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Friday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Indians

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)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (0-for-4, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (3-for-7, HR, K)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-6, 2 doubles)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-5, HR, walk, K)
  5. J.D. Martinez, LF (1-for-3)
  6. Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-3, HR)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-6, K)
  8. Alex Avila, C (3-for-5, HR, walk, K)
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS (0-for-3, 2 K’s)

P: Anibal Sanchez

INDIANS (career numbers vs. Sanchez)

  1. Jason Kipnis, 2B (3-for-19, double, walk, 6 K’s)
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (5-for-20, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  3. Michael Brantley, CF (5-for-19, triple, K)
  4. Carlos Santana, 1B (4-for-18, double, triple, walk, 4 K’s)
  5. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (3-for-12, walk, 3 K’s)
  6. Nick Swisher, DH (2-for-14, 3 walks, 8 K’s)
  7. David Murphy, RF (1-for-6, walk, 2 K’s)
  8. Yan Gomes, C (3-for-7, triple, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  9. Chris Dickerson, LF

P: Trevor Bauer

Dirks recalled from rehab assignment with muscle inflammation in lower back

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.

VerHagen set to start for Tigers on Saturday

While Max Scherzer is scheduled to make his next start in the nightcap of Saturday’s day-night doubleheader against Cleveland, the other starter is no longer TBA. The answer did not go as expected.

Credit Tom Reisenweber, who covers the Erie SeaWolves for the Erie Times-News, with the scoop:

 

The Tigers confirmed the move on Thursday. VerHagen will start Game 1.

The expectation was that lefty Robbie Ray, who filled in for Anibal Sanchez while he was on the DL in May, would get the call. In fact, he got an extra day’s rest before his last start on Sunday, by all appearances to put him on track for a potential start this coming Saturday. Then he gave up eight runs on 11 hits over 4 1/3 innings to Pawtucket, leaving him with 12 runs allowed on 15 hits over 7 1/3 innings in his last two outings.

VerHagen, meanwhile, has pitched fairly well in the same Mud Hens rotation for the past month, allowing nine earned runs over 33 1/3 innings in his last five starts. He’s a right-hander, and the Indians field a predominantly left-handed lineup that hits 15 points higher off righties with a 70-point difference in OPS. However, the Tigers have shown the last couple years that they want their pitching call-ups to be based on who’s pitching best, not simply seniority or matchups. As Jim Leyland often emphasized, it’s a reward, not a given.

The Tigers can use MLB’s 26th-player rule for doubleheaders (a rule Jim Leyland helped get enacted a few years ago) to call up VerHagen without having to send anyone down.He’s not on the 40-man roster, but there are a few ways they can tackle that, including transferring Joel Hanrahan from the 15-day DL to the 60-day.

Tigers’ toughest opponent might be the calendar

If you like doubleheaders, you are going to like the Tigers’ second-half schedule.

If you don’t like trying to find something to do on days the Tigers aren’t playing, you’re going to love their second-half schedule.

If you want an easy road for the Tigers’ to a fourth consecutive AL Central title, well, you might not like this schedule.

The Tigers entered the All-Star break having played at least three fewer games than any other AL team. Those are postponed games from early in the season that have to be made up — one cold-out against the Indians on April 15, one rainout from Minnesota April 27, and another rainout from Chicago last month.

All of those games are going to be made up with Saturday day-night doubleheaders, three of them in a seven-week stretch starting this weekend. And all the extra rest — in the case of April, way too much — the Tigers received in April is about to come back to haunt them:

  • They open the second half with 11 games in 10 days across three time zones, capped by a four-game series in California against an Angels squad that was rolling into the break.
  • They get an off-day coming back from the coast, then play 20 consecutive days — including a nine-game, three-city trip to New York, Toronto and Pittsburgh.
  • Then comes the most interesting test of all: 24 games over 23 days in five cities, including day-night doubleheaders on back-to-back Saturdays in Minnesota and Chicago. The doubleheaders nullify the off-day.
  • And the team that had six scheduled off-days from April 1 to May 1 (plus two more off-days from rainouts) will have just five off-days from Friday until the end of the regular season.

That means three spot starts for Robbie Ray or somebody else from Triple-A Toledo. (The Tigers can take advantage of MLB’s 26th-man rule to add an extra player for those doubleheader days, so nobody has to go down to make room.)

Well beyond starting pitchers, though, that means a test of the Tigers’ depth, including a bullpen that has some well-used setup men in Joba Chamberlain and Al Alburquerque. They’ve pitched in 41 and 45 games so far this year, respectively.

The Tigers who made the All-Star team already had plans to rest up before the stretch starts. Ian Kinsler was heading back to Detroit, rather than traveling home to Texas and dealing with the heat.

“It’s going to be nice to put your feet up a little bit, relax for a couple days, just hang out, just drink a lot of water, eat some good meals and get ready for the second half,” he said. “So it’s going to be nice to have those two days.”

Max Scherzer said Tuesday night he was going to spend Wednesday in Minnesota and relax before heading back to Detroit, rather than dealing with the travel mess that usually comes with the day after the All-Star Game.

