February 2013

Thursday: Tigers at Rays (updated with lineup changes)

After six straight games to start off Spring Training, Victor Martinez gets a day off as Jim Leyland tries to split up his roster for trips to Port Charlotte and Port St. Lucie the next couple days. The Port Charlotte trip includes Austin Jackson, Omar Infante, Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta, who comprise the top half of the batting order today. It also includes Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia, who will be the corner outfielders against Rays lefty Matt Moore the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona.

Matt Moore was the originally scheduled starter today. Once Carmona was entered, the Tigers changed their lineup to put Tyler Collins in right field and Don Kelly at first base. And yes, playing matchups in an early spring game is a little odd. Moore is listed on the game notes as scheduled to pitch today, but won’t be starting.

On the Rays side, Luke Scott — who boasts 10 home runs in 96 regular-season plate appearances against the Rays for his career — gets the start in right field. Somehow, Detroit held him to 0-for-11 with four strikeouts in three games last year.

Don’t read too much into Curt Casali at DH. Leyland said when games started that he would be trying to

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Don Kelly, 1B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Alex Avila, C
  5. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  6. Tyler Collins, RF
  7. Omar Infante, 2B
  8. Nick Castellanos, LF
  9. Curt Casali, DH

P: Anibal Sanchez, Trevor Bell, Luis Marte, Jose Alvarez, Kenny Faulk, Ryan Robowski, Darin Downs

RAYS

  1. Ben Zobrist, DH
  2. Kelly Johnson, LF
  3. Evan Longoria, 3B
  4. Luke Scott, RF
  5. Yunel Escobar, SS
  6. James Loney, 1B
  7. Ryan Roberts, 2B
  8. Jose Lobaton, C
  9. Sam Fuld, CF

P: Matt Moore Roberto Hernandez, Matt Moore, Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, Cesar Ramos, Jamey Wright

Wednesday wrapup: So, about that Porcello slider …

Rick Porcello spent the weeks leading into Spring Training working on a slider. That was the story once the trade rumors on Porcello died down in late January. It was a mechanical adjustment that could help his overall command, but especially his slider.

Two starts into his Spring Training, Porcello has thrown opponents and pundits a curveball. But he has not thrown very many sliders. On Wednesday, he didn’t throw any sliders.

At this point, the curveball seems to be a bigger pitch for him. And if he’s going to concentrate on one breaking ball, it wouldn’t bode well for the slider.

“Right now, I’m just working on one breaking ball,” Porcello said after Wednesday’s outing, “just working on getting the command of one and establishing that, and we’ll go from there.”

When Porcello made his previous start, his former catcher sounded like Porcello would be better off picking one and moving on.

“He’ll have it for three or four starts,” Gerald Laird said of the slider, “and then he won’t have it. And I just think it’s more of having it all the time, or having it where he has confidence in throwing it all the time. He goes back from the curveball to the slider, slider to curveball, and I think if he just picks one and masters it, if he can get that third pitch really working, he’s got everything it takes.”

Laird, for one, liked the curveball, and it might not be a coincidence that Porcello used the curve more last year than he did in 2011. At 3.7 percent of his total pitches, according to Fangraphs, it was his highest percentage of curveball use since his rookie season in 2009, when Laird was also his catcher.

The thought process all along was that a slider would complement his sinker well, but the numbers when hitters got to it last year were not good. When hitters put the slider in play, it led to a hit nearly half the time, according to STATS. Yet the swing-and-miss rate were nearly the same between the two pitches.

Of course, Porcello has been working on a different slider. Whether and when he starts to use it remains to be seen.

