Miguel Cabrera makes his third start at third base this season, and his first since April 11. That opens up first base for Victor Martinez, getting him into the lineup without the DH slot and without having to put him behind the plate. We’ll see if this happens again during this three-game series, because Martinez is not going to catch.
The big surprise is in the outfield, where J.D. Martinez gets the night off. Rajai Davis and Torii Hunter start in the corners, leaving Torii Hunter to bat fifth and Eugenio Suarez sixth (!!!). Bryan Holaday again starts against the left-hander.
- Austin Jackson, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B
- Victor Martinez, 1B
- Torii Hunter, RF
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
- Bryan Holaday, C
- Rajai Davis, LF
- Justin Verlander, P
DIAMONDBACKS (career numbers off Verlander)
- David Peralta, CF
- Aaron Hill, 2B (4-for-13, 2 doubles, 2 K’s)
- Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
- Miguel Montero, C (0-for-3, K)
- Mark Trumbo, LF (1-for-6, 2 K’s)
- Gerardo Parra, RF (2-for-3, 2 doubles, K)
- Martin Prado, 3B (2-for-3, double)
- Didi Gregorius, SS
- Vidal Nuno, P
Hours after Joe Nathan’s three-run ninth inning Saturday night, he had a clean ninth inning with a four-run lead Sunday afternoon. His postgame interview with reporters seemingly lasted longer than his inning Sunday.
He didn’t want to talk about Saturday’s loss, though he referenced what went wrong to get it out of the way.
He understands fan frustration, he says, though he struggles to understand the emotional, game-to-game roller-coaster that goes with it. He’s trying to do his part to even it out, hoping fans will do the same on their end.
“I think the tough part for that is: When things go bad, they’re all over you. When things go well, they cheer,” he said. “Do we always want the fans supporting us? Yes, and I think they do here. And I think they’re so into it and want to win so bad. But as bad as they want to win, we want to win 100 percent more than they do. I understand their frustration.
“All I can do is say I’m busting my butt to get better every day and I’m grinding away every day and I’m in the gym every day. When things don’t go as well, I go out and beat my legs up running around the field so I’m stronger for the next day.”
He is not quite as preoccupied by mechanics at this point. He continues to work off of the lower arm angle he put into practice last month, but it’s not a cure-all. It’s a route to get where he wants with his pitches.
“I know my stuff’s better,” he said. “For me now, it’s a matter of getting more and more comfortable. Working ahead is always key. When I’m out there and I’m throwing strike one, it seems to be results-wise and putting hitters into defensive modes is much better when I’m getting strikes. But that’s the same with every pitcher. For me, I think the mechanical thing was more getting myself confidence. I’ve really noticed a difference with the slider especially. Earlier in the year, I was fighting to get it down in the zone and velocity-wise, it was more 84-85. Now it’s been easier to get it down in the zone and I’m noticing 87-88-89 at times. …
“It’s hard to work on stuff in the game regardless. It’s extremely hard when you have a week of downtime. As much as you need the four days, the thing you’re worried about the most is getting too much time off. I’m not doing anything major. It’s been easier for me, and I think that’s why, even if I do go out there and have a bad game like yesterday, you can’t always pay attention to results. You’ve just got to pay attention to how your stuff’s coming out and the swings you’re getting from hitters. I know I’m getting a lot more swings and misses in the last 10 or 15 outings since I made that adjustment.”
He’s definitely getting more of those than he was early in the year. Even during Saturday’s debacle, two of his three outs came on strikeouts. He had one strikeout and two swings and misses out of nine pitches Sunday, both to Saturday night Indians hero Chris Dickerson.
One was off the slider, the other off a 91 mph fastball.
“I feel like my stuff is there a lot of times,” he said. “Is it a work in progress? I hope not. I hope it clicks and like today, everything goes smooth from here on out. But it’s baseball. That won’t happen. I am still that same guy and hopefully it works out that we get to the playoffs and I’m pitching my best then.”
