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The abrupt end of the Dombrowski era

The biggest signing of the Dave Dombrowski era, Prince Fielder’s arrival as a free agent, took a week to officially announce. Adam Everett once agreed to a deal during the winter meetings that didn’t get announced until closer to the holidays.

That was Dave Dombrowski’s way sometimes, maddeningly thorough, hesitant to rush. And yet, the end of the Dombrowski era in Detroit went down in a half-hour clubhouse meeting, a quick yet detailed press release and a hastily arranged press conference that included neither Dombrowski (Randy Smith had a press conference after he was fired in 2002) nor anyone from the ownership family that made the move.

“I assure you,” Dombrowski said last Friday after the Yoenis Cespedes trade, “that our goal going into next year will be to try to win a world championship.”

Less than 24 hours later, supposedly, Al Avila was offered the GM job.

“On my way home [owner Mike Ilitch] called me,” Avila said, “and he offered me the job on Saturday afternoon. So I did know on Saturday. Obviously he asked me to wait, that he was going to make this announcement.”

The move came on the heels of franchise-shaping trades that Dombrowski put together and ownership approved. The David Price trade would’ve been done late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, but Dombrowski waited until Friday morning to get the OK.

And yet, here we are. A team that went through a relative shock with the decision to trade Cespedes, David Price and Joakim Soria now deals with the departure of the general manager who made the deals, even though Avila was part of the trade discussions too.

“I was in the clubhouse with everybody else going through a normal routine, and all of a sudden it was like shutdown in here for a little while,” Alex Avila said. “I found out with everybody else in here when he came in here to let everybody know.”

The rumors about Dombrowski’s future were as rampant as David Price rumors among scouts and executives in the days leading up to the trade deadline — Toronto, Anaheim, Boston, eventually Seattle. But the strong belief was that he wouldn’t undertake a rebuild, or a retool, or a reboot, that he knew he wouldn’t be a part of.

“If he’s selling,” one evaluator who worked with Dombrowski for years said, “he’s staying.”

With neither Dombrowski nor Ilitch talking publicly yet beyond the press release, we’re left to speculate what brought this, whether Ilitch felt Dombrowski had to atone for the moves that turned the Tigers into sellers this morning, or if there was a disagreement on salary, or if Dombrowski decided to end the wait and force a decision now to either resign him or let him look for his next job now instead of serving out his deal as a lame-duck GM.

Keep this in mind as you ponder that: The only change in the organization was the guy at the top. His front office, his core advisors behind his decisions, at least for now, remain in place. His longtime assistant took over with a longer contract (five years, reportedly) than the man he replaced (Dombrowski signed a four-year extension late in 2011). Does that sound like a clean-cut firing to you?

“The only conversation I had with Dave,” Al Avila said, “was basically, when he left, we said our goodbyes. Obviously, we’re still great friends. Really, I don’t know the how, the why. Mr. Ilitch made the decision. It’s really a question more for him, but that’s something I really had nothing to do with.”

Dombrowski out, Avila in as Tigers general manager

The Tigers and president/CEO Dave Dombrowski parted ways Tuesday, ending a 14-year tenure that saw the Tigers rise from the worst season in American League history to two World Series appearances and four straight division titles.

Al Avila, Dombrowski’s top assistant since 2002, was named general manager and president of baseball operations, reporting directly to owner Mike Ilitch. He’ll handle all responsibilities related to baseball operations, while executive vice president of business operations will assume all operations on the business side.

The team announced the split in a press release Tuesday afternoon, with Ilitch directly quoted but not Dombrowski.

“I would like to thank Dave Dombrowski for his 14 years of service,” Ilitch said in the statement. “Together we’ve enjoyed some success, but we’re still in aggressive pursuit of our ultimate goal: to bring a World Series title to Detroit and Michigan.  I’ve decided to release Dave from his contract in order to afford him the time to pursue other career opportunities.  I feel this is the right time for the Tigers to move forward under new leadership.”

