August 2012

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.

Cabrera at DH Friday against Angels

The Tigers lineup is out, and Miguel Cabrera is at designated hitter to watch the wear and tear on his right ankle. Delmon Young moves from DH to left field, and Andy Dirks moves to the bench for a night. Ramon Santiago fills in at third base.

Jim Leyland said Friday afternoon that he doesn’t know how many games he’ll need to DH Cabrera. He put Cabrera there tonight on the recommendation of the team medical staff.

As for starting Young over Dirks, remember he said last week that Delmon would be starting pretty much every day down the stretch. He sees him as a bigger impact act than the alternatives.

“I was hoping Cabrera could play [third],” Leyland said, “because I wanted to get another lefty [hitter] in there, but Delmon’s been hitting the ball pretty hard, so I wanted to play Delmon. This just means one lefty can’t play.”

Leyland said he was going to start Brennan Boesch regardless Friday, and he stuck to the plan. He’s in right field, batting fifth behind Prince Fielder. Omar Infante sticks in the second spot against right-hander Zack Greinke.

On the Angels side, no Albert Pujols tonight. He’s dealing with tightness in his right calf. We’ll see whether he plays at all this weekend.


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

P: Rick Porcello


  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: Zack Greinke

Verlander vs. Sale next Sunday night?

Jim Leyland has used the Tigers’ recent rash of off-days to give Justin Verlander an extra day between starts for the last couple turns in the rotation. This stretch coming up is why.

They’re off next Monday before going to Kansas City and then hosting the White Sox, but Leyland confirmed yesterday he’ll start Verlander on his regular four days’ rest and pitch him Tuesday in KC, slotting him ahead of Anibal Sanchez in the pitching order. More importantly, that puts him in line to face the White Sox — twice.

The Tigers will open with Max Scherzer against the White Sox next Friday night, then Doug Fister on Saturday (if he’s healthy, or Drew Smyly if he’s not), then Verlander on Sunday night on ESPN. That series finale could be huge, if the White Sox keep their rotation in order, because Chris Sale would be in line to start for Chicago.

It would be a matchup of two AL Cy Young award candidates (not necessarily the two front-runners, the way David Price is pitching lately). It would also be another challenge for the Tigers lineup against a tough left-hander, something they could also get on Saturday against Francisco Liriano.

The Tigers are responsible for half of Sale’s four losses this year and eight of the 45 earned runs he has allowed. Five of those came over seven innings July 21 at Comerica Park, including a three-run home run from Brennan Boesch. He has gotten back into his high-strikeout form in August, including 13 strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Yankees on Wednesday in Chicago.

By shuffling the rotation, Verlander will also get two more starts against postseason contenders, facing the Angels in Anaheim and getting a rematch with the White Sox during the four-game series in Chicago in mid-September.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Blue Jays

Interesting lineup against Verlander for the Blue Jays, who don’t have David Cooper available today. Moises Sierra starts at designated hitter, while speedy Anthony Gose returns to the lineup in right field, giving Toronto back-to-back speedsters with Gose ninth and Rajai Davis at leadoff. Opponents are 10-for-10 stealing bases off Verlander since May 8.

On the Tiger side, Alex Avila indeed does the night-day turnaround at catcher, batting ninth against J.A. Happ. Other than Andy Dirks and Jeff Baker flipping spots in the batting order, it’s the same lineup.


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

P: Justin Verlander


  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Colby Rasmus, CF
  3. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
  4. Kelly Johnson, 2B
  5. Moises Sierra, DH
  6. Omar Vizquel, 3B
  7. Jeff Mathis, C
  8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
  9. Anthony Gose, RF

P: J.A. Happ



Doug Fister out, Drew Smyly in for Saturday

Turns out the Tigers didn’t need to wait until the last minute to decide on Doug Fister. He has been officially scratched from his scheduled start Saturday against the Angels. Drew Smyly will start in his place.

Fister continues to be bothered by a right adductor strain in his groin. It will mark the third time this season that injuries have forced him to miss time.

The fact that the Tigers will wait until Friday night to make a roster move suggests they’re not expecting to have to put Fister on the disabled list. Feasibly, they could use next Monday’s off-day to move everybody up and push back the next spot until next Saturday. Practically, though, it would only make a day’s difference.

“We will obviously have to make a move at some point to get Smyly on the club so he can pitch Saturday,” Leyland said.

Updates on Doug Fister, Drew Smyly

Nothing new on Doug Fister’s status for Saturday’s game against the Angels, but at least we have a good idea who will start in his place if he can’t go.

Manager Jim Leyland confirmed Wednesday that left-hander Drew Smyly was pulled from his start at Triple-A Toledo Tuesday night after an inning as a precaution — not for his own health, but for Fister’s situation. If Fister can’t pitch Saturday, Smyly most surely will.

“I would say that’s probably true,” Leyland said.