Every indication so far has been that the Tigers will give him the chance to close if they get there. They have not been looking for a pure closer.
“I’m way too old to worry about that stuff,” Nathan said. “I’ve done too much in this game, too much in my career. I think it’d be unfair to myself to beat myself up over that kind of stuff after all the things I’ve been through in my career. That’s part of the game, and I know stuff’s going to be talked about, but that’s not for me to worry about.”
Victor Martinez is feeling healthy enough to handle first base in the series finale, a good test for him ahead of the upcoming Interleague series at Arizona. If Martinez can handle first base without much risk to his back, then don’t be surprised if Miguel Cabrera makes a start at third base, according to manager Brad Ausmus. Andrew Romine, meanwhile, gets a start at shortstop.
On the Cleveland side, the Indians threw some extra right-handed hitters against Drew Smyly given the splits, but they can only go so far with that. Several left-handed hitters remain to face a pitcher that has allowed a .315 average and .909 OPS against right-handed batters, compared with .157/.436 from lefties. Ryan Raburn is batting fifth, though, so there’s that.
TIGERS (career numbers off Josh Tomlin)
- Austin Jackson, CF (5-for-14, 2 doubles, triple, HR, 2 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-6, 2 doubles, walk)
- Miguel Cabrera, DH (4-for-7, double, HR, 3 walks)
- Victor Martinez, 1B (0-for-7, 3 walks, K)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (1-for-3, double, walk, K)
- Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-8, double, 2 walks, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-5, 2 doubles, 2 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (2-for-10, 2 HR, 4 K’s)
- Andrew Romine, SS (0-for-2, K)
P: Drew Smyly
INDIANS (career numbers off Drew Smyly)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (0-for-10, 6 K’s)
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (4-for-10, triple, 2 K’s)
- Michael Brantley, CF (5-for-10, 2 doubles, triple, 2 walks)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (3-for-10, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
- Ryan Raburn, LF (1-for-4, 3 walks)
- Nick Swisher, DH (3-for-9, HR, walk, K)
- Yan Gomes, C (2-for-5, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- David Murphy, RF (0-for-4)
- Mike Aviles, 3B (1-for-9, double, 2 K’s)
P: Josh Tomlin
The price of relief pitching likely just went up on the trade market. Whether the level of disorder in the Tigers bullpen did is another matter.
While Joe Nathan remains the Tigers closer, he was not necessarily the automatic choice to pitch the ninth inning. Brad Ausmus said after Nathan’s three-run ninth that he wanted to keep Joba Chamberlain in the game for the ninth inning (he used just six pitches in the eighth) until his ankle became an inning.
“We were going to send him back out there,” Ausmus said. “Ankle was bothering him. I don’t expect it to be an issue tomorrow. We were considering that.”
It’s an either-or situation with a tie game in the ninth inning, especially since neither had pitched since last weekend. With no save situation, there’s no reason to save the closer. If the setup man is the better pitcher, though, there’s nothing requiring the closer, either.
Whether the lack of work left Nathan rusty, the results weren’t pretty.
“I don’t know if it was the layoff or what,” Ausmus said. “He seemed to have trouble with his command a little bit. Fastball kept riding. Two-seamer kept riding quite a bit away from lefties and into righties.”
Said catcher Alex Avila: “His sinker was really moving a lot, probably a lot more than normal, and he was having a tough time commanding it. That’s been a big pitch for him lately. It’s been working really well. He hasn’t pitched in a while, and today you could just tell he didn’t have a real good feel for it.”
As for Chamberlain closing, Ausmus said, “I haven’t considered that at this point. … There’s a possibility that I could reach the point sometime. I’m not near that point. I’ll let you know when I am.”
Whether Nathan was closing would not have had an impact on Saturday night’s loss. Whether Nathan’s struggles has an impact on the Tigers’ bullpen search remains to be seen.
