August 2013

Castellanos among next round of Tigers callups

Nick Castellanos is getting the call in the big leagues on Sunday. He’ll be bringing a few more reinforcements from the Mud Hens with him.

A source confirmed a report from John Wagner of the Toledo Blade that Castellanos has been informed he’ll join the Tigers on Sunday, the first day Major League rosters expand for September call-ups. Infielder Danny Worth and reliever Evan Reed will also be recalled from Toledo on Sunday, according to Wagner.

Jim Leyland confirmed after Saturday’s win that three players are coming up on Sunday, but did not name them. The Tigers are expected to make it official Sunday morning.

Worth and Reed are already on Detroit’s 40-man roster, so no accompanying move is necessary. The Tigers will have to add Castellanos to the 40-man roster, but the move is a formality. None of them will be eligible for the postseason roster, though the Tigers could use an injury exemption if the need arose to add them.

Castellanos hit his 18th home run of the year for the Mud Hens Saturday night to go with his 76th RBI. He’ll finish his Triple-A season with a .276 average, the product of a slow start, torrid midseason and finally a leveling-off since the All-Star break.

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Indians

As expected, Miguel Cabrera is out of the starting lineup. Dave Dombrowski suggested he could play if needed, but after the last two games they’re taking some caution with him.

“I can’t say for sure, but [we] probably could play him today, per se,” he said. “But it’s just one of those things where you say it’s better to give him a break and go from there.”

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers off Scott Kazmir)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-12, 7 K’s)
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-2)
  3. Torii Hunter, RF (4-for-18, 3 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (0-for-3, K)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (10-for-21)
  6. Matt Tuiasosopo, LF (1-for-2, HR, K)
  7. Omar Infante, 2B (2-for-11, 3 walks, K)
  8. Brayan Pena, C (1-for-3)
  9. Ramon Santiago, 3B (3-for-6, 2 HR, walk)

P: Anibal Sanchez

INDIANS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Michael Bourn, CF (7-for-25, walk, 7 K’s)
  2. Nick Swisher, RF (2-for-9, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  3. Jason Kipnis, 2B (3-for-14, 5 K’s)
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B (3-for-13, walk, 3 K’s)
  5. Michael Brantley, LF (4-for-14, K)
  6. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (4-for-15, HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  7. Jason Giambi, DH (3-for-10, walk, 2 K’s)
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (2-for-7, walk, 2 K’s)
  9. Yan Gomes, C (1-for-2, walk)

P: Scott Kazmir

Tigers recall Phil Coke, Hernan Perez from Triple-A Toledo

As expected, Phil Coke is back at Comerica Park this afternoon. The Tigers recalled the lefty reliever from Triple-A Toledo, making him eligible for the postseason roster without having to use an injury exemption.

Also recalled from the Mud Hens was infielder Hernan Perez, who gives Detroit some infield depth now and potentially for the postseason if Miguel Cabrera’s abdominal strain is still a problem. The moves are the first of part of a multi-stage process the Tigers are taking with September call-ups. More moves are likely Sunday morning once rosters expand, with the last batch coming after the Mud Hens season ends on Monday.

To make room, the Tigers optioned long relievers Jeremy Bonderman to Triple-A Toledo and Luke Putkonen to Class A Lakeland. Both will be recalled in the coming days once the respective minor-league seasons ends. Since Lakeland’s season ends Sunday, Putkonen can return Monday in Boston. Bonderman will have to wait another day while the Mud Hens season concludes Monday afternoon.

The Tigers optioned Coke to Toledo a week and a half ago with the express purpose of getting his pitches back in order. His six scoreless innings on five hits with a walk and nine strikeouts would suggest that he did.

His return to the Tigers bullpen adds some lefty depth that was threatening to haunt them, most recently Friday night. Though Asdrubal Cabrera is batting .235 with little to no power against lefties this year, Jim Leyland didn’t want to use Drew Smyly in the sixth inning. Thus, with the bases loaded, he turned to Al Alburquerque, who ended up walking a hitter he had struck out four times in six previous meetings.

