September 2012

Injury updates on Avila, Jackson

Word from the Tigers on catcher Alex Avila is that he is not showing concussion symptoms. At this point, he’s listed as day-to-day with a sprained jaw, which he suffered when he collided with Prince Fielder’s right elbow while they were chasing Carlos Santana’s foul pop-up in front of the Tigers dugout.

“He probably will not play tomorrow,” manager Jim Leyland said, “although the trainer said he probably will be able to play tomorrow. So we’ll see how that works out.”

As it turns out, it was not an automatic that Avila was going to sit Monday against White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana. Leyland said he was looking over matchups and seemed like he was seriously considering playing him, at least before Sunday’s injury.

As for Austin Jackson, his status is up in the air after missing Sunday’s game with a sore left ankle. He spent the day getting treatment, but Leyland wasn’t sure if he’d be good to go. He was noticeably hobbled when he was walking around the clubhouse Sunday morning, but that was before treatment.

Sunday’s lineups (updated with Jackson injury): Tigers at Indians

UPDATE: Austin Jackson was originally in the Tigers lineup, but was scratched. No official reason was given, but it looked like his left knee was bothering him as he walking around the clubhouse earlier today.

Quintin Berry starts in place of Andy Dirks, who’s 3-for-19 off Ubaldo Jimenez.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF Quintin Berry, CF
  2. Quintin Berry, LF Andy Dirks, 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. Omar Infante, 2B

P: Rick Porcello

INDIANS

  1. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  2. Jason Kipnis, 2B
  3. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  4. Carlos Santana, C
  5. Michael Brantley, CF
  6. Russ Canzler, LF
  7. Lonnie Chisenhall, DH
  8. Casey Kotchman, 1B
  9. Jack Hannahan, 3B

P: Ubaldo Jimenez

Explaining Berry’s steal attempt, Avila’s out

Quintin Berry has never been caught stealing in his brief Major League career, 19-for-19 in stolen bases. On Saturday, he tried and failed to get thrown out on purpose, twice.

It took another half-inning and a Tigers run taken off the scoreboard to figure out what he was doing and why. He was trying to get thrown out so he could save the Tigers a run, an idea that came out third-base coach Gene Lamont’s knowledge of the rulebook.

“I’ve gotta do whatever I’ve gotta do for the team,” Berry said. “I just wonder what everybody was thinking at home, watching on TV. I know everybody’s like, ‘Man, he just thinks he’s invisible out there. He’s going to try to run on anything.’”

The situation comes out of Alex Avila’s slide into third base on his way home on Asdrubal Cabrera’s errant throw. Avila slid on the outside of the bag, around third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, and took off for home, scoring without a throw.

Replay is close, showing Avila either just hitting the outside of the bag or popping up out of his slide too early before turning for home. Third-base umpire Wally Bell was right next to the play, and clearly decided the latter.

Avila, for his part, thought he touched it.

“I thought I slid right into it,” Avila said. “As soon as I slid and popped up, I went home and I wasn’t even thinking about it. It’s one of those things where when you’re running, I don’t think about the bag. I just know where it is, so I’m not looking for it. And when I slid, I was trying to get out of Chisenhall’s way because I looked back and saw him.”

Replay, in turns out, is where the Indians noticed.

“We didn’t see it right off the bat,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “Some guys kind of saw it from the dugout. One of our coaches went down to watch the video about Lonnie’s situation at third base. We found out through that. The pitching change kind of helped and gave us time to appeal the play.”

Before they knew to appeal, the Indians had pulled starter Justin Masterson in favor of lefty reliever Tony Sipp to face Omar Infante. There was enough buzz in the Indians dugout that Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont caught on to what was happening and had a talk with Berry.

“We really weren’t aware of anything until they came down,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Someone must have seen the replay and they came down to yell at them to appeal. So Gene, knowing that they probably saw it on the replay, told Berry to take off, because if they make a play on Berry, then they can’t make the appeal.”

It had to be a foreign idea to Berry, trying to get thrown out. He had never done anything like it.

“Once [Lamont] explained it to me, I knew,” Berry said. “It was smart. I talked to him during the pitching change.”

It was a pretty good knowledge of the rules.

According to rule 7.10, “any appeal … must be made before the next pitch, or any attempted play.”

By that rule, especially the attempted play part, even if Sipp had whirled to look at Berry and made a play towards him, then the Indians would have lost their chance to appeal.

