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What we learned from Tigers road trip

The Tigers’ first road trip of 2014 felt a lot like many of their road trips from 2013: A number of close, low-scoring games; a couple games where the Tigers struggled to hit some pitchers they seemingly would’ve hit; and close to a break-even mark coming back. A 2-3 record on a West Coast trip isn’t the worst outcome for this team. It could’ve been better, mainly if they could’ve produced another run off Kenley Jansen Tuesday in L.A. It could have been worse if the Dodgers had finished the rally they put together against Joe Nathan the following evening.

Here are some trends that emerged:

1. The Tigers are going to have to create some opportunities against some right-handed pitching.

The righty-lefty balance the Tigers used to enjoy in their lineup isn’t the same now with Prince Fielder gone and Andy Dirks injured. The imbalance is stronger when Alex Avila isn’t hitting, as he is now with a 3-for-23 start and 14 strikeouts in 28 plate appearances. That was bad news Sunday against Tyson Ross, who held right-handed batters to a .198 (45-for-227) average and 72 strikeouts last year. That number has gone up and down over the years, but left-handers have always fared better against him. But with Avila slumping and sitting, the only hitter from the left side in Sunday’s Tigers lineup was Victor Martinez.

“We are a right-handed hitting lineup, and if Alex isn’t in the lineup that day, we become even more right-handed,” manager Brad Ausmus.

That’s where the Tigers might have to utilize their speed if the struggles continue. Ian Kinsler stole second and third against Josh Beckett on Wednesday, setting up a sac fly. Rajai Davis did the same thing against Andrew Cashner on Friday, but Miguel Cabrera hit into a double play with runners at the corners and one out.

On the whole, the Tigers’ .251 average and .707 OPS against right-handed pitching rank ninth in the American League. Their .303 on-base percentage sits them at 12th. Most of those struggles come from Avila (2-for-18, 11 K’s off righties) and the shortstop position (5-for-30).

Those numbers will improve once Miguel Cabrera (9-for-35, 3 doubles, HR off RHP so far) starts getting more opposite-field hits to drop, but the imbalance is going to be an issue against right-handed pitchers with heavy splits. And for now, unless the Tigers do something at shortstop, there isn’t much ability to change. Davis is off to a hot start that includes righties (9-for-28), and his history shows it’s worth riding out the hot streaks through lefties and righties alike.

2. Dead arm is still a baseball term.

Until Joe Nathan brought it up on a radio show, the term seemed relegated to baseball lore. He not only brought it back into discussion, his struggles made it all anybody wanted to talk about with him. It’s usually about velocity, but Nathan hasn’t thrown consistently in the mid-90s for a few years. He got his fastball up to 93 on Wednesday, and Dee Gordon turned on it for a game-tying single.

The issue with Nathan has as much to do with command. He walked 14 batters in his final season with the Twins in 2011, and 13 batters his first year in Texas, before that number jumped to 22 last year. He now has four walks in 4 1/3 innings, twice as many as he had in the first month of the past two seasons combined. The good news for him is that half of his 14 walks in 2011 occurred in April, so he has some history of settling down.

3. Even the best hitter in the league goes through mechanical issues at the plate.

The final numbers on the trip weren’t pretty for Miguel Cabrera: 2-for-20 with a double, two walks and five strikeouts. None of those hits went to the opposite field. For that matter, he didn’t send a ball to right with authority until Saturday.

For all the discussion about lefty-righty balance in the lineup, Cabrera’s ups and downs will have a much bigger impact. The two games in which the Tigers scored more than two runs were the two games in which Cabrera had a base hit. With no Prince Fielder, that’s just how it goes.

Cabrera’s pull tendency, and his habit to keep both hands on the bat through his swing, came after a very good Spring Training for him — not against minor-leaguers and non-roster guys, but everybody. At a time of camp when pitchers are ahead of hitters, Cabrera was ahead of pitchers. Now he’s fighting himself, though two well-struck outs to right over the weekend suggest he’s not far from breaking out of it.

4. Andrew Romine is better than utility level at shortstop if he could hit.

The numbers at the plate, while a small sample size, are ugly for Romine, 1-for-12 with two walks and five strikeouts so far this year. The defensive ability has been borderline stellar. While Alex Gonzalez has been hit-and-miss in the field, usually stronger towards the middle, Romine has arguably been the defensive stability in his four starts, moving well both laterally and charging in on balls.

