April 2014

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at White Sox

As expected, Alex Avila is not in the Tigers lineup. Also getting the day off, however, is Rajai Davis, coming off a four-strikeout night against the White Sox Tuesday. Davis is also 0-for-6 lifetime against Hector Noesi, who makes his first White Sox start today.

Today is Weather Day at U.S. Cellular Field, and the forecast is fitting. The tarp stayed on the field this morning while rain showers passed through, and there’s a chance of rain throughout the day. Expect them to get this one in through the dry patches, but it could be a long one.

TIGERS (career numbers vs. Noesi)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-8, double, walk)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (0-for-0, HBP)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH (1-for-3, HR, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B
  5. J.D. Martinez, LF
  6. Austin Jackson, CF
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Max Scherzer

WHITE SOX (career numbers vs. Scherzer)

  1. Adam Eaton, CF
  2. Gordon Beckham, 2B (7-for-34, 2 doubles, 4 walks, 12 K’s)
  3. Jose Abreu, 1B (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
  4. Adam Dunn, DH (9-for-38, 3 HR, 4 walks, 17 K’s)
  5. Dayan Viciedo, RF (8-for-22, 2 doubles, triple, 2 HR, walk, 8 K’s)
  6. Alexei Ramirez, SS (4-for-44, double, 5 walks, 6 K’s)
  7. Alejandro De Aza, LF (10-for-34, double, HR, 3 walks, 11 K’s)
  8. Tyler Flowers, C (2-for-2)
  9. Marcus Semien, 3B (1-for-3, K)

P: Hector Noesi

Game 22: Tigers offense goes on Holaday

Where on earth, you ask, do the Tigers get the inspiration for a ninth-inning, two-out squeeze bunt in a tie game from the backup catcher?

Look to the eighth-inning, one-out bunt single Bryan Holaday laid down 10 days earlier against the Angels at Comerica Park. That one came with nobody out, but it set up an insurance run.

“He did that on his own,” manager Brad Ausmus said at the time. “He had told me prior to the at-bat that if the third baseman was back, he was thinking about bunting for a hit. I didn’t have a problem with it.”

Said Holaday: “I gave myself the first pitch, and I took a pretty ugly swing at a slider. So I figured, ‘Hey, the third baseman’s back. Might as well take advantage of it and try to drop one down.’ And it worked out.”

Less than two weeks later, as Holaday stepped to the plate against Ronald Belisario and his mid-90s sinker, he had Austin Jackson on third base with two outs in a 3-3 game. He had much the same idea.

“I was just focusing on the third baseman, seeing what he was doing,” Holaday said. “I noticed he was starting in and then backed up. That’s when I thought I had a good chance to lay it down.”

That third baseman was Marcus Semien, who had tried unsuccessfully to lay down a squeeze bunt on Justin Verlander with one out in the seventh. Verlander, however, had picked it up and given Semien a high pitch he couldn’t get down and keep fair.

“When I saw him turn around and square, I didn’t want to give him an easy pitch to bunt,” Verlander told reporters, including MLB.com’s Phil Rogers. “I just sort of flailed it, a slider. … I thought it might be a squeeze. I didn’t want to give them an easy run there, so I just sort of threw it up and in.”

Belisario, however, had not picked it up when Holaday bunted. Why would he? He’s the backup catcher, right?

Well, the Tigers were trying to give him the sign.

“I don’t know if he got it,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “I gave it to Dave Clark and I think Clarky tried to give him a sign and Gene Lamont and I were kind of yelling at him at the bench in code to look at him, but I don’t know if he heard us or saw Clarky or just saw it on his own and took advantage.”

Don’t ask how a manager and coaches yell to a hitter in a code that doesn’t make the other team suspicious something might be on. It can’t be that easy, because Holaday said he didn’t hear it. He was bunting on his own.

“As soon as he laid it down, I thought it was a great play, especially the way he’d been throwing the ball,” Verlander said. “Belisario had been obviously making some really good hitters look silly up there, and I think Holly understood the situation and knew it was going to be an extremely tough at-bat.

“I think it was a really heads-up play. If I was pitching, I’d have been [ticked], but that was heads-up and smart and won us a ballgame.”

Said Holaday: “I know [Belisario] is probably [ticked] off, but it’s part of the game, and I did whatever I could to help the team win.”

For what it’s worth, a Tigers catcher with multiple bunt singles in a season isn’t as rare as you’d think. Gerald Laird had three of them in 2012.