Coke’s struggles over the last couple months were more evident against left-handed hitters, who were actually hitting for a better average (.290) off of him right-handed batters (.273). If he can reverse the trend, the Tigers will be closer to getting their bullpen back in order for the stretch drive and the postseason.

Perez joins the Tigers for his third stint this year, having spent most of July and a week in August filling in at second base for an injured Omar Infante. The well-touted second baseman of the future also can play shortstop, which gives him some utility value. Perhaps more valuable, he’s a speedster on the basepaths, having stolen 55 bases in 66 tries in the minors over the last two years.

The list of guys not called up today includes top prospect Nick Castellanos, whose situation has been speculated upon pretty much since Spring Training. Though Miguel Cabrera’s injuries and Matt Tuiasosopo’s pregame work at third base yesterday raise the possibility that the Tigers could use another outfield bat, shuffling the 25-man roster to get him up here before rosters expand was another matter — and that’s IF the Tigers actually call up Castellanos for a September stint.

Cabrera leaves game after two innings

For the second time in as many days, Miguel Cabrera left a game with injury. This time, he lasted two innings of Friday’s series opener against Cleveland before exiting with what the team announced as irritation in his abdominal area.

Cabrera is listed as day-to-day. The way his weekend is going, it is becoming a daily question whether Cabrera can play through his ailment.

Cabrera left Thursday afternoon’s series finale against Oakland with abdominal discomfort that extended to the groin area. It’s an aggravation of an abdominal strain that has bothered him for close to two months.

Cabrera said after Thursday’s game that he planned on starting Friday. True to his word, he was back in the Tigers’ starting lineup for the series opener against the Indians, batting third and playing third base.

Manager Jim Leyland said before the game that he checked with Cabrera Friday afternoon before writing him into the starting lineup, and Cabrera was all smiles.

“Believe me, if he can’t play, he won’t play,” Leyland said. “He’s fine. He’s hurting some. I checked with him today. He’s ready to go. He’s sore. That’s the way it is.”

Cabrera struck out swinging to end the first inning, and he did not have a play to make in the field in either of the first two innings. He went after a Lonnie Chisenhall pop fly in foul territory to end the second inning, but shortstop Jose Iglesias ran it down and caught it.

When the Tigers took the field for the top of the third, Cabrera didn’t come out of the dugout. Don Kelly, who started the game in left field, replaced Cabrera at third, with Andy Dirks entering the game in left.

On Thursday, it was an acceleration around first base, trying to stretch a fifth-inning single into a double, that led to Cabrera aggravating the injury.

“You have to be willing to accept what it is, and we’re willing to accept it,” Leyland said. “The only thing he can’t do is he can’t run. He still catches the ball at third. He still throws them out. He still hits the ball over the fence. He’s still gets hits. He still knocks in runs. He’s handicapped a little bit physically, but nobody in here or any place else in the organization would risk hurting a guy long term if he didn’t feel he was ready to play.”

The Tigers entered Friday with a 6 1/2-game lead on Cleveland in the American League Central. A larger lead with 25 games left to play after the weekend might be enough to start looking into rest for the slugger. The team medical staff told Leyland that Cabrera can’t worsen the injury by playing through it, but his recent issues clearly suggest he isn’t getting any better, either.

“If he needs a day, he’ll get it,” Leyland said. “If he needs two days or three days, whenever it is, big series, little series, whatever you want to call it.”

The Tigers seem to be readying their options. Matt Tuiasosopo, who played third base in Spring Training with Cabrera in the World Baseball Classic, worked out at third base during batting practice Friday. Leyland, meanwhile, said he might use Cabrera at designated hitter for a game and put Victor Martinez at catcher, where he played well for two games against the Mets last week.

The Tigers will be able to call up reinforcements on Sunday, when 25-man roster expands and anyone on the 40-man roster can be active. Utility infielder Danny Worth has been playing some third base at Triple-A Toledo.

