The Tigers might have one more trade for bullpen help in them yet. Oddly enough, they can thank their recent fall out of the AL Central and Wild Card leads in part for getting in a last-minute waiver claim on Astros closer Chad Qualls.
Peter Gammons of MLB Network first reported that the Tigers had the primary claim on Qualls, who was a last-minute placement on the waiver wire after the Astros held onto him at the July 31 non-waiver deadline. That followed Ken Rosenthal’s report Monday evening that Qualls had been claimed on revocable waivers.
Under terms of revocable waivers, the Astros have 48 hours (thus, until Wednesday) to work out a trade, pull him back off waivers, or let him go on waivers.
At this point, it’s too early to tell whether the two teams, who put together a trade for then-Astros closer Jose Veras last summer, can work something out on Qualls. The Tigers were interested in Qualls last month before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline, but the Astros were reticent to deal. Detroit put together a trade with the Rangers for Joakim Soria instead.
One potential factor is the sentiment of Qualls, who does not have veto power but has said more than once that he wants to remain an Astro. Qualls signed a two-year, $5.95 million deal last December to return to his original organization, spurning interest from the Tigers among other teams.
Qualls’ contract is very manageable, having joined Houston on a two-year deal worth $5.95 million with a $3.5 million club option for 2016. He has said repeatedly, including last night, that he wants to remain in Houston, though he doesn’t have a say in it.
“I’ve been traded a bunch of times in my career and it’s no different,” Qualls told Houston reporters, including MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart. “I chose Houston because it’s close to home and I want to help this team win and I feel like I’ve been doing the best I can this year.
“Like I said all year, I’d like to stay here this year and obviously beyond that and finish my career as an Astro. It’s not in my hands, though, so I don’t really put too much thought into it.”
The Tigers were able to acquire the Astros’ last closer, Jose Veras, last summer for outfielder Danry Vasquez and pitcher David Paulino. With Qualls’ contract, however, the Astros will probably seek more advanced prospects. Houston had a pro scout in Reading, Pa., while Double-A Erie was in town this past weekend.
It’s more likely the Astros pull him off waivers than trade him, according to McTaggart.
Soria was in the Tigers bullpen for about two weeks before a left oblique strain landed him on the 15-day disabled list. He’s throwing off flat ground and is “trending upward” towards a return, according to manager Brad Ausmus, but still has to throw off a mound. His return is on the horizon, but not imminent.
The Tigers tried to fill part of the void last week with former Orioles/A’s closer Jim Johnson, who earned a win at Tampa Bay with a scoreless 10th inning despite walking two Rays, but then gave up four runs in a nine-run sixth inning in Friday’s 20-6 loss to the Twins. Johnson came back Sunday and retired all five batters he faced, his longest perfect outing since April 11 with Oakland.
The 36-year-old Qualls is 14-for-17 in save chances in Houston to go with a 3.07 ERA, 46 hits and 38 strikeouts over 44 innings. He has walked just five batters this season, and two were intentional. His 11-year-old Major League history has seen him protect leads anywhere from the seventh to ninth innings, much like the role the Tigers had for Soria.
Just because the Tigers made the first claim doesn’t mean they’ll be able to pull off a deal. The Astros were more willing to trade a young starter than their veteran reliever before the non-waiver deadline, and they’re still trying to win games down the stretch to demonstrate progress. Houston needs eight wins in its last 30 games to avoid 100 losses for the first time since 2010, and their near.500 record over the last month or two suggests an outside shot to avoid 90 losses.
While the Tampa Bay Rays await word from Major League Baseball on their protest of a late replay challenge Saturday from Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, the Tigers are expected to be interested observers. Manager Brad Ausmus, in particular, will be curious to see how this is ruled.
On Sunday morning, he hadn’t seen the play in question, when Gibbons came out to challenge a pickoff call after his pitcher, Mark Buehrle, was back on the rubber and Yunel Escobar was in the batters box. But Ausmus was aware of it.
“I read the story, which when it happened with us in Anaheim, it was the exact same thing really,” Ausmus said.
That, too, was a pickoff play — with Matt Shoemaker trying to pick off Eugenio Suarez at first. Suarez was initially ruled safe, Shoemaker returned to the mound, Mike Scioscia emerged from the dugout to challenge, and Ausmus was out of his dugout as soon as Scioscia came out.
