Spring Training Day 4: Scherzer takes his role

Spring Training 012

Max Scherzer can’t compete against himself. If he tries to top his 2013 season, he’s going to be fighting a losing battle. So instead, he’s already competing against his teammates, at least in his mind.

Tigers hitters won’t step into the batters box against pitchers until full-squad workouts begin Tuesday, but Scherzer needed some competition in his second bullpen session of the spring. So as Scherzer prepared to throw to Bryan Holaday, while Victor Martinez and Alex Avila watched from the sidelines, Scherzer pretended as if he was facing them — first Martinez, then Avila.

“Start him off with a fastball,” Scherzer said, predicting Martinez would take the first pitch. “We’ll set him up.”

In came the fastball.

“Gone,” Avila said, pretending to track a ball sail out to right field.

Not in Scherzer’s mind. And since this was Scherzer’s session, the imaginary at-bat went on, Scherzer approaching the switch-hitting Martinez like a left-handed hitter. Scherzer dropped in a curveball, then another one, setting up a high fastball. Then Scherzer delivered his knockout pitch.

“AH!!! Got him! No way he’s hitting that,” Scherzer exclaimed, pumping his fist.

On to the next hitter.

“Alex, first and second, two outs,” Scherzer said as he stood on the back of the bullpen mound.

Scherzer proceeded with another game plan, mixing in breaking stuff with fastballs. At one point, he lost a heater up and inside.

“I’m out for the next three games after that one,” Avila said.

“Don’t kid yourself. You’re jumping out of the way,” Scherzer said.

That put the count to 3-1. After another pitch off the plate, Scherzer — still with plenty of pitches before his limit — hit the reset button.

“Let’s do Alex all over again,” Scherzer told Holaday.

“He’s intimidated,” Avila told his backup.

Another fastball, another disagreement.

“Game over,” Avila said, hinting at a walkoff homer.

“Foul tip,” Scherzer contended, arguing he’d be late on the swing.

By this point, the other pitchers had finished their sessions. Over on the next mound, Anibal Sanchez was long since done, but standing around watching this unfold, suggesting pitches. Brad Ausmus let them have their fun. Martinez had gone back in.

As far as Scherzer’s concerned, he finished his session by striking out Avila, and celebrated as such. Avila let him have his fun.

Much as Tigers fans don’t want to consider the possibility, this could be a real showdown next season, depending on Scherzer’s contract situation. For today, though, it was a reminder that even Major Leaguers sometimes motivate themselves by imagining scenarios.

It’s also a nice reminder that while Justin Verlander works his way back from surgery, there’s still somebody atop the Tigers rotation with a disdain for hitters, no matter what uniform they wear.


this bit on Scherzer raises an interesting question…how much should the pitcher attend to his choice and sequence of pitches? should he rely entirely on the catcher for that and focus just on execution of the called pitch? clearly Scherzer wants to think along with the catcher on setting up the hitter. at Tigerfest, Nathan said that he takes the opposite approach…looks for the catcher’s sign and delivers the pitch, believing that, if properly executed, it will be effective. is there a better and best approach here? the adage ‘don’t think, it’ll hurt the ballclub’ is too simplistic for my liking.

Mark Buehrle operated the same way as Nathan, throwing the pitch that’s called regardless of what it is. I think most pitchers call their own game in that they should be on the same page as the catcher most of the time. Shaking off a sign is sometimes used as a decoy. The man with the final choice is the man throwing the pitch. I don’t think there are many Nathans and Buehrles out there. A catcher who can think with his pitcher is valuable.

interesting thoughts as woody mentions.
also interesting is the orioles just gave up the #17 pick in this years draft, and committed 4 years and 50MM to Ubaldo J. Sounds like pure madness to me, what say ya’ll?

Ubaldo was Scherzer for half season.In shape, he is worth it.
The Tigers now pick 25th?
Who will be the backup SS? And Lombardozzi is not the answer, neither Kelly

Excellent question about the backup SS.
I don’t think the Tigers move up in the 1st round, Cleveland gets Baltimore’s pick.
Ubaldo was a mess the 1.5 years before his very good 2nd half last year. He is not worth it. Very inconsistent, doesn’t do well against good teams.

Under the new system, Cleveland gets a compensatory pick after the first round and Baltimore lost the first round pick .MLBTR had them 26th but another webpage had them 24 before today

The backup shortstop could end up being Hernan Perez. For the life of me I never quite understood the Lombardozzi acquisition. Not unless they are certain he can play short. He has never made an error at short in the minors or the bigs. Very small sample to be sure. The question that may be more pertinent is can he play 3rd? He actually has not played much ther at all. As an outfielder he has only played LF.
Like I say, strange acquisition. He can hit, he can run and he can field better than DK and he can do it from both sides of the plate. I don’t see a fit for Donny in Detroit any longer.
Fister was a great guy and did a fantastic job for the Tigers. But somebody had to go to get a southpaw in the rotation. If it wasn’t Scherzer then Fister was the guy to go considering his age, salary etc. Time will tell if they got enough for him. That is the haunting question that DD deals with daily I’m sure.

Ausmus said his backup SS was Omar Vizquel. He was joking…….I think.

That he hits better then Don Kelly (.639OPS vs .634OPS), and can he run (he steals 6 bases a season) is news to me. He plays less positions than Don, at a lower level. The only thing Steve Lombo has on Don is youth. fact.

That was a tough read Dan. I got depressed all over again. Considering he’s now pitching in the National League, in a weaker hitting division, and with a better infield behind him, Doug is going to do very well for himself. I still ask why? I wouldn’t take 10 mediocre players for one really good one. Especially one with his character.

Should read: I wouldn’t trade one really good player for even 10 mediocre ones. What’s the reasoning?

SL was a .300 hitter in the minors. Stole 30 bases in one season. Definitely hits better than DK and can do it over longer stretches if need be. DK plays hard and does some nice things but Lombardozzi makes him redundant. From what I remember seeing, he is real competitor. Does that mean I like the trade? No.
But I don’t want to see both guys on the 25 either.

important point: the numbers in the minors paint a different lombardozzi than the numbers in majors (705PAs 774innings over 3 seasons). He has a little more than 3x the MLB experience as Danny Worth.

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