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.”
The fans got Miguel Cabrera into the starting lineup for the All-Star Game. The strained left calf he suffered Friday got him out.
With Cabrera out for at least the next six weeks, the Tigers slugger won’t be able to take the field with the American League All-Stars next Tuesday night in Cincinnati. Still, he’ll be credited with his third consecutive starting nod and the fourth of his career, along with his 10th All-Star selection in 12 years.
In the end, it wasn’t particularly close. After Cabrera trailed Eric Hosmer in votes for much of June, a vote push from the Tigers and others helped spread the awareness and get him ahead. Cabrera received 13,834,271 votes, third among all AL players, and three million more than Hosmer. Either Hosmer or former Tiger Prince Fielder, who finished a distant third in voting, would appear likely to start in Cabrera’s place.
No other Tiger came close to a starting spot. Jose Iglesias finished second among AL shortstops with 8,671,708 votes, but fell about 3.3 million shy of Alcides Escobar’s total. Yoenis Cespedes had 8,907,156 votes, but placed fifth among AL outfielders, about 1.7 million votes shy of Alex Gordon for the third and final starting spot. Jose Bautista finished fourth. J.D. Martinez finished eighth. Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos and Victor Martinez finished fourth at their respective positions.
No catcher has been behind the plate for more of Justin Verlander’s starts than Alex Avila, who has caught 111 of them over the years. If Verlander looks to Avila today, though, it’ll have to be on a pickoff. Avila gets his second consecutive start at first base, and James McCann starts at catcher.
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (0-for-2)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (2-for-3)
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF (1-for-6, double, K)
- Alex Avila, 1B
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- James McCann, C
- Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-2, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Justin Verlander
- Jose Reyes, SS (5-for-11, double, walk, K)
- Josh Donaldson, 3B (5-for-22, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
- Jose Bautista, RF (5-for-17, 2 doubles, HR, walk, 4 K’s)
- Edwin Encarnacion, DH (3-for-8, 2 HR, walk, 4 K’s)
- Justin Smoak, 1B (4-for-12, 2 HR, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
- Russell Martin, C (6-for-20, HR, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
- Danny Valencia, LF (4-for-13, double, HR, 4 K’s)
- Kevin Pillar, CF
- Devon Travis, 2B
P: Marco Estrada
The first start at first base with Miguel Cabrera goes to former University of Alabama first baseman Alex Avila, who has played two games at first this year but has never started there in his Major League career. From there, Brad Ausmus said they’re going to play it by ear for now. Avila isn’t an everyday option regardless, especially with his own injury concerns coming off his left knee injury. Jefry Marte can play at first base, but has primarily been a third baseman in his pro career. Andrew Romine can play there, of course.
One player who is not an option there is Victor Martinez.
“I would be concerned about putting Victor at first and then losing him for an extended period of time,” Brad Ausmus said. “So Victor, in my mind, is not an option.”
For now, Ausmus is sticking with the intent of his reshuffled batting order, stacking his most proven hitters at the top. Victor and J.D. Martinez move up a spot with Cabrera out, with Avila batting fifth.
The Jays lineup includes former Twins third baseman turned journeyman utility player Danny Valencia, who’s 12-for-17 lifetime off David Price.
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-13, 2 HR, walk)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (4-for-19, double, triple, HR, 6 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-13, double, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-6, double, K)
- Alex Avila, 1B (4-for-12, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-4, 2 walks, K)
- James McCann, C
- Josh Wilson, SS
- Anthony Gose, CF
P: David Price
- Jose Reyes, SS (2-for-12, 3 K’s)
- Josh Donaldson, 3B (2-for-6, 2 doubles, K)
- Jose Bautista, RF (15-for-47, 2 doubles, 5 HR, 6 walks, 10 K’s)
- Edwin Encarnacion, DH (8-for-36, 3 HR, 3 walks, 8 K’s)
- Danny Valencia, LF (12-for-17, 3 doubles, 4 walks, K)
- Russell Martin, C (4-for-19, 4 walks, 6 K’s)
- Chris Colabello, 1B (1-for-7, HR, 2 K’s)
- Kevin Pillar, CF
- Devon Travis, 2B
P: R.A. Dickey
For the first time in his career, Miguel Cabrera is headed to the disabled list. The American League’s hitting leader and two-time MVP went on the 15-day DL on Saturday morning with a left calf strain suffered on the basepaths in Friday night’s 8-6 victory over the Blue Jays.