Other notes from Wednesday’s Tigers loss to the Braves …

  • As written in the notes on the site, Quintin Berry underwent an MRI exam and x-rays Wednesday after being scratched from the starting lineup again with left knee soreness. Tests and an examination from Dr. Sal Montenegro confirmed the diagnosis of tendinitis where his left knee patella meets the quadriceps. He’ll get treatment for the next few days before he’s re-evaluated. So the Tigers will be down another outfielder for the near future.
  • Miguel Cabrera said he’ll be leaving camp Saturday to join Team Venezuela in Jupiter, Fla. to train for the World Baseball Classic. Leyland said Cabrera will play Saturday in the home end of the split-squad games before leaving, as will Omar Infante.
  • Leyland spent his postgame session praising Tyler Collins’ ability to pick up the pitch out of the pitcher’s hand quickly. “I really like him a lot,” Leyland said. “I think he’s a very good-looking prospect. He’s an interesting guy.”
  • If you were waiting for somebody to credit Kenny Rogers’ instructional work in this camp, Leyland mentioned it Wednesday in regards to a Phil Coke pickoff play. Coke pointed to the dugout when he did it, seemingly trying to make a point. “That’s just Kenny Rogers stuff,” Leyland explained. “Cokey just saw something himself. Cokey gets excitable, you know. It doesn’t have to be the Fourth of July for him to get excited.”

Early notes: Scherzer set for Sunday, Berry returns

Max Scherzer is throwing a long session of live batting practice this morning, and has been cranking up his pitches to what looks like game speed. If he feels fine after this, he’ll be scheduled to pitch Sunday’s game against the Braves at Disney.

According to Scherzer, it’s around the same time he made his first start last spring. The counterpoint, of course, is that Spring Training began earlier this year, and so does the regular season. Scherzer made his first regular-season start of 2012 on April 8. By that point this season, the Tigers will have already played six games.

Scherzer says he feels fine, and Jim Leyland has said they’re stretching him out slowly after his innings total last year and his shoulder soreness last fall.

More notes from this morning …

  • Quintin Berry was originally in the starting lineup today, but he has been scratched with more discomfort in his left knee. He said he’s going to get checked out by a doctor later today to get a better idea whether it’s patellar tendinitis or something else.
  • As mentioned earlier, Quintin Berry is back in the Tigers lineup today against the Braves. He said he’s fine after he had a flare-up of patellar tendinitis in his knee.
  • Andy Dirks is going through full batting practice and workouts today. Manager Jim Leyland didn’t give a timetable for his return. Dirks said they’re going to play it by ear. If he gets through it OK, he’ll presumably make one of the next two road trips. As of this morning, he was not on the travel roster to Port Charlotte for Thursday’s game against the Rays.
  • Good talk with Jhonny Peralta this morning about his work with Rafael Belliard, who’s trying to get him to stay back on ground balls up the middle instead of taking a first step in. It’s a tricky adjustment for him, because his first instinct his whole career has been to take a step in as the pitch is coming in.
  • Florida governor Rick Scott is here talking about the Tigers’ plans for renovations and additions to Joker Marchant Stadium. He visited the clubhouse and introduced himself to players who live in Florida.

Wednesday: Tigers vs. Braves

The knee flare-up that sidelined Quintin Berry apparently was a short-term issue. He’s in the lineup in left field in place of Andy Dirks, who’s expected to go through full workouts this morning. Other than that, it’s an Opening Day lineup for Detroit versus Tim Hudson.

TIGERS

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

P: Rick Porcello, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, Brayan Villarreal, Kyle Lobstein, Jose Ortega, Phil Coke

BRAVES

  1. Jordan Schafer, CF
  2. Reed Johnson, RF
  3. Freddie Freeman, 1B
  4. Dan Uggla, 2B
  5. Juan Francisco, DH
  6. Chris Johnson, 3B
  7. Gerald Laird, C
  8. Joey Terdoslavich, LF
  9. Ramiro Pena, SS

P: Tim Hudson

Tuesday: Tigers at Astros

There’s a light rain falling here at Osceola County Stadium, but they’re planning on at least starting this game. Given Doug Fister’s injuries last year, it’ll be interesting to see how cautious they might be with him to try to avoid aggravating anything.

Speaking of injuries, Quintin Berry was originally expected to start in center field, but he’s dealing with patellar tendinitis. Andy Dirks also didn’t make the trip as previously hoped, so the outfield ranks are thinned out a bit. Jeff Kobernus will likely play the entire game (if there is a full game) in center.