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at White Sox

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The Tigers have pretty much the same lineup against Jose Quintana that they put up against him last week in Detroit, with the exception of the catcher. Alex Avila was originally in the lineup, then was scratched with lower back spasms. It hasn’t been a lingering injury, but just came up today, according to Brad Ausmus, who characterized him as day-to-day.

With Avila out, Bryan Holaday gets the start behind the plate, batting eighth.

The White Sox lineup has Adam Eaton back from injury in center field. He takes the place of Jordan Danks. Add in Gordon Beckham at second base, and it’s otherwise the same lineup the White Sox posted against Verlander last week at Comerica Park.

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

TIGERS (career numbers off Jose Quintana)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (8-for-17, 2 doubles, HR, walk, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-8, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-14, double, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-9)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (4-for-14, 3 K’s)
  6. Austin Jackson, CF (3-for-16, triple, walk, 3 K’s)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-5, K)
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Danny Worth, SS

P: Justin Verlander

WHITE SOX (career numbers off Verlander)

  1. Adam Eaton, CF
  2. Gordon Beckham, 2B (6-for-31, HR, 7 K’s)
  3. Jose Abreu, 1B (2-for-3, HR, K)
  4. Adam Dunn, DH (5-for-28, 3 HR, 2 walks, 12 K’s)
  5. Dayan Viciedo, RF (6-for-18, double, HR, 4 K’s)
  6. Alexei Ramirez, SS (15-for-61, double, HR, 2 walks, 9 K’s)
  7. Alejandro De Aza, LF (4-for-23, 2 HR, 2 walks, 8 K’s)
  8. Tyler Flowers, C (3-for-13, 2 HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  9. Marcus Semien, 3B (1-for-4, 2 K’s)

P: Jose Quintana

Chad Smith promoted to Toledo, Tigers bullpen likely set for now

The wild weekend for the Tigers pitching staff at Minnesota — first calling up Jose Ortega for Justin Miller, then recalling Miller to fill Anibal Sanchez’s old spot — had left the pitching staff at Triple-A Toledo one reliever short, and left speculation running that the Tigers could have another move coming to help out the Major League bullpen. That void at Toledo was filled Monday with the promotion of right-hander Chad Smith from Double-A Erie. That restored the Hens roster to full strength and likely means the Tigers is bullpen — with both Miller and Ortega — is set, at least for the upcoming two-game series against the White Sox.

One reliever will have to be sent down next week to make room for a fifth starter, which the Tigers will need no later than May 6.

While the presence of Tigers assistant GM Al Avila and special assistant Jim Leyland in Erie over the weekend led to a watch on SeaWolves closer Corey Knebel for a potential promotion to Detroit, no move appears to be imminent.

The 24-year-old Smith recovered from a rough opening outing to toss 10 1/3 innings of one-run ball, allowing four walks and six hits with nine strikeouts. Opponents are batting just under .200 (9-for-46) against him, though four of those hits have come with runners in scoring position.

The Tigers drafted Smith out of USC in the 17th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.

Tigers-Twins series finale washed out

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On one hand, the lost April on the Tigers schedule continues with their third weather postponement already this season. On the other hand, the overtaxed Tigers bullpen now has two days to recuperate. Either way, Sunday’s series finale between the Tigers and Twins didn’t take long to be called.

As the picture above from the Twins twitter account shows, the weather in Minneapolis is miserable. There’s a 70 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms all day and evening, as well as a wind advisory. With two more Tigers visits to the Twin Cities scheduled for August and September, the two teams have options on when to make this one up. No makeup date was immediately announced.

According to MLive.com, the rainout means everybody gets pushed back. Justin Verlander, who was scheduled to start today, will start Tuesday’s series opener against the White Sox. Max Scherzer will start Wednesday, while Rick Porcello gets pushed back to the Kansas City series.

Before you ask, the rainout does not change the Tigers’ rotation needs with Anibal Sanchez on the DL. They’ll still need a fifth starter no later than May 6, which means they’ll still need two starts out of a replacement before Sanchez can return from the DL on May 12.

What the rainout does is further stretch the gap in games played between the Tigers and the rest of the league. They’ll have back-to-back days without a game for the second time this month. Moreover, they’ll head to Chicago on Tuesday having played just 21 games through the first four weeks of the season. The White Sox, by contrast, are scheduled to play their 26th game of the year today, weather permitting. So will the Red Sox today at Toronto. The Indians will play their 25th game later this afternoon in San Francisco. The Diamondbacks, who opened their season early with the opening series in Australia, will play their 28th game of the year today against the Phillies.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

Alex Avila returns to the Tigers lineup after not starting Saturday’s game with a left shin contusion. On the flip side, Nick Castellanos and Rajai Davis get a day of rest, at least out of the starting lineup. Unless they enter the game later, they’ll have two days off ahead of Tuesday night’s series opener at Chicago. Don Kelly and J.D. Martinez get the start.