Aside from opening day, the shortstop position hasn’t been strong for offense, and it’s worth wondering what the timetable will be for the Tigers to evaluate the mix. It’s early still, but at least defensively, Romine is much better than an afterthought.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Padres

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Time to sign off in San Diego and bid farewell to the West Coast. Victor Martinez gets the start behind the plate for the getaway day, giving slumping Alex Avila an afternoon off and keeping Nick Castellanos in the lineup.

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

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Torii Hunter, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, C
  6. Austin Jackson, CF
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Alex Gonzalez, SS
  9. Max Scherzer, P

PADRES

  1. Everth Cabrera, SS
  2. Alexi Amarista, CF
  3. Seth Smith, LF
  4. Jedd Gyorko, 2B
  5. Chase Headley, 3B
  6. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  7. Will Venable, RF
  8. Rene Rivera, C
  9. Tyson Ross, P

 

Saturday: Justin Verlander takes his hacks

SD 001

For the first time on this trip, Victor Martinez is the odd man out of the Interleague-shortened Tigers lineup. Alex Avila is back behind the plate to catch Justin Verlander, while Nick Castellanos returns to the lineup at third base. Expect Martinez back in the lineup Sunday, possibly behind the plate for Max Scherzer.

Meanwhile, Torii Hunter returns to the lineup after missing the previous couple games with soreness in his left knee. Don Kelly has soreness in his right shoulder and knee after his collision with the right-field fence last night, so it’s unclear whether he’ll be available.

TIGERS (numbers off Ian Kennedy)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-4, double)
  3. Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-2, double)
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-4, triple, walk)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C (0-for-3, K)
  8. Alex Gonzalez, SS (1-for-3, HR)
  9. Justin Verlander, P

PADRES (career numbers off Verlander)

  1. Everth Cabrera, SS
  2. Chris Denorfia, RF
  3. Seth Smith, LF (3-for-21, HR, 6 walks, 7 K’s)
  4. Jedd Gyorko, 2B
  5. Chase Headley, 3B (0-for-3, 3 K’s)
  6. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  7. Yasmani Grandal, C
  8. Will Venable, CF
  9. Ian Kennedy, P

Game 8: Cabrera says his swing is “terrible”

Miguel Cabrera says he feels healthy. Let’s get that out of the way now.

He feels good. His defense at third base Friday in San Diego seems to back it up. His Spring Training performance at the plate and in the field definitely backed it up.

It’s his swing that is ailing.

“I’m feeling good,” he said, “but my swing is not right.”

His swing isn’t doing too well, physically or mentally — yes, mentally, because his swing seems to have a mind of its own.

It’s not as if Cabrera forgot that opposite-field power is his ticket to Cooperstown. He remembers virtually every pitcher he faces. How is he going to forget himself?

His swing forgets. His swing falls into bad habits, maybe habits he developed while playing hurt last year. His swing wants to keep his top hand on the bat, apparently.

“My swing, he wants to pull the ball right now,” Cabrera said.

His swing is seemingly worse than his statistics. For someone who endured an 0-for-21 slump in April the year he won the Triple Crown, an 8-for-32 start through eight games isn’t the end of the world. He’s 2-for-16 with a pair of singles over his last four games.

Here’s the thing: Everything he has hit over those four games have gone to the left side or up the middle. The closest he has come to going opposite field has a comebacker to the pitcher. He hasn’t gone oppo since he flew out to right on Saturday.

“In BP and when I work in the cage, I feel normal,” he said. “When I come into the game, I see how I pull a lot of balls to third base and shortstop.”

Asked if it’s more about mechanics or timing, Cabrera said both.

“My mechanics are terrible right now,” he said.

He’s less certain about where it comes from. He allows for the possibility that he developed bad habits last year that he’s having a hard time shaking, but again, he didn’t have the issue in Spring Training.

“I don’t know. Sometimes you have, like, bad habits,” he said. “I don’t know if I took that from last year when I got injured, but I feel good. My mechanics are not very good but hopefully I can keep working, trying to swing more consistently.”

That’s all he can do. He’s not going to panic, because he knows better, even if his swing doesn’t. He’s been stuck here tomorrow, even if the last few years suggest he’s been perfect.

“I mean, last year at some point, it was like that,” he said. “Every year, you have to make adjustments. You come through hard times once every year. It’s a hard game.”

Brad Ausmus wasn’t around for those hard times. He’s around now. He’s trusting his MVP hitter.

