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Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Pirates

Rajai Davis gets the night off after an 8-for-42 road trip. Considering Vance Worley is holding right-handed hitters to a .212 (25-for-118) average, there’s a double reason for it. Ezequiel Carrera starts in center, with Don Kelly starting in left as an extra left-handed bat.

TIGERS (career numbers off Worley)

  1. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-3)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-6, HR)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (2-for-6, double, K)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (3-for-6, 2 doubles)
  6. Don Kelly, LF
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C (1-for-5, HR, K)
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Buck Farmer

PIRATES

  1. Josh Harrison, 3B
  2. Gregory Polanco, RF
  3. Russell Martin, C
  4. Ike Davis, 1B
  5. Starling Marte, CF
  6. Pedro Alvarez, DH
  7. Jordy Mercer, SS
  8. Travis Snider, LF
  9. Jayson Nix, 2B

P: Vance Worley

Hunter: “You appreciate the things you fight for”

There was a lot of quiet consternation in the Tigers clubhouse after Tuesday’s loss, so much that the quotes were clearly audible at barely above a whisper.

What Torii Hunter said, however, might have said a lot. This 2-7 trip, this fall out of first place, he says, is a test for this club, he said, and that’s not necessarily the worst thing for these guys right now.

“We’re going through a tough time right now,” he said, “and I promise you the trials and tribulations that we’re having are going to make us stronger.”

His point: They’re going to have to earn this.

“In past years, I’m pretty sure the Tigers have been at the top, and kind of easy,” Hunter continued. “But right now, we’re being slapped in the face. I think that brings out the fight in you, and I’m excited about it. I hate to say it, but I’m excited.

“We’re going to have to fight. You appreciate things you fight for. Anything that’s given to you, you kind of don’t appreciate it.”

It sounds like positive spin. Recent history, though, suggests he might have a point.

The Tigers’ two runs to the World Series — in 2006 and 2012 — came in years when they headed into the final couple weeks with something to play for. They lost the division lead in the final week of 2006, of course, and ended up having to get through the postseason as the Wild Card. In 2012, they had a three-game deficit with 15 games left to play and ended up clinching with three games to go.

They made a run to pull away in the division in the final month in 2011, clinching with a couple weeks to go, and battled their way to the ALCS before falling to Texas in six games. The one real disappointment in the bunch came last year, when they had a comfortable lead from early August on before finally clinching in the final week.

They’ve largely been able to cruise this season until the last couple weeks. Every sign now points to a battle to the final weeks.

“It’s what you do during the storm, and how you act during the storm, how you prepare yourself to try to get out of it,” Hunter said. “And that shows the character of a man, not the one that’s in the storm and just sitting there.”

He does not believe that fatigue has been a major factor, though he thinks there might be fatigue going on. He thinks the energy level seems down, but doesn’t know why.

“I think you can create it,” he said. “I don’t think you force. I think you create. And there’s a lot of ways you can do that. But you’ve got to find it within yourself. Everybody’s different in creating energy and creating adrenaline. I have my ways, and other people have their ways. Just find a way that works for you, and get it done.”

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers at Pirates

TIGERS (career numbers vs. Edinson Volquez)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (1-for-3, triple, K)
  2. Ezequiel Carrera, CF
  3. Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-3, K)
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  5. Victor Martinez, 1B
  6. J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-1, 2 walks)
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Robbie Ray, P

PIRATES

  1. Josh Harrison, 3B
  2. Gregory Polanco, RF
  3. Jordy Mercer, SS
  4. Russell Martin, C
  5. Starling Marte, CF
  6. Gaby Sanchez, 1B
  7. Travis Snider, LF
  8. Jayson Nix, 2B
  9. Edinson Volquez, P

 

Verlander MRI shows inflammation, but no structural damage

Justin Verlander has been diagnosed with inflammation in his right shoulder, but no major structural damage that would keep the former American League MVP out for more than a start or two.

An MRI exam on Verlander’s sore shoulder revealed inflammation and what head athletic trainer Kevin Rand called “normal wear and tear” from the pitches and innings built up over the years, but nothing major. It was essentially the best-case scenario after Verlander left Monday’s game against the Pirates after one inning with soreness in his shoulder.