The rule also states, “if the defense team errs on its first appeal, a request for a second appeal on the same runner at the same base shall not be allowed by the umpire.”

In other words, had Berry rushed Sipp into a bad throw to third, wide of the base, they would have lost their chance to appeal.

Simply put, Berry didn’t have to cause an out. All he had to do was cause a reaction.

“Very strange play,” Berry said. “Even the umpires didn’t know what was going on right away. And then one of the umpires came over and was like, ‘Man, that was a pretty smart play, trying to do that.’ Because if they make an attempt at me, they can’t appeal it, and we keep the run.”

The initial ruling from the official scorer was that Berry was caught stealing, thus taking a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning. Umpires called up to the press box after the next half-inning to make sure the ruling was understood.

The resulting change, however, was anything but clear. Sanchez retired the Indians in order in the bottom of the fifth, the score on the board was still 5-0. For a brief moment, the board read a 10-0 Detroit lead, drawing a cheer from a few Tigers fans, before going back to 4-0.

“I was hoping, but that was wishful thinking,” Leyland said. “I only went to high school, but I knew we didn’t have 10.”

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Indians

If Justin Masterson is going to try to use his sinker to get a ground ball, it can’t hurt to start a guy with enough speed to beat a throw to first on a ground ball. Enter Quintin Berry, who gets the start in Delmon Young’s place this time around (you may have heard about Delmon sitting against Masterson last week).

TIGERS

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

P: Anibal Sanchez

INDIANS

  1. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  3. Carlos Santana, DH
  4. Russ Canzler, LF
  5. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
  6. Casey Kotchman, 1B
  7. Cord Phelps, 2B
  8. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
  9. Lou Marson, C

P: Justin Masterson

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Indians

I’ll spare you the Tigers’ numbers off Corey Kluber aside from Delmon Young, who went 2-for-3 with a double off him on Sept. 3.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, cf
  2. Andy Dirks, 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. Omar Infante, 2b

P: Justin Verlander

INDIANS

  1. Shin-Soo Choo, rf (3-for-7, double, HR off Verlander this year)
  2. Jason Kipnis, 2b
  3. Carlos Santana, c (1-for-6, HR off Verlander this year)
  4. Russ Canzler, lf
  5. Casey Kotchman, 1b
  6. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b
  7. Matt LaPorta, dh
  8. Ezequiel Carrera, cf
  9. Jason Donald, ss

P: Corey Kluber

How rainout affects Tigers rotation

Jim Leyland had spent a good amount of time in August planning out his rotation for the stretch run. Part of it was about lining up his best rotation possible for seven games against the White Sox. Part of it, too, was about trying to get his starters an extra day of rest when he could.

Thursday night’s rainout in Chicago (the night part of that really got them, because the weather was dry during the day) didn’t throw a big wrench into the plans, but it changes it up for the coming days. Justin Verlander’s matchup with the White Sox, obviously, is out. A rematch with the Indians, who beat him in July thanks to a four-run seventh inning, is on.

Max Scherzer is not going to get the makeup game Monday afternoon at U.S. Cellular Field. He’ll keep the extra day of rest he was scheduled to get after throwing 115 pitches Wednesday, and he’ll get the opener against an Oakland A’s squad that is going to be a challenge for the Tigers to beat unless they get outstanding starting pitching. Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez will finish out the series.

The White Sox, meanwhile, will have to face Fister coming off back-to-back seven-inning victories, including a two-hit performance against the White Sox Tuesday night.

By keeping Scherzer and the rest of the rotation on track from Tuesday on, the Tigers keep the pitching matchups they want for the stretch run. Barring another rainout, Scherzer is on track to make three more starts after Tuesday, including the regular-season finale Oct. 3 in Kansas City.

Tigers-White Sox rained out, makeup game Monday

Justin Verlander is 12-1 against the White Sox over the last four seasons. He cannot beat Mother Nature, no matter how many times he tries.

A storm system that had been expected to pass through Chicago before Thursday night’s scheduled showdown between the Tigers and White Sox instead crept in just after first pitch, postponing the finale of the four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.

The rainout sets up one final tilt between the AL Central contenders Monday afternoon at 2:10 p.m. ET. Doug Fister, who beat the White Sox on Tuesday, will make the start opposite Gavin Floyd, who took the loss Wednesday. The game will be televised in Michigan and Northwest Ohio on Fox Sports Detroit.

