June 2012

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Rays

Brennan Boesch returns to the lineup against Jeremy Hellickson. Ramon Santiago sticks at second for sinkerballer Rick Porcello.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (3-for-9, HR off Hellickson)
  2. Quintin Berry, 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: Rick Porcello

RAYS

  1. Desmond Jennings, LF
  2. Carlos Pena, 1B
  3. B.J. Upton, CF
  4. Luke Scott, DH
  5. Ben Zobrist, RF
  6. Brooks Conrad, 3B
  7. Jose Lobaton, C
  8. Elliot Johnson, SS
  9. Will Rhymes, 2B

P: Jeremy Hellickson

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Rays

Jim Leyland had a decision to make on whether to play Quintin Berry against David Price — not only a lefty,  but a stingy one (25 strikeouts in 90 plate appearances from left-handed batters). In the end, Leyland opted to start Berry over Brennan Boesch (1-for-3, 2 strikeouts off Price) and Danny Worth (0-for-2 off Price). However, he moved down Berry to the ninth spot, putting Ramon Santiago (3-for-7 off Price) in the two spot.

Former Tiger Will Rhymes gets the start against ex-teammate Justin Verlander.

TIGERS

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

P: Justin Verlander

RAYS

  1. Desmond Jennings, LF
  2. Carlos Pena, 1B
  3. B.J. Upton, CF
  4. Luke Scott, DH
  5. Ben Zobrist, RF
  6. Brooks Conrad, 3B
  7. Jose Molina, C
  8. Elliot Johnson, SS
  9. Will Rhymes, 2B

P: David Price

Dirks not cleared for baseball activity yet

Andy Dirks will spend at least another week in a walking boot while receiving shock wave therapy on his strained right achilles. The Tigers outfielder, who hasn’t played since May 30, was examined by Tigers foot/ankle specialist Dr. Chris Zingas on Friday in Detroit.

“He’s not right. He’s not ready to start any baseball activities,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We were hoping for that. We didn’t get it.”

The examination, Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, showed improvement, but still some discomfort.

“He’s much improved,” Rand said, “but still has point tenderness there. So he’s going to continue to be in teh boot for another week and he’ll also receive shock wave therapy.”

The delay seemingly would push any timetable for a Dirks return past the All-Star break. While he was cleared to start running on a special treadmill, that’s about the extent of his physical activity. He’ll begin a more full-fledged running program once he’s cleared.

Is Miguel Cabrera motivated by hitting slumps?

Miguel Cabrera’s batting average stood at .316 on June 19, before he went hitless in three straight games against the Cardinals and Pirates. He has gone 8-for-16 over his last four games to bring his average back up to .312, including his four-hit, two-RBI game Thursday night at Tampa Bay.

Asked about the performance, Jim Leyland had an interesting reaction.

“I like it when he’s about 2-for-12 and somebody starts writing about it,” Leyland said after the game, “because that usually wakes him up a little bit.”

I’m sorry, what?

“I don’t know if it did or not,” Leyland said when asked further, “but it seems to work.”

For what it’s worth, Cabrera’s skid was 0-for-15 before he homered off Brad Lincoln on Saturday in Pittsburgh. It was the second time this season that Cabrera had that long of a hitless stretch.

When Cabrera went five straight games hitless in an 0-for-22 skid, he bounced out of it with a 12-for-28 stretch with two homers and four RBIs. That was the second-longest hitless stretch of his career.

Is that what’s driving him? Hard to tell. While he has talked a little bit about the team, his comments about his own hitting have been limited lately. He responded in spring training when it was suggested by many that he couldn’t play third base. Nobody has been suggesting he can’t hit, even during his deepest of funks.

It’s also worth mentioning that Cabrera hits well at Texas. He’s a .369 (75-for-203) career hitter in Texas with a 1.014 OPS. However, he’s just a .264 career hitter at Tampa Bay (55-for-208). Yet his ninth-inning homer Thursday was his 11th lifetime at Tropicana Field, two more than he has at The Ballpark at Arlington.

V-Mart’s knee good, but no return before September

The MRI results on Victor Martinez’s surgically repaired left knee were positive, according to Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, but his left leg strength isn’t quite there. Thus, he’ll go on what Rand called a single-leg strengthening program that will take up the month of July. If all goes well, he’ll start a running progression in August while gradually picking up baseball activities.

Bottom line, Martinez is still on track for a September return, but maybe not the grand stretch-run that has been speculated.

“Our best-case scenario for a return for him would be sometime around mid to late September,” Rand said.

It might not be what many were hoping, but as Rand pointed, they’re not just dealing with a return for this year. They’re looking at next year and the year after that.

Thursday: Tigers at Rays

Glad to be in cool, temperate Florida (compared to Texas, anyway).

Alex Avila is back behind the plate again. Ramon Santiago replaces Ryan Raburn at second.

TIGERS

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

P: Max Scherzer

Toby Harrah sticking with Tigers to work with hitters

Add the Tigers to the list of teams using two coaches to work with hitters. It’s a trend that has been growing in the big leagues, but it’ll be a first for manager Jim Leyland on his staff.

