February 27th, 2013

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

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