August 27th, 2012

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.”