July 27th, 2014

Ausmus on Cabrera: “Everything isn’t in sync”

In most seasons, a 3-4 West Coast trip is about average for the Tigers. As well as the Tigers have played on the road this year, it stands out.

When the Tigers score two runs over the final three games of the trip against an Angels rotation that didn’t include Jered Weaver for the series, it definitely stands out.

Miguel Cabrera drove in one of the two runs with an opposite-field homer that resembled his classic swing. It was part of 9-for-21 stretch over the first five games of the trip. He went 0-for-9 to end the series, including 0-for-4 with two strikeouts on Sunday — one of them on a 73 mph changeup from lefty Hector Santiago — to end the trip at 9-for-29 with two home runs, six RBIs and six strikeouts.

His average is back at .309, which is where it stood when the trip began. It’s more the look on the swings that is being scrutinized right now than the numbers.

“He’s scuffling a little bit right now,” manager Brad Ausmus said after Sunday’s 2-1 loss. “Hopefully DHing today, not standing out in the field helps and he gets his legs back with a day off tomorrow. I think he’s kind of been a little frustrated all year because of the post-surgery. Everything isn’t in sync for him. He’s having trouble syncing right now. I think the surgery probably is the root cause of it, maybe going all the way to the end of last year when he wasn’t swinging like he normally was to protect the injury.

“It can take time. I think it’s some of the side effects of all that.”

Cabrera isn’t getting into the surgery recovery, and hasn’t since his quotes from USA Today’s Jorge Ortiz at the All-Star festivities. His disagrees with the notion that he’s frustrated at the plate, and he understandably feels like the results are pretty good.

There are certainly additional reasons for the Tigers’ offensive funk the last few days, including the Martinezes cooling off. Still, the spotlight in this offense is on Cabrera, and largely has been since the comments over the break.

Is he hitting like normal? No.

Is he in a freefall? No.

He’s somewhere in between. And as the Tigers schedule gets busy (20 games in 20 days coming up, including a three-city road trip in early August), it’ll be up to Ausmus to decide whether to rest him a day or two over the course of the upcoming stretch.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Angels

Alex Avila gets the day off with lefty Hector Santiago on the mound. Torii Hunter gets the day off with the day game after a night game. Rajai Davis gets the start in left, with J.D. Martinez shifting over to right.

The Angels load up on left-handed hitters for Rick Porcello. Surprisingly, the batter vs. pitcher numbers aren’t as hitter-friendly as you would expect given the Angels’ history off Porcello.

TIGERS (career numbers off Santiago)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-16, HR, 3 walks, 6 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-8, double, 3 walks, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B DH (1-for-7, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH 1B (2-for-11, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-1)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-2, K)
  7. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (1-for-6, HR, 3 K’s)

P: Rick Porcello

ANGELS (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. Kole Calhoun, RF
  2. Mike Trout, CF (4-for-12, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Albert Pujols, DH (4-for-10, 2 doubles)
  4. Josh Hamilton, LF (6-for-17, 2 HR, 3 walks, K)
  5. Erick Aybar, SS (4-for-21, double, walk, 3 K’s)
  6. Howie Kendrick, 2B (7-for-25, 3 doubles, 8 K’s)
  7. Efren Navarro, 1B
  8. David Freese, 3B (1-for-6, 2 K’s)
  9. Hank Conger, C (1-for-5)

P: Hector Santiago

Did Scioscia challenge too late? (updated)

Angels manager Mike Scioscia’s challenge of a pickoff play retired a lot more than Eugenio Suarez at first base. The reaction ended up retiring Tigers manager Brad Ausmus from Saturday’s game. It did not retire the debate over whether the challenge should’ve been allowed.

“It’s not a perfect thing,” crew chief Jim Joyce said postgame of the rules on challenge timeliness. “The whole idea is to get it right, and that play was such that I felt that play needed to be reviewed.”

While Scioscia won his argument that Albert Pujols tagged Suarez before his hand touched first base with one out in the third inning, quieting a Tigers rally, Ausmus lost his argument that Scioscia took too long to challenge the call.

Pickoff plays are reviewable, but like all plays, they must be reviewed before the start of the next play or pitch, according to MLB’s official rules. The argument involved whether pitcher Matt Shoemaker’s return to the pitcher constituted the start of the next play.

The rule says it did. In another part, though, it says the crew chief has the final word. Essentially, the argument between Ausmus and Joyce comes down to whether the crew chief thus has discretion to make the determination himself.

According to Section D, Rule 1 of the replay review regulations:

“The next “play” shall commence when the pitcher is on the rubber preparing to start his delivery and the batter has entered the batter’s box (unless the defensive team initiates an appeal play in which case any call made during the play prior to the appeal still may be subject to Replay Review).”

Ausmus was out of the dugout to make his case, presumably for that, as soon as Scioscia left his to talk with first-base umpire Jim Joyce. Once umpires agreed to review, Ausmus began to argue that they can’t.

“He said that he could review it if he wanted,” Ausmus said.

The rules do say that the crew chief (Joyce, in this case) has the final say on whether a challenge is timely, and that his decision on that is not reviewable.

“The Crew Chief shall have the final authority to determine whether a Manager’s Challenge is timely. The judgment of the Crew Chief regarding the timeliness of a Manager’s Challenge shall be final and binding on both Clubs, and shall not be reviewable by Replay Review or otherwise.”

That was the rule Joyce was apparently citing when explaining the situation after the game.

“I was watching the batters and the pitcher, and I understand what Brad was thinking,” Joyce said. “But to tell me I can’t do it is not what the rule is. So I just informed him that it’s at my discretion. It’s at the crew chief’s discretion. …

“I just knew it was really, really a close play. And if he’s going to come out and ask me to review it, I’m going to review it. The whole entire deal is to get it right. So I kept informing him that, at my discretion, that I can review it. I tried to impress that upon, and we got to where we were.”

Ausmus seemed to interpret that as Joyce deciding to initiate a review.

“The umpires have discretion to initiate a review on their own, but they clearly didn’t initiate the review,” Ausmus said. “Mike Scioscia coming out of the dugout initiated the review. The rule, it’s pretty black and white. If the guy’s in the box and the pitcher’s on the rubber, it’s no longer challengable.”

Asked whether it was a manager’s challenge or crew chief review, Ausmus said, “Good question.”

Joyce confirmed that it a manager’s challenge, though he cited his discretion to review it.

After a lengthy review, Joyce’s safe call was overturned, and Suarez was called out. Ausmus immediately ran out of the dugout with what looked like a copy of the rules in hand.

In so doing, of course, Ausmus was violating one of those same rules:

“Once Replay Review is initiated, no uniformed personnel from either Club shall be permitted to further argue the contested calls or the decision of the Replay Official. Onfield personnel who violate this provision shall be ejected.”

Ausmus wasn’t sure his argument should have fallen under that, either.

“I wasn’t technically arguing the challenge,” Ausmus said of his second ejection of the season. “I was arguing the fact that the rule says they couldn’t challenge in the first place. I was ejected immediately, although I don’t know that I should have been ejected immediately. If I was arguing the call, that’s a different story.

“But the rule’s clear. I’m not really sure how they could have looked at this a second time.”

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