Porcello to make donation for Final Vote tweets

Considering Rick Porcello offered up his old jersey number to Torii Hunter for a donation to Superstorm Sandy relief a couple years ago, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s trying to turn his Final Vote candidacy into an off-field impact. He needs a lot of help from fans to do it, though.

As part of the All-Star Final Vote last-day push, votes are being counted on twitter until 4pm ET using hashtags. For every tweet using the #PickRick hashtag, Porcello will make a donation of 21 cents to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, up to a total donation of $21,000. That covers 100,000 tweets.

It might not get him an All-Star roster spot, but it should get a positive impact. It’s also a way to show his gratitude for the support he has received, not just from the Tigers but nationwide.

“I’m not used to that kind of attention. I’m definitely flattered by it for sure,” Porcello said Wednesday. “It’s pretty cool to see people that are supporting you. On a completely personal level, that’s definitely very nice. I’m very thankful.

“It’s been a new experience for me in my career, and it’s been something whether I win it or not that I’ll never forget. It’s been a pretty cool couple of days.”

The Twitter vote campaign is in its third year. Until 4pm, any tweet that includes a designated player hashtag will be tabulated as part of the official vote total used to determine the winners.

Fans can also cast votes on the mobile web at MLB.com/vote or via text message. To receive the Final Vote ballot, text the word “VOTE” to 89269. To vote for a specific player, fans can text their choice to 89269. For example: Text “A3″ to vote for AL Player 3 or “N3″ to vote for NL Player 3. Standard message and data rates may apply. Text “STOP” to end and “HELP” for information. Mobile voting in Canada also is available and fans should text their choices to 101010.

Wednesday’s lineups: Miguel Cabrera’s day off

Brad Ausmus had been talking about trying to get Miguel Cabrera a day off, but had been holding off with Victor Martinez unavailable. He has held off no longer, sitting Cabrera for the getaway day against the Dodgers with four games coming up in Kansas City.

Don Kelly, 3-for-8 off Zack Greinke, gets the start at first base. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but let’s be honest: Even if Kelly was 3-for-13 against Greinke, you’d be somewhat surprised. For what it’s worth, Cabrera is 10-for-35 with a double, home run and 11 strikeouts against Greinke.

The Dodgers pull a surprise and use the same lineup they had last night, including Hanley Ramirez at DH.

TIGERS (career numbers against Greinke)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (1-for-10, K)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-26, HR, 7 K’s)
  3. Torii Hunter, DH (9-for-33, 2 doubles, 3 HR, walk, 5 K’s)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-10, walk, 2 K’s)
  5. Don Kelly, 1B (3-for-8, 2 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C (3-for-11, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Rajai Davis, LF (2-for-11, walk, 3 K’s)

P: Max Scherzer

DODGERS (career numbers off Scherzer)

  1. Dee Gordon, 2B (3-for-8, double, HR)
  2. Yasiel Puig, RF
  3. Hanley Ramirez, DH (0-for-6, 3 K’s)
  4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (4-for-20, double, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  5. Matt Kemp, LF (0-for-18, walk, 5 K’s)
  6. Andre Ethier, CF (6-for-18, double, HR, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  7. Juan Uribe, 3B (3-for-10, double, K)
  8. A.J. Ellis, C (1-for-3)
  9. Miguel Rojas, SS

P: Zack Greinke

Game 86: Verlander reprises Pitch Conservation Mode

This wasn’t the vintage form Justin Verlander had in mind. He’ll take it.

Before Justin Verlander had his MVP season in 2011, he had more than a few outings like this — crooked numbers and high pitch counts in the opening inning, followed by quick innings and zeros to salvage a winnable outing. He gave up a five-run, 43-pitch first inning April 11, 2010, then held the Indians to one hit over the next four innings before giving up another run in the sixth.

In 2010, I used to think of it as Verlander going into Pitch Conservation Mode — get early contact, get outs, get out of the inning quick, eat up as many innings as he can. Tuesday was a bit like that — five runs within the first seven batters, 31 pitches in the opening inning, then five shutout innings over 69 pitches to qualify for the win.

“You kind of walk a fine line there,” Verlander said, “between pitch conservation and not giving up any more runs, because you know if you give up any more runs, that’s probably going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, especially when your team goes out there and starts to score some runs to get you back in the ballgame.”

He did it Tuesday by getting a feel for his secondary pitches and changing speeds. In the opening inning, didn’t seem to have a feel for any pitch other than his fastball. He was still kicking himself after the game for a changeup he threw to Adrian Gonzalez for a two-run double that opened the scoring, and he couldn’t be happy with the 0-2 curveball he hung to Juan Uribe for his two-run homer later on.

“The curveball to Uribe was homer. And then the changeup to Gonzalez was just a little bit up,” Verlander said. “You take those two away, or better executed, and it’s probably not a bad inning at all. If I execute that changeup to Gonzalez, we probably get a double play. It just didn’t happen. It is what it is. It happens. Gotta get better.”

He got better. It just happened from the second inning on.

