J.D. Martinez entered Wednesday tied for fifth in the Majors in home runs, but ended up on the outside looking in on the Home Run Derby. Major League Baseball announced the eight-man field Wednesday, and Martinez wasn’t in it.
Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson comprise the American League portion of the field. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Joc Pederson and Todd Frazier are going from the NL.
“I mean, I would’ve liked to do it,” Martinez said. “It would’ve been cool. But I guess I’ve gotta pay my dues, wait another year.”
Martinez said he was asked by the MLBPA earlier in the week whether he’d be interested. After mulling it over, and looking over the new rules, he said yes. He did not hear back. He was disappointed, but didn’t want to make an issue out of it.
“It’s not a big deal,” Martinez said.
Also left out of the field was Yoenis Cespedes, the two-time defending champion. He had said last month he’d be interested if he made the All-Star team. He’s currently in the Final Vote contest, though Alex Gordon’s status could impact Cespedes. Gordon, elected to a starting outfield spot by the fans, left Wednesday’s game for the Royals with a left groin injury after crashing into the outfield wall at Kauffman Stadium.
Day off for Ian Kinsler, who’s had some success off J.A. Happ but looked the first two games of this series like he could use a day. Jefry Marte gets his first Major League start at first base.
The forecast calls for more warm weather today, which means more drives carrying. That could be a challenge for both pitchers, given Sanchez’s trouble with home runs (18 of them this year) and J.A. Happ facing a righty-heavy lineup.
- Rajai Davis, CF
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (3-for-13, double, walk, 5 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-2, walk, K)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-2, double)
- James McCann, C
- Jefry Marte, 1B
- Andrew Romine, 2B (0-for-4)
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Anibal Sanchez
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Kyle Seager, 3B (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
- Robinson Cano, 2B (2-for-10, double)
- Nelson Cruz, DH (1-for-5, HR, walk, K)
- Seth Smith, RF (9-for-22, double, 4 HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
- Mark Trumbo, 1B (3-for-12, 2 K’s)
- Dustin Ackley, LF (1-for-3, triple, K)
- Brad Miller, SS
- Jesus Sucre, C
P: J.A. Happ
Alex Avila entered Tuesday nine sacrifice bunts in 12 attempts since 2010, including five against left-handed pitching. When he stepped to the plate in the 11th inning Tuesday night, he had runners at first and second and nobody out, and two chances to get the bunt down against lefty reliever and former teammate Charlie Furbush.
On the flip side, manager Brad Ausmus had right-handed hitting catcher James McCann on his bench if he wanted to take a chance and pinch-hit for Avila. Under a different situation, Ausmus said, he probably would’ve done it. For him, however, that situation was a bunting one. It wasn’t just about advancing the runners, but preserving the catcher.
“I’d prefer to not expend both catchers, if possible,” Ausmus said after the game. “Now, if it was a situation where there was just a runner on second — if it wasn’t a bunting situation — I would’ve used McCann to hit.”
Furbush has been tough on hitters from both sides of the plate this season. Left-handed batters are 4-for-38 with 11 strikeouts against him. Right-handed hitters are 5-for-36 with six strikeouts, but two of those hits have been home runs. Both of those were in blowout games from Astros: Chris Carter in a 9-0 contest, and Marwin Gonzalez in an 11-0 game.
Avila took a first-pitch ball, then bunted back-to-back pitches foul — one a foul pop-up that Kyle Seager nearly caught. Furbush then retired him on a called third strike, starting him on his way to striking out the side and ending Detroit’s chance to win it.
“When you’re called upon to get a bunt down, you’ve gotta get it down,” Avila said. “That’s the bottom line. Furbush is tough, obviously, but I didn’t get the job done.”
Even if he had, there’s no guarantee the hitters after him would’ve gotten the runner in. A successful bunt would’ve put runners at second and third with one out for hot-hitting Nick Castellanos. The way Castellanos had been hitting, the Mariners could have opted to walk him and set up the force play at every base with left-handed hitter Marc Krauss coming up. Rajai Davis hit for Krauss.
That’s a situation Ausmus would’ve taken.
On the play an inning earlier, where Anthony Gose legged out a double and hesitated at third base when Mariners shortstop Brad Miller booted Ian Kinsler’s ground ball, Ausmus said he didn’t see for sure but thought third-base coach Dave Clark held him up. He did say it’s not like a normal two-out situation where the baserunner keeps going.
“The problem is, if he keeps running [and Miller doesn’t boot it a second time], he’s going to pick it up and throw him out at home,” Ausmus said. “And then he kicks it, so Dave’s holding him after the initial fumble of the ball. Now he kicks it, and Dave’s trying to start him up again, and he can’t. It was just a funny play that you don’t see. If he had kicked it that far initially, Dave would’ve kept him going, I’m sure. But it was an initial miss of the ground ball, and then he kicked it.”
The normally pitcher-friendly confines of Safeco Field have been no match for Yoenis Cespedes so far this week. The online ballot box of the All-Star Final Vote is another matter.