“I mean, hitters are going to go through periods of time where they hit the ball, they don’t hit the ball well, they get hits, they don’t get hits,” Ausmus said. “I realize it doesn’t happen to Miggy as often, but it’s still going to happen.”

When it happens, things can get ugly offensively, like they did Friday against Andrew Cashner and the Padres.

Play of the game: Again, it goes to Cabrera, who stepped to bat in the sixth inning with runners at the corners and one out. He swung a first pitch fastball that missed the outside corner and got a little more of the plate. Cabrera swung over top of it and grounded it to third, where Chase Headley started an inning-ending double play that erased the last runner the Tigers would get on base.

Outs of the game: Not only did Cashner strike out the side in order in the third inning, he did so on the same pitch, spotting three fastballs close enough to the outside edge for called third strikes to Rick Porcello, Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler.

Line of the night: Duh. Cashner needed just 108 pitches to deliver a complete-game one-hitter with two walks and a career-high 11 strikeouts. Add in 13 ground-ball outs, and Cashner wasn’t losing this one.

Stat of the night: 53 — Strikes Not in Play (SNIPs) by Cashner, according to brooksbaseball.net and MLB.com’s Gameday application. Compare that to just 10 swings and misses, and it’s clear that location was the key for Cashner.

Print it: “I think Jim Leyland said it to me: You know a guy’s a basestealer when everyone in the stadium knows he’s trying to steal a base and he still does.” — Ausmus on Rajai Davis, who stole second and third base after breaking up Andrew Cashner’s no-hit bid with a sixth-inning single.

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Padres

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Torii Hunter felt better Friday and took early batting practice with several others at Petco Park (pictured) this afternoon, but there’s still just enough lingering soreness in his left knee that Brad Ausmus decided to rest him an extra day as a precaution. He’s available to pinch-hit, but probably would be lifted for a pinch-runner if he reached base. Don Kelly gets the start in right field in his place.

Elsewhere in the lineup, Victor Martinez gets the start at first base, with Miguel Cabrera shifted over to third and Alex Avila behind the plate. That means Nick Castellanos sits despite coming off his first Major League home run Wednesday. Ausmus said pregame that Martinez will sit one of the remaining two games. It would not surprise me at all if that day is Saturday, with Avila catching Justin Verlander.

If you’re staying up late back in Michigan to watch on TV tonight, take note that the game will begin on Fox Sports Detroit Plus before switching over to the regular FSD channel once the Red Wings game ends.

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

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B
  5. Austin Jackson, CF
  6. Don Kelly, RF
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Andrew Romine, SS
  9. Rick Porcello, P

PADRES

  1. Everth Cabrera, SS
  2. Chris Denorfia, RF
  3. Seth Smith, LF (4-for-7, double. triple, walk off Porcello)
  4. Jedd Gyorko, 2B
  5. Chase Headley, 3B
  6. Yonder Alonso, 1B
  7. Will Venable, CF
  8. Rene Rivera, C
  9. Andrew Cashner, P

 

Game 7: A day in the life of Joe Nathan

This is what Joe Nathan told Sirius/XM Radio’s Adam Schein about his season to date when Wednesday began:

I think the club has overcome me not throwing as well as I’d like to. I think I’m still at a case of maybe some dead arm going right now. Usually that happens to the middle or later part of spring and hopefully you get through it. But mine is going more into the season and I’m still fine tuning things but fortunately it hasn’t hurt us too much and my tougher outings still resulted in wins for us. So [I'm] very happy about that and I just look to continue to improve for this ball club and be as consistent as I can.”

A few hours later, this is what Nathan told the Tigers beat writing corps when asked about his dead arm comments:

“It’s not an injury. It’s something that every pitcher goes through every year. It’s not even newsworthy. You guys shouldn’t even waste your time writing about dead arm, because it’s basically like knowing there’s second base on the field.”

About seven hours, two dozen Nathan pitches and three runs later, this is what Nathan said about his second blown save of the year and any relation to his dead arm:

“The results obviously [stunk], but I felt like I got better tonight, to be honest with you. I felt like my stuff was good. My stuff got better tonight. My stuff got closer to where I want it to be, especially with my slider. A lot of pitches, even ones that missed, were very close, if not good pitches that could have been called strikes, very borderline pitches, where I want them. …

“Results, not where I want them to be, but a lot of times you have to not pay attention to results and just pay attention to the way the ball’s coming out of your hand. Tonight’s one of those situations I got to feel good about the strides I made tonight. Fortunately, again, it didn’t cost us. We had some guys step up and Victor, huge in the top of the 10th, and then the boys came in after me and pitched outstanding.”