Neither, however, sounded particularly fearful of the stretch ahead.

“If we’re winning, it’s going to be easy,” Kinsler said. “Everything’s going to flow nicely. Everything’s going to be smooth.

“You saw us make a couple runs in the first half. When we’re winning games and we’re turning the rotation over with Justin and Max at the top of it and the way Porcello’s been throwing, if we can continue to turn that rotation over, it’s going to be easy for us. It shouldn’t be that tough without those days.”

For starting pitchers, it’s a little easier, because it keeps them in a routine of starting every five days.

“Maybe [it gets tiring],” Scherzer said. “But at the same time, at this point in the year, you just get so numb to the grind. You just expect waking up, coming to the park and playing baseball. Having extra days and less off-days, it really doesn’t faze us anymore.”

Cabrera downplays surgery recovery

Miguel Cabrera’s response to a USA Today story that quotes him saying he’s still being affected by his core muscle surgery was short and sweet.

“I’m good,” said Cabrera, who then headed off for other business before batting practice Tuesday afternoon.

The question came about after Cabrera told Jorge Ortiz during Monday’s media day session that the surgery recovery has been tough and isn’t complete. From the article:

“There are times when I feel good, but there are always muscles that are tightening, muscles that are not functioning properly,” Cabrera said in Spanish. “It’s part of the process. The same thing is happening to Justin Verlander, but the difference is he pitches every five days, so you don’t see it as frequently.

“But as he and I talked about, we’re never going to offer any excuses for our performance. We always want to be out on the field and compete, and I think that’s the most important thing we can do, compete and try to get past this tough time. And the main thing is we’re in first place.”

Cabrera initially denied saying his groin was bothering him, but it was seemingly more a matter of semantics. The quotes were recorded, and he had said something earlier to Spanish-language media.

When Cabrera said last week that he wasn’t going to take part in the Home Run Derby, he said it was about his swing, that he didn’t want to mess it up anymore. Go all the way back to the second week of the season, and Cabrera said he felt good but that his swing wasn’t right. Cabrera wasn’t keen on using injuries as an excuse down the stretch last year, either. So Cabrera saying he’s good doesn’t mean he’s healthy.

Futures Game fallout: Thompson promoted, Moya bats right-handed

It took barely 24 hours for Steven Moya and Jake Thompson to go from Futures Game opponents to Tigers minor-leauge teammates. No sooner had Thompson returned from Minnesota than the Tigers promoted him from Class A Lakeland to Double-A Erie, where Moya has been playing all season.

It’s a relatively big step for the 20-year-old Thompson after 39 professional starts. He made 16 starts for Lakeland, posting a 6-4 record with a 3.14 ERA and 75 hits allowed over 83 innings. He walked 25, struck out 79 and gave up just three home runs, two of them allowed in his final start before the break last week.

The late-season stint in the more hitter-friendly Eastern League, which has smaller ballparks than in Florida, should be a good test for the sinkerballing Thompson, who has allowed just eight home runs over 194 2/3 professional innings.

“I got off to a hot start at the beginning of the year and kind of just worked off of that,” Thompson said about his season Sunday. “That’s really it. I’m actually really proud of how far I’ve come since last year, just kind of tweaking my game plan and going out there and executing it.”

Also joining the Erie rotation is left-hander Josh Turley, who went 7-1 with a 1.85 ERA in Lakeland while allowing just 70 hits over 97 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old was a 16th-round draft pick out of Baylor two years ago.

Thompson’s promotion came out moments after outfielder Steven Moya turned around and batted right-handed for the SeaWolves in a pinch-hitting appearance. For a slugger who bats left-handed, it was a surprise. Whether it’s a sign of things to come remains to be seen.

Moya was a switch-hitter as a teenager before he signed with the Tigers. According to Tom Reisenweber of the Erie Times-News, Moya had been taking right-handed swings in batting practice for the past month or so. At some point, the SeaWolves were going to give him an opportunity to try it in a blowout. They lost 11-4 last night.

The batting splits from Moya don’t suggest it’s a pressing issue. He’s batting .260 (33-for-127) with an .829 OPS against left-handers, and .267 (59-for-221) with an .835 OPS off righties.

Boras: Jose Iglesias doing well, chances of re-injury low

Max Scherzer wasn’t the only Tigers client that agent Scott Boras was discussing during his appearance at All-Star media day. He also gave a medical update on Jose Iglesias, who’s out for the year to allow stress fractures to heal in his shins.

“I was just down to see him a week ago [in Miami], and he’s doing well,” Boras said. “The doctor reports are good. He’s going back in a month to get a final x-ray. His medication and everything seem to be working well, so we’ve gotten very, very good reports. He’s obviously ready to go, as you can imagine, so he’s looking forward to it.”

Asked if they’ve gotten any better read on why the condition became so severe, Boras said:

“You don’t really how these things go. This began, really, in Boston. And when you get shin splints or something like that, you don’t know the severity of it, and sometimes you don’t know what medication to give until you really know the severity of the condition. So in this situation, once that was diagnosed, they knew what to do. But it involved both shins. That part of it, especially for an athlete that is as [mobile].