The release followed a lengthy clubhouse meeting before batting practice. Dombrowski was seen walking out of the clubhouse with bags. Avila and other Tigers assistants went in.

“I just want to say I’m very excited for this opportunity and honored and grateful to Mr. Ilitch for having the faith and trust in me to run this ballclub in our continuing effort in a pursuit of a World Series championship,” Avila said in a press conference. “And after 24 years in professional baseball and going on 14 years with the Detroit Tigers, I believe I am uniquely qualified to be successful in this role leading the organization. We’re confident we can make a strong push this year and that we have the foundation in place to win next year and for years to come.”

Ilitch hired Dombrowski just after the 2001 season as president and CEO. He took over general manager duties six games into the 2002 season, replacing Randy Smith, and undersaw a rebuild that saw the Tigers turn to younger players in search of talent. After an AL-record 119-loss season in 2003, Dombrowski and Ilitch began rebuilding the team with trades and free-agent signings, from Carlos Guillen and Ivan Rodriguez in 2004 to Magglio Ordonez and Kenny Rogers soon after, along with top draft pick Justin Verlander.

Once Dombrowski hired Jim Leyland as manager, the build-up got a jump start. The Tigers not only posted their first winning season since 1993, they won their first American League pennant since 1984, advancing to the World Series before falling to the Cardinals.

From that point on, the Tigers became perennial contenders, with the exception of a last-place finish in 2008. The Tigers finished second to Cleveland in 2007, lost a division tiebreaker to Minnesota in 2009, then finished .500 with a younger roster in 2010.

All the while, Dombrowski showed the flexibility to adjust the roster as situations changed. He traded for Miguel Cabrera after the 2007 season, giving Ilitch the superstar draw he’d long coveted, then traded away popular All-Star center fielder Curtis Granderson two years later to bring in young talent and retool the roster.

The return from the latter, including Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson, helped set up the Tigers’ four-year reign atop the American League Central. Scherzer and Verlander formed the basis of a dominant starting rotation that overpowered the rest of the division, with trade acquisitions Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez mixed in.

All that was missing on the resume was a World Series title. The Tigers went back to the Fall Classic in 2012 with Cabrera and Prince Fielder a power-hitting duo in the lineup, but were swept out by the Giants. They added Torii Hunter a year later and made it to the ALCS, but dropped a heartbreaking series to the Red Sox that included two go-ahead home runs at Fenway Park.

Dombrowski got creative to keep adding players and leaving the window of contention, swooping in to acquire David Price when few expected a fit, then sending Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler. But Detroit was swept out of the AL Division Series by Baltimore last year, and fell out of the division race this season, leading to Dombrowski trading Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria for prospects a few days.

The day after the Trade Deadline, Avila was offered the job.

“The main focus,” Avila said of Ilitch’s message, “was, ‘I’m committed to win. I want you to take this job and I want you to run with it. And make sure you know the foot is on the pedal, hard.”

Ilitch remains committed to doing whatever he can to try to pursue a World Series, Avila said. In fact, other than the man at the top, very little changes immediately, either in goals or personnel. The same core group that Dombrowski is the group Avila trusts, though he noted some will likely leave to join Dombrowski wherever he lands.

“I have the utmost belief that the guys that I want to stay will stay,” Avila said.

As for manager Brad Ausmus, Avila said he’ll remain manager for the rest of the season.

“He’s done a good job,” Avila said. “Just like everything else from here on out, everything will be evaulated. And we’ll make decisions moving forward.”

Update: Matt Boyd is heading to Detroit

When the Tigers traded David Price on Thursday, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said they could have chosen either left-handed prospect, Matt Boyd or Daniel Norris, to fill Price’s rotation spot. It’s looking like Boyd might will not have to wait long for his shot along Norris.