Friday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Indians

Miguel Cabrera is indeed in the Tigers lineup, playing third base. Don Kelly gets the start in left field.

TIGERS (career numbers off McAllister)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (4-for-7, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-7, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (4-for-12, walk, K)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (4-for-10, walk, 2 K’s)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-7, 2 K’s)
  6. Don Kelly, LF (2-for-5, 2 walks, K)
  7. Alex Avila, C (1-for-6, 3 K’s)
  8. Omar Infante, 2B (0-for-5)
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Rick Porcello

INDIANS (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. Michael Bourn, CF (1-for-6, 2 K’s)
  2. Nick Swisher, 1B (7-for-27, HR, 3 walks, 8 K’s)
  3. Jason Kipnis, 2B (7-for-23, HR, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  4. Carlos Santana, DH (10-for-31, 3 HR, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
  5. Michael Brantley, LF (7-for-31, HR, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
  6. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (13-for-39, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  7. Yan Gomes, C (3-for-6, K)
  8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (2-for-12, 2 K’s)
  9. Drew Stubbs, RF (1-for-5, 2 K’s)

P: Zach McAllister

Game 134: Thursday’s comeback, and Cabrera’s early departure

So to recap, the Tigers came within an out — within a strike, in Victor Martinez’s case — of being swept in a four-game series at home for the first time since 2004 and reviving memories of the Labor Day series in Kansas City in 2009 that started that late-season collapse. They not only pulled out the win with a four-run ninth inning, they added onto their AL Central lead when Cleveland was swept in Atlanta. As an amazing result, Detroit has a half-game bigger lead coming out of this four-game set than it did coming in. The Tigers are 10-11 since they swept a four-game series in Cleveland, yet they’ve lost just a half game off their lead in that stretch as they prepare to welcome the Indians to town for a three-game weekend set.

Their biggest comeback of the season until Thursday was a 4-0 deficit they faced after one inning in Toronto July 2, a deficit they erased with a six-run second inning that included a three-run homer from Miguel Cabrera. They had just three wins when trailing in the ninth inning (two of them via Alex Avila home runs on the road), and just four games in which they scored more than two runs in the ninth. Their other four-run ninth was the Chris Perez meltdown in Cleveland, fueled in large part by Avila’s three-run homer.

Thursday’s rally erased what was once a 6-1 deficit, and it came without any role from Miguel Cabrera. And yet as scary as the sight of him limping off the field looked, his banged-up left leg clearly a problem once again, he expects to play Friday.

“I’ll play tomorrow,” he said after the game. “Don’t worry.”

He made the reason plainly clear.

“Cleveland, bro,” he said.

So to recap, what looked like a worst-case scenario for the Tigers after five innings Thursday looks now like a charmed life. And if Detroit can get its pitching back in order against a Cleveland lineup that scored just three runs over 27 innings in Atlanta, the Tigers could head into the final four weeks of the season with an even bigger division lead than it had coming out of Cleveland a few weeks ago. And as much as the Indians’ September schedule has been touted as easy, they and the Tigers play the exact same number of games against teams over .500: nine of their final 25, six of them against a Royals that has been teetering wildly around the .500 mark for the past couple weeks.

Which raises a side question:

At what point, if ever, do the Tigers consider resting Cabrera in September?

If the Tigers’ division crown is set, but Cabrera’s Triple Crown is still up in the air, would Cabrera — or the Tigers, or Major League Baseball — want him to sit?

The medical information coming from the Tigers has been consistent: Cabrera can’t make his injuries worse by playing. Still, Cabrera was favoring his troublesome left leg as he limped off the field Thursday, having tried to stretch a single into a double and spark a rally that eventually happened without him.

The diagnosis is abdominal discomfort, in this case extending into a groin injury.

“You don’t feel very comfortable when you see any of your players that might be hurt or in pain,” Leyland said. “But at least I knew what this was right off the bat. We have a pretty good idea that’s an aggravation of it.”

It’s an aggravation of the injury that has bothered him for close to two months, but at this point, it’s the same day-to-day diagnosis he has had all along.