“Really, there was no major structural damage,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “At this point, we don’t expect him to go on the DL.”

Verlander is expected to miss his next turn in the rotation Sunday against the Mariners, but Rand said they’re hopeful of having him ready for next week’s road trip to Tampa Bay and Minnesota.

“I would say it’s the best news that we were expecting,” Rand said.

Verlander is scheduled to get another evaluation from team physician Dr. Stephen Lemos on Wednesday to determine a treatment plan, likely a combination of rest and medication.

“At this point right now, we’re looking at hopefully he’ll only miss one start and we’ll go from there,” Rand said.

Robbie Ray would start Sunday assuming Verlander can’t. The Tigers have an off-day Monday, so they can go without a fifth starter until next Saturday, when they have a day-night doubleheader against the Twins at Target Field.

As the Verlander vigil begins …

Not sure what we’ll find out on Verlander today. In the meantime, to review, here’s what we know …

  • Verlander says it’s not pain, at least it wasn’t during the game, but his pitches didn’t have the same life Monday. “Warming up, it didn’t feel great,” he said after the game. “Once I was out there on the mound in a game situation, it didn’t feel too bad. It just wasn’t there at all. That’s the reason I wanted to go back out there.”
  • It’s not the first time he has dealt with it. “It’s been lingering for a while,” Verlander said, without saying how long it has lingered.
  • Verlander has been dealing with inconsistent stuff for most of the season. Sometimes, the velocity on his fastball has been down, other times he has hit 96-98. Sometimes the command on his secondary pitches has been shaky, other times he has been able to spot a curveball when he needs it.
  • Verlander isn’t discounting the idea that all the adjustments he has been making, or all the work he has had to put in following offseason core muscle surgery, has had an impact. “I don’t know. That’s a good question, especially regarding the surgery,” he said. “I don’t know if your body’s going to adjust and adapt. Maybe that can cause some extra soreness or throw you out of whack a little bit. But hopefully the main thing is no structural damage. That’s what you hope for, just inflammation or whatever it may be.”
  • Verlander has thrown 21,736 regular-season pitches since 2009, 1500 more than the next-highest total in the Majors, James Shields. And that doesn’t include postseason pitches.
  • Verlander has never spent time on a Major League disabled list.

With all the pitches Verlander has thrown, and all the work he has put in, there’s likely to be some wear and tear. Given that, there’s a decent chance something shows up on the MRI that he has been pitching through — maybe just this year, maybe longer than that. The suspense might be the severity.

The chaotic state of the second-place Tigers

The question of scoreboard watching came up to Brad Ausmus at some point yesterday. At that point, he was looking at a rotation plan that includes Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer the next two nights, and may or may not include Justin Verlander for Sunday, or next week, or anytime soon.

In other words, for all those asking about how the Tigers are watching the Royals, they have their own worries — a lot of them. 

“You lose [Anibal] Sanchez, you lose [Joakim] Soria, and one of the best pitchers in Tigers history is being evaluated,” Ausmus said. “I wouldn’t say this has been fun the last few days. Not to mention that we went 19 innings and our bullpen was overworked, overtaxed. But you just keep plugging away, and maybe two weeks from now, we’ll look back and laugh about the road trip to Toronto and Pittsburgh.”

 

There was no laughing in the Tigers clubhouse Monday night. There was barely any talk, really. It was a quiet — mainly an exhausted quiet, but a real quiet clubhouse.

“We need to get our feet back on the ground right now,” said Dave Dombrowski, who has become an air traffic controller with all the shuttling between Toledo, Erie, Pittsburgh and Detroit the last 24 hours or so. “We’ve had a couple times with starters getting hurt leaving games early, you’re bringing guys up, you’re moving them around, we lost a bullpen guy. We need to kind of get back. We’ll see what happens.”

They’ll get some semblance of order back on Thursday, when the stable part of the rotation comes back around. Max Scherzer faces the Pirates that night at Comerica Park, followed by Rick Porcello (remember him?), David Price, and then either Verlander or a fill-in. If Verlander has to miss time, Ray could start Sunday and then the Tigers could use Monday’s off-day to skip a spot.