In a word, yes. The Tigers announced Tuesday afternoon that Boyd will be called up to start Wednesday against Kansas City in what originally was Buck Farmer’s spot. No corresponding roster move will be announced until after Tuesday’s game.

This has been on ongoing storyline. Boyd made his first start since the trade on Saturday for Triple-A Toledo, but pitched just two innings and 40 pitches. Dombrowski confirmed Boyd was on a pitch count, as seemingly had been signaled when the Mud Hens had reliever Alberto Cabrera warming up in Boyd’s second and final inning, but Dombrowski did not get into why Boyd was on a pitch count after not pitching in a game since July 24.

That was the first sign a call-up could be coming sooner rather than later. The empty locker Monday night was more definitive.

While Boyd could add another left-handed relief option to the Tigers bullpen, it’s more likely the 24-year-old would be a starter. The Tigers consider him a starter, as noted after the trade, and he has been used exclusively as a starter for the better part of two seasons.

The fact that Boyd pitched just two innings Saturday design is a strong case he was being prepared to start on short rest. If Boyd was simply being kept on standby in case Alfredo Simon couldn’t pitch next Saturday due to his groin injury, Boyd wouldn’t have to be on a pitch count yet.

Boyd almost surely wouldn’t replace Justin Verlander for Tuesday. More likely is the possibility of starting Wednesday, when Buck Farmer is scheduled to face the Royals. Farmer took a comebacker off his left knee last Friday at Baltimore, though he stayed in the game, and he left without completing six innings for the fourth time in as many big-league outings this year.

In such a scenario, Farmer could join the Tigers bullpen, as some have long suggested fits his skill set, or head back to Toledo.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Orioles

  
J.D. Martinez is going to give it a go today in the series finale. His left knee isn’t good as new, but it’s feeling more stable than it was last night. It was more instability and weakness than pain when he left last night’s game.

The Orioles haven’t seen Daniel Norris in a regular-season game, but they faced him twice in Spring Training. Normally that means nothing, since pitchers don’t often use their normal arsenal. Sometimes with young pitchers trying to win jobs, though, there can be an exception. It’ll be interesting to watch how they approach him.

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

tigerpitcherlogoTIGERS (career numbers off Jimenez)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-5, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-1, HR)
  3. Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-20, 3 doubles, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-27, double, 4 HR, walk, 5 K’s)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (1-for-7, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
  6. James McCann, C (1-for-2)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-4, K)
  8. Alex Avila, C (6-for-25, double, HR, 8 walks, 8 K’s)
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (0-for-5, K)

P: Daniel Norris

oscartoonlogoORIOLES (no numbers against Norris)

  1. Manny Machado, 3B
  2. Gerardo Parra, LF
  3. Adam Jones, CF
  4. Chris Davis, 1B
  5. Matt Wieters, C
  6. J.J. Hardy, SS
  7. Jimmy Paredes, DH
  8. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  9. Nolan Reimold, RF

P: Ubaldo Jimenez

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Orioles

If you believe the rumors that the Tigers wanted Kevin Gausman from the Orioles in any deal involving Yoenis Cespedes, then it’s time to find out who won the non-trade.

tigers1957logoTIGERS (numbers against Gausman)

  1. Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-1)
  2. Jose Iglesias, SS
  3. Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-6, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-6, double, K)
  5. J.D. Martinez, RF (0-for-2, double, K)
  6. James McCann, C
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-1)
  8. Alex Avila, 1B (0-for-3, K)
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (0-for-2, walk, K)

P: Anibal Sanchez

oriolesoldlogoORIOLES (career numbers off Sanchez)

  1. Manny Machado, 3B (1-for-2, walk)
  2. Gerardo Parra, LF (8-for-14, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Adam Jones, CF (3-for-7, walk, K)
  4. Chris Davis, RF (2-for-4, double, walk)
  5. Matt Wieters, 1B (3-for-6, HR, K)
  6. J.J. Hardy, SS (1-for-4, double, walk)
  7. Jimmy Paredes, DH (1-for-5, walk, 2 K’s)
  8. Jonathan Schoop, 2B (2-for-6, double)
  9. Caleb Joseph, C (0-for-1, K)

P: Kevin Gausman

Wilson gets chance amidst bullpen anarchy

Tigers relievers were getting ready to head out to their center-field bullpen at Camden Yards when they saw Joakim Soria called back.

