May 2nd, 2014

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Royals


Alex Avila isn’t yet back to full health with his lower back. If the Tigers had a game last night, in fact, he would not have been able to play. Between rest and muscle relaxers, however, he loosened up the back enough yesterday that it felt better today, or at least playable. He’s back in the Tigers lineup.

Don Kelly and J.D. Martinez are both in the lineup tonight in place Nick Castellanos and Rajai Davis, but Ausmus said the move is more about getting Kelly and Martinez a start than it is about the guys they’re replacing. Detroit will face a lefty starter tomorrow in Danny Duffy, so Castellanos and Davis will absolutely be in the lineup for them. Davis is 2-for-16 lifetime off James Shields.

The Royals, meanwhile, add some speed to their lineup to put a test against Porcello and Avila. Nori Aoki leads off in right field, while Jarrod Dyson starts in center.

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

TIGERS (career numbers off Shields)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (9-for-44, 3 HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (15-for-49, 4 doubles, 13 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (18-for-43, 2 HR, 4 walks, 6 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (10-for-37, 2 doubles, HR, 9 K’s)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF (9-for-28, 2 doubles, 2 triples, 3 walks, 8 K’s)
  6. Don Kelly, 3B (1-for-6, K)
  7. J.D. Martinez, LF (2-for-6, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  8. Alex Avila, C (7-for-23, double, HR, 2 walks, 11 K’s)
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Rick Porcello

ROYALS (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. Nori Aoki, RF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Eric Hosmer, 1B (5-for-14, 2 HR, 2 walks, K)
  4. Billy Butler, DH (13-for-42, 3 doubles, walk, 9 K’s)
  5. Alex Gordon, LF (11-for-31, 2 doubles, 2 HR, walk, 6 K’s)
  6. Salvador Perez, C (2-for-10, 2 K’s)
  7. Mike Moustakas, 3B (4-for-15, 2 doubles, walk, K)
  8. Alcides Escobar, SS (1-for-21, 4 K’s)
  9. Jarrod Dyson, CF (2-for-6, triple, walk, K)

P: James Shields

Details on Hanrahan’s contract and timetable

Though the signing of Joel Hanrahan bears similarities to Jose Valverde’s return to Detroit last year, reaching a deal and then working him back to game readiness, there are key differences.

  1. Hanrahan signed a Major League contract, guaranteeing him a $1 million base salary with the potential for another $2 million in incentives.
  2. Instead of starting out on a minor-league contract, Hanrahan was immediately placed on the disabled list, something the Tigers can do with him while coming off Tommy John surgery. Once he’s ready for game work beyond extended Spring Training, the Tigers can place him on a minor-league rehab assignment for up to 20 days.
  3. While Valverde’s deal included an opt-out date Valverde could exercise if he wasn’t called up by a certain date, Hanrahan does not have a set timetable. The rehab assignment rules already put a limit on how long the Tigers can keep him in the minor leagues.

So how much time can we expect Hanrahan to need before getting to Detroit? Nobody’s putting a timetable on it, but judging from the quotes from Hanrahan and his agent, Larry Reynolds, a June return clearly sounds like a goal.

“I don’t think anybody wants to say you have to be back June 1,” Hanrahan said on the conference call announcing the deal. “If I’m ready in 30 days, that’s great. If it takes 40 days, I think we’re all on board.”

Said Reynolds: “I think the history of this is case by case. But optimistically, there’s a timeframe of 5-8 weeks from now. He has to go through a Spring Training scenario. …

“Optimistically, I’d love to see six weeks, but we don’t know. It’s going to be up to Joel and the medical folks.”

What can we expect from Hanrahan when he gets here? That, too, will require some time to find out.

Before Tommy John surgery a year ago, Hanrahan was a power reliever, averaging 96 mph or better on his fastball every season since 2010 according to Fangraphs. That fastball comprised three-quarters or more of his pitch selection the last three years. He also threw a hard slider from 85-87 mph.

When Hanrahan threw for teams a couple weeks ago, his fastball was reportedly around 92-93 in a non-game situation.

“At this point, it’s kind of a day to day thing,” he said on the conference call. “I was happy where my velocity was when I did that show case at 11 months. I think the more I get into a competitive atmosphere, the more it’ll come up. You get that competitive adrenaline going, things pick up a notch or two.”

Meanwhile, he said, “I’m able to throw a slider again, which I haven’t been able to do in a while.”

If he gets back close to where he was, even if he battles some command issues so soon after surgery, that’s a pretty good presence in a setup role. It’s a similar arsenal as Joba Chamberlain, though Chamberlain throws a better slider with usually a slower fastball.

Tigers to sign Joel Hanrahan

The Tigers have scheduled a conference call with reporters for noon ET, when they’re expected to announce the signing of reliever Joel Hanrahan.

Jon Heyman of first reported the agreement, which adds late-inning depth to a Detroit bullpen that has been trying to overcome the loss of hard-throwing setup man Bruce Rondon to Tommy John surgery in March.

Hanrahan himself is coming off Tommy John surgery a year ago, which delayed his dealings on the free-agent market this offseason but made him a logical option for Detroit as its relief issues emerged. The 32-year-old right-hander, a former closer in Pittsburgh in 2011 and 2012, pitched in just nine games for the Red Sox last year before undergoing season-ending surgery.

Hanrahan threw for teams a couple weeks ago. The Tigers, normally secretive about its interest in free agents, made little secret about Hanrahan, confirming that they were among the many teams that had a scout in attendance to watch him.

The Tigers bullpen had issues up and down the middle and late innings at different points in April, resulting in a 5.37 team ERA for relievers that ranks 29th out of 30 Major League teams.

Closer Joe Nathan has re-emerged after some early April dead-arm issues, while Joba Chamberlain has stepped in to fill the eighth-inning void left by Rondon’s injury. Beyond that, however, the Tigers have often had to mix and match to get through the late stages with a lead.

The Tigers have avoided wearing down their bullpen arms through a combination of strong starting pitching and a sputtering schedule that has left them with just 23 games played so far this season, the lowest total in the Majors. Al Alburquerque (13) and Chamberlain (23) have both pitched in more than half of those games.

Hanrahan likely fits in for seventh- and eighth-inning setup along with Chamberlain. That would allow Alburquerque, lefty Ian Krol and others to slot into more specialized roles.

Adding Hanrahan bears similarities to the deal the Tigers reached last year with Jose Valverde shortly after last year’s Opening Day. He spent a few weeks in the Tigers farm system on a minor-league contract to get used to game situations before being called up by the end of April.