Alex Avila began his rehab assignment Thursday night for Triple-A Toledo, going 0-for-2 with a walk at the plate and catching three innings behind the plate for the Mud Hens in a 5-2 loss at Louisville.
Avila, batting second, flew out to center field in the opening inning before drawing a two-out walk in the second. He was called out on strikes to end the top of the fourth, then was replaced by Ronny Paulino in the bottom of the inning. Manager Jim Leyland talked Wednesday about Avila catching six innings for the Mud Hens on Thursday, but he cautioned that was far from an official plan. The fact that Avila stepped to the plate in the fourth strongly suggests the Tigers wanted to get him three plate appearances and just enough catching time to make sure he was OK on his first day catching in a week and a half since going on the concussion DL.
Avila is expected to catch again for the Hens in Louisville Friday night.
The Tigers don’t know a whole lot about Andrew Albers, but he’s a lefty, and the Tigers have had issues against lefties recently. Brayan Pena is feeling better but still dealing with the toe injury, so Jim Leyland will start Bryan Holaday, who went 1-for-2 against Albers when he faced the Mud Hens in May.
The Twins lineup has a lot of bad numbers against Justin Verlander. It also has switched Ryan Doumit and Chris Herrmann between right field and catcher for the day, since Herrmann caught Albers at Triple-A Rochester.
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Torii Hunter, RF
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B
- Prince Fielder, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- Matt Tuiasosopo, LF
- Omar Infante, 2B
- Jose Iglesias, SS
- Bryan Holaday, C
P: Justin Verlander
TWINS (career numbers off Verlander)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (0-for-2, K)
- Chris Herrmann, C
- Justin Morneau, 1B (12-for-47, 2 HR, 6 walks, 14 K’s)
- Josh Willingham, DH (2-for-14, walk, 7 K’s)
- Ryan Doumit, RF (0-for-11, 3 K’s)
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (3-for-20, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- Clete Thomas, CF
- Wilkin Ramirez, LF (2-for-3, K)
- Doug Bernier, SS
P: Andrew Albers
Miguel Cabrera is back in the lineup at third base. He suffered a groin injury on his first-pitch swing in the ninth inning Tuesday night, but manager Jim Leyland said today that he feels better now than he did yesterday. So he’s going.
Brayan Pena is not. His right toe injury has him out of the lineup tonight. Bryan Holaday gets the start behind the plate. Leyland said he could catch in an emergency, but he’s hurting. For tonight, though, Pena is still the likely backup. Victor Martinez was doing some work behind the plate before batting practice this afternoon, but that was in preparation for possible work this weekend against the Mets.
“I’m contemplating catching him a game in New York, and I’ll leave it at that,” Leyland said.
That is not necessarily related to Alex Avila’s status, but there’s a chance that Avila could be ready by then. He took batting practice again today. If he comes out of that with no issues, he could be cleared for a rehab assignment. It could be only one game to make sure he has no lingering side effects. It could be a few games. The top three Tigers affiliates are all on the road starting Thursday, but Leyland didn’t rule out the possibility of sending him with the Mud Hens on the road to Louisville.
TIGERS (career numbers off Kevin Correia)
- Austin Jackson, CF (3-for-9, walk, 2 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-3)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (11-for-22, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (5-for-28, HR, 2 walks, K)
- Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-3, K)
- Andy Dirks, LF (1-for-9)
- Omar Infante, 2B (4-for-8)
- Jose Iglesias, SS
- Bryan Holaday, C
P: Anibal Sanchez
TWINS (career numbers off Sanchez)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (0-for-8, walk, 2 K’s)
- Chris Herrmann, RF
- Justin Morneau, DH (4-for-16, walk, 3 K’s)
- Ryan Doumit, C (4-for-16, walk, 7 K’s)
- Chris Colabello, 1B (0-for-1, K)
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (3-for-9, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Clete Thomas, CF (1-for-2, K)
- Wilkin Ramirez, LF
- Pedro Florimon, SS (4-for-9, K)
P: Kevin Correia
Yes, Phil Coke will be back with the Tigers once rosters expand Sept. 1. Manager Jim Leyland made that clear when he announced the move after the game Tuesday night.
“He’s going to be back here,” Leyland said. “He’s very much a part of our team. This is an opportunity to go down and see what he does.”
And when he returns, he will be postseason eligible.