Not only did all five of Verlander’s runs come in the opening inning, so did four of the five hits he allowed. He shut down the Dodgers offense following Uribe’s two-run homer until Hanley Ramirez walked leading off the sixth and Matt Kemp singled off the glove of a diving Nick Castellanos two batters later.

The stretch in between saw Verlander, who struggled to locate anything but his fastball in the opening inning, change speeds and flummox Dodgers hitters after that, retiring 13 in a row. The curveball that hung for Uribe to hit out on an 0-2 pitch sent down Matt Kemp swinging to end the third inning and induced an Andre Ethier comebacker in the fourth.

It was a good lineup that he shut down.

“Obviously first innings have been a little bit of an issue,” Verlander said. “That probably goes into finding a rhythm and getting things going. Hopefully it gets easier and easier and those first innings are no longer an issue.”

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Dodgers

Still no Victor Martinez today, so J.D. Martinez gets another day at DH. With the day game tomorrow, it could be Kansas City before Victor Martinez gets in a game, though they could also simply decide to sit him until the break.

The Dodgers take advantage of the DH spot to get Hanley Ramirez out of the field. In past Interleague series, the Dodgers have rotated players at DH, including Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp. Venezuelan Miguel Rojas gets the start at shortstop.

Reminder for those of you outside of Michigan that tonight’s game is on MLB Network, continuing a stretch where the Tigers have been on national television for several days.

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

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH
  5. Torii Hunter, RF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Rajai Davis, LF

P: Justin Verlander

DODGERS (career numbers vs. Verlander)

  1. Dee Gordon, 2B
  2. Yasiel Puig, RF
  3. Hanley Ramirez, DH
  4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (2-for-14, HR, 5 walks, 3 K’s)
  5. Matt Kemp, LF
  6. Andre Ethier, CF
  7. Juan Uribe, 3B (2-for-15, double, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  8. A.J. Ellis, C
  9. Miguel Rojas, SS

P: Hyun-Jin Ryu

Andy Dirks begins rehab assignment in Lakeland

Three months after Andy Dirks played in his last game, an early Spring Training contest before he was diagnosed as needing back surgery, the Tigers outfielder is finally back to game action. He headed out on a minor-league rehab assignment Tuesday, beginning at Class A Lakeland.

When Dirks underwent back surgery March 10, the original timetable projected his recovery to take about 12 weeks. His return has been slower than that, delayed at times because of discomfort he felt while moving around. Considering the nature of the surgery, essentially repairing a disc in his back, it isn’t a huge surprise.

Dirks played in four early Spring Training games before his back problems worsened. Essentially, his rehab assignment is his Spring Training, which means this probably isn’t going to be a quick stint to just his timing back at the plate. He can stay on rehab for up to 20 days, which would take him up towards the end of July if he took that long. Dirks still has minor-league options, too, if he needs more time than that.

If he gets through it and comes back, the Tigers gain a potentially valuable left-handed bat for their outfield, something they currently don’t have. Though Dirks’ 2013 numbers were disappointing (.256 average, nine home runs, 37 RBIs, .686 OPS in 484 plate appearances), he was expected to be in line for a bounceback year this season before the back issues hit.

How the Tigers fit him into their outfield picture is probably a question best answered later than it is now. J.D. Martinez continues to drill the ball well after the point where one would’ve reasonably expected a hot streak to end. Torii Hunter is showing signs of better swings. Rajai Davis is off to a good start in July after struggling through June, while Austin Jackson continues to be up and down.

While Victor Martinez’s back issues allowed the Tigers to play all four in the same lineup for most of last week, the odd man has been utilityman Don Kelly, despite his standing as the only left-handed hitter in the bunch. That said, there’s a risk in taking Kelly off the roster, because if leaves middle infielder Andrew Romine backing up Nick Castellanos at third base.

Game 85: Porcello’s sinker takes flight

Rick Porcello compiled his 25-inning scoreless streak over the course of four different starts and three weeks. It took just five pitches and two batters for the Rays to end it. One batter later, Porcello had a three-run deficit before he had his first out. With David Price pitching on the other side, that was essentially the ballgame.

It took six batters for Porcello to get a ground-ball out, one of 10 he ended up earning on the night.

It took just five-plus innings for the Rays to get Porcello, owner of back-to-back shutouts, out of the game.

All in all, it was a rough night. And Final Vote or no, it was not a good spotlight for him on national television.

“I was falling behind guys,” he said. “I didn’t stay down in the zone well tonight at all.”

After three outings that made him look like he could pound hitters into the ground with his sharp-moving sinker, Sunday was a reminder that even sinkerballers like Porcello need secondary pitches to work.The numbers off the sinker were startling: He threw 27 out of 37 for strikes, the Rays swung at 22 of them, and missed on just two. They put 13 in play and got base hits on six.

“We’ve said all along that the key for him is being down with his sinker,” Ausmus said. “When it gets up, it gets flat. You see more fly balls. He made the adjustment. He actually started getting the ball down in the zone. He got some ground balls. A couple of them found holes. He was getting the ground balls he was trying to get. That’s going to happen sometimes with ground ball pitchers. Some will find holes.”

