jackson isn’t ready by then, they could put him on the 15-day disabled list, backdate the move eight days to his original injury last Wednesday, and then potentially just lose him for another week.

The extra pitcher to go is Collin Balester, who actually opened the season on the team but has largely struggled to find a role in the long end of the bullpen. He went 10 days between pitching in late April and early May, then gave up six runs in four May outings.

Tuesday: Jackson scratched from lineup

The Tigers posted a lineup just before batting practice with Austin Jackson back in the leadoff spot in center field. He was going to take full batting practice, run the bases and shag fly balls as a final test. Shortly after that lineup went up, Jackson was scratched and a new lineup was posted. The Tigers are hitting as I type this, and Jackson isn’t out there, so this presumably isn’t just a precaution.

TIGERS

  1. Ramon Santiago, 2B
  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. Don Kelly, CF

P: Rick Porcello

INDIANS

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

P: Ubaldo Jimenez

Raburn to bereavement list, Worth called up

The Tigers have placed second baseman Ryan Raburn on Major League Baseball’s bereavement list, the team announced on Tuesday.

No further details were given on the situation with Raburn and his family. By rule, he will miss the next three days before he’s eligible to rejoin the team, and can miss up to seven games while on the bereavement list. Thus, the earliest Raburn can return is Friday’s series opener at Minnesota.

To take Raburn’s place on the roster, the Tigers recalled infielder Danny Worth, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo last Wednesday to make room for an extra reliever while Jose Valverde was sidelined over the weekend with a lower back strain. Under normal circumstances, the Tigers would’ve had to wait 10 days to recall Worth, who has played in 12 games during two different stints on the club. He’s 3-for-17 at the plate so far this season.

The Tigers weren’t in a position to leave Raburn on the active roster and go a position player short. Between Worth’s subtraction for an extra reliever and Austin Jackson’s abdominal strain that sidelined him last weekend, the Tigers have spent the last four games with just two position players available on their bench, one of them being backup catcher Gerald Laird.

Jackson remains listed as day-to-day, though there’s hope that the rest over Monday’s off-day might make the difference to get him back on the field for tonight’s series opener against the Indians at Progressive Field.

Marte throws three scoreless innings with Hens

If the Tigers were looking for one more good outing from reliever Luis Marte before making a decision on him this week, they’ve got it. The right-hander who would’ve been on the Opening Day roster before a strained left hamstring sidelined him threw three scoreless innings for Triple-A Toledo on Monday morning.

Marte tossed the final three innings of the Hens’ 3-1 loss to Syracuse on a schoolkids day at Fifth Third Field. He scattered a walk and a hit with two strikeouts while throwing 22 of his 35 pitches for strikes.

Manager Jim Leyland dropped a pretty good hint about Marte when he talked about the rehab assignment last week.

“If everything goes right, he would still probably not be available up here until Friday,” Leyland said. “So I don’t know how that’s going to play out. But that’s the course for him right now. His next step is Toledo, and that’s a big step.”

Sunday: Tigers vs. Pirates

Closer Jose Valverde is not available today. The goal is to have him ready for Tuesday’s opener at Cleveland. Austin Jackson isn’t in the starting lineup, but manager Jim Leyland didn’t rule him out for being available late in the game.

Meanwhile, Brennan Boesch takes another step up in the lineup, this time to sixth.

TIGERS

  1. Don Kelly, 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: Max Scherzer

PIRATES

  1. Jose Tabata, RF
  2. Neil Walker, 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Pedro Alvarez, DH
  5. Garrett Jones, 1B
  6. Josh Harrison, 3B
  7. Rod Barajas, C
  8. Nate McLouth, LF
  9. Clint Barmes, SS

P: Kevin Correia

Saturday: Tigers vs. Pirates

Very limited difference in the numbers between Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn against A.J. Burnett, but Santiago gets the start. Wouldn’t read anything into it yet other than Leyland trying to get Santiago going.

Other than that, the lineup is the same. Heck, with only one player available off the bench, Jim Leyland can only make one change a day.

TIGERS

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

P: Drew Smyly

PIRATES

  1. Jose Tabata, RF
  2. Josh Harrison, 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Pedro Alvarez, 3B
  5. Neil Walker, DH
  6. Rob Barajas, C
  7. Casey McGehee, 1B
  8. Yamaico Navarro, LF
  9. Clint Barmes, SS

P: A.J. Burnett

Kelly gets defensive gem of no-hit bid

Whatever happened, this weekend’s Pirates-Tigers series was going to be big for Don Kelly. His wife Carrie is the sister of Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, and they live in Pittsburgh in the offseason. The last time they faced each other in Detroit, one of their kids wore a half-Pirates, half-Tigers t-shirt.

Even with Kelly manning center field behind Justin Verlander against a struggling Pirates lineup, he probably didn’t figure on being the guy to make the key play in a would-be no-hitter.

“You’re family, but when you’re between the lines, you’re competing,” Kelly said. “It would’ve been an interesting talk later. Even a couple years later, when I went into the stands and took one, and he slid and robbed me, and I dove and robbed him, those are bragging rights within the family, stealing hits.”

Kelly’s sixth-inning catch robbed Josh Harrison, not Walker, who was on deck. Still, with a no-hitter in the works, that goes on a team, not just an individual hitter.