“I was watching the batters and the pitcher, and I understand what Brad was thinking,” crew chief Jim Joyce said at the time. “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 argued unsuccessfully to try to stop the review. He came back out as soon as Suarez was ruled out on review, which got Ausmus ejected.
So why didn’t Ausmus protest like Maddon did?
“I wanted to protest,” Ausmus said Sunday, “and the umpire [Joyce] told me I couldn’t protest, that it was not something that could be protested.”
Ausmus said he has not been given an official clarification on the rule since. MLB executive vice president of on-field operations Joe Torre was in Cooperstown at the time of the incident for Hall of Fame weekend.
“I never actually talked to Joe about the rule,” said Ausmus. “I wasn’t given anything official in terms of whether I was right or wrong. I know there was a lot of discussion in New York about it, though.”
Given the Rays challenge, there’s probably more discussion going on in New York.
Miguel Cabrera aggravated his sore right ankle when he hit the bag hard trying to beat out a double play throw Saturday night. He stayed in the game until being lifted for a pinch-runner in the eighth, but he was clearly limping on his way through the dugout. It’s enough of a concern that he’s out of the lineup today, giving him two days to recover before Tuesday’s series opener against the Yankees back at Comerica Park.
“Maybe two days off in a row might help,” manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday morning.
Cabrera could pinch-hit, but Ausmus said he’d save that for a situation with runners on and a late-game scenario.
The cascade effect on the lineup affects most of the other spots. Ian Kinsler is back batting second, Rajai Davis is leading off, and Torii Hunter is hitting third. Don Kelly, the first baseman for the day, will bat ninth.
TIGERS (career numbers off Kyle Gibson)
- Rajai Davis, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-4, walk)
- Torii Hunter, RF (0-for-2, walk)
- Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-5, double)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (1-for-3, double, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-4, K)
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-4, double)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
- Don Kelly, 1B (1-for-4, double)
P: Max Scherzer
TWINS (career numbers vs. Scherzer)
- Danny Santana, CF (1-for-3, double, K)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (1-for-11, HR, walk, 7 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (8-for-28, HR, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Kennys Vargas, DH
- Oswaldo Arcia, RF (2-for-3, double, K)
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (1-for-13, walk, 7 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (2-for-5, HR, walk, K)
- Eduardo Escobar, SS (2-for-8, double, K)
- Jordan Schafer, LF (0-for-3, walk, K)
P: Kyle Gibson
Statistically, the Tigers lost ground with Saturday’s doubleheader split, dropping another half-game on Kansas City and Seattle. They’ve dropped two games in the AL Central over the last three days, and they’re now facing their biggest deficit since they were down three games to the White Sox with 15 games to play in 2012.
Yet, as the Tigers headed back into the visiting clubhouse at Target Field after salvaging a split Saturday night, there was a reason the music was blaring. They avoided the worst-case scenario of dropping four games back in the division with another loss. More importantly, they found the energy to keep fighting.
“It was a no-brainer. We had to go out there and come with a little more fight,” Torii Hunter said. “We lost the last two and we lost big. Those guys are taking first and third, stealing bases. So today, we played a little harder, and I could see it.”
It was Hunter who mentioned after back-to-back losses in Pittsburgh last week that there was a lack of energy. It was Hunter who tried to create a spark Saturday night when he tried to go from first to third on Victor Martinez’s single.
It nearly resulted in an inning-ending out. It took a replay review to put him on third base, in position to score a few pitches later.
There’s a reaction sometimes when players talk about playing with more energy, asking why they don’t do that all the time. The day-in, day-out nature of the baseball schedule makes that a lot more challenging. For many, it’s that consistency that is the toughest part of a 162-game Major League schedule.
For the Tigers, it’s particularly tough these days. They’re in the midst of 24 games in 23 days, and 55 games in 55 days out of the All-Star break. They’re essentially playing four games in 48 hours at Target Field, and they lost the first two in demoralizing fashion. While pitchers can find a way to plug through when hitting slumps leave them in a 1-0 and 2-0 deficit, it’s tougher to get hitters to wake up sometimes when a bad pitching performance puts a team down eight or 10 runs.
