The Tigers will recall infielder Dixon Machado from Triple-A Toledo ahead of Friday’s series opener against the Orioles. He’ll take the place of first baseman Marc Krauss, who will be placed on paternity leave list while he joins his wife at home in nearby Deshler, Ohio, for the birth of their second child, a girl.
It’ll be the second call-up for Machado, who played three games with the Tigers in late May. He started two games at shortstop while Jose Iglesias was injured, going 1-for-7 with a walk and a strikeout. He did not play Thursday night for the Hens after returning from the Triple-A All-Star Game in Omaha Wednesday night.
For the season, Machado is batting .272 (87-for-320) for the Mud Hens with 15 doubles, four home runs and 36 RBIs. He’s also 12-for-12 in stolen bases.
What Krauss’ absence means for first base remains to be seen. It’s possible manager Brad Ausmus will go back to the first-base mix he had before the Tigers acquired Krauss a week and a half ago. Catcher Alex Avila started twice at first base before that, both times against right-handed pitching. The Orioles are scheduled to start three right-handers this weekend, opening with Ubaldo Jimenez Friday night.
Dean Green ended his first half of the season with Double-A Erie on the road at Harrisburg. Then he drove to Baltimore for a flight to the Eastern League All-Star Game in Portland, Maine on Wednesday. He knew before he hit the road that his next stop would be at Triple-A Toledo.
So on Thursday, he flew from Portland to Detroit, then flew back to Erie to pick up his stuff and head to Toledo. Then he started for the Mud Hens as the designated hitter Thursday night.
“It’s been a hectic last couple days,” Green said, “but it’s been fun. It’s been little rest, to say the least, but it was all worth it.”
It puts Green one step away from the big leagues. If he can hit, it could give the Tigers another option if they need it to fill in for injured Miguel Cabrera. But that seems to be a ways off.
Green ended his SeaWolves season batting .316 (79-for-250) with nine doubles, 10 home runs, 42 RBIs and an .872 OPS. He had nearly as many walks (30) as strikeouts (33).
“I did want to work on seeing the ball a little bit longer into the count and getting a few more walks too,” Green said. “I feel like it helped me out a lot this year, just because I was more disciplined at the plate and I was able to see pitches a lot better, just recognize them a lot more.”
He’ll get a test against more veteran pitchers in the International League. All the travel might have caught up with Green on Thursday, when he went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, a popup and two groundouts, although his game-ending groundout was hit relatively hard to first base.
Green started at DH Thursday, but the plan calls for him to get some work at first base, continuing an effort to get him at least serviceable at the position.
“He’ll play some at first,” Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said. “We’ll see.”
He will not be a slick fielder by any means, but the goal is to get him to make the expected plays.
“I’ve been getting my work in every day out there,” Green said. “Our infield rover, Scott Fletcher, made sure that I was getting my work in out there every day. I’ve been going out there trying to work as hard as I can on taking grounders, working on my footwork, stuff like that. So I feel like I’m adequate over there right now. I can still improve but I’m good to go. …
“I can hold my own over there, but I’m not going to toot my own horn about it.”
That does not necessarily put him on a fast track yet, as evidenced by the Tigers’ call-up of utility infielder Dixon Machado to fill in for Marc Krauss while he’s on paternity leave the next few days. Still, it’s a step closer.
“I hope Miggy gets better soon,” Green said. “You hate seeing a great player like that go down. But as far as that goes for me, that’s out of my hands. I just have to go out there and take care of my business. Whatever the organization decides to do, they decide to do. But I can’t worry about that. I have to go out and take care of my business and the rest will take care of itself.”
The photo above is of the DirecTV Blimp leaving Cincinnati from the view out of Eden Park. It took off from Kentucky and headed east Wednesday morning. Most of the Tigers, by contrast, left town last night. David Price went home to Tennessee. Jose Iglesias went home for a little bit. J.D. Martinez was headed back to Detroit for a day to relax, though he was talking about taking some swings on Thursday to get ready.
The full team will be back together on Friday, at which point they’ll begin a two-week stretch that arguably could determine the rest of the season.
A lot has been written already about whether the Tigers should be buyers or sellers at the deadline, but to me it’s premature. It’s not just the fact that two weeks remain before the nonwaiver Trade Deadline July 31; it’s what remains in those two weeks.
“There’s such competitive balance almost across the board, somebody is going to get hot,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters in Minnesota last week. “It happens every year. But the reality is, between now and July 31, if you win 10 or 11 games or you lose 10 or 11 games, well that can change the way you are a great deal. If you keep playing the way you’ve been playing, I don’t see where it changes. But nobody can foresee the future. But are there things that happen? Sure. Anything can happen. But I think it’s more predicated upon unusual circumstances. So for me, I think we just continue the way we are. We try to get better. We’re going to have to play better at times. We’re just going to have to.”