“We saw Soria get pulled into the office and kind of figured,” Blaine Hardy said. “Losing a guy like that is tough, but we tried to make the best out of it out there, making [predictions] out there about who’s gonna close.”

Neftali Feliz got some picks, since he’s been a closer before. So did Bruce Rondon, because of the stuff. Alex Wilson got some predictions, too. Nobody predicted a five-out save, but when Wilson entered the game with one out in the eighth inning, they figured it was his game to lose.

“I had a feeling that if you’re gonna put him in the game, you might as well run with him,” Hardy said, “because he’s been unbelievable so far. With his cutter and his slider, locating his fastball, there’s no telling what he can do. Didn’t expect him to basically have to throw the eighth and the ninth, but he’s done it all year. It’s not like it was anything new to him.”

Wilson, for his part, didn’t know until he walked off the mound at the end of the eighth and didn’t see anybody warming up.

It wasn’t easy — not when he entered in an eighth-inning jam, nor when Matt Wieters’ two-out single in the ninth brought J.J. Hardy to the plate as the potential winning run in a game the Tigers led by seven runs at two different points. But when Wilson finished off Hardy with a ground ball to short, his first Major League save staked his claim to get the chance for more.

“It’s a little unconventional,” Wilson said, “but I’ll take it. If I have to run out for five outs every time we get a win, that’s what I’ll do.”

He would love to be the Tigers’ closer. He will get the chance at more saves, according to Brad Ausmus. He does not get the closer’s title. Nobody does. Not now.

Before the Soria trade, the Tigers had a closer, but no other set bullpen role. With Soria now gone, there are no roles.

Welcome to bullpen anarchy.

“People always say they want to assign roles, or relief pitchers would like to know their role,” Ausmus said. “But you’ve got to earn a role. It’s as simple as that. And roles aren’t handed out. You’ve got to earn them. Joakim Soria earned the role as a closer. He did it, produced that way, and he did a very good job for us while he was here.

“If somebody steps up and shows that they can pitch in a certain slot, we’ll put them there. But at this point, I don’t know that we’ve seen that.”

It might be the best opportunity Wilson could ask for. He might have the lightest track record of anybody in this bullpen, but so far this season, he has been the best performer, the most consistent reliever they’ve had.

If anybody, Tigers bullpen or anywhere, had predicted in Spring Training that Alex Wilson would end up closing games in Detroit, it would have been crazy. It’s not that way now.

“To get a chance to run back out there in the ninth inning, it’s just one more chance, one more opportunity for me to go out there and prove myself,” Wilson said.

Price’s Tiger tenure: Short stay, big wins, good teammate

For the second time in a year, David Price stood in front of reporters and talked about being traded away at the July 31 deadline. This time, however, he at least wasn’t caught by surprise.

The hints at the Tigers selling by July 31 had been coming long before Thursday’s trade that sent Price to the Blue Jays for Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt. The official heads-up came Wednesday afternoon as they headed out of Tropicana Field, Price’s old home park. By the time Price filed into Camden Yards, he was no longer a Tiger.

He got in his usual workout, including some light tossing, said goodbye to teammates, packed up his gear and then slowly pedaled out on his travel bicycle. His Tigers tenure, which began with a stunning trade to Detroit last July 31, ended in an expected one July 30.

“It’s part of the business,” Price said. “We had a very talented group of guys in here, and so do the Blue Jays. Just go there and be ready to pitch every five days and then be a good teammate on the days in between.”

