Justin Verlander threw a 45-pitch bullpen session Sunday morning at Progressive Field, putting him on track to throw a simulated game Wednesday and possibly a return to game action during the Tigers’ next homestand.
Verlander’s session Sunday was his second off a mound in three days. This time, he threw all of his pitches, including the curveball that was the source of the triceps soreness that sidelined him a couple weeks ago.
“Really good,” Verlander said when asked how he felt, “about as well as I could’ve expected. I didn’t really feel anything at all, so just keep moving forward. It’s a day-by-day thing, has been this whole time. Today I was able to throw a good bullpen. I didn’t feel anything. So next step is a simulated game.”
That will take place in Pittsburgh while the Tigers wrap up their six-game, two-city road trip. He’ll throw 15 pitches, sit down, and then throw 15 more, simulating the sitdown portion between innings. How many times he’ll sit down and get back up remains to be seen.
It’ll be Verlander’s first session against hitters since he left his Spring Training start March 27 against the Blue Jays.
The Tigers return home Friday to face the White Sox, starting a 10-game homestand. With an off-day Thursday, Detroit could go with just four starters until Tuesday, April 21 against the Yankees. More likely, however, the Tigers would give Kyle Lobstein another start if Verlander wasn’t ready.
The Tigers face a left-handed starting pitcher for the first time this season, meaning James McCann gets his first start of the year behind the plate. Rajai Davis also starts in center field, batting leadoff. They’re also facing Indians lefty T.J. House for the first time ever.
On the injury front, Victor Martinez is in the lineup at designated hitter, as Ausmus said he expected. Yan Gomes, however, is headed to the disabled list for the Indians after suffering a knee injury on Rajai Davis’ slide into home plate yesterday.
A reminder that today’s game is on FSD Plus again. If you watched yesterday, go back to the same channel today. It’s also on MLB Network outside of the Detroit and Cleveland markets.
- Rajai Davis, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- James McCann, C
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Kyle Lobstein
INDIANS (career numbers vs. Lobstein)
- Michael Bourn, CF (1-for-6, double, 3 K’s)
- Mike Aviles, SS (1-for-2, double)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (1-for-4, walk, K)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (1-for-4, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Jerry Sands, LF
- Brandon Moss, RF
- Ryan Raburn, DH (1-for-2, walk)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (1-for-4, K)
- Roberto Perez, C
P: T.J. House
At some point during spring training, Brad Ausmus talked about Andrew Romine and his bunting work. The goal, Ausmus said at the time, was for Romine to try to reach base safely in any way possible.
It wasn’t just bunt work. For Romine, it was an overall approach.
“Did a lot of testing stuff out during Spring Training,” Romine said Saturday, “and tried to pick up where I left off from last year, because I had a good last month or two. I’m trying to get things going back that way and just see more pitches and not get as jumpy. I was real jumpy last year.”
He wanted to be calmer at the plate, not just for strategic reasons but for physical ones. The quieter the approach at the plate, the more still the eyes would be, and the easier it would be to track pitches, and the easier the decision whether to attack a pitch or lay off of it.
“Just see more, kind of calm everything down a little bit,” Romine continued. “I was doing too much jumping, trying to step and hit at the same time, as opposed to step to hit.”
Not only did Romine have more strikeouts (60) than hits (57) last season, he had a 3-to-10 walk-to-strikeout ratio. That’s not going to work for an infielder who doesn’t hit for much power, even a switch-hitting one. That had to improve. That said, he batted .298 (14-for-47) with four walks and five strikeouts over the final month of the season.
The numbers in Spring Training weren’t pretty, batting .200 (10-for-50) with 13 strikeouts. But he also walked six times.
“I had a purpose,” Romine said. “I wasn’t taking [pitches] just to take them. I was taking them to use that to try and get my eyes a little more level and kind of more balance in my body.”
Saturday marked his first at-bats since Spring Training. He had an infield single his first time up, then walked in each of his next three plate appearances. Two of them helped spearhead rallies.
“I think that’s overlooked a lot, especially in a game like today, where there’s a lot of things that happened,” Ian Kinsler said. “He gets a tough assignment right off the bat. He’s gotta play shortstop. He’s gotta face last year’s Cy Young winner. And he had great at-bats all night, professional at-bats all the way to the last one. He struck out, but he’s 3-2, he’s working the pitcher. He had great at-bats all night, made a very good play in the first. To be able to have a guy like that, that can fill in, that’s huge for a team.”
