August 25th, 2012

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.”

Putkonen optioned to make room for Smyly

Though Drew Smyly is filling in for Doug Fister in the Tigers rotation on Saturday, Fister is not on the disabled list, so Detroit had to find another way to create a roster spot for him. Not surprisingly, that came from the long end of the bullpen.

Luke Putkonen, who replaced Duane Below as Detroit’s long reliever last week, is headed back to Triple-A Toledo, optioned to open a spot for the Tigers to recall Smyly. It leaves the Tigers short in the bullpen behind a starter who hasn’t gotten through the fifth inning since his last Detroit start on July 6 (though pitch counts and an ejection for hitting Will Rhymes played into that), but they’ll have Darin Downs available to eat innings if need be.

The Tigers can bring their bullpen back to full strength if they want by optioning Smyly back to Triple-A Toledo after the game and recalling Below, even though they don’t know for sure yet whether Fister will be ready to start when his spot comes up next Saturday. If he isn’t ready by then, though, they can put Fister on the DL and then recall Smyly (normally teams have to wait 10 days after sending down a player before they can call him back up, but there’s an exception when he’s replacing somebody who just got put on the DL).

Long story short, don’t be surprising if there’s some maneuvering in the coming days even before rosters expand next Saturday).

Putkonen pitched in one game after his recall, tossing 2 1/3 scoreless innings with two walks and a strikeout last Sunday against the Orioles.

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