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Verlander begins throwing program

Justin Verlander is throwing again. The 2011 American League Cy Young Award winner, sidelined since late March with a right triceps strain, threw 50 times off flat ground Wednesday afternoon after doctors reviewed his MRI exam and decided inflammation had sufficiently subsided.

The Tigers confirmed that Verlander was examined Wednesday by Dr. Anthony Romeo, an elbow and shoulder specialist at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, to review the results.

“He was given the clearance to resume a throwing program designed to return him to full competition,” the team’s statement said.

Shortly after that statement came out, Verlander was at U.S. Cellular Field playing catch with teammate David Price. Ausmus said Verlander told him he felt fine afterward.

It’s still a long way from throwing in a game, and manager Brad Ausmus acknowledged that Verlander likely faces a lengthy Minor League rehab assignment once he’s ready for game action. Still, the clearance means he can at least start making progress.

“He’s not going to be off the mound for a while,” Ausmus said Wednesday afternoon. “There’s no real set timetable. He’s able to throw, he’s able to catch on an everyday, every-other-day basis. It really just depends on how he feels. …

“He’s got to start building up his arm strength again,” Ausmus said, “basically from ground zero. We’ll just have to see how it goes.”

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at White Sox


For the first time this season, manager Brad Ausmus has tweaked the middle of the Tigers lineup. It was a minor shuffle, flip-flopping J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes in the batting order, but it was nonetheless significant.

It was a sign of Ausmus starting to make some moves to try to spark an offense that was held to two runs or less in four of seven games on the current road trip entering Wednesday night’s game against the White Sox.

Martinez has scuffled through most of those games after hitting six home runs with an .813 OPS in April. He entered Wednesday’s game in a 1-for-18, 12-strikeout funk, and 2-for-25 with 16 strikeouts since last Tuesday. He entered Wednesday ranked fourth among American League hitters with 36 strikeouts on the season.

“He’s just chasing pitches,” Brad Ausmus said of Martinez Tuesday night. “I personally think he’s thinking a little bit too much, a combination of not picking up the ball and thinking too much. His swing is fine.”

Ausmus can deal with the strikeouts. With Cespedes batting .316 (16-for-57) over Detroit’s last 16 games, though, Ausmus decided to try to get more RBI opportunities for the hits.

“Just mix those two up,” Ausmus said on the reasoning. “J.D. has scuffled a little bit here lately, so we’ll try to really just put Cespedes in front of him and get a more productive bat there, and hopefully J.D. there in the six hole finds his stroke again.”

Asked if more batting order changes were under consideration, Ausmus said, “I wouldn’t say that. Even if I had considered it, I wouldn’t tell you. … If I feel something’s necessary to make the team more productive, I would make a lineup change.”

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

tigerroarlogoTIGERS (career numbers off Chris Sale)

  1. Rajai Davis, CF (6-for-15, 2 doubles, walk)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-25, 2 HR, 4 walks, 4 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (7-for-32, 2 HR, 7 walks, 12 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (15-for-32, 3 doubles, 3 HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (3-for-12, walk, 6 K’s)
  6. J.D. Martinez, RF (6-for-19, 2 doubles, HR, 9 K’s)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-10, walk, 7 K’s)
  8. James McCann, C (0-for-2)
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (3-for-8, K)

P: Alfredo Simon

whitesox70slogoWHITE SOX (career numbers off Simon)

  1. Adam Eaton, CF
  2. Melky Cabrera, LF (1-for-4, double)
  3. Jose Abreu, 1B
  4. Adam LaRoche, DH (2-for-6, double, 2 walks, K)
  5. Avisail Garcia, RF
  6. Conor Gillaspie, 3B
  7. Alexei Ramirez, SS (1-for-3, K)
  8. Tyler Flowers, C
  9. Micah Johnson, 2B

P: Chris Sale

Verlander cleared to resume throwing

Justin Verlander has been cleared to begin a throwing program again. The former Cy Young award-winner, sidelined since late March with a right triceps strain, received the go-ahead after doctors reviewed his MRI exam Tuesday and decided inflammation had sufficiently subsided.

Verlander all but announced the news himself through his Instagram account.

