August 2012

Tigers call up Garcia, DFA Baker

Tigers five-tool prospect Avisail Garcia is getting the call to the big leagues — not a September call-up, an August 31 call-up.

After word out of Erie earlier today that Garcia was getting called up, the Tigers announced this afternoon that they were calling him up in time for tonight’s game against the White Sox. He’ll take the spot of Jeff Baker, who has been designated for assignment.

Garcia leaves Double-A Erie with a .312 batting average in 55 games, having homered six times with 22 RBIs and an .810 OPS. After Nick Castellanos, he might be the best offensive prospect the Tigers have, and is probably the best all-around position prospect in the upper levels of the organization.

“I thought he was one of the best all-around tools players we have [in the system],” manager Jim Leyland.

Garcia was en route to Detroit as of mid-afternoon and is expected to arrive in time for the game. Leyland said he’ll play tomorrow night against White Sox lefty Francisco Liriano. He’ll be an option as a defensive replacement in games against right-handers, and Leyland didn’t rule out giving him a stretch of games if he heats up at the plate.

As for Baker, who went 7-for-35 with 10 strikeouts in 15 games for the Tigers after his trade from the Cubs, Leyland said, “It’s certainly unfair to judge a guy in the short time we’ve seen him. It just wasn’t working.”

Thursday’s lineup: Tigers at Royals

Gerald Laird, 4-for-9 off Jeremy Guthrie, gets the start behind the plate. He’ll be catching Rick Porcello for the first time since July 21, when Porcello tossed eight innings of one-run ball against the White Sox and outpitched Chris Sale.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Andy Dirks, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (5-for-15, 2 HR off Guthrie)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Brennan Boesch, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Omar Infante, 2B
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Rick Porcello

 

Alburquerque feels healthy, looks ready

Al Alburquerque feels like he can pitch in the big leagues if the Tigers want him. His latest outing might have been the last hurdle to getting him back to Detroit in time for the stretch run.

For the first time since Alburquerque started pitching in games again five weeks ago, he pitched on back-to-back days. His second outing Wednesday night looked arguably as good as any he has had at Triple-A Toledo, tossing a perfect inning and striking out side in order against Indianapolis.

Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said Alburquerque will be evaluated on Thursday to see how he feels physically after those two outings. As long as he checks out OK, Nevin said, the Tigers have a decision to make with rosters set to expand on Friday.

It won’t be Nevin’s decision, though he’ll surely have some input. From what he sees, at least, Alburquerque looks healthy.

“He looks fine to me,” Nevin said. “It was a positive to see how he handled [Wednesday] pitching on back-to-back days.”

Alburquerque isn’t all the way back to last year’s dominant form that made him a high-strikeout specialist in Detroit’s bullpen. His fastball is closer to the mid-90s than the 99 mph heater he had at times last year. He said he has topped out at 97 so far. On Wednesday, he got his fastball up to 95-96 mph consistently.

As long as he has his slider, he can work with that. He finished off his final batter, former Tigers prospect Jeff Larish, by alternating fastballs up and out with sliders down and in. Larish swung and missed at the slider three times, every other pitch.

Usually with pitchers coming off elbow surgeries, as Alburquerque had last winter, the slider is a pitch that takes time to hone again. As least from Wednesday’s look, it’s back.

“His slider’s just gotten more snap as we’ve gone along,” Nevin said. “Each day, he’s gotten better and better command.”

Albuerquerque threw 10 of his 17 pitches for strikes on Wednesday, including back-to-back called strikes with a fastball and a slider to strike out Brandon Boggs.

For his part, Alburquerque said the slider hasn’t been his toughest pitch to get back.

“The two-seamer is better right now,” he said. “In the past, I couldn’t throw the two-seamer. … No problem with my slider, just my two-seamer.”

More important, Alburquerque said, he has a routine to get his arm ready before a game. In the past, he said, he would just warm up in the bullpen, throw some pitches and go out there, which might explain part of his injury history.

“I’ve got a routine before I pitch,” he said. “Last year, I didn’t have a routine. Everything I do here, I have a routine. My trainer has helped me a lot. I feel a lot of pride, because I have a routine to pitch.”

Asked if he’s ready healthwise, he said, “Right now, I feel strong. Sometimes I feel sore, but I know I can throw in the game. I feel strong. I feel happy for everything I have right now.”

Alburquerque has allowed two runs on nine hits over 10 2/3 innings at Toledo, walking four and striking out 18. Fifteen of those strikeouts have come over his last six outings, covering 7 2/3 innings.