The quotes aren’t presented to suggest inconsistencies, though Nathan seemed clearly surprised and maybe slightly irked it had become an issue before the game. They’re meant to show the evolution. What began as a talk radio question and became an issue Nathan seemingly wanted to kill ended as a struggle he suggested he was already pitching through.

“You’ve just got to keep throwing,” Nathan said early in the day. “Unfortunately, there’s no secret to getting through it quicker. It’s just one of those things that will hit guys throughout the course of a year and you never know when it is going to be or how long it is going to last. All you can do is continue to throw and throw through it and hopefully one day you come there and the ball is coming out of your hand a lot cleaner and with a little more zip on it.”

If this is the turning point for a dead arm issue that wasn’t even a topic until earlier in the day, then the turn was well-hidden. But it wasn’t as complete of a disaster as the pitching line, either.

“His stuff looked as crisp as we’ve seen it,” manager Brad Ausmus said, “and he felt that was the best stuff he’s had, in terms of the break on the slider and the fastball coming out of his hand.”

He got an uptick in fastball velocity, a question that had popped up last week in Detroit as his fastball hid around 90 mph. His home-run ball to Adrian Gonzalez leading off Wednesday’s ninth inning was a 90 mph fastball. By the time the save situation became a mess, Nathan gave up Dee Gordon’s game-tying single on a fastball at 93.

“The pitch to Gordon, we doubled up inside and he just got quick on the second one,” Nathan said. “He’s been one of those guys that put together very, very good at-bats [this series]. When [catcher Victor Martinez] called a second fastball in, it actually threw me for a loop, so I thought he might not be looking for it. But he turned and burned on a pitch that was inside, so credit to him in a big spot.”

In this case, however, it was the command that doomed him, walking Andre Either and Matt Kemp to put the tying run on base with nobody out and in scoring position soon enough. Yet even the control, Nathan suggested, wasn’t as far off as the walks seemingly argued.

“I actually felt it in the bullpen, felt like the stuff was coming out, right from the start of the 10th inning,” Nathan said. “Even with the home run, I think it was more a result of Gonzalez. He can hit the ball away pretty well, and we went away with three pitches. Probably not the best idea to a guy that can hit for power going the other way.

“I think I threw some pretty decent pitches that could’ve turned the count from like 1-1 to 0-2 and change the at-bats. But again, I’m not paying attention to results here. I’ve got to think positive and know that my stuff’s getting where it needs to be. Fortunately it didn’t cost us a win. We had other guys step up and pick me up tonight. Now it’s about getting better for this club, and dwelling on what I’ve done to this point is not going to help us. It’s about getting better and doing what I need to solidify wins in the future.

“To be honest, the pitch I struck Puig out on [for the first out], I thought, was one of the sliders on that side of the plate that probably wasn’t a strike. There were other ones I threw throughout the inning that I thought were better pitches. ”

He’ll get ample chances to improve. Nathan’s outlook on dead arm continued to evolve Wednesday, but manager Brad Ausmus gave every indication that he’ll get the ball the next time the Tigers have to protect a ninth-inning lead.

Make no mistake, for all the current turbulence, this is the Tigers’ closer. There’s no Joaquin Benoit setup type in waiting, no new Bruce Rondon this early in the year. Besides, the rest of the Tigers bullpen has had struggles of its own. This is the closer who was by far the biggest acquisition the Tigers made this winter, and they didn’t sign him to a two-year deal only to give him a break barely a week and a half into the season.

“You can try and pinpoint what it is,” Ausmus said. “I think the fact that he said his stuff felt better tells me the first couple times, it didn’t feel that great. It means he’s moving in the right direction. I think also, closers are going to blow saves, and they seem to come in bunches, but they don’t come in bunches often. …

“Joe, he’s a proven commodity. He’s closed games. He’s blown saves. He knows how to deal with the failure. The mark of a good closer is one who can handle letting his entire team down and coming back the next day and closing the game.”

 

 

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Dodgers

Dodger Stadium 002

No Torii Hunter in the Tigers lineup today. Though he’s supposedly feeling some improvement in his bruised left knee, there’s still some swelling in there, leading Brad Ausmus to try to rest him today in hopes of having him back in the lineup Friday night in San Diego. There’s a possibility Hunter could pinch-hit, though Ausmus said he’d rather avoid it. Tyler Collins gets the start in right against Josh Beckett.