It’ll be the last part that will be part of Price’s legacy in the Tigers clubhouse, relatively brief as it was.

“He is in the top three of all people that have put on a baseball uniform that I’ve met in terms of being a good teammate,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who played parts of 18 seasons with four different clubs. “Luis Gonzalez was one. Jeff Bagwell was one, Trevor Hoffman. They’re the elite in terms of teammates. You don’t see many people like him, that type of talent, that type of talent, with that type of selflessness.”

Current teammates agreed.

“He’s an awesome teammate, one of the best teammates I ever had,” Ian Kinsler said. “Toronto’s getting a really good pitcher and a good guy for two months. It’s tough to see a guy like that go.”

The Tigers traded young starter Drew Smyly, center fielder Austin Jackson and shortstop prospect Willy Adames to bring in Price last summer, with the hopes of not only gearing up for a playoff run, but also filling the void left by Max Scherzer’s eventual departure. He not only gave the Tigers the ace they needed, but also the fourth straight division title they wanted, earning the clinching victory on the final day last regular season.

After going 4-4 with a 3.59 ERA down the stretch, Price settled into his surroundings this season and thrived, going 9-4 with a 2.53 ERA in 21 starts. He averaged almost exactly seven innings a start this season, delivering 146 innings. The Tigers, who initially struggled to get a boost from his outings last year, went 15-3 over his first 18 starts this season before going 0-3 in his starts after the All-Star break, culminating in Wednesday’s 10-2 loss to the Rays with a gaggle of scouts watching.

“It was fun,” Price said. “The city took me in very well, and all the guys in the clubhouse, the entire coaching staff, everybody did everything in their power to make me feel comfortable and make me feel at home. I am forever grateful for that.”

It was a classy departure for Price, just not a shocking one. Even as Price won from the outset this season, the countdown to free agency was on. That clearly played a part in the Tigers’ deliberations to make a deal, but a stronger run in the playoff race this summer likely would’ve made a difference.

“We did approach [Price’s agent, Bo McKinnis] in Spring Training,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said, echoing comments McKinnis made to MLB Network Radio last weekend. “And it was clear we were not in the same [ballpark]. It just was not where we wanted to go from a financial perspective. I saw Bo McKinnis recently in Minneapolis, ran into him outside the clubhouse and kind of talked for a couple minutes, and it was apparent that there really had not changed.

“There was a strong part of us that would’ve loved to keep David, but we’re also in a spot where we do have financial parameters.”

Price is expected to be the top free agent on the market this winter.

“Everybody envisions themselves playing for one particular team their entire career,” Price said, “but it’s not the way it happens. Very few guys get to stay in one place for the duration of their career — unless you are a truly special player. It’s part of the business. We all get that and understand it. If you don’t like it, play better.”

Why Dodgers could be best fit for David Price trade

The rumor began building early in the week, if not sooner: If the Tigers decided to become sellers by Friday’s Trade Deadlne, the Dodgers were ready to make a push for David Price.

The appearance of a Dodgers scout at Tropicana Field for Price’s start Tuesday night (he wasn’t there for the series opener Monday) furthered the notion.

Now that the Tigers have made their “rebooting” plans known, the Dodgers’ intentions are clear: David Price is their top target, as colleague Ken Gurnick states. And if they’re willing to go up their prospect ranks, they could have the parts to do it.

It’s likely not going to be a Price-for-Puig trade. Despite an environment that has proven comfortable for Cuban players such as Jose Iglesias and Yoenis Cespedes, the Tigers aren’t looking for that type of deal. They’re expected to seek more cost-controlled players, they need more pitching, and they’ve been frosty in the past about Puig, who burst onto the Major League scene with an impact in 2013 and 2014 but has struggled mightily this season.