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Royals

It’s a righty-heavy lineup for Royals left-hander Bruce Chen, except that Alex Avila stays behind the plate, presumably because he seems to work better with Anibal Sanchez. Ramon Santiago, 3-for-6 with two doubles off Chen, gets the start at shortstop and rests Jhonny Peralta, 3-for-20 off Chen. Andy Dirks, 2-for-5 off Chen, not only starts but bats second.

TIGERS

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

P: Anibal Sanchez

ROYALS

  1. Jarrod Dyson, CF
  2. Alcides Escobar, SS
  3. Alex Gordon, LF
  4. Billy Butler, DH
  5. Mike Moustakas, 3B
  6. Lorenzo Cain, RF
  7. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  8. Brayan Pena, C
  9. Johnny Giavotella, 2B

P: Bruce Chen

Cabrera returns to Tigers lineup at third base

Miguel Cabrera is back in the Tigers lineup, and back at third base after Sunday’s game off and Monday’s off-day. He’s in his usual spot batting third.

Delmon Young’s recent tear has landed him back in the fifth spot behind Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Brennan Boesch is out of the lineup, as Quintin Berry gets a start in left field, moving Andy Dirks to right. Dirks, interestingly, moves back into the second spot against the right-hander.

TIGERS

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

P: Justin Verlander

Tigers, White Sox line up rotations for weekend

Can’t get to the Justin Verlander-Chris Sale matchup next Sunday night at Comerica Park? Ok. How does a Max Scherzer showdown with Francisco Liriano strike you? Better yet, how important does Doug Fister’s healthy return Friday night look now with Jake Peavy lined up to face the Tigers that evening?

Barring a setback for Fister, the pitching matchups appear to be set for next weekend’s Tigers-White Sox clash at Comerica Park, and they’re all pretty good. With Gavin Floyd dealing with an ailing elbow, reports out of Baltimore say the White Sox shuffled their rotation to get Peavy (who was originally slated to pitch Wednesday) into the mix.

Peavy has two quality starts, a so-so outing and a stinker in four meetings with the Tigers so far this season. He had the misfortune of matching up opposite Verlander at Comerica Park in July, giving him no chance to recover from a three-run third inning despite pitching into the eighth. He has five quality starts in six outings since.

The Tigers have only seen Liriano in relief this year. Take away two disastrous starts and his numbers are nasty since the All-Star break. He also happens to be a hard-throwing left-hander, like Sale. The Tigers have roughed up Sale in two starts this season, accounting for half of his four losses on the year, but their recent struggles against left-handed pitching are well-documented.

With Liriano and Sale starting back-to-back, the Tigers could have a very interesting decision to make once rosters expand on Saturday. Their lineup against left-handed starters the past few weeks have included a left-handed hitting outfielder (usually Andy Dirks or Brennan Boesch) because they don’t have enough impact right-handed bats to throw into the lineup. They have Ryan Raburn hitting well through five games on rehab at Triple-A Toledo (8-for-22, 3 HR, nine RBIs), and they have two right-handed hitting prospects at Double-A Erie in Nick Castellanos (who’s still hitting lefties well despite an August downturn) and Avisail Garcia.

Are the Tigers setting up Raburn for a weekend return and a test with two stingy lefties? Would they dare call up one of their top prospects to make his Major League debut against Liriano or Sale?

Or, would Jim Leyland throw caution to the wind and bat Dirks or Boesch against Liriano and Sale anyway? Dirks is 0-for-2 against each of them. Boesch is 5-for-11 with a double and four RBIs off Liriano, mainly from 2010, and hit a three-run homer off Sale in July.

Leyland “pretty confident” Cabrera back at third

The Tigers won without Miguel Cabrera in the starting lineup Sunday. If the day off works as planned, they shouldn’t have to do that again for a while.

“I’m pretty confident that Miguel will play third base in the Kansas City series,” manager Jim Leyland said after the game. “I’m pretty confident. Now, would I etch that in stone? No, I can’t, but I’m pretty confident he’ll play third base. I think this did wonders for him.

“It has nothing to do with the fact that we won the game. Nobody’s going to say anything about this now because we won the game.”

Actually, it was still a pretty big deal, but it won’t attract quite so much second-guessing on Monday as it would have if the Tigers had lost.

The thought from the Tigers was that pairing an day off Sunday with the Tigers’ off-day Monday should give him a better chance to start on Tuesday — not at DH, but at third base, allowing the Tigers to get their lineup back in order instead of starting a utility player at third. If Leyland didn’t feel confident about it, he wouldn’t have put Cabrera on the bench on Sunday.

“I didn’t even sleep last night,” Leyland said. “I talked to a lot of people. I made a couple calls last night. I talked to my coaches all day. But you know, at the end of the day, when I talked to Cabrera, I knew the best thing to do was to rest him today, no matter what the outcome of this game was. That’s what managing is. …

“At the end of the day, what’s best for Miguel Cabrera is best for the Tigers. And it was best for Miguel Cabrera to sit today. I believe that with all my heart. I don’t even have any question about it.”