Meanwhile, Victor Martinez gets the start behind the plate to catch fellow Venezuelan Anibal Sanchez, moving Miguel Cabrera back to first base and getting Nick Castellanos back in the lineup at third base. With Hunter out, Cabrera and Martinez also moves back to the third and fourth spots in the batting order.

No Yasiel Puig in Dodgers lineup, which means Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the outfield.

Fun fact: With Josh Beckett officially starting for the Dodgers tonight, he and Anibal Sanchez are pitching against each other for the first time since they were traded for each other after the 2005 season. Another player from that trade, Hanley Ramirez, is starting at shortstop for the Dodgers. That’s three of the seven players involved in that Marlins-Red Sox deal, plus three more former Florida Marlins — Miguel Cabrera, Alex Gonzalez and Adrian Gonzalez, who was the Marlins’ top pick in 2000 but never played in a game for them.

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

TIGERS (career numbers off Beckett)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (0-for-3)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-17, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (4-for-19, 2 HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, C (7-for-22, HR, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  5. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-7, double, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Tyler Collins, RF
  8. Alex Gonzalez, SS (2-for-4)
  9. Anibal Sanchez, P

DODGERS (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Dee Gordon, 2B
  2. Carl Crawford, LF (1-for-4)
  3. Hanley Ramirez, SS
  4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (1-for-6)
  5. Andre Ethier, RF (1-for-8)
  6. Matt Kemp, CF (1-for-4, walk, 2 K’s)
  7. Juan Uribe, 3B (0-for-5)
  8. Tim Federowicz, C
  9. Josh Beckett, P

 

Game 6: Why Victor Martinez tried to steal 2nd

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There were plenty of decisions and events that went into Tuesday’s Tigers loss, from Kenley Jansen’s move not to pitch around Miguel Cabrera to Brad Ausmus’ move to try to get a fourth out from Joba Chamberlain in the 10th inning, then turn to Phil Coke against two left-handed hitters, including one that was previous 3-for-6 against him and produced the walkoff double. Arguably the most interesting one, however, came on the basepaths.

Victor Martinez extended the game with his two-out, ninth-inning single off Jansen to score Ian Kinsler. Just three pitches later, however, he was thrown out trying to steal second base, ending the rally with Austin Jackson left standing at the plate in a tie game and Jansen just shy of 20 pitches thrown.

The decision to go, Brad Ausmus said, came from Martinez and first-base coach Omar Vizquel working in tandem.

“Victor and Omar were in cahoots, just in terms of finding something they could take advantage of from the pitcher,” Ausmus said. “And it’s not really a bad play, because if he’s out, you’ve got [Austin] Jackson leading off the next inning.”

That’s an arrangement that has been in place since the season began, in an effort to utilize Vizquel’s read on pitchers.

“I’ve given Omar, if he sees something that he can take advantage of, he’s got the capability of talking to the runner, telling him what he sees,” Ausmus said. “It actually was a close play. And we all know Victor, he’s not known for his speed. If he ends up getting there, now with a single, it’s the winning run. …

“Omar does a really good job watching these pitchers, picking up on things they do when they throw over or they throw home. It was a good effort.”

To see a way to swipe a base off a closer certainly isn’t new. Remember, it’s how teams were able to turn a baserunner into a run off former Tigers closer Jose Valverde with sometimes only one base hit, making the most of their limited opportunities.

The Tigers have been aggressive trying to swipe bases so far, carrying over the mentality they built during Spring Training. Even so, Tuesday marked the first time Detroit had even attempted to steal a base in the late innings of a close game — seventh inning or later with either a one-run game, tie score, or the tying run at least on deck, according to baseball-reference.com.

Given the stuff Jansen was throwing — Ausmus and others said it’s the hardest they’ve seen him throw — it might have been worth the chance to get Martinez into position to score on just a Jackson single. In this case, given how hard Jansen was throwing to the plate, it didn’t work.

Play of the game: Hard not to go with Carl Crawford’s walkoff double here, especially given how sharply it sliced towards the left-field line and past left fielder Rajai Davis once it bounced. Davis was playing closer towards the gap, while Crawford ended up with an opposite-field game-winner.

“It had a little fade to it,” Davis said. “I guess it was hit solid. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to skip like that, that much.”

Biggest out: Though Victor Martinez still tied the game immediately after Jansen struck out Miguel Cabrera, logic says Cabrera had an opportunity to get much more than a single if he connected with any of Jansen’s fastballs. He didn’t, ending a day in which he went hitless without getting the ball out of the infield.