This isn’t really about the division race. The Tigers are nine games out, and while bigger second-half leads have vanished before (including this one here), the Tigers would need a lot of help from the Royals on that one. They have 12 games left against each other, but none for a few weeks. In fact, other than six games against Kansas City, the Tigers don’t have any division matchups until September.
“There have been many clubs that have been eight games behind, more than that, at this time of year and have made those games up,” Dombrowski said. “We have a club that has some ability. Getting Verlander back gives us a shot to get on more of a roll from a starting pitching perspective. We like what we saw from Feliz for the bullpen. We’ve been scoring runs more. But again, we haven’t gotten on a streak, but there’s no reason to say that we can’t. You’d rather not be this far back.”
The next two weeks are more about the Wild Card race, and whether the Tigers can see that as more than a crapshoot. Of their 14 games before the trade deadline, half are against teams battling them in the standings. They open the second half with three games against the Orioles, tied with them at 44-44, play struggling Seattle and Boston, then visit the Rays (one-half game ahead of them) for three games. Then comes a four-game series against the O’s that wraps into August.
They have more key games in August — beyond the Royals series, the Tigers hit Houston for three games against a fading Astros team — but their direction should be set by then. If they end up as buyers, their key additions will be on board by then. If they’re sellers, the kids should be up. The one safe assumption is that they won’t be caught in between.
The Tigers have an 8.7% chance to win the division, according to Baseball Prospectus, and 9.4% according to Fangraphs. Their Wild Card percentage stands at 19.6% according to BP and 16.5% according to Fangraphs.
Is the Wild Card a risky way to try to get back into the postseason and make one more run at a World Series? Yes, but that doesn’t make it not worth pursuing if the Tigers end July with a decent shot at it. The defending AL champion Royals still haven’t won a division title in 30 years, and were supposed to be crushed by missing out on the division last year, just as the Tigers were supposed to be in 2006. The Giants have more World Series titles this decade (three) than AL West crowns (two).
If the last few years have shown anything about October, it’s that baseball’s postseason has become more like a tournament, and whoever’s playing the best ball at the time stands a better chance than whoever accomplished the most since April. The Tigers, and notably Dombrowski and owner Mike Ilitch, have to figure out how to get this team playing its best by October, and how much it’ll reasonably take to get them there.
If the Tigers can play better ball in what’s left of July, that notion becomes a lot more feasible. Tigers All-Stars agreed that there’s a sense of urgency to the upcoming couple weeks, though none of them said the motivation would be to keep this team together.
“I think everybody on this team knows that we’re not a .500 ballclub and we haven’t played our baseball,” David Price said. “We need to be on to start the second half the way that we’re capable of playing. We all know that. Everybody’s going to have to do their part to make that happens. We definitely have enough talent in that locker room to be successful, to be where we want to be at the end of the year. We just have to hold it down. Everybody has to do their jobs a little bit better for the next couple weeks or a month or so. We definitely have enough talent in the locker room to do that. I think mentally we’re fine. We just have to go out there and compete.”
Asked if the buy/sell debate is a motivation, Price said, “I don’t think so. We don’t have MLB Network or ESPN on in the locker room. This team is pretty strong mentally. We don’t let the outside stuff really affect us. That’s what you have to do. We haven’t played the type of baseball that we’re capable of playing since the first probably two weeks of the season. We plan on getting back to that point. If we can do that the first couple weeks out of the break, that would be ideal.”
Said J.D. Martinez: “It feels like the last month, month and a half, it’s hard to get it going. It feels almost like a wheel. You’re going, going, but you’re always hitting that bump and you can’t roll. We’ll play a good series and then we’ll go another series and we can’t figure it out. This second half, we definitely have to pick it up, I feel like. It’s going to be interesting because there’s a lot of good teams in our division. Our division is very tough. Minnesota and Kansas City have been playing really well, and they’re starting to create a lot of distance, so it’s going to be tough.”
Jim Leyland, who has been in on the Tigers meetings trying to determine their Trade Deadline direction, seemed to hint at the same thing when he went on MLB Network Radio Wednesday morning.
Leyland on #Tigers: “There is a sense of urgency in my opinion… I think it’s just a matter of putting everything together.”
— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) July 15, 2015
What the Tigers do is going to be closely watched, and no team seems to have a firm grasp so far. Even as contending teams ask what Detroit is going to do, noncontenders — including the Padres and Reds — have continued to scout the Tigers and their farm system.
