July 16th, 2013

Leyland to have Torii Hunter address AL All-Stars

Before the American League All-Stars took the field for batting practice Tuesday, Torii Hunter talked about the memorable pregame speeches that Ichiro Suzuki used to make at All-Star Games.

“Ichiro was funny, man,” Hunter said. “Every year he gave a little speech. It was pretty weird, can’t give you everything. It’ll be weird without him up here, but somebody’s going to have to step up and take that role, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a guy that’s going to make All-Stars for the next 10 years. We’ll see.”

Hunter had no idea when he said it that the guy to step up was going to be him. His manager, Jim Leyland, had already decided it.

“When the FOX crew comes in, I’m going to actually have Torii Hunter address the team,” Leyland told the Detroit area writers. “He’s a 17-year veteran, very well respected.”

FOX records the pregame speeches from the respective clubhouses for its pregame show. Leyland said he’ll talk with the All-Stars off camera, but mainly to address game issues like going over signs.

Leyland called Hunter an elder statesman, though Mariano Rivera has actually played more years in the big leagues. Hunter’s outgoing personality, however, arguably lends itself better to a team speech.

“I think it would be more attractive for the fans, maybe to see what a player has to say rather than an old manager saying this game means something,” Leyland said. “I think it’s good. Torii can express himself however he wants, and that’s what I want him to do. I just felt I think he’s the elder statesmen, a 17-year veteran, maybe just [talking about] what it means to him and what we’re trying to accomplish here.

“I just thought it was a good idea. In fact, I thought it was a brilliant idea.”

Hunter is making his fifth All-Star appearance, and his first since 2010. His fellow Major League players voted him onto the team as a reserve, a sign of how much respect he has around the game. With his 38th birthday coming up on Thursday, this could well be his last All-Star Game.

He isn’t likely to make the same type of speech that Ichiro made — those weren’t exactly clean for network television — but he’s likely to speak from the heart.

Jeff Jones on Scherzer: “We’ll keep him calmed down”

A year after Justin Verlander’s infamous All-Star first inning, nobody on the Tigers is trying to hide from it. But it’s also clear that nobody wants a repeat of it. The fact that Max Scherzer has his regular coaching staff around him this time, including highly trusted pitching coach Jeff Jones should help.

Scherzer has joked a few times about not taking the mound with too much energy like Verlander did. But just in case, Jones said earlier Tuesday that he’s going to check on his 13-game winner beforehand.

“We’ll talk about that,” Jones said. “I’m going to tell him I want you to come out and pitch the same way you do in the first inning of any game. Because I don’t think it’s going to be beneficial commandwise at the mound to try to do more. There’s no sense in getting out of whack while you’re here.

 “You don’t want to change anything. We’ll talk about it. We’ll keep him calmed down.”

Leyland maps out All-Star pitching plan after Scherzer

While Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer received the honor of starting for the American League in the All-Star Game, Chris Sale and Matt Moore are on track to cover innings for the AL as the Midsummer Classic.

AL All-Star manager Jim Leyland said that Tuesday afternoon that Scherzer will pitch only the first inning, no matter how few pitches he throws. Leyland plans on using Sale, the White Sox ace, for two innings once Scherzer finishes with the first.

“The plan right now is Felix Hernandez for an inning,” Leyland said, referring to the fourth inning. “The plan after that is Moore for an inning or possibly two, but an inning for sure. And then fill in with some bullpen guys. But as the game goes on, you might see what happens.”

Leyland reiterated his plans to use Yankees closer Mariano Rivera in either the eighth or ninth inning, depending on the score, to try to finish out Rivera’s final All-Star Game.

At least one AL pitcher, probably two, will be held back in case the game goes to extra innings. It will not necessarily be the pitchers that were added to the roster in recent days, a list that included Orioles starter Chris Tillman, Royals closer Greg Holland and A’s closer Grant Balfour.

Other available starters on the AL roster, pitchers capable of covering multiple innings if needed, include Tillman and Cleveland’s Justin Masterson. The pitchers will know before the game starts.

Whoever gets the assignment could well lose out on an All-Star appearance if the game doesn’t go extras, but Leyland said they had to map out a pitching plan for a potentially long game. After extra-inning games extended All-Star rosters to the brink of running out of pitchers, as they did in 2002 and nearly did in 2008, managers are required to have a game plan in case of a long evening.

“I have to guarantee pretty much that I have accounted for 15 innings of pitching,” said Leyland, who worked out the plan with Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones.

Sale is making his second consecutive All-Star appearance. He pitched the sixth inning in last year’s game at Kansas City. Moore is making his All-Star debut.