Technically, it isn’t a new hire. Toby Harrah, the Tigers’ organizational hitting instructor, joined up with the team here in Texas, where he was a three-time All-Star for the Rangers and remains a popular figure. Once the Tigers head to Tampa Bay, however, Harrah is going with them.

The plan is for him to stick around with the team off and on for the rest of the season, working with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.

MLive.com reported the move Wednesday evening.

“He’s just going to kind of tag along up here for a while and just take a look at some guys,” manager Jim Leyland said after Wednesday’s loss. “We’ve had so many guys struggling, it’s nice to have another helping hand.”

Scott Miller of CBSSports.com profiled the trend of teams adding coaches for hitting in a story earlier this month. The Braves, Cardinals and Padres reportedly use two hitting coaches, while other teams have added assistants to help out.

A large part of the trend involves workload. Between extra hitting in indoor cages, early batting practice for hitters working on adjustments, plus video analysis, the job has involved and grown.

“A lot of teams have gone to that now,” Leyland said. “This is really nothing new. I don’t know how long Toby’s going to be here. I think he’ll probably come and go a little bit, but he’s going to be around. A lot of teams have done this. I know Tony La Russa did this with the Cardinals. They had two guys over there to kind of help out, because when you get more than one or two guys struggling, it’s a pretty big job for one guy.”

But the addition also coincides with a Tigers offense that, while posting respectable stats among American League clubs, hasn’t put up the run totals that were expected once Detroit added Prince Fielder to go with Miguel Cabrera, Delmon Young and a young core. The Tigers scored five runs during their three-game series in Pittsburgh last weekend, and have had other stretches where opposing pitchers shut down the offense and induced hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone.

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Rangers

Originally, Alex Avila wasn’t expected to start tonight, so that he could be fresh for Thursday night’s opener at Tampa Bay. However, he’s in the lineup tonight. When asked if that means Avila won’t play Thursday, Leyland said, “I have no idea.”

If he feels good, though, he probably will play Thursday, then sit Friday against Rays lefty David Price.

TIGERS

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

P: Doug Fister

RANGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Elvis Andrus, SS
  3. Josh Hamilton, DH
  4. Adrian Beltre, 3B
  5. Michael Young, 1B
  6. Nelson Cruz, RF
  7. David Murphy, LF
  8. Mike Napoli, C
  9. Leonys Martin, CF

P: Roy Oswalt

 

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Rangers

Alex Avila might play less from here on out, but he’s playing today.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Quintin Berry, 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: Drew Smyly

Monday’s message: Porcello pitches to protect lead

Monday’s Tigers win was basically the convergence of two different stories. The first, and the bigger one in the short term, was the outburst of a Tigers offense that scored just five runs over three games in Pittsburgh. Chalk part of that up to a rough night for Justin Grimm, but it’s the same lineup that Brad Lincoln tamed over the weekend.

On the other hand, this is largely the same Rangers lineup that has pounded many pitchers this season, and roughed up Rick Porcello for an eight-run first inning back in April at Comerica Park. Porcello was one big hit away a few times from watching a 5-0 first-inning lead — or an 8-0 lead sixth-inning lead — turn into the kind of long night and high-scoring slugfest this ballpark is known for, and the kind of rough outing that encapsulates the ups and downs for Porcello the past few years. Those ups and downs are the same reason that could be cited if the Tigers are enticed into dealing Porcello this summer for short-term help. One source said the Tigers have not shopped Porcello, but scouts are anticipating the possibility.

In the end, Monday could end up being an example why teams would covet the 23-year-old sinkerballer, especially on a team with a better infield defense for ground balls in a smaller ballpark. Or it could be a big reason why the Tigers ultimately keep him. He didn’t really need a great defensive play behind him to hold down the Rangers. With seven strikeouts over six-plus innings and few well-struck ground balls, three of those strikeouts in key situations with runners in scoring position, Porcello showed he can support himself when he has a good sinker working.

He got away with some mistakes, no doubt. His sixth-inning strikeout of Nelson Cruz with two runners on came on a backup slider that went high on him and still induced a swing and miss. But he also had a really good sinker, something he credited to the hot, humid conditions.

“Honestly, I think the hot weather really helped it out,” Porcello said. “With the humidity, I had a pretty good grip on the ball the entire time, which sounds kind of weird. But I felt really good. I felt like I could throw it on both sides of the plate.”

Porcello threw 45 two-seam fastballs, or sinkers, out of 96 total pitches, according to data from MLB.com’s Gameday application collected by brooksbaseball.net. He threw sinkers a lot, and he threw them hard, averaging just under 92 mph while topping out just shy of 94. Nearly three-quarters of his sinkers went for strikes. By contrast, barely half of his 22 sliders went for strikes, but he got four swings and misses out of them.

He won’t have conditions like this all the time. He certainly won’t have them in his next start when he pitches indoors at Tropicana Field on Saturday. But he’ll have the confidence in his pitches. The fact that even he acknowledged his sixth-inning strikeout of Mike Napoli was big beyond that particular game spoke volumes.

“I know for myself, I needed to get out of one of those jams and just come out of this outing feeling pretty good,” Porcello said. “I think it was a big pitch in more than one way.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 25,320 other followers