The Dodgers do not need Puig to pull off a deal. Their prospects are strong enough that, even if the Tigers are still looking to win now (or next year, really), they can fit Detroit’s needs. Shortstop Corey Seager and left-hander Julio Urias top the list, ranking among the top 10 prospects in baseball, but the Dodgers have been steadfast about holding onto them, which reportedly played a factor in Cole Hamels talks. Seager is their shortstop of the future. The Tigers (or any team) would love Seager, who could play just about anywhere, but given their need for pitching, they’d particularly love Urias.

Given what the trade market has shown so far, one would like to think that favors the Tigers getting what they want. But if the Dodgers feel they can get Price on the free-agent market anyway, they could hold steadfast on their top guys and might still have enough to get a deal done.

The Dodgers reportedly were on the verge of acquiring a starting pitcher Wednesday in Alex Wood, but the 24-year-old could well be of more appeal to the Tigers. Detroit officials liked the left-hander previously when they were looking for young arms to add to their rotation, but never got a deal done. Frank Wren was the Braves general manager when they drafted Wood in 2012, and he was spotted around Tropicana Field hanging with the Tigers front-office group this week. Wren worked for Dombrowski in Montreal and Florida.

If the Dodgers won’t trade Urias, they could still have a prospect of interest in Grant Holmes, their top pick in last year’s draft. Holmes was rumored to be on the Tigers’ draft list before the Dodgers got him one pick before the Tigers came up. Like Urias, he’s a teenager, just 19 years old. Unlike Urias, Holmes is still in A-ball, currently in the Midwest League. He’d be an upside play, and probably not somebody who would help the Tigers win in 2016. But if the Tigers are going to give up the chance at a compensation pick in next year’s draft by trading Price, Holmes essentially fills that type of slot, a little better than that if you go by draft order.

The Dodgers have a much closer to ready youngster in Zach Lee, who made his Major League debut last weekend at age 23. You’d get more out of him now than the other guys, and the young right-hander could slot into the rotation almost immediately. Those who track the Tigers, however, question whether he’s their type of young pitcher. Still, if rebooting for next year is the primary goal, he’s closer than the others.

Other teams have prospect packages that might get noticed. The Tigers had a Major League scout at Double-A Erie last weekend to watch the Giants’ Double-A team, including notably former first-round pick Tyler Beede in a start. He’s struggling to adjust to the Eastern League, having been rushed up, but the talent is noticeably. The Blue Jays have good young pitching, including Daniel Norris (wasn’t he a Rookie of the Year candidate) at Triple-A, but they need a lot of it right now, evidenced by Aaron Sanchez moving off the DL and into the bullpen after showing signs of success in the rotation earlier this year.

If the Tigers can’t precisely match up on prospects, there’s this: The Dodgers were willing to take on extra players and contracts a few years ago to swing a deal with the Red Sox and get Adrian Gonzalez, taking on Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford as well. It’s a much higher payroll the Dodgers have now, but when you’re carrying that kind of luxury tax already, adding another contract for the chance at a postseason rotation with Price, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke makes it an intriguing consideration. That’s something probably no other team would be able to do. It’s not even clear the Dodgers would do it, but it’s in their history.

Vintage Verlander, slightly different approach

Justin Verlander built his reputation stepping up when the Tigers needed him, whether it was a winner-take-all game in Oakland or a rubber game in a regular-season series with the lineup struggling and the bullpen taxed. In that sense, Wednesday’s 2-1 Tigers win was vintage Verlander.

“I can’t count the number of times our bullpen was strapped over the years and Ver went out and gave us eight or nine innings that day,” pitching coach Jeff Jones said of Verlander’s eight innings of four-hit ball. “That’s what it was reminiscent of for me.”

In other ways, though, Wednesday was a step towards Verlander 2.0, both in what he threw and how he carried himself. The your-best-against-my-best Verlander was replaced by a pitcher who studied scouting reports, adjusted his game and attacked hitters’ soft spots.