Miguel Cabrera sits Sunday against Angels

By all accounts, Miguel Cabrera didn’t suffer any setback that worsened either of his ankles. But despite what Jim Leyland said Saturday about not resting his star slugger, with Cabrera seriously hobbled for the last two days while DHing, Leyland had a decision to make: Keep playing Cabrera at DH for as long as needed and fill in at third base until he can go, or rest Cabrera on Sunday with the hope that two days off his feet (with Monday’s team off-day) will get him closer to not only playing healthy, but playing third base. As the last two nights have shown, it’s a different looking lineup if Cabrera has to DH or if he can play third.

In the end, Leyland decided to give Cabrera the day out of the lineup. Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch and Andy Dirks are all playing, with Dirks batting third. Gerald Laird, 6-for-18 off Ervin Santana, gets the start behind the plate.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Andy Dirks, LF
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Brennan Boesch, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Jeff Baker, 3B
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Max Scherzer

ANGELS

  1. Mike Trout, CF
  2. Maicer Izturis, 3B
  3. Torii Hunter, RF
  4. Kendrys Morales, DH
  5. Mark Trumbo, 1B
  6. Howard Kendrick, 2B
  7. Erick Aybar, SS
  8. Vernon Wells, LF
  9. Chris Iannetta, C

P: Ervin Santana

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Angels

As you no doubt have heard by now, Miguel Cabrera is back at designated hitter, and manager Jim Leyland expects to have him there Sunday too. Delmon Young and Andy Dirks get the starts in the corner outfield spots, pushing Brennan Boesch to the bench for a night. Boesch will start on Sunday, Leyland said, giving Young two days off when you add in Monday’s off-day.

As for third base, Jeff Baker gets the start tonight against Dan Haren, who’s allowing a .337 batting average and an .879 OPS to right-handed hitters compared to .240 and .745, respectively, against lefties.

No Albert Pujols again in the Angels lineup. There was some talk he would be back tonight.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, LF
  6. Andy Dirks, RF
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Jeff Baker, 3B

P: Drew Smyly

ANGELS

  1. Mike Trout, CF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Howard Kendrick, 2B
  4. Mark Trumbo, 1B
  5. Alberto Callaspo, 3B
  6. Kendrys Morales, DH
  7. Erick Aybar, SS
  8. Vernon Wells, RF
  9. Bobby Wilson, C

P: Dan Haren

On slides and sliders

Torii Hunter was a longtime Tiger killer during his years as a Minnesota Twin, so the fact that he set up a Tigers loss Friday shouldn’t be a huge surprise. Credit him with the slide that toppled Omar Infante at second base and broke up what would’ve been an inning-ending double play, extending the sixth inning for Howard Kendrick’s go-ahead two-run double.

“Break it up,” Hunter said when asked after the game. “Break it up and give ourselves a chance. I got a nice little secondary [lead] so Ican get out there a little earlier and I hustled and just tried to touch him and alter his throw and I was able to do that. That’s all you want to do is play the game that way.”

That doesn’t mean Infante wasn’t beating himself up a little bit.

“Yeah, when I get the ball, I see Torii Hunter,” Infante said. “I know he’s coming to me to break up the double play. It’s a tough play, because I catch the ball and see him and throw the ball to first base. But I have a chance. If my throw’s good, I make the out.”

Infante said he watched the replay afterwards to check out the timing. He seemed to think he could’ve gotten off a better throw.

“When I see the replay, I see after I throw, he [made contact with] me,” Infante said.

Infante seemed to believe coming across the bag on that play, rather than staying back and taking the throw, would’ve put him in a better position to avoid the slide.

“I think I have to go to the ball and not wait for the throw from third base,” he said. “I have to go to the ball. When I wait, I stay back. That’s why when I stay back, it’s hard for me to throw. Sometimes I have to alter my body.”

Of course, the break-up slide extended the inning for Howard Kendrick. However, it was a hanging slider on an 0-2 count from Rick Porcello that Kendrick hit into the left-center field gap to score two runs.

Porcello, like Infante, took responsibility. He had gotten through the middle of the Angels batting order last time through by starting them off with breaking pitches and setting up his sinker, and it worked so well he struck out the Angels in order in the fourth. Next time through, in the sixth, he and catcher Alex Avila tried the opposite.

With a better-executed slider, it probably would’ve worked.

“Sixth, seventh inning, you have to have your best stuff,” Porcello said. “That’s when you have to find something within yourself to execute those pitches. Obviously, my past two outings, late in the game like that we’ve been getting hurt. When I get in that situation again, I have to dig down deep and make a better pitch.”

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