Three things to remember as July unfolds:
- Much like with Max Scherzer, the Tigers will get a compensation pick in the back of the first round if they hold onto David Price for the rest of the season and he ends up signing elsewhere as a free agent. Any debate regarding keeping or trading Price over the next two weeks starts with that, because any potential return would have be judged in comparison. The Tigers have a first-round pick that they can recoup, but as was important in this year, they have spending flexbility against the draft cap. If the Tigers trade him, by rule, whoever gets him can’t get any draft compensation if he leaves in the offseason.
- By contrast, the Tigers won’t get a compensation pick for Yoenis Cespedes, whether they keep him or deal him. His contract that he signed in 2012 stipulates that his team can’t make him a qualifying offer.
- If the Tigers decide it’s worth buying in, payroll is still expected to be a factor.
If one doesn’t count Miguel Cabrera, who’s not here, then there are three Tigers taking part in All-Star Game festivities (David Price, Jose Iglesias, J.D. Martinez). There are as many former Tigers who are here, all of them prominent (Max Scherzer, Jhonny Peralta, Prince Fielder). That does not count Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon, who is on Ned Yost’s coaching staff for this game.
Scherzer not only still keeps in touch with former teammates, he also talks with the manager.
“I keep an eye on everybody. I pull for all the players over there,” Scherzer said. “I really want to see them do well. I text guys every now and then. I’ll text Ausmus every now and then, just different things that I see going on. A lot of great guys, a lot of great memories. I really hope everybody does well over there.”
Jhonny Peralta said the same, even as he acknowledged this year’s All-Star selection means a lot to him after the Biogenesis scandal enveloped his trip two years ago. He worked his tail off, and it paid off.
“With everything that happened before, a new opportunity to be here, and to be starting in the game, for me it’s special right now,” Peralta said. “This is the best moment that I can prove. …
“Detroit is a good team, too. I don’t want to say anything bad. It’s a similar team. The opportunity that they gave me in St. Louis is really good.”
On the Tigers, Peralta said, “I follow them a lot. I keep in touch with a couple of the guys, Cabrera and Victor. I miss being there, too, with the guys. It’s a good team, Detroit. I appreciated everything.”
On the Tigers’ .500 record, he said, “You know, it’s kind of hard to see that. Detroit is a team that’s on top every time, and now they’re behind. But in baseball, anything can happen.”
The one ex-Tiger who doesn’t track them is Fielder.
“Not really,” he said. “It’s just, I don’t follow any other team really.”
That said, he didn’t indicate that his trade to Texas was as much of a fresh start as the lost season he had last year to neck surgery.
“I don’t know. I think definitely the injury helped as far as my approach to the game and everything,” he said. “When you lose something, you realize that you liked it a lot. You try to enjoy it as much as you can when you come back.”
I’m in Cincinnati for the Futures Game, watching Tigers relief prospect Joe Jimenez. The Tigers, meanwhile, are wrapping up the first half trying to salvage a series split in Minnesota, where Alex Avila and Anthony Gose return to the lineup against Kyle Gibson.
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (7-for-18, double, HR, 3 walks, K)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (3-for-5, K)
- Victor Martinez, DH (4-for-17, double, 3 walks)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (7-for-17, double, 2 HR, walk, 4 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-11, double, walk, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-16, double, walk, 5 K’s)
- Marc Krauss, 1B
- Anthony Gose, CF (4-for-6, double)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-3)
P: Shane Greene
- Brian Dozier, 2B (1-for-5, K)
- Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-7, K)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (2-for-5, double, walk, K)
- Miguel Sano, DH
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (3-for-6, HR, 2 K’s)
- Eddie Rosario, LF
- Aaron Hicks, CF
- Eric Fryer, C
- Danny Santana, SS (1-for-7, 2 K’s)
P: Kyle Gibson
James McCann gets back behind the plate to catch Alfredo Simon. That moves Marc Krauss up to fifth in the Tigers batting order as Brad Ausmus keeps a lefty bat between J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos. Rajai Davis gets a start in center against Phil Hughes, who’s giving up a slightly higher average against right-handed hitters.
Reminder if you plan on watching: Today’s game is a Fox Sports 1 broadcast, not Fox Sports Detroit. Consult your local listings.
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (7-for-29, 3 doubles, triple, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (6-for-12, 3 doubles, triple, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (7-for-32, 2 doubles, 4 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (1-for-5, HR, 3 K’s)
- Marc Krauss, 1B
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (3-for-9, double, walk, 4 K’s)
- James McCann, C (1-for-2, double)
- Rajai Davis, CF (7-for-32, 4 doubles, walk, 6 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (2-for-6, K)
P: Alfredo Simon
- Brian Dozier, 2B (1-for-4, K)
- Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-8, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (1-for-9, K)
- Miguel Sano, DH
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (1-for-5, walk, K)
- Eddie Rosario, LF
- Aaron Hicks, CF (0-for-3, K)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (4-for-10, double, 2 HR, K)
- Danny Santana, SS (1-for-3, triple)
P: Phil Hughes
The Tigers already had former Texas Rangers closers Joe Nathan and Joakim Soria on their roster as part of their bullpen reconstruction efforts the last couple years. With Detroit’s relief corps desperately needing another veteran arm and Neftali Perez suddenly on the market, they went down the familiar path, signing the 27-year-old right-hander for the rest of the season.