The Tigers later confirmed, saying he was examined by Dr. Tony Romeo on Wednesday to review the results.

“He was given the clearance to resume a throwing program designed to return him to full competition,” the team’s statement said.

It’s still a long way from throwing in a game, and manager Brad Ausmus acknowledged last week that Verlander likely faces a lengthy minor-league rehab assignment once he’s ready for game action. Still, the clearance means he can at least start making progress.

Verlander has been undergoing near-weekly MRIs since cutting his simulated game in Pittsburgh short three weeks ago and experiencing soreness afterward. Team officials insisted Verlander wouldn’t begin a throwing progression again until the MRI shows no fluid around the triceps, indicating that inflammation is gone. It’s an unusual approach to what Verlander calls an unusual injury, but they’re trying to avoid any more stops and starts.

“I’m itching,” Verlander said Tuesday afternoon after the exam. “I told [head athletic trainer] Kevin [Rand] if I get that green light, man, it’s going to be hard to hold me back. I’m ready to go.”

Wednesday’s tweet was a clear reference to the green light.

Three doctors — one with the team — have been looking over Verlander’s tests and progress reports and making recommendations, Verlander said Tuesday. That process held up any decision on Verlander’s Tuesday test results until Wednesday morning.

In the meantime, Verlander has been doing exercises as well as “extremely light” tossing, as Ausmus put it, meant more to keep Verlander occupied.

Game 27: The Martinezes will have to hit their way out

The numbers on Victor Martinez through his first 25 games were ugly: A .212 batting average, .263 slugging percentage, no home runs and a .542 OPS.

His numbers when he crossed 100 plate appearances were even uglier, batting .198 with a .514 OPS.

Those numbers were not from Tuesday. They were from 2013, when Victor Martinez was working his way back from knee surgery, and when some were suggesting he was done. He didn’t hit his first home run until his 28th game and his 125th plate appearance. He kept on playing, and he kept on batting fifth behind Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. He ended up batting .319 with 14 home runs, 73 RBIs and an .837 OPS the rest of the way.

It doesn’t mean he’s in for that kind of turnaround this year. It does mean he’ll get the benefit of the doubt to try.

So, too, will J.D. Martinez, who has his own slump to worry about. While Victor Martinez fell to 1-for-14 in May with his 0-for-4 night Tuesday, J.D. Martinez extended his skid to 0-for-18 with 12 strikeouts since his home run off Tim Stauffer last Wednesday in Minnesota.

“He’s just chasing pitches,” Brad Ausmus said of the latter. “I personally think he’s thinking a little bit too much, a combination of not picking up the ball and thinking too much. His swing is fine.”

The path out for both of them was made clear after Tuesday’s loss.

“Really, they’re going to have to hit their way out of it,” Ausmus said. “It’s not a bad thing we see a couple lefties in a row for Vic.”

Victor Martinez’s surgically repaired left knee is not an issue when he bats right-handed. He’s also 15-for-32 with three doubles and three home runs off Chris Sale, who starts Wednesday, and 10-for-21 off Thursday starter Jose Quintana. The Tigers need the favorable matchups they can find against both.

Beyond that, the Tigers need what they can get this season out of Victor Martinez, too. By now, the scouting report against him is clear: A pitch low and in to make him move his legs can set him up for an out. It has happened daily, and will probably keep happening.

At this point, there’s no indication to believe a stint on the 15-day disabled list will change the situation with his knee, let alone a couple days off. His knee pretty much is what it is for now, limited meniscus and all. Fifteen days won’t help that.

Play of the game: Conor Gillaspie’s two-run triple was a culmination of the struggles Shane Greene had all night commanding the strike zone. It was his 57th and final pitch of the game, and just his 26th strike. Gillaspie was the 12th White Sox batter on which Greene had fallen behind on his first pitch.

Out of the game: Jeff Samardzija’s three-pitch strikeout of Miguel Cabrera thwarted the Tigers’ best chance to get back into the game, stranding runners at the corners in the fifth inning.

Strategery: Ausmus said he wasn’t simply trying to give Angel Nesbitt work when he brought in the rookie reliever to pitch the eighth. First, he said, he was trying to keep the game close. Beyond that, he was trying to keep left-hander Blaine Hardy available for Wednesday’s game by using him for one inning instead of two.