“He is not a sit-still player. He’s moving around, he’s a very aggressive defensive player. That part of it was just something he couldn’t get resolved, and it just took time. Once you have the injury, those layers of bone get inflamed, and you just have to take a good amount of time for it to heal.”

As for any chance of it happening again, Boras said, “The recurrence part, we’re told, once it’s healed, we’re fine. The problem is, because he was playing so much, he just never had a chance to heal.”

Boras: Scherzer “has positioned himself to be prominent” on free-agent market

Max Scherzer hasn’t said much about his free-agent situation since the season began, as he forecasted. He wasn’t saying much about it on All-Star media day, either.

“I’m still numb to it,” Scherzer said of the pending pitching, including himself, set to hit the market this winter. “The only thing that motivates me, the only thing that I want more, is to win in Detroit this year. That’s my number one goal. That’s the only thing I can think about, and the only thing I want. Everything else, from the off-field standpoint, takes care of itself.”

Fortunately, the guy Scherzer pays to handle those things was in the same ballroom as the media day festivities.

“You view that as a distraction,” agent Scott Boras said. “We view that as everyday life. When you are a player and you’re going year by year, it’s the same thing every year. You’re accepting or you’re making decisions and then you’re going out and performing.

“I think Max’s focus is on winning, it’s about performance and how well his team does, and that’s the same thing he was doing last year. So I don’t think that [has changed]. I mean, Max is really, really good at a plan. He’s very very good at structuring a plan around what he wants to get done. And his focus every day is on that plan. He’s got unfulfilled goals in Detroit that he wants to accomplish, and that is at the forefront of really what he wants to do day in and day out.”

At last year’s All-Star Game, Boras was reveling in representing both starting pitchers — Scherzer and Matt Harvey. It was there that Boras said Tigers fans shouldn’t be scared of free agency, because free agency has been good to Detroit.

There certainly seems to be some fear now. The Tigers hoped to get Scherzer signed in Spring Training, of course, but the two sides couldn’t find the right number. Scherzer took some public scrutiny for not taking a six-year, $144 million offer, though others expected the market to meet him.

After Scherzer’s 11-3 first-half record and a complete-game shutout, nobody is second-guessing him anymore. And Boras can afford to gloat a little.

Look, when you do these things, when you’re talking about the type of money involved you’re always the village idiot until the player is outside the village,” Boras said. “Believe me, I’ve got 15 ways to explain it. …

“I don’t expect anything but the fans to come out and watch him pitch, support him and understand what he means to the franchise. And I think with each day Max pitches, and each year he performs there, the perception of Max as a valued member of the Detroit Tigers is certainly increasing and more understood by the fans in Detroit.”

They’re also understanding what happens when this season is over. Both sides agreed not to negotiate during the season, and Boras said they’re sticking to it. That puts Scherzer on track to hit the open market as most likely the biggest arm.

“Currently the way he’s going, obviously Max has positioned himself to be prominent,” Boras said. “There just aren’t many people in the league with 32 wins and six losses. That might be a separator. It just might be something that few people do.

“The other thing is who Max is, because Max is a contributor to his teammates. I think the Detroit pitching staff has gotten better. I think they all communicate with one another. I think their egos are all in check. He’s a good teammate, too. He’s a competitor, so his leadership is of great value to a franchise.”

That does not mean Boras and Scherzer have closed the door on a new deal in Detroit.

“I’ve said this long ago, the Detroit franchise is a franchise of choice,” Boras continued. “And Mike Ilitch, if he deems Max to be somebody that’s important to them, we certainly have not in any way … our position to the Tigers, and the value to the Tigers, how well Max does in Detroit, none of that’s changed as far as us listening to anything Detroit may have to say when the offseason comes.”

V-Mart: 95 percent chance for Friday return

Victor Martinez said he’s taking in these All-Star festivities as a fan and a dad, taking pictures of his kids with the All-Stars. Come Friday, he hopes to be a designated hitter again.

“I swung the bat yesterday for the first time,” Martinez said Monday. “There’s like a 95 percent [chance] that I’m going to be able to play when I get back on Friday.”

The Tigers open their second half Friday at home against Cleveland, part of a four-game, three-day series that includes a day-night doubleheader Saturday.

“I’m a lot better,” Martinez said. “I’m almost right there. I mean, as much as I love the game and as much as I love this team, this stage right here, we still have a long way to go. I have to get right. I have to get back into the lineup and keep helping the team.”

Cabrera to bat cleanup for AL All-Stars

Rekindling memories of the debate over which spot in the batting order is best for Miguel Cabrera, AL All-Star manager John Farrell put Cabrera in the cleanup spot for tomorrow night’s Midsummer Classic. He batted third in his other two All-Star starts.

Cabrera will have Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista batting behind him for protection.

Here’s the full lineup:

  1. Derek Jeter, SS
  2. Mike Trout, LF
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Jose Bautista, RF
  6. Nelson Cruz, DH
  7. Adam Jones, CF
  8. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  9. Salvador Perez, C

P: Felix Hernandez

 

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