Victor Martinez is playing the second game as well, Brad Ausmus decided. He’s the DH, while J.D. Martinez shifts over to left field and Torii Hunter starts in right. Don Kelly spells Nick Castellanos at third.
TIGERS (career numbers off Zach McAllister)
- Austin Jackson, CF (7-for-14, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-7, double, walk, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-17, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (8-for-13, 3 doubles, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (2-for-3, HR, walk, K)
- Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-13, 2 K’s)
- Don Kelly, 3B (2-for-5, 3 walks, K)
- Alex Avila, C (1-for-9, walk, 5 K’s)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS
P: Max Scherzer
INDIANS (career numbers vs. Scherzer)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (5-for-27, double, 2 walks, 9 K’s)
- Mike Aviles, SS (6-for-22, 2 doubles, 4 K’s)
- Michael Brantley, CF (12-for-38, 6 doubles, triple, HR, 3 walks, K)
- Carlos Santana, DH (3-for-34, double, 6 walks, 6 K’s)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (5-for-23, double, HR, 3 K’s)
- Nick Swisher, 1B (9-for-28, 3 doubles, triple, 5 walks, 12 K’s)
- David Murphy, RF (7-for-28, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
- Roberto Perez, C
- Chris Dickerson, LF (0-for-9, 7 K’s)
P: Zach McAllister
While the Tigers took advantage of the 26th man rule to bring up Drew VerHagen for his Major League debut (he’s starting Game 1), they made a traditional pitching move as well. Chad Smith was optioned to Triple-A Toledo to make room for a fresh arm with Corey Knebel, who rejoins the Tigers bullpen after a month with the Mud Hens. The move gives the Tigers a fresh arm for the doubleheader, though Knebel had also established his solid pitching again in Toledo, allowing four runs on four hits over 14 1/3 innings since his demotion. He walked eight but struck out 16.
On the lineup front, Victor Martinez starts the opener, but there’s nothing determined yet whether he’ll start the nightcap. Brad Ausmus said he’ll wait until after Game 1 to check with Martinez and how he’s feeling before making that decision. Meanwhile, Bryan Holaday — who has caught Drew VerHagen more often than Alex Avila — gets the start behind the plate. Avila is 3-for-17 off Game 1 starter Corey Kluber.
Torii Hunter is the odd man out in the Tigers outfield for Game 1. J.D. Martinez starts in right field, while Rajai Davis starts in left.
On the Cleveland side, Ryan Raburn is starting against the right-handed VerHagen, perhaps trying to take advantage of the hot bat despite the matchups.
TIGERS (career numbers against Kluber)
- Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-14, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-9, walk, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (12-for-24, double, 3 HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (8-for-17, 2 HR, 2 walks, K)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-3, double)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (3-for-6, K)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS (1-for-3)
- Bryan Holaday, C (1-for-3)
- Rajai Davis, LF (1-for-3, double, K)
P: Drew VerHagen
- Jason Kipnis, 2B
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
- Michael Brantley, CF
- Carlos Santana, 1B
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
- Nick Swisher, DH
- Yan Gomes, C
- David Murphy, RF
- Ryan Raburn, LF
P: Corey Kluber
DETROIT — Joel Hanrahan continues to throw off a mound at the Tigers’ Spring Training complex in Lakeland, but is not scheduled to face hitters yet.
“He’s thrown bullpens the last two weeks. They’ve gotten incrementally a little bit better, but not to where [he can take the next step],” head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Friday.”
Hanrahan threw 40 pitches off the mound Friday, Rand said.
While neither the Tigers nor Hanrahan put a timetable on his return from Tommy John surgery when he signed with the Tigers at the beginning of May, his rehab has progressed slower than many would have expected. Part of the extra time has been spent rebuilding arm strength.
The muscle soreness that halted Andy Dirks’ rehab assignment should not keep him out much more than a week, according to the Tigers medical staff.
“I think sometime within a week or so, you’ll probably see him be ready,” head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Friday.