Line of the game: Shane Greene’s 2 2/3 innings tied the shortest start of his Major League career. The four walks tied his career high from his last meeting with the White Sox on April 19 at Comerica Park.

Stat of the game: Greene gave up as many ground-ball hits as groundouts, four each.

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at White Sox

Jose Iglesias said he expected to be ready for Tuesday after leaving Sunday’s game with groin tightness, but he’s not in the lineup today. Andrew Romine gets the start. Other than that, it’s a regular lineup against Jeff Samardzija.

It’s a dreary day in Chicago, where the fog settled in this morning and hasn’t left. Chances are it’ll still be around this evening, judging from the forecast. Could also be light rain, but scattered, so figure they’ll get this game in.

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

tigerslogoTIGERS (career numbers off Samardzija)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (2-for-4)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-4)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-4, double, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-10, triple, K)
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (1-for-4, HR, 2 K’s)
  7. Alex Avila, C (0-for-3, K)
  8. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-3, 2 K’s)
  9. Andrew Romine, SS

P: Shane Greene

whitesoxlogoWHITE SOX (numbers off Greene)

  1. Adam Eaton, CF (0-for-2, walk)
  2. Melky Cabrera, LF (3-for-6, double)
  3. Jose Abreu, 1B (2-for-6, triple, HR, K)
  4. Adam LaRoche, DH (1-for-3, K)
  5. Avisail Garcia, RF (0-for-5, walk, 2 K’s)
  6. Conor Gillaspie, 3B (0-for-4, walk, K)
  7. Alexei Ramirez, SS (2-for-4, 2 walks, K)
  8. Geovany Soto, C (2-for-3, K)
  9. Micah Johnson, 2B (1-for-2, K)

P: Jeff Samardzija

Set points: How Tigers salvaged a split in KC

The quiet tranquility of the Tigers’ Sunday morning clubhouse was briefly interrupted by the arrival of Miguel Cabrera in his getaway-day gear, including a fuschia suit that caused a stir.

It was a different suit than Cabrera wore on his way into Kansas City four days earlier. In the American League Central standings, however, the Tigers left town looking pretty much the same as they came in, a half-game up on the Royals. Considering where they stood two games into their four-game series, it was a good look.

Even for a team that knows better than to make too much of an early series, it was noticed. It wasn’t something they welcomed, but it was a nice test for a team that won its first six in a row and had generally won over the rest of the division in April.

“To lose the first two here against a team that’s very hot [and split], I think, could certainly show some resilience on their part,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

They recovered with the same formula that has worked for them for the past four years, leveraging solid starting pitching into games that could be won by key hits. The Tigers were outscored in the series, 17-10, and didn’t top the two-run mark until Sunday’s series finale, but they allowed just two runs over a 22-inning stretch from the second inning Friday night through the sixth inning Sunday. Most of those innings came from starters Kyle Lobstein, David Price and Anibal Sanchez.

By the time the Royals offense reignited against a tiring Sanchez and Detroit’s setup relief, the series split was relatively secure.

“We had three really good pitching performances in a row from Lobstein, DP and Anibal,” catcher Alex Avila said. “Those are the types of things we’ve come to expect from our staff, though. It was just a matter of getting some timely hits the last few days. They’re not an easy team to beat, and it was nice to get some wins. …

“When you get pitching performances like that, you have momentum. That’s why they say it’s as good as your next pitcher, because when you’re able to get guys going out there throwing strikes and innings are moving along, guys are pitching well, that adds to the momentum.”

That momentum will likely be long forgotten when the two teams meet again Friday to start a three-game series at Comerica Park, culminating in a Sunday night showcase on national television. Price and Sanchez will pitch in that series, too, but at the start rather than the end.