Porcello gave up three other hits off the four-seam fastball, two on the changeup, and one off the slider (which is really more of a cutter at this point). The one pitch that seemed to avoid heavy damage for him was the curveball, and even that drew eight swings out of 11 strikes.

To state the obvious, the Rays swung early and often, and they didn’t miss much.

“I think it’s important to get on him early like that,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said, “because if you don’t he settles in and it’s really difficult. We worked good at-bats, obviously, we have the last couple of nights.”

Tigers All-Stars in quotes

MIGUEL CABRERA (9th All-Star selection, 5th with Tigers)

“It’s very special. I appreciate the fans. We want to win, try to get home field advantage for the World Series.”

Best part of All-Star week: “We’re off. We see the best players in the National League, American League. We’re going to enjoy it.”

VICTOR MARTINEZ (4th All-Star selection, 1st with Tigers)

“Believe it or not, man, last year watching the Home Run Derby, [Victor Jose] told me these words: ‘Daddy, you better make it next year, because I don’t want to see my butt on the couch watching the Home Run Derby on TV again.’ I’m like, ‘Really? It’s that easy, kid?’”

MAX SCHERZER (2nd All-Star selection in a row)

“We both [Scherzer and Porcello] said we were kind of on the fringe if we were going to make it or not. We were crossing our fingers both.”

“It’s such an honor to represent the American League in the All-Star Game. I’m so excited to be able to go there next week.”

Cabrera will not take part in Home Run Derby

Miguel Cabrera will be an All-Star Game participant for the ninth time in his career. For the Home Run Derby, however, he will be an observer once again.

“I’m going to enjoy watching,” said Cabrera, who confirmed that he has declined an invite to the event.

Cabrera has taken his swings in the event twice in his career, but not since 2010, and not since his current run as the game’s most dangerous hitter. He did not take part in last year’s Derby because of a nagging back injury, a decision the Tigers welcomed.

Manager Brad Ausmus made it clear he’d have no problem if Cabrera or any other player wanted to take part. But while Ausmus doesn’t buy the idea that swinging for home runs in such an event can mess with a player’s swing, Cabrera does.

“I don’t feel like I can mess with my swing right now,” Cabrera said. “I’ve got enough [going on with it] right now.”

Cabrera definitely had a lot going on with his swing early in the year, when he batted .277 with just two months over the season’s opening month. He seemingly cleared that hurdle in May, when he hit .380 with eight home runs, 34 RBIs and a 1.126 OPS. However, he hit a relatively low .279 in June, though four home runs and 11 doubles tempered the average drop for an .845 OPS.

With Victor Martinez dealing with a sore back and uncertain for any of the All-Star festivities at this point, it appears unlikely the Tigers will have a competitor. Cabrera had been lobbying for Martinez to be invited, but that was before Martinez missed most of this week with the bad back.

Sunday’s lineup: Tigers vs. Rays

With lefty David Price on the mound, Rajai Davis and Austin Jackson switch spots in the batting order. Jackson in particular has struggled mightily against Price, but he has been hitting lefties better this year than in previous seasons.

Victor Martinez, meanwhile, remains out. The watch now rolls over to Tuesday’s series opener against the Dodgers.

TIGERS (career numbers vs. David Price)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (7-for-29, 2 doubles, walk, 9 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (8-for-31, 3 doubles, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-14, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
  4. J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-7)
  5. Torii Hunter, DH (6-for-19, double, 2 walks, 5 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-14, 8 K’s)

P: Rick Porcello

RAYS (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. Desmond Jennings, CF (3-for-10, 3 K’s)
  2. Ben Zobrist, SS (1-for-8)
  3. Matt Joyce, LF (1-for-8, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Evan Longoria, 3B (1-for-8, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  5. James Loney, 1B (2-for-7, double, walk)
  6. Logan Forsythe, 2B
  7. Sean Rodriguez, DH (1-for-6, K)
  8. Jose Molina, C (1-for-5, double)
  9. Kevin Kiermaier, RF

P: David Price

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Rays

As expected, no Victor Martinez in the lineup today. Torii Hunter slots in at DH, with J.D. Martinez in right field and Rajai Davis in left. Andrew Romine gets the start at shortstop.

Reminder: Despite the atypical start time, today’s game is a Fox Sports Detroit broadcast. It’s a few hours earlier than normal for a summer Saturday game so that they can get on TV outside of the FOX national broadcast window.

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

TIGERS (career numbers off Chris Archer)

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

P: Anibal Sanchez

RAYS (career performance against Sanchez)

  1. Desmond Jennings, CF (0-for-6, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
  2. Ben Zobrist, SS (3-for-13, 2 walks, K)
  3. Matt Joyce, DH (4-for-12, double, 2 triples, HR, 4 K’s)
  4. Evan Longoria, 3B (2-for-9, triple, 2 K’s)
  5. James Loney, 1B (4-for-10, triple, K)
  6. Brandon Guyer, LF
  7. Logan Forsythe, 2B (0-for-2)
  8. Ryan Hanigan, C (1-for-5, K)
  9. Kevin Kiermaier, RF

P: Chris Archer

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