Instead of facing the White Sox, Verlander has been pushed back to Friday’s series opener in Cleveland opposite Corey Kluber. Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello will face the Indians on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, respectively.

For Verlander, it’ll be a rematch of his game in Cleveland in July, when the Indians scored four runs in the seventh to turn a Verlander gem into a Tigers loss in the rubber match of a three-game series.

That loss knocked the Tigers out of a first-place tie atop the American League Central and started them on a skid of five losses in six games. Detroit has held a share of first place for only one day since then, and that came after Verlander beat Chris Sale Sept. 2 at Comerica Park.

Since this week was supposed to be the Tigers’ final trip to Chicago this season, Major League Baseball, not the White Sox, was in charge of making the call on Thursday’s game. Though it wasn’t actually raining at the originally scheduled first-pitch time of 8:10 p.m. ET, the line of storms was close enough that they waited it out, rather than risk losing Verlander and Sale after one or two innings.

As it turned out, the rain was steady enough that they couldn’t have played through it without some serious problems to the infield and mound. Detroit went through those problems in Boston on July 31, and it left them with a rain-shortened loss once umpires called for the tarp with the Tigers rallying.

So for now, the Tigers remain a game behind the White Sox in the AL Central standings, and they’ll have to find a way to beat Floyd again.

“I thought Floyd [Wednesday] night, for the first three innings, was the best I ever saw him,” Leyland said Thursday afternoon. “Oh man, he was nasty. For the first three innings, I thought, ‘Oh my god.”

Thursday’s lineup: Tigers at White Sox

Jim Leyland said Wednesday he was probably going to start Delmon Young in left field rather than put Avisail Garcia in left, a spot he hasn’t played much, on the road. Whether it’s the weather conditions or an easier setup to pinch-hit with Dirks or the misadventures Young has had here before, Leyland changed course and moved Garcia, who will start in left for the first time in his pro career.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (1-for-9, 3 K’s off Sale)
  5. Delmon Young, DH (3-run HR off Sale Sept. 2)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  7. Avisail Garcia, LF
  8. Brennan Boesch, RF (2-for-8, 2 HR, 5 K’s off Sale)
  9. Gerald Laird, C (3-for-5, HR off Sale)

P: Justin Verlander

WHITE SOX

  1. Alejandro De Aza, LF (3-for-7, 2 HR off Verlander this year)
  2. Kevin Youkilis, 3B (1-for-12, 6 K’s off Verlander this year)
  3. Dewayne Wise, CF (7-for-19 off Verlander)
  4. Paul Konerko, 1B (9-for-55, 16 K’s off Verlander)
  5. Alex Rios, RF
  6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  7. Dayan Viciedo, DH (0-for-9, 3 K’s off Verlander)
  8. Alexei Ramirez, SS (11-for-50 off Verlander)
  9. Gordon Beckham, 2B

P: Chris Sale

Scherzer proves stingy again

You can take your pick for your favorite Max Scherzer outing this season. Most folks will point to his 15-strikeout gem against the Pirates on May 20. Others will remind you about his eight scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts against the Rockies four weeks later.

Gerald Laird might choose one of those two, but he had a point to make about his last outing last Friday against the Angels, in which he gave up two runs in the opening inning, then shut them down for the next seven, striking out nine and walking none.

“I mean, that was one of those outings where in the past or early on in the year, he was struggling to get through five or six with four runs,” Laird said. “He gave up two and then just mowed from there. He kind of got in his groove and got his confidence going. It was eight innings, two runs that kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.”

Wednesday night in Chicago was another one of those nights. It’s just that the big test of an inning wasn’t early.

Scherzer gave up one mistake Wednesday, a fourth-inning slider that caught too much of the plate before it caught Kevin Youkilis’ home-run swing for a 1-0 White Sox lead. However, Scherzer did not give up the big inning to go with it. He came close, going to three full counts. Only Paul Konerko reached base out of it, getting a two-out single, before Scherzer stranded him by retiring Alex Rios.

Scherzer went to five full counts in his six innings, one big reason his pitch count climbed to 115 and his exit came one inning less than Leyland would’ve liked. Konerko’s single made him the only baserunner that came out of it.

Scherzer wasn’t happy about going to the full counts in the first place. He was happy to keep it at that.