The combination of Don Kelly replacing Cabrera at third base, Matt Tuiasosopo entering the game in Cabrera’s spot, and later Torii Hunter pinch-hitting for Kelly, left the Tigers with an interesting setup at the end. Tuiasosopo was playing third base, something he did a lot in Spring Training (he actually didn’t play much left field until his hot start at the plate put him into the conversation for the Opening Day roster) but something Leyland said a few weeks ago he’d only do now in an emergency late-game situation. If Leyland can count on Don Kelly at third, and he can use Tuiasosopo at third, it gives him options to get by. It’s not something you’d want to do with a division race on the line, but we’ll see.

That’s the team side. Then there’s the individual side. Cabrera has a 28-point lead in the batting race and enough plate appearances that he can miss some games and still qualify for his third consecutive batting crown. He has a nine-RBI lead for Baltimore’s Chris Davis, who leads him in home runs by four. The Orioles are in a scrum for the AL East and Wild Card, which means Davis is going to play. Unless he has an absolutely horrendous September, it’s very difficult to envision Cabrera winning the Triple Crown without playing all the time down the stretch, even if the Tigers wrap up a division title early.

On the other hand, it’s impossible to envision the Tigers getting back to the World Series without Cabrera as his usual threat. His presence and his potential shape how opposing pitchers approach the entire Tigers lineup. This much is obvious. So what do you do?

How the Tigers handle September call-ups could say a lot before we get to that point. Every indication right now remains that they don’t want to call up guys who won’t play a role here. Nick Castellanos isn’t making the trip unless the Tigers have a plan to get him playing time. It won’t come at third base, no matter what Cabrera’s situation is. But could it come in the outfield if Kelly and Tuiasosopo become options at third?

Leyland said Thursday morning, before Cabrera aggravated his injury, that their plans on September call-ups are pretty well set.

Thursday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Athletics

Alex Avila was understandably tired after last night’s game. He probably would’ve gotten today off regardless as Jim Leyland tries to pace him for the stretch. Torii Hunter, a .241 hitter (14-for-58) against Bartolo Colon, also gets the day off. Don Kelly’s 0-for-5 off Colon, though left-handed hitters are batting slightly higher against him this year with a better OPS.

Meanwhile, a day off for Jose Iglesias gives Leyland a chance to play the matchups with Ramon Santiago, 11-for-24 off Colon.

TIGERS (career numbers off Colon)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (3-for-11, walk, 5 K’s)
  2. Andy Dirks, LF (4-for-5, HR, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (6-for-13, K)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (3-for-5, HR)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-20, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  6. Don Kelly, RF (0-for-5, K)
  7. Brayan Pena, C
  8. Omar Infante, 2B (1-for-5)
  9. Ramon Santiago, SS (11-for-24, 2 K’s)

P: Max Scherzer

ATHLETICS (career numbers off Scherzer)

  1. Coco Crisp, CF (3-for-11, 3 K’s)
  2. Josh Donaldson, 3B (0-for-5, 2 K’s)
  3. Jed Lowrie, DH (1-for-3, K)
  4. Brandon Moss, RF (2-for-11, walk, 4 K’s)
  5. Alberto Callaspo, 2B (2-for-12, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
  6. Seth Smith, LF (2-for-11, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  7. Daric Barton, 1B (0-for-3, 3 K’s)
  8. Eric Sogard, SS (2-for-4)
  9. Stephen Vogt, C

P: Bartolo Colon

Game 133: Adding up the damage

This just in: More A’s baserunners.

OK, I’m kidding. But not by much. It was that rough Wednesday night. It’s been that rough for the series, really.

The numbers tell a good part of the story. The Tigers rotation entered this series with a 3.41 ERA on the season. These last three games have bumped that season ERA to 3.50. The difference in the bullpen ERA is way more drastic, up from 3.68 before Monday to 3.89 now.

The A’s, in turn, came to town batting .244 as a team. They’re batting .247 now.