Feliz joined the Tigers in Minnesota and was placed on the active roster immediately. Jeff Ferrell, called up last week after one outing at Triple-A Toledo but unused since last Sunday, was optioned back to Toledo to make room.
Feliz is best known for his 40-save season with Texas in 2010, but his most recent work was a rough half-season before the Rangers designated him for assignment last week.
This is Feliz’s second season since Tommy John surgery, which is seen by many as the point when pitchers get back to their old form. In Feliz’s case, though, the results were better last season, even if the stuff has bumped up. He gave up 10 runs on 24 hits over 19 2/3 innings, walking nine and striking out 16. He recorded six saves in nine chances, with a six-week stint on the disabled list mixed in for an axillary absess on his right side.
Feliz’s fastball has averaged 93.8 mph this season, according to Fangraphs, about midway between his 93.1 mph average last year and his 94.7 mph average in 2012 before surgery. The fastball, however, is getting hit more often, for a .374 BABIP according to STATS. He’s throwing more sliders now than he ever has before.
Feliz becomes the latest attempt by the Tigers to catch a reliever on the bounceback from injuries or struggles. They got some good work out of Joba Chamberlain for about two-thirds of last year before he seemed to wear down, but got little out of midseason pickup Jim Johnson. Tom Gorzelanny’s signing last offseason didn’t work out as hoped. Of those three, only Gorzelanny remains, and he’s in Toledo trying to work on his new sidearm throwing angle.
Same lineup for Tigers as Thursday. The Twins, meanwhile, get Danny Santana in at short and Eddie Rosario in left.
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (20-for-57, 6 doubles, triple, HR, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (2-for-11, 2 HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (8-for-22, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3, K)
- Alex Avila, C (1-for-8, HR, walk, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Marc Krauss, 1B
- Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-3, triple, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-2)
P: Justin Verlander
- Brian Dozier, 2B (3-for-13, double, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (13-for-48, 3 doubles, triple, HR, 2 walks, 9 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (24-for-65, 5 doubles, 3 HR, 12 walks, 11 K’s)
- Miguel Sano, DH
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (7-for-31, 3 doubles, 8 K’s)
- Eddie Rosario, LF
- Aaron Hicks, CF (0-for-6, 4 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (9-for-33, 2 doubles, walk, 4 K’s)
- Danny Santana, SS (3-for-6, triple)
P: Ervin Santana
Ian Kinsler returns to the starting lineup at the leadoff spot. Marc Krauss, Alex Avila and Anthony Gose start as well, loading up the Tigers lineup with left-handed hitters against Mike Pelfrey, who actually has allowed a lower batting average to left-handed hitters (.275) than to righties (.307) this season as well as for his career but has allowed a higher OPS in both cases.
TIGERS (career numbers off Pelfrey)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-12, double, 2 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (4-for-10, 2 doubles, K)
- Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-20, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-6, double, 3 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-11, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-5, HR, walk)
- Marc Krauss, 1B (1-for-3, K)
- Anthony Gose, CF (3-for-9, double, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (3-for-7)
P: David Price
TWINS (career numbers off Price)
- Brian Dozier, 2B (6-for-24, 2 doubles, 2 HR, walk, 4 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (5-for-30, double, 4 walks, 7 K’s)
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (7-for-18, double, walk, 4 K’s)
- Miguel Sano, DH
- Torii Hunter, RF (8-for-29, double, HR, 2 walks, 8 K’s)
- Eduardo Nunez, SS (9-for-37, 2 doubles, HR, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
- Aaron Hicks, CF (3-for-8, 2 doubles, walk, 3 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (6-for-28, 3 doubles, HR, walk, 10 K’s)
- Shane Robinson, LF (0-for-2, walk, K)
P: Mike Pelfrey
The AL Final Vote results continue to mirror the AL Central standings: Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas on top, followed by Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, then Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. Dozier has cut into Moustakas’ lead, according to a Thursday morning press release, which did not mention whether there was much difference in Cespedes’ deficit.
So far, the Tigers-Reds partnership to promote votes for Cespedes and Johnny Cueto seems to be more beneficial to Cueto, who leads the NL Final Vote.
Also, if you’re thinking that Alex Gordon’s injury opened a spot for Cespedes to make the All-Star team anyway, think again. Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner, who was fourth in Final Vote balloting, was named to replace Gordon on the roster.