Under normal circumstances, the rule is that players have to be on the 25-man roster on Aug. 31 to be eligible for the playoff roster. If a team has to replace an injured player, someone who’s on the disabled list at season’s end, the team can go beyond the 25-man roster and grab someone who was in the organization as of Aug. 31.
Luis Marte fits the category; he had season-ending shoulder surgery earlier this year, but didn’t go on the Tigers’ 15-day disabled list until July 31. No matter what his chances were of actually making the postseason roster if he were healthy, he technically would’ve been eligible.
It’s a 1-for-1 exchange. So the Tigers couldn’t use the same injury as an excuse to, say, put Coke and Nick Castellanos on the postseason roster.
Technically, the Tigers could bypass the rule altogether and recall Phil Coke on Aug. 31, the first day he’s eligible to return unless he’s replacing an injured player. But that doesn’t sound like the plan in this case.
Yes, I fully realize that the way Coke has been pitching brings any postseason play into question. The best counterargument would be his numbers through August of last year. As of Aug. 31, Coke had allowed 65 hits over 48 1/3 innings last season, good for a .332 opposing batting average, a .407 average on balls put in play, and an .853 OPS. His numbers only slightly improved in September, and his ERA and OPS actually went up.
Could happen again.
Phil Coke made only one pitch Tuesday night with the intention of getting an out. Justin Morneau lined it into right field for a two-run double. A couple hours later, Coke was on his way to Triple-A Toledo.
But in the postgame comments, manager Jim Leyland made it clear that their decision to send Phil Coke to Triple-A Toledo for the rest of the month had been building.
“It’s been kind of a unique season for him all along,” Leyland said. “I think he probably had a tough first half. He has been better lately, I want to emphasize that. But he’s just got to try to locate the ball better.
“We’re just going to take advantage of this opportunity to get him down there and get him some work. He can focus down there.”
A unique season, indeed.
He was the Tigers closer in the ALCS and (in theory, at least) the World Series last October, and he earned the save for the Tigers on Opening Day as part of the bullpen by committee. He blew the second save opportunity two days later and has been on a roller-coaster since.
He was miserable against right-handed hitters, but still nasty against a decent number of lefty hitters, enough so that Leyland transitioned him into more of a lefty specialist’s role over the past month or so. It’s not a role Coke has seemed to particularly enjoy.
“It’s not something that I’m really happy about, no matter what I was doing on the field,” Coke said. “Whether I was dominating, if I was out there for one guy, it was really annoying because of being a competitor. I mean, you want to go out there and you want to do everything you can, turn the inning over to the next guy if necessary, or go out there and handle multiple innings if that’s the load that’s required of you.”
Yet after Morneau’s double, Coke’s splits have actually reversed. Right-handed hitters are 18-for-66 (.273) against him, albeit with a high walk total. Lefties are now 20-for-69 (.290) against him. For Phil Coke, even back in his middle/long relief days, that’s astounding.
That said, Coke actually expected this would’ve come sooner, if it was going to happen.
“I figured it would’ve happened in the first half, not right now, especially since the velocity’s been back,” Coke said. “I’ve gotten a lot of key outs recently. I’ve been on a decent run, no earned runs. I mean, I’ve given up three or four inherited. Sometimes those things happen, but right now it’s not something we can afford as a team.”
Omar Infante is back in the Tigers lineup. Alex Avila is not. He went through workouts today for the first time, throwing to bases and taking batting practice. He still has some work to do before he returns, but the news is encouraging.
Ironically, I had a good talk with Joe Mauer this afternoon about catching helmets and masks, and he mentioned he has been taking more foul tips than usual this year. Then Mauer went out to hit in batting practice and felt dizziness. He was scheduled to start at first base tonight, but now he’s scratched.
TIGERS (career numbers off Mike Pelfrey)
- Austin Jackson, CF (3-for-7, 2 walks, K)
- Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-12, HR, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (4-for-14, 7 walks)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (7-for-20, 2 HR, 2 walks, K)
- Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-11, walk, 2 K’s)
- Andy Dirks, LF (4-for-9, 2 HR, K)
- Omar Infante, 2B (15-for-34, 2 walks, K)
- Brayan Pena, C
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Rick Porcello
TWINS (career numbers off Porcello)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (3-for-10, HR, K)
- Chris Herrmann, RF
- Josh Willingham, DH (7-for-16, 2 HR, 4 walks, 3 K’s)
- Justin Morneau, 1B (7-for-32, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Ryan Doumit, C (5-for-16, walk, K)
- Wilkin Ramirez, LF
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (4-for-15, HR, walk)
- Clete Thomas, CF (1-for-2)
- Pedro Florimon, SS (1-for-5)
P: Mike Pelfrey
Nick Castellanos isn’t sure just yet where his season is going to end. There are two weeks left in the season at Triple-A Toledo. There’s quite a bit longer left in Detroit, another month left in the regular season, and who knows how long in the postseason.