TIGERS

  1. Jeff Kobernus, CF
  2. Avisail Garcia, RF
  3. Victor Martinez, DH
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  6. Nick Castellanos, LF
  7. Brayan Pena, C
  8. Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B
  9. Hernan Perez, 2B

P: Doug Fister

ASTROS

  1. Tyler Greene, SS
  2. Jose Altuve, 2B
  3. Carlos Pena, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH
  5. Brett Wallace, 3B
  6. Rick Ankiel, RF
  7. Jason Castro, C
  8. Fernando Martinez, LF
  9. Trevor Crowe, CF

P: Erik Bedard

Monday’s notes: Tracking Cabrera’s moon shot

I watched this replay of Miguel Cabrera’s home run of Jonathan Papelbon several times. I saw the ball disappear somewhere around the left-field concourse. I still couldn’t figure out whether it left the ballpark, no matter how many times I watched.

Finally, as the Tigers and Phillies were wrapped up this 10-1 affair, I decided to head out to the concourse and try to figure it out myself. I’m not good at this. I have neither a tape measure nor a very good sense of distance. But I figured I’d give it a shot.

The left-field concourse at Bright House Networks Field has two tiki bars — a big one for Frenchy’s, the local bar and grill known for their grouper sandwiches, and a smaller one that just serves drinks. The home run seemingly headed over the smaller one.

The bartender there was very nice, and tried to explain it as best she could while trying to take care of customers. She knew about the home run I was asking about, and said it hit off the fence behind her bar, as shown in this picture.

springtraining 032

Beyond that fence, you can see there’s a drop. That’s pretty much where the ballpark ends. There’s a player parking lot behind there, but the ball reportedly did not land there. There was another report that the ball hit a refrigeration unit down there. But in an area with two tiki bars and no shortage of customers, I’m taking the word of the one who hasn’t had a drink.

springtraining 031The concourse looks to be about 50 feet wide, followed by another 50 feet to the fence. It’s 329 feet down the left-field line, but no other measurement between there and center field. Best guess is that it’s about 350 feet to the fence where he hit it. Add another 100 feet as explained above, and you have a (loosely, and perhaps conservatively) estimated 450-foot drive.

The picture on the right shows what the view looks like from just in front of that back fence, demonstrating how far back it is.

From what the bartender and the Philadelphia media said, it’s not rare to see a ball travel that far in that area. Home runs have landed in the player parking lot before, shattering windshields. One of those happened last spring. Most of those, though, were hit in batting practice. Cabrera did it in a game.

However, Cabrera did it in a spring training game, and spring training games don’t get official estimates. This was my best shot.

Other information, hopefully more accurate, from today in Tigers camp:

  • Drew Smyly felt very good about the few changeups he threw in his two innings of work. The mechanical adjustment pitching coach Jeff Jones made with him feels more like a natural pitch, he said. Before, he was trying to force the changeup as he released it.
  • Look for a feature on Nick Castellanos on the site tonight, but one of the interesting points he made was that he thinks he feels some of his success hitting left-handers comes from the fact that he grew up hitting pitches thrown by his father, a left-hander. Over the years, he developed an inside-out swing by trying to send the pitch back from the angle it came. Ironically, he roughed up right-handed pitching all day Monday after lefty Cliff Lee struck him out on a called third strike, but Lee does that a lot.
  • Leyland said he spent Sunday night going over potential rosters. It sounds like Ramon Santiago’s spot is safe, barring injury, as is Brayan Pena’s role as backup catcher. That leaves two spots left, at least one going to an extra outfielder, and at least some consideration for a right-handed hitter and a pinch-runner. You can see the opportunity there for Jeff Kobernus to take if he hits, and his leadoff single through the middle ahead of Castellanos’ home run in the fifth didn’t hurt.
  • Max Scherzer felt fine today, according to Leyland. He’ll throw one more live batting practice session before he’s cleared to start next Saturday in one of the Tigers’ split-squad games, likely at home against the Pirates.