Despite home runs in each of the last two nights, Cespedes ranks third in the American League balloting, trailing two division foes. Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas leads, demonstrating again the ballot prowess coming out of Kansas City, followed by Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.
Cespedes has been gaining ground after a big early deficit, according to a Wednesday morning release. But he’ll have more work to do in order to make his second consecutive All-Star team and defend his back-to-back Home Run Derby titles.
Cespedes has not benefited from prime time display, playing late-night West Coast games each of the last two evenings. On the flip side, he has pummeled a Mariners pitching staff he has hit for 17 of his 83 career home runs, and a ballpark where the ball has been uncharacteristically flying.
One night after hitting an estimated 411-foot drive to left-center field to start a go-ahead rally for the Tigers, he nearly matched it with a 409-foot to near straightaway center. The two-out solo shot in the eighth inning tied the game for Detroit, sending Tuesday’s game into extra innings.
Voting is open now at MLB.com to select the final player for each League’s 34-man roster via the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote. Fans can cast their votes from a list of five players from each League until 4 p.m. ET on Friday.
Cespedes might be benefiting some from the Tigers’ partnership with the Reds, encouraging fans of both clubs to vote Cespedes on the AL side and Reds ace Johnny Cueto for the National League. Cueto leads the NL candidates with about 4.7 million votes, but Moustakas has 7.5 million votes on the AL side.
Marc Krauss joins the team and immediately slots into the starting lineup, batting seventh at first base against red-hot M’s starter Taijuan Walker. Alex Avila, who has reached base safely in 7 of 16 plate appearances since coming off the disabled list, is back behind the plate for Kyle Ryan. One would figure James McCann will be back in the lineup Wednesday to face J.A. Happ with an early start after a night game.
The Mariners, meanwhile, mix in some right-handed hitters against Kyle Ryan, notably Franklin Gutierrez (4-for-9 off LHPs since his return) and Mark Trumbo (five home runs in 67 at-bats vs. lefties this season).
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Alex Avila, C
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Marc Krauss, 1B
- Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-3, 2 K’s vs. Taijuan Walker)
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Kyle Ryan
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Franklin Gutierrez, LF
- Robinson Cano, 2B
- Nelson Cruz, RF
- Kyle Seager, 3B
- Mark Trumbo, DH
- Logan Morrison, 1B
- Mike Zunino, C
- Chris Taylor, SS
P: Taijuan Walker
When Brad Ausmus talked about Jefry Marte and Andrew Romine as parts of the mix at first base, it didn’t bode well for Josh Wilson. Somebody had to go to make room for first baseman Marc Krauss, and if Marte was expected to split time at first, Wilson looked a lot like the odd man out. Sure enough, the Tigers designated Wilson’s contract for assignment on Tuesday as Krauss arrived in Seattle.
Wilson replaced Hernan Perez as the Tigers’ second utility infielder on June 2 and held his own, batting 8-for-21 while seeing playing time at second, third and shortstop. He even pitched in a game. But with first base now a mix-and-match situation for the foreseeable future unless the Tigers add somebody else, two utility infielders became a luxury. Moreover, Marte’s ability to play both corner infield spots takes some of that responsibility anyway.
Wilson has the option to decline an outright assignment if he clears waivers. At age 34, it wouldn’t necessarily be a surprise if he did if he saw a way to get back on the roster later in the season, possibly if Cabrera returns as hoped in mid-August.
Though the splits are pretty even in a small sample size this season, left-handed batters hit Hisashi Iwakuma much better than right-handed hitters did last year. The problem the Tigers face, of course, is that they only have so many left-handed hitters. Thus, Alex Avila moves from first base back behind the plate, and Andrew Romine gets the start at first base. Marc Krauss, claimed off waivers Monday afternoon, is en route to Seattle but isn’t expected to be available. He’ll be added to the roster on Tuesday, at which point the Tigers will have to make a corresponding move.
TIGERS (career numbers off Iwakuma)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (9-for-23, double, 3 HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (10-for-24, 5 doubles, 3 HR, 6 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-6, HR, 2 walks)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3, 3 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (0-for-9, walk, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-3, double, 2 K’s)
- Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-2, walk, K)
- Andrew Romine, 1B (3-for-7, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-5, 2 K’s)
P: Alfredo Simon
MARINERS (career numbers off Simon)
- Austin Jackson, CF (1-for-6, K)
- Kyle Seager, 3B
- Robinson Cano, 2B (2-for-6, walk)
- Nelson Cruz, DH (2-for-5, double, HR, K)
- Seth Smith, RF
- Logan Morrison, 1B
- Dustin Ackley, LF (1-for-1)
- Brad Miller, SS (0-for-1, K)
- Mike Zunino, C
P: Hisashi Iwakuma
The Tigers, looking to fill first base with Miguel Cabrera out for the next six weeks, began their search Monday afternoon by claiming Marc Krauss off waivers from the Rays.
Krauss is expected to join the Tigers in Seattle, where they open a three-game series with the Mariners Monday night. A corresponding move will be made then.