Strategy session: With three lefty relievers available, Ausmus used Ian Krol for the left-handed hitters in the top half of the Dodgers order in the eighth inning, then went to Phil Coke once the lineup reset in the 10th. Drew Smyly, Ausmus said, was ready to face Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Either if need be, but then stay in for potential long relief.

Line of the day: Miguel Cabrera went 0-for-4 with nothing hit out of the infield. It’s actually the second time he did that this year, having done the same against Kansas City’s Jason Vargas in the second game of the season.

Stat of the day: The Tigers and Dodgers combined to go 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position, leaving 10 men on base.

Print it: “We’ve stayed in touch since I played here. We’d often have dinner together or exchange barbs in texts. He’s one of the best people I’ve met in the game, and I consider him a good friend. Although, if he doesn’t get me tomorrow’s starting pitcher soon, I’m not going to consider him a good friend.” — Ausmus on Dodgers manager Don Mattingly

Tuesday: Tigers at Dodgers

Dodger Stadium 004

It’s a different looking lineup for the Tigers today, but the batting order at least seemingly revolves around one concept: With the pitcher batting ninth, Rajai Davis doesn’t bat ninth as a second leadoff type guy. So instead, he becomes the actual leadoff man, and everybody else moves down.

As for the positioning, the expectation was that Victor Martinez would catch tonight, given that he has caught Max Scherzer in a game before. Instead, Martinez gets the start at first base, Miguel Cabrera shifts over to third, and Nick Castellanos heads to the bench for a night. It’s seemingly not a simple matchup decision, since Alex Avila is 0-for-11 with four strikeouts for his career against Dodgers starter Dan Haren.

Since Brad Ausmus said over the weekend that he expected Martinez to catch one of these two guys, that presumably means he’ll catch Anibal Sanchez tomorrow night.

TIGERS (career numbers off Haren)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (1-for-6, 2 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (8-for-36, 3 doubles, 3 walks, 6 K’s)
  3. Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-13, double, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (4-for-19, HR, 3 K’s)
  5. Victor Martinez, 1B (9-for-26, 2 doubles, HR, 3 walks, 6 K’s)
  6. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-11, double, triple, 2 K’s)
  7. Alex Avila, C (0-for-11, 4 K’s)
  8. Andrew Romine, SS
  9. Max Scherzer, P

 

DODGERS

  1. Dee Gordon, 2B
  2. Carl Crawford, LF
  3. Hanley Ramirez, SS
  4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
  5. Andre Ethier, RF
  6. Matt Kemp, CF
  7. Juan Uribe, 3B
  8. Tim Federowicz, C
  9. Dan Haren, P

The numbers behind the Tigers’ draft debate

Opening Week has come and gone, and so far, there’s no sign of a deal between the Tigers and free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew. So for now, it looks like if there’s a chance at it happening, it’ll likely involve either a horrendous start from Alex Gonzalez, or Drew remaining on the market into June, which would take the draft compensation tag off of him.

It’s the draft pick that appears to be looming in importance for the Tigers, who currently hold the 23rd overall selection. It’s not just the pick, but the spending cap money that comes with it. A look at the numbers gives some hint why.

If nothing else changes between now and June, the Tigers will go into the draft with just under $4.9 million of cap money to spend on their top 10 picks, sixth lowest among the 30 Major League clubs. About $1.95 million of that money comes from their first-round pick, though they can spend some of that money elsewhere if they sign their top pick for below slot. If the Tigers sign Drew and forfeit their first-round pick, they’ll have just under $3 million to spend on their remaining nine picks. Only the Orioles ($2.2 million), who gave up draft picks to sign Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez this spring, would have less to spend.

Whether that decides this matter is certainly debatable. On the one hand, even with a new manager and younger players being worked, this is still a team looking to win now, and a team whose best chance to win looks like this year and maybe next as players hit free agency. On the other hand, Miguel Cabrera’s record deal puts a new imperative on player development to bring some younger, cost-controlled talent through the system to Detroit if the Tigers have any chance of staying a long-term contender, and this year’s draft reportedly runs deep in talent — deep enough that the late first round and the rounds beyond that should matter. Of course, the Tigers should get some extra help from next year’s draft if they make Max Scherzer a qualifying offer and he signs elsewhere.

Also, in case you were wondering, the Tigers have the sixth-lowest spending cap on international signings with just under $2 million. That won’t change whether the Tigers eventually sign Drew or not.

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