He doesn’t know whether he’s going to be around for it. He’s not planning for it.
“The way I’m looking at it right now is I’ll be home with my son in 14 days,” Castellanos said Monday night from Fifth Third Field, “and if anything else changes, that’s definitely for the best.”
Castellanos’ son, Liam, was born a couple weeks ago. He missed a few games for that, came back, then missed a few games last week after being hit by a pitch. He’s back, feeling good and hitting well, his first-inning home run Monday his latest piece of evidence for that. He turned on an inside fastball from former Major League pitcher Kameron Loe and sent it more than midway up the scoreboard in left, hitting an advertisement.
He didn’t see another fastball from Loe the rest of the night, which didn’t last long for Loe. He did see fastballs from Gwinnett relievers. He talked about that difference as the big adjustment he has had to make in Toledo this summer, especially once he recovered from a slow start to tear up the International League in May and into June.
“I’ve had to learn a lot because Triple-A, batting 3-4-5, which I’ve done all year, you don’t see a lot of fastballs for strikes,” he said. “They pitch around you. I’ve had to learn at this level to hit offspeed pitches moreso because they throw them for strikes more consistently. At the lower levels, it was get ahead with a fastball for a strike and then try to get you to chase with an offspeed for a strike and then come back with a fastball. Now, they’ll just show you fastballs around the zone to keep you on it and then they’ll throw you offspeed for strikes.”
This doesn’t surprise his manager, Phil Nevin. Whenever Nevin has talked about Castellanos’ season, the biggest adjustment has been the outfield. The hitting has been expected.
“There’s not a level high enough where Nick’s not going to hit,” Nevin said.
The question now is at what level Nick will be hitting when this season ends. He doesn’t dismiss the question when asked if he thinks about September, or maybe earlier, and his answer clearly suggests he has put some thought into it. He’s trying to think about it from the Tigers’ standpoint.
“I don’t know,” Castellanos said. “I mean, the reality is they’re seven games above [Cleveland in the division race], Dirks is starting to get hot, Tuiasosopo has been consistent all year, and they’re winning. The way sometimes this game works, if they don’t need me, why are they going to bring me up? If they don’t need to start my clock [on service time], if they don’t need to do anything?
“Now if they were one or two games back and if people weren’t swinging well or whatever, then maybe I could see that. Of course, I’d love to go up. I’d love to try to help the team win. But I’m not walking by the manager’s office expecting something to happen.”
The opinions on Dirks and Tuiasosopo at this point have been debated by fans. So, of course, might be the notion of Castellanos as a late-season boost. It worked for Avisail Garcia a year ago, of course, but as a part-time player. So far, the Tigers have resisted any temptation to use Castellanos in a part-time role. September can be different on that.
Castellanos said he has kept in touch with Garcia since the trade and said he’s “living the dream” while the White Sox retool.
“You’re never ready until you get there,” Castellanos said. “It’s not like a player wakes up and all of a sudden he’s ready for the big leagues in every aspect. There’s always something that you’re going to need to work on when you get there.”
Castellanos will, too. He just doesn’t know when it’s going to happen.
Here’s the thing about Miguel Cabrera in 2013: If the season ended today, he’d have a historic season on his hands.
According to baseball-reference, he’d have 17th season in Major League history with a .360+ average, 40+ home runs and 120+ RBIs. Babe Ruth is responsible for six of them.
That’s if the season ended today. Cabrera’s Tigers have 38 games left. He’s on a pace to top 50 home runs and 150 RBIs. Check the table above, and just two seasons fit that category: Babe Ruth in 1921 and Jimmie Foxx in 1932.
A lot can happen over the next 38 games. The Tigers could run away with the division to the point that they could rest Cabrera for some games in September. More opponents could just decide to walk Cabrera and take their chances with Prince Fielder. Or Cabrera could another crazy September like he did last year and surpass projections again. But the fact that we’re even discussing this in late August is astounding.