Kelly didn’t know off the bat whether he would be able to get Harrison’s drive to left-center. He was position towards right-center, which accounted for the long run he had to make. He didn’t have to worry about the fences out there, since it’s one of the deepest parts of the park. What he needed was for the ball to hang up long enough for him to get under it.

“We were playing him the other way,” Kelly said. “When he hit it, I didn’t know at first how long it was going to hang up. Once saw it kind of go up more than a line drive, I knew I had a chance.”

Verlander, Avila, Harrison on that one hit

Josh Harrison was the shortest player on the field Friday, but he ended up being the biggest presence in the game for the Pirates. He was the 5-foot-8 leadoff hitter who was the designated hitter. On Friday, he got the only hit.

If not for him, not only do the Pirates not have a hit, they only have one ball out of the infield on Verlander.

“He pitched a great game, but I still felt I saw him well the whole night,” Harrison said, “except for the first two pitches in the ninth.”

Those two pitches marked the fourth-best pitch in Verlander’s repertoire. But as everybody knows by now, that’s a relative statement. Verlander used a bunch of sliders to no-hit Toronto because some of his other pitches supposedly weren’t working. On Friday night, everything was working, and he was using everything.

It was Harrison who hit the ball that required the best defensive play of the night, a drive to left-center field that sent Don Kelly on a mad dash to run it down. And that was on a curveball. He had given them all fastballs in the opening inning when Harrison flew out to left.

So when Harrison came up with one out in the ninth, Verlander went to sliders.

“He was missing real badly on them,” catcher Alex Avila said. “That’s why we stuck with breaking balls. He was just missing real badly. He fouled that one off that was almost in the other batters box. I just felt it was a no-brainer to throw him another one. The next shatters his bat and he ends up getting a base hit. What are going to do?”

As much adrenaline as Verlander had going as Harrison stepped to the plate, two outs away from history, Harrison was feeling the same thing. That, he said, was how he ended up down in the count.

“I was too amped up. I was ready for the fastball, and I swung at the first two without really seeing them,” Harrison said. “So I tried to slow everything down.”

He wasn’t exactly on the last one, but he was on it enough

“It was off the plate,” Verlander said, “but the first two he swung at were down in the dirt and this one was off where he was able to just kind of stick his bat out there and hit it up the middle. That’s why throwing no-hitters is so difficult. It doesn’t take a hard one, it just takes the right placement.”

Or as Avila put it, “His bat died a winner.”

Or as Prince Fielder put it, “Out of all the ways to get it, that was probably the toughest swing I’ve ever seen to get a hit. I don’t know how he hit it. But when things like that happen, I guess it’s not meant to be.”

Leyland: People have a right to be upset

Some interesting remarks from Jim Leyland in his pregame chat with reports, a lot of it centered around the fan criticism over the slow start. Long story short, he understands it, and he’s not going to blast it. Here’s the roundup:

  • “We’re in one of those situations where there’s so much going on, where there’s so much negative talk about us right now, and rightfully so, that you just have to stay the course. And that’s what I do. I don’t alter my routine. I don’t alter the players’ routine. I just don’t believe that’s the approach to take. I just stay the course and keep doing what you do.”
  • “It boils down to simple stuff: Come to work, do your job, try to do your job well each day. That’s no different than you guys’ job. We’re in the limelight a little bit more. But it’s just coming here and doing your job. It’s not a matter of some rah-rah speech. It’s not a matter of some negative stuff. The one thing I won’t let happen is be negative with myself and the coaches. I’m a positive guy. I stay positive.”
  • “I’m a grown man, and I’m a realist, and I think that if you’ve seen me over the six years that I’ve been here, I get a little snippy once in a while when I think that people are unfair. They’re not being unfair right now. I can take it. I’m a man. We have to take it. We’re not performing well. We haven’t performed well.”
  • “We have to take that. We have it coming right now. You’d better have broad shoulders. Does anybody like it? No. But do we expect it? Yes, I expect it. We got it last year, and we turned it around and that changed it. It’s one of those things basically that if things don’t get better, it heats up even more, but if you start winning games and you get back into that, people start feeling good again about the Tigers, and that changes as well. I’ve been around long enough to know how that works. That’s part of this business.”
  • “You don’t snap at reporters when you’ve got it coming. Right now, I have nothing to come back with, because we haven’t been very good. Simple. You’ve got to take it when you’ve got it coming, and right now we’ve got it coming. It’s pretty simple.”
  • “Oh, I’m ticked off, believe me. I’ve been ticked off a few times this year. But I can tell you this: It’s changed. The yelling and screaming and throwing stuff like I did 20 years ago, that doesn’t work anymore. Forget it. It’s a whole different society, whether it’s your kid, my kid, ballplayers, whatever, that doesn’t work anymore. You talk sensibly and you make your points, and you get firm when you make your points, normally in a private conversation. But that doesn’t work anymore, all that rah-rah stuff and throwing stuff, that doesn’t affect guys at all. That doesn’t help anybody hit a slider. That doesn’t help anybody throw one over the plate. So you grind your butt off.”
  • “If people are waiting for me to start throwing stuff and start yelling and screaming, to put on a show for the media, I’m not going to do that. That’s not going to happen. I’m not going to put on some phony show. The simple fact is we’ve got to get better, start winning some games. Then the negative talk will turn back to positive talk, with the exception of some people that are going to be negative no matter what. … But right now, the people have a right to be upset.”
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