Game 1 wrapup: Prince quietly has big opener

Between Justin Verlander’s five dominant innings, the debate over the decision to remove him, and the unveiling of the bullpen by committee in action, Prince Fielder’s Opening Day will get overlooked. Considering how many layers of clothing Fielder was wearing to keep warm, he was hard to recognize.

His manager, however, didn’t overlook him, and what he meant to their season opening win.

“Quietly, he had a heck of a game,” Leyland said.

For somebody who came to town with as much fanfare and attention as he received a year ago, it’s a rare feat for him to do anything quietly. Yet he might have reached that point as a Tiger where not everything he does gets spotlighted.

Fielder pulled off his first .300 season last year thanks to a good share of hits to left field, but his first base hit of 2013 was a rare piece opposite-field hitting even for him. Fighting off a Vance Worley pitch inside, he slapped a double just inside the third-base bag that allowed Miguel Cabrera to score the second run of the opening inning.

In the field, he came up with the defensive gem of the afternoon at a time when the Tigers desperately needed it, scooping Jhonny Peralta’s throw out of the dirt to retire pinch-hitter Wilkin Ramirez and strand the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

“Probably the play of the game,” Leyland said.

Fielder has made plenty of those types of scoops before, but rarely in a bigger situation. He also had to stretch for that one.

It might well have been a benefit of the offseason workout program Leyland hinted at for the first time.

“He’s in very good shape,” Leyland said. “I mean, he has worked very hard this winter. He’s got a regimen that he does with somebody, but he’s in tremendous shape. He was bouncing around real good today.”

As it preserving a one-run lead wasn’t enough, Fielder made it two runs in the eighth when he singled leading off the eighth and scored on a Josh Roenicke wild pitch.

“That extra add-on run was huge,” Leyland said. “That takes you off the lines the next couple innings. You’re not playing for no doubles. That was a huge add-on run.”

Play of the game: It looked at first like a classic hit-and-run play in the opening inning, but Leyland said Torii Hunter was simply reacting and hitting behind the runner once he saw Austin Jackson take off following his leadoff single. The resulting single looked like a slow-motion replay, the ball rolling through the right side as second baseman Brian Dozier tried futilely to reverse course and run it down.

“It was not a hit-and-run,” Leyland said. “I’d like to take credit for it, but it wasn’t. Torii just saw him going and shot it over there on his own. It was a heck of a play by Torii Hunter. I’d like to say I was smart and put it on, but I didn’t. He just saw the pitch and saw Jackson going, saw the hole and just fisted it over there. That’s a credit to him.”

Biggest out: Though Leyland cited Fielder’s dig as the play of the game, Al Alburquerque’s back-to-back strikeouts in the seventh arguably stopped the Twins’ momentum in its tracks after a second consecutive bases-loaded jam. The last out, in particular, was huge, a full-count slider that Alburquerque buried knowing that he could walk in the tying run but strongly believing that Chris Parmelee would swing at it thinking it was a strike. More on that in the game story on the site.

Strategy: Leyland met with pitching Jeff Jones at some point before Monday’s game and put a pitch count on Justin Verlander. It wasn’t just a general range, but a limit of 100 pitches, strong enough that Leyland decided not to send Verlander out for the sixth despite five shutout innings.

“It was his first start of the year,” Leyland said. “He had 91 or 92 pitches. If you let him start the next inning, he’s really not a quick out guy so much. A hundred was going to be the max, so I just decided that was enough. Are you going to send him out for one hitter? I didn’t think that made sense with the left-hander coming up.

“You have to remember one thing: We just came from basically 80-degree weather to 30-some degree weather. First start, 90-some pitches, that was enough.”

What worked for Verlander: “I was very pleased with my curveball. It was kind of average to subpar all spring. Just playing catch the other day, I was something and I was able to carry it over to the game today and it was really good. I got some big outs off of it.”

Line of the day: Miguel Cabrera went 0-for-5 with a run scored, an RBI and two strikeouts. It marked the first time since 2006, two years before he joined the Tigers, that he did not reach base safely on Opening Day, yet he still drove in a run by beating out a double play and scored another on the next hitter.

Stat of the day: 0 — Number of outs recorded by Twins outfielders behind Vance Worley during his six innings. Worley recorded 13 ground-ball outs, two pop-ups to short and three strikeouts.

Print it (best quote): “This weather, I was talking with some the trainers, and they were like, ‘Guys don’t run as fast in this weather. Your muscles just don’t work. It’s not as efficient. It’s like trying to stretch out a cold rubber band. It doesn’t stretch like it does when it’s warm.” — Verlander on the effect of the cold weather (can’t believe I forgot the attribution the first time, sorry)

28 Comments

A run and hit then

lots of Pas against RHP…..where ya at alex and andy? prince did his dirt yesterday – your turn!