Fister, who has an adductor strain in his right groin, was scheduled to play catch on Wednesday off flat ground, not off a mound. That won’t be the final determination, but it should give them an idea how much it’s limiting him.

“There’s still some soreness there,” head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said. “We’re aggressive, but we have to be smart aggressive.”

Wednesday’s lineup: Tigers vs. Blue Jays

Alex Avila returns to the starting lineup after Tuesday off, an interesting decision with Justin Verlander (whom Avila almost always catches) pitching tomorrow afternoon and Aaron Laffey proving particularly tough to left-handed hitters this year. Whether that’s a nod to Avila, who had a comfort level catching Sanchez during his first couple starts for Detroit is an interesting question. Avila is batting ninth.

Andy Dirks and Jeff Baker remain in the corner outfield spots, meaning another day out of the lineup for Brennan Boesch, who hasn’t played since a pinch-hitting appearance Saturday against the Orioles.


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

P: Anibal Sanchez


Whether that’s

Scherzer, Strasburg put up dueling outings in strikeout race

The pitching story in Detroit rigtht now is Max Scherzer trying to succeed Justin Verlander for the Major League strikeout crown. For now, at least, the national race also has Stephen Strasburg in it.

While Scherzer’s seven-inning, eight-strikeout performance pushed him past Verlander for the AL strikeout lead and R.A. Dickey atop the Major League leaderboard, Strasburg was simultaneously dealing in Washington, where he struck out 10 Atlanta Braves over six innings of four-hit, one-run ball for his 15th win. Strasburg (183) passed up Dickey (181) for the NL lead, but fell a few short of Scherzer (186).

Scherzer still leads Strasburg in strikeout rate, but barely. Strasburg bumped his rate to 11.33, just behind Scherzer at 11.34. At this point, you have to stretch it out three decimal points to figure out whether Scherzer has a higher rate than Kerry Wood’s mark in 2003 (11.345 for Wood, 11.336 for Scherzer).

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard that the Nationals have a innings range for Strasburg in his first full season following Tommy John surgery. If general manager Mike Rizzo holds to it, it’s difficult to envision Strasburg racking up enough strikeouts to lead the big leagues at season’s end if everyone else has at least two or three extra starts. For now, though, it’s quite a race. He could still beat out Scherzer for strikeout rate if he finishes with at least 162 innings pitched.

And it’s not just Strasburg. Add Felix Hernandez (179) to Verlander, Dickey, Strasburg, Scherzer, and five pitchers sit within 11 strikeouts of each other for the lead. All but Verlander started Monday or Tuesday, and Verlander will pitch Thursday.

Smyly pulled after an inning for Toledo

Jacob Turner filled the role of Mud Hens starter on call for most of the summer until the Tigers traded him to Florida last month. Adam Wilk did it early this season. Andy Oliver did it for nearly two years. Even Casey Crosby got a shot earlier this season.

Now, is Drew Smyly the next in line?

With Doug Fister questionable for his next scheduled start with a right adductor strain, and Smyly’s start Tuesday night for Triple-A Toledo lasting only one inning, you have to wonder.

It wasn’t a bad inning for Smyly, 13 pitches with no hits, a walk and a strikeout. There were no reports of injury coming out of his start on the road at Lehigh Valley. What it does is keep Smyly’s arm fresh in case the Tigers need him to come back on three days’ rest and start in Doug Fister’s place Saturday against the Angels.

The Mud Hens were rained out in Lehigh Valley on Monday, so there’s no one completely on turn. The only other clear option would be Wilk, who started for Toledo on Sunday and has ample experience with the big club. One problem with Wilk is that the Mud Hens will most likely need him on Friday, and the Tigers might not be sure whether Fister can go by then.

One catch with Smyly, though, is that he hasn’t pitched deep into games since joining the Hens at the end of July. He hasn’t gotten through five innings in any of his five starts since the Tigers optioned him, and his 4 2/3 innings last week marked his first time getting through the fourth.

Fister dealing with groin injury, next start iffy

When Jim Leyland was asked today if he has ever had a team with as many rotation injuries as what the Blue Jays have dealt with, his answer eventually drifted to his own team. That might have been a pretty good hint that something wasn’t right.

Then Leyland updated the situation on Doug Fister, who is dealing with what Leyland called a “groin issue.”

It’s a big enough issue that neither Leyland nor Fister is certain he’ll make his next scheduled start on Saturday.

“We’re taking it day by day,” Fister said.

The tightness was a problem on Fister’s warmup pitches before his opening inning Sunday against Baltimore, but he was able to pitch through it without making it any worse.

“I felt it a little bit early on,” Fister said. “It ended up feeling tight afterwards.”

What happens if Fister can’t go isn’t clear. Triple-A Toledo was rained out Monday night, so the only pitcher who’s close to being on turn for Saturday is Adam Wilk, who started for the Mud Hens on Sunday. Drew Smyly last pitched last Friday, and he hasn’t pitched through the fifth inning since he started pitching again near the end of July.