“I think there were numerous times when it was 3-2 and I was still able to throw the changeup for a strike and collect an out in that situation,” Scherzer said. “When I can do that for the team, that’s usually when we get good results.”

His two big full-count outs around Youkilis’ home run both came on changeups, a pitch he indicated he had tweaked a bit.

“His command wasn’t very good today compared to his other starts, as far as quality strikes,” catcher Alex Avila said. “I think he would tell you that he struggled today falling behind guys, a lot more than he has been. At the same time, his stuff is so good that he can pitch in the middle of the plate sometimes and get away with it. But it’s tremendous concentration when he’s got three balls on a guy to be able to make a quality pitch.”

As good as Scherzer’s pitching has been for the past few months — he’s now 10-1 with a 2.53 ERA in his last 14 starts, allowing just 75 hits over 92 1/3 innings with 113 strikeouts — his September stretch is a different kind of effective. He has gone 19 innings since his last walk, a third-inning pass to Dewayne Wise in Comerica Park Sept. 1. He hadn’t gone back-to-back outings without a walk since July of last season, a 20 2/3-inning stretch with the All-Star break in between. He proved stingy with walks the following month, but gave up too much damage on hits.

These days, hitters aren’t producing much damage on him at all.

“He made one mistake and that the home run,” White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot that we did off him. When he throws over the plate, he’s tough and he’s been doing that for a few months now. That’s why his record is what it is and his strikeout numbers are what they are and everything is just there.”

 

Dombrowski holds out hope for Tigers

What began as a couple questions about the Tigers’ 2013 schedule turned into a wide-ranging interview team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski conducted with reporters Wednesday afternoon. In it, he pretty much agreed that Detroit’s offensive struggles have been confounding to him, but he held out hope that it could break out at a time the Tigers need runs most.

“We’ve been very inconsistent so far,” Dombrowski said. “But as I’ve said before, we have the chance to make this a very good year or a very disappointing year. It’s not over yet. We’ll see which way it goes. I’m still hopeful and think it can be a very good year.”

Dombrowski had a couple terms to describe his team’s offensive inconsistencies. Bewildering was one. Streaky was another.

“Maybe you people are wiser than me, but if you would have said to me that we would lose in consecutive fashion 2-1, 2-1, 3-2, 3-2, 3-2, 3-2, I think almost anybody in Major League Baseball would say there’s no way,” Dombrowski said. “And that’s what our totals were for a number of losses we had in a row. But things happen. It’s a strange game. I’ve been with clubs that have been very good hitting clubs that have gone through stretches in which they haven’t swung the bats very well and all of a sudden they come busting out. I’ve been with some clubs in Montreal in Florida — and I’m talking clubs with some Hall of Fame hitters on them — and all of a sudden they’re not scoring runs for a lengthy period and all of a sudden, boom, here they come.

“That’s what’s so interesting about the game, because all of a sudden, you just never know. It may be tonight. It might have been last night that starts it. It might not be. I don’t know. You just don’t know. But I know we’re a better offensive club.”

Those comments came before Prince Fielder’s three-run home run paced an offensive breakout in an 8-6 Tigers win over the White Sox, whittling their deficit in the AL Central standings to one game with a chance to move into a tie Thursday night.

“This club has been bewildering in that we haven’t hit on a consistent basis,” Dombrowski said. “But we can hit. So for whatever reason, it’s been streaky. But just when you think it’s at its lowest moment, all of a sudden we start to swing the bats. And hopefully that will be the case. I know they continue to work at it. [Hitting coach] Lloyd McLendon continues to work at it with the guys on a daily basis. And the one thing we have done, we have pitched very well. Usually when you pitch very well, it usually ends up being good for you. So let’s hope that it ends up being good for you, because we’ve got a lot of guys who are throwing the ball really well right now — starters and bullpen.”

A selection of Dombrowski quotes on other topics:

On the abundance of contending teams under the new postseason picture this year: “It’s healthy for the game that everybody’s competing. The other thing we talked about yesterday, if you get in, anything can happen, because we’re so closely bunched nowadays. There’s not — I don’t think, when you go in there — one club that you say, ‘Wow, that club is so dominant that it’s going to be an upset for anybody to beat them.’ There’ll be favorites in every series, but there’s nobody. What happens if the Phillies sneak in? They’re only going to be a little over .500 if they get there, unless they win all the rest of their games. If they sneak in and win their first game, all of a sudden you’re facing Hamels, Halladay and Lee, I don’t think you’re sitting back saying, ‘Wow, this is an easy series.’