It’s a bad combination going right now, and it’s a veteran team that can’t simply rely on youth to summon that energy. Justin Verlander’s return provided them some. They had to look within for the rest.
“You have to dig deep,” Hunter said. “You have to have that will to find it and dig. I always says during a storm, a tree actually grows roots, just so it can be rooted and strong. It finds the will to survive. That’s what we have to do, find a will.”
Trevor May has made three Major League appearances, two of them starts. He has allowed 10 runs, nine earned, on 13 hits over nine total innings with 13 walks and three strikeouts. In theory, it would take a lot of Twins hitting off Justin Verlander to put the Tigers out of this one. The way this weekend has gone for them, though, nothing is assured. And May did pitch eight shutout innings against Toledo in May.
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Torii Hunter, RF
- Miguel Cabrera, DH
- Victor Martinez, 1B
- J.D. Martinez, LF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Bryan Holaday, C
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
- Rajai Davis, CF
P: Justin Verlander
TWINS (career numbers off Verlander)
- Danny Santana, CF (1-for-3)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (3-for-11, double, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (23-for-62, 4 doubles, 3 HR, 12 walks, 10 K’s)
- Kennys Vargas, DH
- Oswaldo Arcia, RF (0-for-2, walk)
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (4-for-28, double, 8 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (8-for-30, 2 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
- Eduardo Escobar, SS (2-for-8, K)
- Jordan Schafer, LF
P: Trevor May
Friday night and Saturday afternoon didn’t put the Tigers in record territory, but it wasn’t far off.
The 32 runs allowed (20-6 Friday night, 12-4 Saturday afternoon) are the most off Tigers pitching in a two-game stretch since Sept. 7-9, 2004. That stretch is remembered more for the second game, when Jason Johnson and the Tigers suffered a 26-5 loss to the Royals in the first game of a doubleheader at Comerica Park. It’s the fourth-highest two-game total in franchise history.
Here’s the full list:
40 – June 17-18, 1953 at Red Sox (17-1 loss first game, 23-3 loss 2nd game)
35 – April 24-25, 1996 vs. Twins (24-11 loss first game, 11-1 loss 2nd game)
33 – Aug. 28, 1936 doubleheader at Yankees (14-5 loss Game 1, 19-4 loss Game 2)
32 – Aug. 4-5, 1929 at Senators (13-11 win first game, 21-5 loss 2nd game)
32 – Sept. 7-9, 2004 vs. Royals (6-2 loss first game, 26-5 loss 2nd game)
32 – Aug. 22-23, 2014 at Twins (20-6 loss first game, 12-4 loss 2nd game)
Hours after throwing 27 pitches, Andrew Romine starts the day game of this doubleheader at shortstop. To say it is not the ideal scenario would be an understatement. But then, there’s pretty much nothing ideal about the Tigers situation today.
As it is, the Tigers will use their left-handed hitters in the day game against Twins starter Yohan Pino. He’s giving up a .290 average to lefties (compared to .261 to right-handed batters), but the OPS difference is negligible at 10 points.
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Ezequiel Carrera, CF
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, LF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Don Kelly, RF
- Alex Avila, C
- Andrew Romine, SS
P: Buck Farmer
- Danny Santana, CF
- Brian Dozier, 2B
- Joe Mauer, DH
- Kennys Vargas, 1B
- Chris Parmelee, RF
- Eduardo Nunez, 3B
- Eduardo Escobar, SS
- Eric Fryer, C
- Jordan Schafer, LF
P: Yohan Pino
For the second (or third) time in as many weeks, the Tigers are having to make multiple call-ups to bring fresh relievers to their bullpen. This time, one is familiar, and one is new.
Lefty Patrick McCoy is familiar, having been recalled from Triple-A Toledo after being sent down a week and a half ago in the last round of mass bullpen moves. Fellow lefty Kyle Lobstein is new, having been in Tigers camp the last two Spring Trainings but never cracked the roster.
Lobstein, a starter at Triple-A Toledo, will pitch out of the bullpen in Detroit. If he makes an appearance, he’ll be the 28th different person to throw a pitch for the Tigers this season. He’d be the 10th Tigers pitcher to make his Major League debut this season.