Krauss, a northwest Ohio native and former Ohio University standout, has played 134 games in the big leagues over the last three years with three different organizations, batting .192 (70-for-365) with 18 doubles, 11 home runs, 40 RBIs, 34 walks and 117 strikeouts. After hitting .289 with four homers and 29 RBIs in 47 games at Triple-A Salt Lake, he played 11 games this season with the Angels, who traded him to the Rays June 25.
The 27-year-old Krauss went 1-for-10 with a double for the Rays before being designated for assignment over the weekend. That was around the same time the Tigers learned the extent of Cabrera’s strained left calf, which is expected to keep him out until mid-August.
With Cabrera out, the Tigers started catcher Alex Avila at first base the past two games. Like Avila, Krauss is a left-handed hitter. The Tigers also called up third baseman Jefry Marte, a right-handed hitter, from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday when Cabrera went on the disabled list.
The Tigers will not be short of southpaws in Seattle. The next bullpen adjustment Brad Ausmus hinted at doing all weekend came down Sunday, with lefty reliever Ian Krol recalled from Triple-A Toledo. Drew VerHagen, who just joined the Tigers on Friday, was optioned out, sent to Toledo.
Krol probably would’ve come up with Friday’s bullpen shakeup had he been eligible, but he hadn’t spent 10 days in Toledo since being sent down after the series in Cleveland a week and a half ago. He hit that 10-day mark on Saturday. He made four appearances for the Mud Hens in the meantime, allowing two unearned runs on one hit over 4 2/3 innings with two walks and four strikeouts.
Krol returns to a vastly different bullpen than the one he left. He had been a third left-hander behind Tom Gorzelanny and Blaine Hardy. Now, Gorzelanny is out, and Brad Ausmus is essentially trying out guys for roles. If Krol was ever going to get a clean slate to make his claim as a late-inning lefty again, this is it.
He should get ample opportunity to do that this week. The list of prominent left-handed hitters in Seattle includes Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Logan Morrison, Dustin Ackley and Seth Smith, among others. Joe Mauer awaits in Minnesota over the weekend.
Krol has limited opportunities so far, but Major League left-handed hitters are 6-for-15 against him so far this season. By contrast, International League left-handed hitters are 9-for-42 (.216) off him.
While injured Miguel Cabrera enjoyed a late surge of fan votes to run away with another All-Star starting nod (albeit one he won’t be able to use), J.D. Martinez’s surge at the plate came too late to help him much in All-Star voting. With 10 home runs in his last 12 games, including a solo shot Sunday afternoon, he might have hit his hot stretch just in time to earn him the player vote for his first All-Star selection, less than a year and a half after he was released and looking for a team.
“It would be awesome, obviously,” Martinez said. “It would mean a lot. Just for myself, it’s something I always dreamed about making. We’ll see what happens with it. But if it does happen, it’s a blessing from God.”
While Cabrera’s All-Star status was revealed Sunday night, the Tigers will wait until Monday night — when All-Star reserves and pitchers are announced — to figure out who will have a chance to play in the Midsummer Classic, including David Price and Yoenis Cespedes. Few will watch it more closely than Martinez and Jose Iglesias.
Both are looking for their first selections after breakout seasons. Neither stood much of a chance in fan balloting, but both have received an increasing amount of respect from players who determine most of the reserve spots.
“It’s something that not just me, but every baseball player who plays wants to be a part of it,” Iglesias said. “It’s a pretty special moment that you can share with the family and friends. It’s like an award for yourself. You represent your team. You represent your organization.”
Despite missing all of last season with stress fractures in both shins, Iglesias has established himself among the best shortstops in the American League. He finished second to Kansas City’s Alcides Escobar in fan balloting.
“The positive thing about it is missing a full year last year with stress fractures and now how the fans and the people appreciate my job out there,” he said. “I was really happy to finish second, just for the fans to take their time and think about it and vote for me.”
Martinez’s surge, meanwhile, has vaulted him to second in the American League with 23 home runs, one behind Albert Pujols. More than half of those have come in the last three weeks. He was never in the running in fan balloting, finishing a distant eighth among AL outfielders, but the player vote performance could prove differently.
“If you look at all the [leading] vote-getters, I think the guys really got hot in the first two months,” Martinez said. “I think when they handed out the votes, my numbers were good but they weren’t as good. It’s all right either way. It’s out of my control.”
If he makes the All-Star team, he left the door open for taking part in the Home Run Derby.
“I think I’m kind of with Cespedes on it. It would all kind of have to depend on making the team,” he said. “You don’t want to go up there and just be in the Derby, not be on the team. It’s kind of like, ‘OK, do the Derby and get out of here.'”
On the fear that a Derby participation would mess his swing, Martinez said, “I think that if you try to change your swing for it and you’re really trying to pull the ball and hit the ball like that, I think definitely it can get in your head. I don’t think that, if I were to do it, that I would really try to change much about my BP. I would just go out there and have a normal BP.”