Dirks feeling better, could return Tuesday

A day after the Tigers had to scratch Andy Dirks from the lineup with an intercostal muscle issue, manager Jim Leyland said Dirks is feeling much better. Dirks could have played today against the Phillies in Clearwater, Leyland indicated, but they decided to play it safe instead of rushing him back against a lefty.

Before the injury, Dirks was on the travel roster to Kissimmee for Tuesday’s game against the Astros. No word whether he’ll be back on there now that he’s healthy, but with Nick Castellanos playing the entire game in left field today against the Phillies, as is Jeff Kobernus at DH, the rosters would lend themselves to seeing Dirks play Tuesday.

Monday: Tigers at Phillies

As expected, Victor Martinez is back in the lineup, this time at first base with Prince Fielder off. Jim Leyland was talking about giving one of the extra catchers in camp the start at DH, but went instead with Jeff Kobernus, giving him a test against the kind of lefty they want him to play against (Cliff Lee).

Reminder: Today’s game is live on MLB Network beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B
  5. Omar Infante, 2B
  6. Jeff Kobernus, DH
  7. Nick Castellanos, LF
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Danny Worth, SS

P: Drew Smyly, Casey Crosby, Darin Downs, Trevor Bell, Michael Morrison, Luis Marte, Kenny Faulk

PHILLIES

  1. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
  2. Chase Utley, 2B
  3. Michael Young, 3B
  4. Ryan Howard, 1B
  5. Darin Ruf, LF
  6. Carlos Ruiz, DH
  7. John Mayberry Jr., RF
  8. Erik Kratz, C
  9. Michael Martinez, CF

P: Cliff Lee, Tyler Cloyd, Michael Stutes, Phillippe Aumont, Jonathan Papelbon, Raul Valdez

Dirks scratched with left intercostal strain

The injuries so far in Tigers camp are minor, but they’re starting to add up. They now include a projected member of the Opening Day lineup, with Andy Dirks scratched from Sunday’s game shortly before first pitch.

Dirks is considered day-to-day with what was called a mild left intercostal strain. He took part in pregame workouts and batting practice but went back to the clubhouse shortly before it ended. He indicated it had been tight for a little while when he was working out.

Quintin Berry replaced Dirks in Sunday’s starting lineup.

Dirks characterized the decision as precautionary. That doesn’t mean his absence will be brief. With three bus trips coming up in the next four days, and no urgency to rush Dirks back for Opening Day, the Tigers could remain cautious for a while before bringing Dirks back to action.

The timetable is similarly unclear on infielder Ramon Santiago, who’s out with a strained right calf. Manager Jim Leyland tried to provide an unofficial timetable Sunday morning, and it didn’t sound good.

“You might as well mark him down as out for a while,” Leyland said.

Santiago sounded more optimistic, saying he could be back in a matter of days.

Sunday: Tigers vs. Phillies

With back-to-back road games coming up, the Tigers will keep their regulars together one more day for a meeting with Roy Halladay. The only change is Danny Worth giving Jhonny Peralta. Leyland said yesterday he would have started Ramon Santiago in that spot if not for the calf injury.

The game is on the radio in Detroit on 97.1 FM in Detroit and online at MLB Gameday Audio.

TIGERS
1. Austin Jackson, cf
2. Torii Hunter, rf
3. Miguel Cabrera, 3b
4. Prince Fielder, 1b
5. Victor Martinez, dh
6. Andy Dirks Quintin Berry, lf (Dirks scratched with mild left intercostal strain)
7. Alex Avila, c
8. Omar Infante, 2b
9. Danny Worth, ss

P: Justin Verlander, Kyle Lobstein, Octavio Dotel, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Brayan Villarreal, Phil Coke

PHILLIES
1. Jimmy Rollins, ss
2. Tyson Gillies, cf
3. Carlos Ruiz, c
4. Ryan Howard, 1b
5. Darin Ruf, dh
6. John Mayberry, rf
7. Kevin Frandsen, 3b
8. Freddy Galvis, 2b
9. Zach Collier, lf

P: Roy Halladay, Rodrigo Lopez, Antonio Bastardo, J.C. Ramirz, Jake Diekman, Joe Savery

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