“His preparation and focus the last couple of games has been outstanding,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s really intensively looked into what hitters can and can’t hit and attacked them at what he thought was their weakest spots, especially when they’ve matched up on his spots.”

The power fastball at the letters became a slightly slower fastball spotted on the corners. The secondary pitches weren’t so secondary.

They’re also trying to emphasize location and execution over power. A mechanical tweak before his previous start at Boston created more movement on his fastball, making it more deceptive. It didn’t do much for power, but that wasn’t the intent.

“He’s thrown some pitches this year 96-97,” Jones said, “but what we’re talking about with him is there’s so many guys nowadays that throw that hard, especially coming out of bullpens, that hitters are more used to seeing that. Not that we don’t want him to step on the gas sometimes — he’s still going to — but we have to make sure that we maintain location to go with it. There’s so many guys that throw hard that hitters are more apt to put a good swing on a 97 mph fastball if it’s in a bad spot. I mean, [Curt] Casali hit a home run off a 100 mph fastball Monday.“

With command and movement, Verlander could throw a slower fastball and get some of the results he used to with the harder.

“I think it was a lot of the command and also, I think, some of the mechanical adjustments I made,” Verlander said. “I think guys weren’t seeing it as well.

Around the same time, Jones said they worked on his slider to get more movement.

“It’s a good pitch for him,” Jones said. “He’s still got a good curveball. He’s got a good change. And he got away from the slider because it was a little flat for a little while.”

The result wasn’t just the best outing of his season, but statistically one of the better outings of his career. His 10 strikeouts marked his first game in double digits since the regular-season finale in 2013, which was better known for Henderson Alvarez’s no-hitter, and his 29th double-digit strikeout game of his career.

Of those, however, Wednesday marked just the fifth time in Verlander’s career that he struck out double-digit batters without giving up a walk. The last was Sept. 24, 2010, the year before Verlander’s MVP season. He struck out at least 10 batters four times in 2011, three of them with one walk.

The 2011 Verlander had a presence on the mound, and an intimidation factor he valued. A mound visit often met a glare from a pitcher who didn’t like the interruption. On Wednesday, as Jones made that trek to the mound to talk about their strategy for Joey Butler, Verlander didn’t glare. He held up his glove over Jones’ mouth as he talked.

“You know, everybody’s always talking with their glove over their mouth,” Verlander said, “and he’s coming out there obviously talking about our scouting report against Butler so … I don’t know. Pitcher’s out there talking like this, catcher’s talking like this, and he’s just out there talking. It was funny. He laughed. We laughed about it after the inning, too.”

Said Jones: “That was a first. It was pretty funny, actually. As soon as he put it up there, I started laughing.”

Dombrowski: Tigers “rebooting,” will listen on trades

The long debate on the fate of the Tigers season appears to be over. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed that they’ll look at trading their pending free-agents heading into Friday’s nonwaiver Trade Deadline.

“We look at it more as rebooting going into next year,” Dombrowski said Wednesday afternoon on his way out of Tropicana Field following Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Rays.

The decision puts All-Star pitcher David Price, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, closer Joakim Soria, outfielder Rajai Davis catcher Alex Avila all onto the market with about 48 hours to go. Price and Cespedes immediately become among the most coveted players available, while Soria and Davis become intriguing pieces added to the puzzle.

The Tigers’ win Wednesday halted a three-game losing streak, but did little to change the perception of their fall out of the thick of the playoff race. Detroit improved to 49-52, 12 ½ games behind the Royals in the American League Central. The Tigers stood four games behind Minnesota for the second AL Wild Card spot, pending the Twins’ result against Pittsburgh, but four other AL teams were between them, including Tampa Bay, Baltimore and now the White Sox.

“We’ll only make a trade if we think it makes sense for us,” Dombrowski said, “but it gives us a chance to maybe restock our club [after] some of the prospects that we traded away, get some people that will help us reboot and take it from there.”

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