An MRI taken on the calf revealed a Grade 3 calf strain, including tearing of muscle fibers, that is expected to keep Cabrera out for around six weeks. The Tigers were expecting to get additional opinion later Saturday, including from Dr. Robert Anderson, who performed the surgery on Cabrera’s left ankle and foot last fall.
“There’s some fibers tearing,” manager Brad Ausmus said, “but not to the point where he’ll need surgery or anything like that.”
In a career with plenty of accomplishments, it’s a first Cabrera would’ve rather avoided. But for a slugger who played through a torn groin in 2013 and a stress fracture in his left foot last year, the calf injury immediately looked like something he wouldn’t be able to play through.
Still, the diagnosis was close to a worst-case scenario for a team battling to stay in the American League Central and Wild Card races.
“Sometimes you find out more about a team when a player like Miggy goes down,” Ausmus said. “We’ll see what type of fight we have.”
A six-week absence would keep Cabrera out until mid-August. It also places the Tigers into a quandary leading into the July 31 Trade Deadline, deciding whether it would be worth acquiring help at first base, and deciding whether Cabrera’s situation affects their status as buyers or sellers.
For now, Ausmus said, the Tigers will play it by ear deciding on who plays at first base. Alex Avila started at first on Saturday.
For now, the Tigers have filled Cabrera’s roster spot with Triple-A Toledo third baseman Jefry Marte, having purchased his contract Saturday morning. The 24-year-old won International League Player of the Month honors for the Mud Hens after batting .317 (33-for-104) with eight doubles, eight homers and 25 RBIs in June.
For the season, Marte is batting .271 with 20 doubles, 13 homers, 55 RBIs and seven stolen bases. He has played almost exclusively at third base, but has 10 career games at first over his eight-year Minor League career.
So yeah, this is a little bit different.
“I’ve bounced different ideas around in my head and off our coaches,” Brad Ausmus said Friday afternoon. “I wouldn’t say it’s been weeks or anything. It’s been a few days. Ideally you want people on base in front of your run producers.
“When you set your lineup in Spring Training, you want people on base when your run producers come up. For whatever reason — even though when you look at it historically, the guys that we have there should have worked, but it’s not. So I’m not going to bury my head in the sand and wait. At some point, you have to do something to change the way the offense has been clicking. If you look at each guy’s numbers individually, they’re not bad. But for whatever reason they’re not translating. Is this is the answer? I don’t know. But to me, it’s worth a try to see if it’s the answer.”
The main idea, Ausmus said, was to get his five historically best hitters at the top. That led Ian Kinsler up to the leadoff spot for the second time this season (he also hit there April 27 at Minnesota against lefty Tommy Milone, a game Anthony Gose started in center over Rajai Davis).
It also led to Yoenis Cespedes moving up to the second spot.
“One upside to Cespy is he can really well,” Ausmus said. “Generally you want guys who can score from first on a double when you have Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez coming up. Cespy is a rare power hitter who can really run, not as rare now as it was 20 years ago.”
It also puts Cespedes in a position where he should see more strikes in front of Cabrera, though he wasn’t really hurting for strikes in front of J.D. Martinez either. J.D. Martinez, meanwhile, returns to the fifth spot.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, put former Tiger Ezequiel Carrera and ex-Tigers prospect Devon Travis in the lineup at the bottom.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Drew Hutchison)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-7, double, 2 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (3-for-6, double, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-3)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Anibal Sanchez
BLUE JAYS (career numbers off Sanchez)
- Jose Reyes, SS (9-for-34, double, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
- Josh Donaldson, 3B (6-for-19, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Jose Bautista, RF (2-for-10, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Edwin Encarnacion, DH (4-for-13, double, HR, walk, K)
- Dioner Navarro, C (2-for-5, K)
- Justin Smoak, 1B (0-for-9, 4 K’s)
- Kevin Pillar, CF
- Ezequiel Carrera, LF (3-for-8, 2 K’s)
- Devon Travis, 2B
P: Drew Hutchison