Their bullpen should stabilize a bit tonight. As rough as Monday was, the fact that the Tigers got through the loss using only one reliever who pitched in Sunday’s marathon was a blessing for them. The late-inning bullpen group should all be available Tuesday, as is likely Phil Coke.

The positional roster remains to be seen. Last night gave them a chance to get a relatively normal night of sleep after they looked beaten in the turnaround from Sunday’s 19-inning marathon in Toronto to Monday’s game in Pittsburgh. They actually showed some decent signs of life as the game went on, mounting a pair of rallies.

The challenge in all of that is the schedule doesn’t get easier. They’ll have off-days on their next two Mondays, but they’ll have day-night doubleheaders on the ensuing two Saturdays to counter that. Even with an off-day, they’ll play 24 games in 23 days starting next week. They’re in the midst of a stretch of 55 games in 55 days, and you could make a case it’s essentially 56 games in 55 days given those 10 extra innings they played Sunday.

They’re going to be taxed and tested again. Count on it. And if you think their depth has been tested now, check back in a couple weeks.

The Royals won’t keep winning every game. The Tigers probably won’t keep losing at a rate of three-of-four like they have recently. The question, now that this is a race, is how many games they can start winning again in this stretch.

 

Verlander leaves with right shoulder soreness

The Tigers handed the ball to Justin Verlander Monday night in desperate need of innings after Sunday’s 19-inning marathon in Toronto. They ended up with the shortest start of Verlander’s career, and their second injury in four days to their star-studded rotation.

Verlander was removed from the Tigers’ series opener against the Pirates at PNC Park with what the team termed right shoulder soreness. He’ll be further evaluated on Tuesday.

It’s the first major injury concern of Verlander’s career. For all the pitches and innings the former AL Cy Young winner has thrown, Verlander has been remarkably durable, making at least 30 starts every full season in his big league career and at least 33 starts each season since 2008.

Verlander gave up five runs, four earned, on four hits in his only inning, his cause hindered by two errors and another outfield misplay behind him. His fastball sat in the low-90s, which isn’t unusual for him in the first inning, but was clearly hittable.

At one point, with the Tigers bullpen quickly warming, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand visited the mound, seeing some reason for concern, but Verlander said he was fine.

Verlander finished out the inning, then was due to bat third in the second inning. However, both Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello seemed to be preparing to pinch-hit for Verlander. Both were caught on the television broadcast with bats and batting helmets in the dugout while Verlander stood in the on-deck circle.

Verlander ended up stepping to the plate and laying down a sacrifice bunt. He then marched down and steps, through the dugout and into the clubhouse without pause. Meanwhile, Justin Miller continued to warm in Detroit’s bullpen.

Once the inning ended, Miller entered from the bullpen. Verlander never emerged back from the dugout.

The Tigers made three roster call-ups from Triple-A Toledo Monday afternoon to make sure they had enough available relievers for the game. With Tigers relievers needing to cover at least seven innings, more moves could soon be coming, this time potentially from Double-A Erie, less than two hours away from Pittsburgh. The SeaWolves were off on Monday.

Monday’s lineups: Tigers at Pirates

Sorry to be late on this. As expected, Miguel Cabrera gets the start at third base, with Victor Martinez at first. Cabrera is the only current Tiger who faced Jeff Locke in his previous meeting with Detroit last May.

Justin Verlander, meanwhile, faces a Pirates lineup without Andrew McCutchen (who was placed on the DL) and Neil Walker, who might not be far behind.

TIGERS

  1. Rajai Davis, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (2-for-3, 2 doubles off Jeff Locke)
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B
  5. Torii Hunter, RF
  6. J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-5, 3 K’s vs. Locke)
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Justin Verlander, P

PIRATES (career numbers vs. Verlander)

  1. Josh Harrison, 3B (1-for-8)
  2. Gregory Polanco, RF
  3. Russell Martin, C (6-for-19, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  4. Ike Davis, 1B (1-for-2, K)
  5. Starling Marte, CF
  6. Travis Snider, LF (5-for-13, 2 doubles, triple, HR, 5 K’s)
  7. Jordy Mercer, SS
  8. Jayson Nix, 2B (3-for-14, HR, 2 walks, 5 K”s)
  9. Jeff Locke, P

Roster fallout from 19 innings in Toronto

Just arrived in Pittsburgh, and it appears half the Mud Hens bullpen might not be far behind.