There’s going to be some sort or history at season’s end for him. Unless something crazy happens, he’ll become just the ninth hitter in Major League history — and just the fourth right-handed hitter — to win three consecutive batting titles. None of the other eight — Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Stan Musial, Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner or Nap Lajoie — did so with three consecutive 30-homer seasons. Only Hornsby and Cobb led their league in batting average and RBIs three consecutive seasons.
The possibilities here are more rare than winning one Triple Crown. If Cabrera wins back-to-back Triple Crowns, of course, it would be unprecedented.
By the way, if you look at the table above, there’s an amazing part to it. The numbers in bold indicate a league-leading total. Just two guys on that list won a Triple Crown with their numbers that year. Hornsby’s season in 1922 is the standard, and Lou Gehrig did it in 1934.
Jim Leyland hadn’t received any follow-up report on Omar Infante when he filled out his lineup card this morning, but he figured a day out of the lineup ahead of Monday’s off-day might be worthwhile to make sure Infante’s back issues don’t linger. Infante left Saturday’s game with lower back stiffness.
Bruce Chen has a serious case of reverse splits going on so far this season. Left-handed hitters are batting .270 (24-for-89) off Chen, compared to a .177 average (31-for-175, 38 strikeouts) for right-handed batters. For his career, the reverse splits amount to a 26-point difference in batting average. Andy Dirks follows those trends, batting 5-for-14 against Chen. He gets the start in left field over Matt Tuiasosopo, who has never faced Chen.
On the KC side, Mike Moustakas is out of the lineup again after playing six innings of Saturday’s game at third base.
TIGERS (career numbers off Chen)
- Austin Jackson, CF (8-for-31, HR, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (4-for-17, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (13-for-32, 4 HR, 8 walks, 6 K’s)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (5-for-13, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-4, HR, walk, K)
- Andy Dirks, LF (5-for-14, K)
- Brayan Pena, C
- Ramon Santiago, 2B (3-for-9, 2 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Max Scherzer
ROYALS (career numbers off Scherzer)
- David Lough, RF (1-for-3, HR, K)
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (5-for-18, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Billy Butler, DH (11-for-41, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
- Alex Gordon, LF (8-for-22, HR, 7 walks, 4 K’s)
- Salvador Perez, C (6-for-12, 2 HR)
- Emilio Bonifacio, 3B (3-for-5, walk, K)
- Chris Getz, 2B (4-for-11, 2 walks)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (7-for-24, 2 HR, 3 K’s)
- Jarrod Dyson, CF (0-for-8, 2 K’s)
P: Bruce Chen
Jim Leyland had planned on giving Torii Hunter this game off, which is why Hunter played in both games Friday. This time, however, Don Kelly moves up in the order to bat second. He’s 4-for-7 off Wade Davis, so
it could be Leyland said it’s a simple matchups decision. Andy Dirks, 2-for-9 off Davis, sticks in the sixth spot.
The Royals get Mike Moustakas back after missing the last four days with tightness in his left calf. His return bumps Emilio Bonifacio to center field (for now until Lorenzo Cain returns) and knocks Jarrod Dyson out of the lineup tonight.
Tonight’s game is on MLB Network in some markets, but not many. If you’re in SoCal or Philly, where Dodgers-Phillies is likely blacked out, you’re in luck. Elsewhere, your best bet is either FSD, MLB.TV or the Extra Innings package.
TIGERS (career numbers off Wade Davis)
- Austin Jackson, CF (1-for-11, walk, 3 K’s)
- Don Kelly, RF (4-for-7, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B (5-for-14, 2 HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Prince Fielder, 1B (0-for-5, 2 walks)
- Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-15, 2 walks, K)
- Andy Dirks, LF (2-for-9)
- Omar Infante, 2B (5-for-9)
- Brayan Pena, C (0-for-3, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-1)
P: Doug Fister
ROYALS (career numbers against Doug Fister)
- David Lough, RF (2-for-7, K)
- Eric Hosmer, 1B (3-for-14, walk, K)
- Billy Butler, DH (8-for-26, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Alex Gordon, LF (5-for-24, 6 K’s)
- Salvador Perez, C (4-for-18, K)
- Mike Moustakas, 3B (5-for-16, HR, 5 K’s)
- Emilio Bonifacio, CF (1-for-8)
- Chris Getz, 2B (2-for-7, 2 walks)
- Alcides Escobar, SS (7-for-24, HR, walk, 4 K’s)
P: Wade Davis