When Oakland put up eight runs in Monday’s series opener, it was the highest run total off Detroit pitching since July 9. Wednesday’s 14-4 beatdown tied the highest run total allowed by the Tigers all season.

In fact, the 28 A’s runs this series mark the highest three-game total by one team against the Tigers since the Mets scored 32 in a three-game series at Comerica Park two years ago. You remember it because Don Kelly pitched an inning in that series.

And if Tuesday’s game hadn’t been washed out in the sixth inning, the A’s might have scored more. Remember, they had the bases loaded and nobody out in the sixth against a hobbled Bruce Rondon in that inning.

“It’s a funny thing. I don’t know how to explain it,” manager Jim Leyland said. “Coming in here, they were really not swinging that good against right-handed pitching. We put three right-handers out there and they’ve beat up on us pretty good.

“Normally when something like this happens, it’s a combination of just what’s happening right now: We’ve made some good pitches that they’ve hit and they’ve found a hole somewhere, and we’ve made some bad pitches that they did what they’re supposed to do with them.”

That’s one way of putting it. Alex Avila had another way.

“The last couple games have been like nightmares,” he said, “with the rain yesterday and then today we just got our butts kicked.”

The Tigers got their pitching back in sync after that miserable stretch two years ago, and they’ll get it back in form here. Whatever you make of Justin Verlander’s season, Anibal Sanchez still leads the American League in ERA. Doug Fister entered Wednesday with the fourth-highest groundball/flyball ratio in the league, and he didn’t get the ball on the ground for the first 14 batters he faced.

More important, the Tigers have not been playing as well as home lately, and they have a three-game series with Cleveland coming up this weekend. If the Indians are going to make a move to get back in it, it probably has to come here. Yes, Cleveland has an easy schedule down the stretch, but they won’t have another opportunity to take games from Detroit. And the Tigers’ schedule isn’t exactly brutal, either, once they get back home from their next road trip to Boston, Kansas City and Chicago.

I’d give you a play of the game and an out of the game, but it’s hard to point to one play for anything. Wednesday was just a continuous drubbing.

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Athletics

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (4-for-7, 2 HR, 3 K’s off Dan Straily)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, DH
  6. Andy Dirks, LF
  7. Omar Infante, 2B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Doug Fister

ATHLETICS (career numbers against Doug Fister)

  1. Coco Crisp, CF (7-for-16, 2 K’s)
  2. Josh Donaldson, 3B (1-for-2, walk)
  3. Jed Lowrie, SS (3-for-9, K)
  4. Brandon Moss, RF (1-for-2, K)
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (1-for-3)
  6. Daric Barton, 1B (6-for-23, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  7. Alberto Callaspo, DH (4-for-14, HR, walk, K)
  8. Eric Sogard, 2B (0-for-5, 2 K’s)
  9. Kurt Suzuki, C (6-for-23, 2 K’s)

P: Dan Straily

Verlander commits $1 million to Wins for Warriors initiative

After all the debate on what’s going on with Justin Verlander on the mound, his work off the field took another step. On Wednesday, the Tigers announced that Verlander has committed $1 million to launch an initiative with the Detroit Tigers Foundation to support mental health efforts of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families in the Detroit area as well as his home area of Richmond and Norfolk, Virginia.

The Wins and Warriors initiative will work to sustain two programs that work with veterans and their families: Give An Hour and The Mission Continues. Both are national organizations. The funding will help Give An Hour, which asks mental health professionals to donate an hour a week to free mental health services for veterans and their families, launch new posts in Detroit and the Richmond-Norfolk area in Virginia. The Mission Continues awards community service fellowships to post-9/11 veterans, and will use the Wins for Warriors funding to create three new fellowships — one in Detroit, one in Richmond and one in Norfolk.

Wins for Warriors is also conducting a fundraising campaign through Crowdrise for further support, with Verlander matching each donation through the end of the regular season. He’ll also be offering up incentives to donate, from signed baseballs to on-field pregame events to an offer to watch a 2014 game from his suite at Comerica Park.

 

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