To make room, starter Robbie Ray and fellow lefty Ian Krol were optioned to Triple-A Toledo after a pair of disastrous outings. The Tigers will need a fifth starter to replace Ray at some point next week.
Dave Dombrowski’s conversation with reporters on Rusney Castillo late Friday afternoon echoed his comments to MLB Network Radio earlier in the day. They also elaborated a bit.
First, they did not expect Castillo to contribute to their playoff chase.
“He hadn’t played for over a year, the signing process here, getting him ready to play, we never felt that he would be in a position to play this year,” Dombrowski said. “We actually offered him a 2015 contract to start off.”
Second, they didn’t get to the point where they had any reason to believe they were in it at the end.
“We made him a substantial offer, in our opinion, about a week ago,” Dombrowski said. “They wanted our best offer right off the bat. We made them a best offer at that point. It was, without getting into specifics, in somewhat of a rumored area of various offers that were out there.
“They called us back this past Monday and told us that we were out, that we were not even in the neighborhood of clubs that were going to sign him, that they had substantial offers better than ours. We felt at that time that we were out, but we did not say anything because we’ve never dealt with his agents before and we didn’t know if they’d ever come back to us and say that we’ve changed our minds. They never did, so we never had any conversations since Monday. So all of the rumors that we were one of the finalists, we were not one of the finalists to my knowledge.”
Castillo is represented by agents at Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports. The agency also represents Robinson Cano.
“Some guys you know tell you you’re out, and you’re out. Other people tell you you’re out, and you’re really not out,” Dombrowski said. “It just really is a matter of knowing people. But we haven’t had any conversations all week long on this situation.”
That, he said, made for interesting reading as the week unfolded and Tigers officials kept reading they were one of the finalists. They didn’t think they were, but they weren’t sure.
“They told us we were out,” Dombrowski said, “and then I kept reading the rumors that kept saying we were in it. And I kept seeing the dollar amounts and it was like, well, we’re not very far off that dollar amount, so maybe we’re in this thing and we don’t know we’re in this thing. But nobody called us back. I mean, I kept waiting for a phone call that somebody might say, ‘Hey, we changed our mind. Do you want to get back in it?’ But they never did. …
“I called [team owner Mike Ilitch] on Monday to tell him we were out of it. We’ve gone as high as we think we want to go, and we’ve been told we’re out of it. I wouldn’t have made that phone call unless I knew.”
Dombrowski also said they were interested in Castillo before they traded Austin Jackson. Castillo’s showcase workout for teams, for one, took place five days before Jackson went to Seattle in the David Price today, and the Tigers had a handful of representatives there.
“We were involved with this even before we had made a move in center field,” he said. “You never have enough good players. We had discussed this before we made the trade.”
We’re expecting to talk with Dave Dombrowski in person at Target Field later this afternoon about the Tigers’ involvement in the Rusney Castillo bidding. He talked a little earlier, though, with MLB Network Radio, where he told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern that they made a substantial offer, but were out of the bidding a few days ago.
“I don’t think we were ever really close,” Dombrowski said. “We were interested in him and we made we thought was a real solid offer, but we went where we thought we were prepared to go, which was somewhere in the rumored neighborhood of what was out there.”
That offer, Dombrowski said, was as far as they were willing to go. Whether they fell short in years or money isn’t clear, but his suggestion was that it didn’t get them to the final bidding the last couple days.
“We were basically told earlier in the week — I think first thing Monday — that we were no longer a participant,” Dombrowski continued. “We haven’t had any discussions the rest of the week.”
Though a lot of speculation had Castillo as a potential contributor for the Tigers down the stretch and into the playoffs, Dombrowski said that wasn’t their plan. Their interest in Castillo was almost exclusively for next season and beyond.
“Never was he in our plans, despite some rumors, in our plans for the 2014 season,” he said. “With the amount of time he had off, everything we were discussing was towards 2015.”
Dombrowski’s scouting report on Castillo: “We thought that he’d be a real good center field. He’s got above average speed. We thought he’d be an above-average basestealer at the big league level, and probably 15-type home run power. A real good all-around player is how we all looked at him.”