What went right: The front line of the Tigers rotation did what they should, and what the Tigers needed. They took over the final two games of the series. For Sanchez especially, that was a major development, giving him three very good starts since two-start issue with home runs. At the other end of the rotation, Kyle Lobstein again looked like someone who could stick for a while, despite a three-run opening inning. His ability to eat innings after an early debacle was Verlander-like, and it avoided a scenario that would’ve left the Tigers bullpen taxed in back-to-back games to start the series. Detroit’s defense, shifts aside, had a good all-around series, not just with more Jose Iglesias highlights but with a couple nice plays from Nick Castellanos.

What went wrong: The Tigers offense struggled to produce until Alex Avila and Miguel Cabrera hit Jeremy Guthrie on Sunday, continuing good matchup numbers for both. J.D. Martinez fell into what was arguably an overdue slump. Detroit’s shift tendencies were exploited for the first time thanks to Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, forcing a tweaking of the shift but no shying away from the shift itself. Meanwhile, Alfredo Simon was hit hard.

Takeaway: While Victor Martinez is producing better swings, they still aren’t producing much offense. It’s not so much the swing as it seems to be the momentum behind it. He generates a lot of power from his lower body, and his legs don’t have that power from last year, at least not yet, turning what might have been doubles and homers last season into outs now. While some clamor for a trip to the disabled list, the advice is iffy at best whether a 15-day DL stint would make any difference at all on his surgically repaired knee, given that his meniscus was clipped rather than fully repaired. Like it or not, he’s probably going to have to manage the discomfort while managing his swing in his new reality.

Snapshot moment: Castellanos’ third-to-first double play didn’t have the artistry of an Iglesias play, but it gave David Price two of his biggest outs of Saturday night. It also showed an awareness on the part of Castellanos, who said after the game that he decided quickly he had little chance to get an out at second base.

Turning point: Anthony Gose’ takeout slide on Christian Colon Saturday led directly to Detroit’s first lead of the series. They never trailed the rest of the weekend.

Pitching performance of the series: Price’s complete-game five-hitter was the illustration of what an ace does to stop losing streaks in their tracks. He not only shut down a Royals offense that had been rolling, he did so with quick enough innings to keep sending the Tigers offense up to bat.

Hitting performance of the series: Alex Avila drove in almost as any runs Sunday (three) as he plated all season leading up to Sunday (four). That doesn’t include the extra run scoring on a Paulo Orlando error.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Royals

  
J.D. Martinez returns to the starting lineup as expected against Jeremy Guthrie, making it a pretty standard lineup against the right-hander. Alex Avila catches the day game after a night game, hoping to parlay his history against Guthrie into an offensive spark amidst what has so far been a 1-for-11 road trip for him.

On the KC side, Lorenzo Cain is out of the lineup, having dropped the appeal of his two-game suspension from the White Sox fight. He’s 3-for-16 for his career against Anibal Sanchez, so the timing made sense. That said, his replacement, Jarrod Dyson, is 2-for-19 off Sanchez.

TIGERS (career numbers off Guthrie)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-8, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (14-for-42, 2 doubles, triple, HR, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (16-for-50, double, 3 HR, 6 walks, 8 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (12-for-34, 3 doubles, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (6-for-18, double, 2 HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (0-for-5)
  7. Alex Avila, C (8-for-29, 3 doubles, 3 HR, 5 walks, 8 K’s)
  8. Nick Castellanos, 3B (4-for-9, 2 doubles, K)
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-3, K)

P: Anibal Sanchez

ROYALS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Alex Gordon, LF (5-for-15, double, walk, 3 K’s)
  2. Mike Moustakas, 3B (3-for-15, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  3. Kendrys Morales, DH (2-for-6, double, walk, K)
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B (5-for-22, double, K)
  5. Salvador Perez, C (2-for-15, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  6. Omar Infante, 2B (4-for-24, walk, 3 K’s)
  7. Paulo Orlando, RF
  8. Jarrod Dyson, CF (2-for-19, 4 K’s)
  9. Christian Colon, SS

P: Jeremy Guthrie

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Royals

For the first time this season, J.D. Martinez is out of the starting lineup. He gets the night off amidst an 0-for-10 stretch with seven strikeouts since he homered at Target Field on Wednesday. Beyond that, he’s 2-for-17 with 11 strikeouts. Rajai Davis starts alongside Anthony Gose, giving them a speed duo in the outfield as well as the 9-1 spots.