Andy had a walk and great sac bunt against a lefty. Made a nice running catch. His weak arm was exposed though. Alex is lost. That called 3rd strike was a pitch he would have laced to left centre in 2011. He seems to be in between decisions. When to swing and when to take. It is what happened to Chris Shelton.
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Nice to get the first win out of the way. Torri was good. We wont win many when Miggy goes 0 for 5. Good to see others step up. Omar battled too. He had a couple of finger paralyzers.
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If anyone is counting …. we are 0 for 2 with the bases loaded for 2013. Gosh, I hope that is not the same problem area for us again this year.
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Go Tigers.
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– Bob

That is true bob (about andy) – and I’m pretty sure Cabby will break out today: he’s batting .444 in 9abs against the twins starter. For that matter Omar hits him well and Prince has seen him 25abs against him.
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The question today is how will Sanchez do – has recently had some trouble with his stuff. Those 3 HRs and 9 ERs in 5.0 Innings on the 28th was only slightly worse than his performance on the 23rd (4IP, 8hits, 4ER).

You mean the question tomorrow, not today :)
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Bob

you’re right. damn time machine.

Missed the game (the internet here went out at 1:00 to 6:00!
Did watch the condensed version.
Agree about Avila. He looked not so good. The guy has to start getting mad at himself when he whiffs badly in key situations. He should not look like it is non-event. Another thing; I notice he is receiving pitches below the knees with his glove turned up. The problem with that for a catcher is that it becomes a habit and when a ball is thrown in in the dirt the glove and body are not in a good position to frame the ball and keep it in front of you. I hope he gets this corrected.

I thought of you at a spring training game when I saw Avila show some emotion when he smacked his bat and was talking to himself on the way back to the dugout after fouling out with runners in scoring position. I don’t think the camera would have caught it.

he did take a few shots yesterday, on a side note.

Interesting Mark. I guess I have said this too often!
Reason I do is I really like Alex and would like nothing better to see him become one of the best in the business before his knees are gone.
Wish we had more guys like JV who “will” themselves to be the best.

Rich posted a link to an article explaining why the Tigers are wrong trying to change his approach . Against RHB he gets on base and that is good. Perhaps, he is being forced to take the wrong approach and hence the doubts.
The wrong way to receive the ball have been there always. He was not drafted as catcher and was never taught how to do that. And nobody has tried to correct him.
Doing it properly is something that only a few , the Molina brothers, IRod or Peña know how to.

Alex was drafted as a catcher. He caught one or two years at Alabama. I saw him a few times in AA and he is a much better catcher now. I think Alex will have a good year as he was able to train all winter and was not rehabbing as the previous year.

interesting discrency here between re: alex.
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from what i can tell in 2007 he played in the cape cod league not as a catcher (listed as infielder, rather).
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but he played catcher at alabama and was named the organizations best defensive catcher in 2009.
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and lastly, i relistened to the game yesterday and i don’t remember jim price saying anything about it — and we all know what position he played.

The proper way to handle low pitches going to the dirt is throwing the whole body in front of the ball. He has never done that. And his defensive numbers are worse now than in 2011.
You are right about him being drafted as catcher but that was not his original position. he began as corner infielder and was expected to en playing 1B

http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/6787778/detroit-tigers-alex-avila-taken-huge-step-forward?src=mobile

(didn’t see your post until after i posted) interesting though – you sure are good at pulling up information eltigre

Masterson with great defense backing him looking too good

Yu Darvish comes within one out of pitching a perfecto, which would have been the first Rangers no-hitter since Kenny Rogers’ perfect game in 1994. Hard hit grounder up the middle, but it went right between his legs. That close.
A lot of no-hitters and near no-hitters these days.

It appears the Rangers will not only get 18 games with Houston, but nine more “home” games for themselves. Rangers crowd down there.

Mark my words. The Rangers will not make the postseason.

Four shutouts in Monday’s games. Really impressive what Kershaw did.

corey blaser is HP umpire today – i think. He’s called balled and strikes for 60 PAs for Anibal in the past to a pretty good line of 3.00ERA and .185/.254/.204/.458
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So hopefully anibal can bounce back – and Cabby can too (i mentioned his past numbers off of Correia (i keep thinking Chick Corea)) and get some hard hits.

and in regards to alex not hitting well and appearing frustrated. I saw somewhere that “Alex Avila is dealing with a personal matter but expects to play Wednesday against the Twins.” So i wonder if that affected his play the other day? http://sportsdirect.usatoday.com/baseball/mlb-matchups.aspx?page=/data/MLB/matchups/g4_summary_4.html

His wife is due for the baby any day now. For their sake, I hope it’s before the west coast trip.

oh! ok well that’s a good personal matter! Hopefully everything goes ok.

I was looking at the schedule again and noticed that this West Coast trip coming up is the only games in the PST all year. That is a tremendous break. How did we get so lucky? I only have to be bleary-eyed at work a few games because two of the series are on the weekend. I like when the West Coast trips are out of the way early but I never thought we would go only once.
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Go Tigers.
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– Bob

That’s because we’re playing the NL East this year. Wait until we play the NL West……

Good point … Seems like we have played the NL West alot in recent years .. Dbacks, Rockies and Dodger esp. Still nice to get Seatle, Oakland and LAA done in one trip through.
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– Bob

The most unique thing about MLB’s scheduling approach is that we will play each of our four division foes nineteen times so one team in each match up will have a home field advantage for the season series. This year we will hold the advantage over the Royals and Twins. Likewise, the White Sox and Indians have the same against us. Of our other ten AL foes, we will play six of them seven times and four of them six times each. This scheduling wrinkle helps MLB reduce the chance of needing play-in games for the wild card spots.

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