Dirks, out since March following back surgery, was recalled from his rehab assignment Wednesday but kept on the 60-day disabled list, a move that raised concerns he had suffered a setback. Rand wouldn’t characterize it at a setback, but said they’re going to be cautious with the injury to avoid risking something worse.
Basically, he got muscular soreness and tightness right in and around the surgical site. Not unusual,” Rand said. “Basically, it’s just due to the increase in activity. No matter what you do with batting practice, even simulated games can’t duplicate game action as far as the intensity that guys put forth.”
The decision to pull him off of rehab, Rand said, was as much a clerical decision as it was a physical one.
“If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s missed so much time and this is his Spring Training, like a normal rehab assignment, you’d probably say give it a couple days,” Rand said. “But in his case, every day’s very, very important for him, because he doesn’t get that many of them, and we want to make sure we get every one we can.”
By rule, position players can spend up to 20 days on a rehab assignment before teams have to decide the next step: Call up the player, keep him on the DL without rehab, or option him to the minor leagues.
Dirks spent eight days on rehab before being recalled. He’ll have 12 days left once his rehab assignment resumes.
As expected (or hoped), Victor Martinez is back in the lineup. They’re still going to proceed carefully with him, and manager Brad Ausmus said he has talked to Martinez about not taking as many swings during batting practice or in the cage between at-bats as he normally would. At this point, though, he is by all reports pain-free.
“He said he doesn’t feel anything at all,” Ausmus said.
With Martinez back, Ausmus is back to fitting four outfielders into three spots. It’ll be a luxury for tomorrow’s day-night doubleheader, but it was decision time tonight, and Rajai Davis is the odd man out. J.D. Martinez starts in left.
TIGERS (career numbers off Trevor Bauer)
- Austin Jackson, CF (0-for-4, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-7, HR, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-6, 2 doubles)
- Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-5, HR, walk, K)
- J.D. Martinez, LF (1-for-3)
- Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-3, HR)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-6, K)
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-5, HR, walk, K)
- Eugenio Suarez, SS (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
P: Anibal Sanchez
INDIANS (career numbers vs. Sanchez)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (3-for-19, double, walk, 6 K’s)
- Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (5-for-20, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Michael Brantley, CF (5-for-19, triple, K)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (4-for-18, double, triple, walk, 4 K’s)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (3-for-12, walk, 3 K’s)
- Nick Swisher, DH (2-for-14, 3 walks, 8 K’s)
- David Murphy, RF (1-for-6, walk, 2 K’s)
- Yan Gomes, C (3-for-7, triple, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- Chris Dickerson, LF
P: Trevor Bauer
The Tigers sent Andy Dirks out on a minor-league rehab assignment with a plan to have him spend the full 20 days allowed working his way back into game shape. Essentially, Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, this is his Spring Training.
This is also serious back surgery from which Dirks is trying to come back, and the comeback has apparently hit a snag. The Tigers announced Wednesday that they’ve recalled Dirks from his rehab assignment with Class A Lakeland, and will keep him on the disabled list.
The move came from what the Tigers are calling lower back muscular inflammation from increased activity.
“Just some minor irritation,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski replied in an email.
Dirks went 5-for-16 with a double and an RBI over six games with Lakeland. He started both ends of a doubleheader on Monday against Port St. Lucie, but was lifted from the second game for a pinch-hitter after two at-bats and two strikeouts. Considering he was the DH in that game, it wasn’t simply an issue of rest. Lakeland was off on Tuesday.
No word on how long he’ll be sidelined, but even if it’s short, it likely throws another wrench into his timetable. The previous plan put him on track, if everything went well, to be potentially ready around the end of the month. This all but ensures his rehab will at least linger into August.
It also means the Tigers most likely won’t get a look at Dirks in the big leagues before the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline. If they want/need a left-handed hitting outfielder for the stretch run and playoffs, they might have to swing a deal to ensure they have one ready.