The Tigers left Toronto Sunday night with two open roster spots from their Sunday morning DL moves — more on that in a minute — so there figured to be at least two relievers coming to the Tigers’ aid after their 19-inning loss to the Blue Jays. However, John Wagner of the Toledo Blade reports that three relievers were being called up from Triple-A Toledo after the Hens game Sunday night.

Lefty Ian Krol and right-hander Justin Miller are rejoining the Tigers, according to Wagner. Krol just got there a week and a half ago, ironically to get more regular work. Miller spent a couple different stints in Detroit from mid-April to mid-May, regrouped in Toledo and posted very good numbers in late-inning work, including a 1.45 ERA and 23 hits over 37 1/3 innings.

The third reliever, according to Wagner, is minor-league veteran Kevin Whelan, who rejoined the organization this year after being traded to the Yankees in 2006 as a prospect in the Gary Sheffield deal. He has 20 saves for the Hens, having allowed eight runs on 26 hits over 39 innings with 48 strikeouts.

Miller and Krol can simply fill the spots of injured Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria. Whelan not only needs a 40-man roster opening (they’re out of long-term injuries to put on the 60-day DL), but three call-ups mean somebody on the current roster would have to be sent down. The logical answer would be one of the relievers who pitched long Sunday and won’t be available for a few days (Blaine Hardy and Pat McCoy both pitched three innings).

If all three are called up at the same time, that gives Detroit at least three relievers available to pitch Monday night. Al Alburquerque, who pitched an inning-plus in two appearances over three games in Toronto, likely makes four. Joba Chamberlain could make five, but he has pitched each of the last two games.

One reliever, either one of these call-ups or somebody else, will likely have to make way for Robbie Ray to be called up for his start in Sanchez’s spot. He’s currently scheduled to start Wednesday. Rick Porcello’s two-plus innings, however, put his Tuesday start in question.

If Porcello starts Tuesday as previously planned or bounces back with an extra day of rest, then the Tigers won’t need to call up another reliever from Toledo. If not, the Tigers likely will have to make yet another move to add a starting pitcher.

The lingering question, and the irony of it all, is going to be how much of this roster shuffle could have been avoided had the Tigers gotten a reliever from Toledo to fill one of the DL spots in time for Sunday’s game. Officially, Detroit made the DL moves Sunday morning, and manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday it was nearly impossible to get a call-up to Toronto in time for the game. Whether the Tigers could have or should have had a call-up ready to move in case is an interesting debate.

“We didn’t think we could get them here,” Ausmus said. “Of course, if we knew we had til 7 o’clock, maybe we would have.”

Tigers place Sanchez, Soria on 15-day DL

The Tigers are going to have to get through arguably the toughest stretch in their schedule without Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria. The Tigers placed both right-handers on the 15-day disabled list Sunday morning — Sanchez for a Grade 2 right pectoral muscle strain, Soria with a left oblique strain.

President/GM Dave Dombrowski said the timetable is relatively flexible on Sanchez, depending on how quickly the pectoralis major muscle heals. However, Dombrowski said he anticipates Sanchez missing 3-4 weeks.

As for Soria, Dombrowski said he’s likely out 2-3 weeks. Given how long oblique injuries can last, however, that’s an anticipation.

Robbie Ray will fill Sanchez’s rotation spot beginning Wednesday night against the Pirates at Comerica Park. The Tigers won’t make a roster move until Monday to fill Soria’s spot, possibly with Ian Krol’s return, possibly with righty Justin Miller, possibly even with Kevin Whelan. Two of those guys could get called up Monday, with one filling Sanchez’s spot until Ray joins the team Wednesday.

As for Jim Johnson, it sounds like the plan for him remains to have him go through his build-up at Triple-A Toledo before being considered for a call-up. He’s slated to throw for the Mud Hens today before pitching two innings on Wednesday.

With neither Sanchez nor Soria out for the season at this point, Dombrowski downplayed the possibility of filling either spot with a trade acquisition.

“We’re planning on filling the spots internally,” he said.

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