“Usually you’re a clear-cut favorite if you have dominating starting pitching, or if you have a lineup that just thumps so much more and it can get good pitching. I don’t see any team that’s just dominant.”

Comparing the success of the Oakland Athletics: “That’s why managing large payrolls is such a great exercise, because now I’ve been at both. I’ve been here for a while. My first 15 years I was in the game, was with a payroll that was in the upper half one time. We had some clubs that were very competitive. The thing is that there are times when you have a low payroll, you just have to say no. So when you have a tough question for signing guys to long-term contracts to big dollars, that may push them at the point that you know the last couple years may not be as productive, you don’t say, ‘Well maybe I can do this.’ There’s one answer: No. Not, ‘Can I …’ No. And sometimes then, if you’re wise, and a lot of guys are wise, you can trade that player for two or three players that are just on the verge of stepping in. And there’s been some clubs that have done that, and it’s a wise move.”

“The reality is, sometimes those guys are smarter that are making the trades. Look at Oakland, what they did this past winter. I remember everybody was writing, ‘Oh look at them, they’re folding a tent.’ We didn’t think that, because the guys they kept getting, we kept saying, ‘Wow, they’re getting some good players.’ And when they called us about [Gio] Gonzalez and the guys that we were going to trade, we said, ‘Well, they’re asking for the right guys.’ And if they had gotten those guys, they would’ve been very productive too. And so, it’s amazing they’re doing a good job, and I think clubs have become better at that, most clubs — maybe not all clubs, but most clubs. The clubs that are acquiring the talent have become better at identifying players through their scouting — not all, but most of them.”

On the Tigers ending next season in Miami with Interleague Play: “I knew that somebody was going to get the last week. I prefer it not be us, but somebody was going to get it. That’s it. It all equals out. You play the same number of games in that regard.”

On reconciling Interleague Play in September with September call-ups: “Well, you know that when all this happened, there’s going to be some inherent situations that are not going to be fair. I mean, that’s just the way it is, because if you’re going to play Interleague Play all year long, ideally if you’re an American League team, you don’t want to be playing that later in the year. Also, if you’re a National League team, if you’re going to play it, you’d prefer to play it at the end of the year. The reason I say that is because you can play your roster in September, so you’re not tied to the same 25-man [roster], unless they change that rule. You can go ahead and add somebody, even if they’re not eligible for the postseason, in September that can be a DH. Now that’s unfair to some National League teams, because if you’ve got [Interleague games] early and you don’t have them late, well you don’t have that same advantage.”

On the potential for changing the rules on September call-ups: “We have had that discussion for years now. I think a lot of people share that feeling. For whatever reason, it’s never been passed and I’m not privy to those final conversations. I think a lot of it had to deal with you have to negotiate, you have to be in a position where the Players Association has to favor it. I think it’s finally starting to get more attention, but we’ve had that conversation for over 10 years. It’s actually called the Doug Melvin Rule among the general managers.”

On the feedback he hears from fans: “You know what? That’s great. That’s passionate fans. I mean, the number of letters I get on a daily basis from people that want us to trade this guy or get rid of that guy or why are doing this, why are we doing that, they’re passionate. I never have a problem with that. Now, if somebody’s vulgar or somebody oversteps the bounds, and once in a while you get one of those, I don’t think there’s any place for that. People write in on a passionate basis, and I bet you there’s a handful of people I get a letter from every single day. Sometimes when I get them I tell them, ‘Why are you writing to me? Write to the player or write to the manager or something. That’s not my decision.’ But I get them and it’s great. I don’t have a problem with it.”

On the emergence of new media and new modes of feedback: “Well, you make trades sometimes by texting. I mean, most of the deal we did with the Marlins [for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez] was by texting, this last one. Now, I basically feel that I’m in a position where I need to learn that, because it’s my responsibility. If I want to stay contemporary, you need to do what is comtemporary. I feel it’s incumbent upon me in my position, because part of your job is communication. And if part of the world is communicating by texting, and I’m not, then that’s not good. So I’ve had to learn how to do it. It’s still not my favorite form of communication, but I do it. I’d rather talk to a lot of people. My son sends me five texts and I say, ‘Why don’t you just call me? We can get this done in one minute.’ By the time I get it, it takes me a long time to text.”

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