As for the bullpen, Jose Ortega is still on the active roster. The only roster move the Tigers announced was Justin Miller being recalled to replace Anibal Sanchez, who was placed on the 15-day DL. There had been signals Ortega might be returning to Triple-A Toledo, but that hasn’t happened at this point. There also have been sightings of Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila and special assistant Jim Leyland (man, that takes some getting used to typing) at Double-A Erie, where Corey Knebel is pitching, but no immediate signs of a call-up.

The way the Tigers bullpen is going, the fast track is there for Knebel to get to the big leagues in the near future. Before that happens, though, the Tigers are going to have to out where he fits, what kind of role he’ll play, and how to get him the regular innings to learn on the fly without getting him so many innings that he wears down. To call him up as an extra reliever for depth makes no sense. If you’re going to call him up to do something like work setup behind Joba Chamberlain and Ian Krol, mixing him in with Al Alburquerque, that’s another matter.

I’m not in Minneapolis this weekend, but I can read a weather forecast, and it’s not good. There’s a 70 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms all day and evening, as well as a wind advisory. With two more Tigers visits to the Twin Cities scheduled for August and September, we’ll see what the Twins decide to do with this one. A rainout could have a huge impact in getting Detroit’s bullpen back in order, as much as they can at this point.

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

TIGERS

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Torii Hunter, RF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B
  5. Austin Jackson, CF
  6. Don Kelly, 3B
  7. J.D. Martinez, LF
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Justin Verlander

Sanchez goes on DL with lacerated middle finger; Miller recalled

For two-plus innings Saturday, Anibal Sanchez had no-hit stuff and what looked like a real chance to carry it through. By the end of the afternoon, he was on the disabled list, and the Tigers were looking at another loss to their already taxed pitching staff.

The blister that knocked Sanchez out of Saturday’s game in the third inning will keep him out for at least the next couple weeks. The Tigers medical staff made a quick determination, and the Tigers made a quick roster move, placing him on the 15-day DL with a lacerated right middle finger.

Justin Miller, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo Saturday morning to bring up a fresh arm (Jose Ortega ended up with a wild outing), is being recalled to take Sanchez’s roster spot and will be available in the bullpen Sunday. Normally, Miller would’ve had to spend 10 days in the minors before he could rejoin the Tigers, but that rule is waived when replacing a player who isplaced on the DL.

Miller was not in the Mud Hens clubhouse at Fifth Third Field prior to their game Saturday night. The Hens had been hoping to have him Sunday.

Replacing Sanchez in the rotation is a more complicated story. The Tigers had planned on using their two scheduled off-days next week to go with a four-man rotation and put Drew Smyly in the bullpen for a little while. Now, they can still use a four-man rotation, but with Smyly in it, filling Sanchez’s spot next Friday at Kansas City.

Beyond that, it’s mixed news. The good news is that the Tigers don’t need a fifth starter until May 6. The bad news is that they’ll need that starter for two turns. That spot will come back up in the rotation May 11, but Sanchez isn’t eligible to come off the DL until May 12 at the earliest.

The only Mud Hens starter who’s currently on the 40-man roster is Kyle Lobstein, and he has yet to record a quality start in five tries, including Saturday. Robbie Ray has made the strongest case by looking good in three out of four starts, including 8 1/3 shutout innings with seven strikeouts on Wednesday, but the Tigers would have to create a 40-man roster spot to add him.

If Ray were to get the call, he’d be making his Major League debut. Considering the hubbub that lingers over the Doug Fister trade, it would likely be a much-scrutinized debut, probably too much so.

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

targetfieldstatueThe last time Miguel Cabrera faced Phil Hughes, he turned on a pitch six inches inside and sent it into the left-field seats at Yankee Stadium. He enters today batting an even .500 against Hughes, who has given up a good amount of damage in four starts wearing a Twins uniform.

Alex Avila is not in the lineup today after leaving Friday’s game with a left shin contusion. Bryan Holaday gets the start behind the plate.