Even with the lefty-lefty matchup, keep an eye on Mike Moustakas. While left-handed hitters are 11-for-34 (.324) against David Price so far this season, Moustakas is 14-for-43 (.326) against left-handed pitchers. Against all pitchers, he’s 10-for-23 over his last five games.

As for the shift the Tigers have put on Moustakas and Eric Hosmer so far this series, Brad Ausmus said after Hosmer’s bunt single last night that they might tweak their strategy a little bit, but that they’re still going to shift them.

As for the photo above, it’s Salvador Perez bobblehead day. That was the line outside the first-base gate just over four hours before game time.

TIGERS (career numbers off Volquez)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-6, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-3, 2 walks)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (0-for-7, K)
  5. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  6. Alex Avila, C (1-for-3, HR)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-1)
  9. Rajai Davis, RF (1-for-6, triple, K)

P: David Price

ROYALS (career numbers against Price)

  1. Alex Gordon, LF (0-for-6)
  2. Mike Moustakas, 3B (0-for-3, 3 K’s)
  3. Lorenzo Cain, CF (1-for-3, K)
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B (1-for-3)
  5. Kendrys Morales, DH (4-for-14, walk, 3 K’s)
  6. Salvador Perez, C (0-for-3)
  7. Omar Infante, 2B (1-for-3, HR)
  8. Paulo Orlando, RF
  9. Christian Colon, SS

P: Edinson Volquez

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Royals

  A whole lot of ugly numbers from Tigers hitters against Chris Young, who beat them twice last year. Anthony Gose and Alex Avila return to the lineup. No Alcides Escobar again tonight for the Royals, whose only change is Paulo Orlando in right field over Jarrod Dyson.

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

tigerroarlogoTIGERS (career numbers off Chris Young)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-8, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-15, HR, 5 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-9, 2 K’s)
  5. D. Martinez, RF (1-for-3, double)
  6. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (1-for-7, double, 2 walks, K)
  7. Alex Avila, C (1-for-4, 2 K’s)
  8. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-4, K)
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

P: Kyle Lobstein

royalslogonotextROYALS

  1. Alex Gordon, LF
  2. Mike Moustakas, 3B
  3. Lorenzo Cain, CF
  4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
  5. Kendrys Morales, DH
  6. Salvador Perez, C
  7. Omar Infante, 2B
  8. Paulo Orlando, RF
  9. Christian Colon, SS

P: Chris Young

Tigers release Wells, Duran from Double-A Erie

Casper Wells’ reunion with the Tigers organization met a sudden end Friday. So did left-hander Omar Duran’s attempt to follow Al Alburquerque’s path through the system. The Tigers released them both after disappointing starts as part of a roster shakeup at Double-A Erie.

The SeaWolves entered Friday at 6-13, the second-worst record in the Eastern League. That trajectory wasn’t going to sit well with new ownership in Erie. Thus, with the opening month now over, the changes came fast.

Wells, a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2005 who was traded to Seattle for Doug Fister in 2011, signed a minor-league deal Feb. 17 to return to the Tigers after bouncing around organizations and indy ball the past couple years. He returned to Erie, where he hit 32 home runs over 161 games in 2008 and 2009, but went 9-for-43 with one homer and 17 strikeouts.

The 25-year-old Duran spent Spring Training in big-league camp, having signed a minor-league contract with a non-roster invite after spending six-plus seasons in Oakland’s farm system. Despite more than 275 innings as an A’s farmhand, he had just 14 1/3 innings above A-ball, and his start at Erie seemed to show why. He gave up nine runs, eight earned, on 10 hits over 8 1/3 innings with four walks and 10 strikeouts. He had four scoreless outings, two of them perfect, and three with multiple runs allowed.

Wells’ release cleared room for slugger Dean Green to return from the disabled list. Duran gives way to former Tiger Ryan Perry, who was activated from the DL after spending April shelved with soreness. Perry signed a minor-league deal with Detroit Feb. 24.

The Tigers also promoted right-handed reliever Zac Reininger and lefty Joe Rogers to Erie following strong opening months at Class A Lakeland. Brennan Smith and Slade Smith were optioned to Lakeland to make room.

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