After using up a good chunk of the bullpen for Friday’s 10-6 win, the Tigers made a pregame move to regain some short-term depth, recalling Jose Ortega from Triple-A Toledo and optioning Justin Miller back to the Mud Hens. Ortega pitched an inning for the Hens last night, but it was his first outing in four days, so he should be relatively fresh. Two relievers have pitched in back-to-back outings going into Saturday, but they’re two pretty key relievers in closer Joe Nathan and setup man Joba Chamberlain. Nathan hasn’t pitched three straight games as a Tiger, but he did so a handful of times last year in Texas, including a couple stretches where he pitched in four straight games.

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

TIGERS (career numbers off Phil Hughes)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-16, 2 doubles, triple, 2 walks, K)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (6-for-15, double, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (14-for-28, 3 doubles, 5 HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (7-for-22, 2 doubles, 3 K’s)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF (5-for-20, triple, HR, walk, 6 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Andrew Romine, SS
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (6-for-21, 3 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)

P: Anibal Sanchez

TWINS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B (1-for-12, walk, 3 K’s)
  2. Joe Mauer, DH (5-for-13, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  3. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (3-for-12, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Chris Colabello, 1B (0-for-4, 4 K’s)
  5. Jason Kubel, LF (0-for-3, 3 K’s)
  6. Josmil Pinto, C
  7. Sam Fuld, RF
  8. Aaron Hicks, CF (0-for-6, walk, 3 K’s)
  9. Eduardo Escobar, SS (0-for-2, walk, K)

P: Phil Hughes

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Twins

Minny 005

I’m not on this weekend’s series at Target Field, but your lineups are below. The Twins are starting three right-handers this series, so expect the lineups for the rest of the series to look a lot like this one, with Rajai Davis back in the ninth spot and Ian Kinsler leading off.

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

TIGERS (career numbers off Kevin Correia)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-10)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (6-for-10, double)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (11-for-28, 2 doubles, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-9, K)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF (6-for-16, triple, walk, 3 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C (3-for-13, 2 K’s)
  8. Andrew Romine, SS
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (0-for-6)

P: Rick Porcello

TWINS (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. Brian Dozier, 2B (4-for-13, HR, 2 K’s)
  2. Joe Mauer, 1B (9-for-33, 3 doubles, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  3. Trevor Plouffe, 3B (5-for-17, 2 doubles, HR, walk)
  4. Chris Colabello, RF
  5. Jason Kubel, LF (13-for-30, 3 doubles, HR, walk, 5 K’s)
  6. Josmil Pinto, DH
  7. Kurt Suzuki, C (3-for-14, 2 doubles, 4 walks)
  8. Sam Fuld, CF
  9. Pedro Florimon, SS (1-for-6, walk, K)

P: Kevin Correia

Game 19: About the walkoff interference

Not since 2006 had a Major League game ended with a strikeout-inference double play. In a game that featured a pair of two-out, ground-ball RBI singles from Miguel Cabrera, and a home run and a double from Rajai Davis, it was probably fitting.

It happened with a runner on first, one out, Jose Abreu at the plate, and Adam Dunn looming as the potential tying run on deck if Abreu reached base. Abreu didn’t, striking out on a high fastball to end a 10-pitch battle with Joe Nathan.

His reaction, however, was what ended it. Either from frustration or momentum, Abreu stumbled out over the plate on his follow-through as catcher Bryan Holaday tried to throw to second, where Marcus Semien had gotten a jump on the pitch. The throw bounced off Semien and got away from Ian Kinsler covering the bag, but plate umpire Dan Iassogna had already called interference.

The call invokes Rule 7.09(e), which includes under the definition of interference:

Any batter or runner who has just been put out, or any runner who has just scored, hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate.

Otherwise, a batter who strikes out wouldn’t have a lot of discouragement from trying to get in a way of a throw.

The call doesn’t fall under the list of plays that can be considered on replay, so there was no challenge. White Sox manager Robin Ventura headed out for an explanation, but didn’t put up much of an argument. He confirmed the interference call to reporters afterwards, as did Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.

“I did not get an explanation; I was trying to get into the clubhouse as quick as possible before they changed their mind,” Ausmus said. “But my take was that the batter interfered with Doc Holaday’s throw to second. I knew that was the end of the game.”

According to research from STATS, it was the first such ending to a game since Aug. 8, 2006, when then-Ranger Mark DeRosa struck out and supposedly interfered with A’s catcher Jason Kendall as he tried to throw out Jerry Hairston Jr. taking second. That was actually a one-run game at the time; Hairston was actually the potential tying run.

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