Said Romine: “I wasn’t really focusing on [Kluber]. I was more trying to focus on myself and being balanced and seeing pitches, trying to stay level. To be honest with you, I was pleasantly surprised with how well I was seeing it, for it being the first at-bats of the season and not having hit in like a week or so.”
Asked how many at-bats his extra work helped him on, Romine said, “All of them.”
After eight hits over four games, Jose Iglesias gets a day off. Andrew Romine gets his first start at short. Yes, Brad Ausmus is sitting a hot bat, and Iglesias had a day off with the team Tuesday, but Ausmus has made a point to make sure Iglesias’ legs stay strong through the course of the season.
“He didn’t complain of anything,” Ausmus said. “It was just I felt like we should give him a day. And part of it is that you have to get these other guys in there.”
The day off plan will continue as the season rolls along, though there isn’t any sort of set schedule to it according to Ausmus.
“We’ll have to play it by ear,” he said.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Corey Kluber)
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-15, triple, walk, 3 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (17-for-30, 2 doubles, 4 HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-22, 3 HR, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (4-for-9, double, HR)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (4-for-7, double, HR, K)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (5-for-12, double, 4 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-17, 2 doubles, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
- Andrew Romine, SS (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
P: David Price
INDIANS (career numbers vs. Price)
- Michael Bourn, CF (3-for-16, double, 5 K’s)
- Mike Aviles, LF (6-for-23, 2 doubles, walk, 2 K’s)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (2-for-9, 3 K’s)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (6-for-18, 4 doubles, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
- Yan Gomes, C (0-for-6, 2 K’s)
- Ryan Raburn, DH (7-for-19, double, HR, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
- Jerry Sands, RF
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (4-for-9, double, HR, K)
- Jose Ramirez, SS (1-for-8, 4 K’s)
P: Corey Kluber
OK, we’re done with the whole innings without a run, or then an earned run, thing. But what the Tigers have done through four games remains historic. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Detroit is just the third team in Major League history to score at least 30 runs and allow no more than five runs in their first four games. The only other modern MLB team to do it was the 2007 Mets, who plowed through St. Louis and Atlanta by a combined 31-3 through four games. They became better known for the way they finished, losing six of their final seven games to squander the NL East title and a playoff berth.
The other team with that good of a run differential through four games? It was the 1888 Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the American Association, who swept the Cleveland Blues in a season-opening four-game set by a 31-5 margin. The Bridegrooms, too, finished second in their league, going 88-52.
The Tigers’ season-opening streak of scoreless innings ended Thursday with an unearned run. Their streak of innings without an earned run stayed intact long enough Friday to reach record territory.
Not until the Indians put up five consecutive hits in a three-run sixth inning off Alfredo Simon Friday did the Tigers finally yield an earned run. That ended their season-opening streak of 32 innings without one, tying the modern Major League record established by the St. Louis Cardinals to begin the 1963 season.
The Cardinals’ stretch was also the shutout streak the Tigers were aiming for until Joe Mauer scored with help from a Yoenis Cespedes error in Thursday’s season-opening series finale against the Twins. Detroit became the third team in Major League history to go three games without an earned run allowed to begin a season.
The other team was the 1943 Reds, who went 31 innings into their season without an earned run allowed.
“It doesn’t happen often,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It occasionally happens. It rarely happens at the beginning of the season. That’s why it’s more noticeable.”
It’s a blustery day in Cleveland, with the winds blowing left to right, and it’s getting colder by the minute. So basically, the weather you thought Detroit escaped on Opening Day back on Monday, the Tigers are going to get today in Cleveland’s home opener.
Tigers stick with their same lineup. Indians also loading up with left-handed hitters.
TIGERS (career numbers off Zach McAllister)
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-12, double, walk, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-22, 2 doubles, walk, 5 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-18, 4 doubles, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-6, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (4-for-12, 2 doubles, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-5, K)
- Alex Avila, C (1-for-11, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-2, double)
P: Alfredo Simon
INDIANS (career numbers off Alfredo Simon)
- Michael Bourn, CF (2-for-3, K)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (1-for-5, double, walk, K)
- Michael Brantley, LF (6-for-9, 2 doubles, walk)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (3-for-10, walk, 2 K’s)
- Brandon Moss, DH (0-for-1, K)
- Yan Gomes, C (0-for-3)
- David Murphy, RF (2-for-5, double, walk)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (2-for-8, double, HR)
- Jose Ramirez, SS (1-for-2)
P: Zach McAllister
The Tigers lost Max Scherzer to free agency, Rick Porcello to a trade and Justin Verlander to the disabled list. It took them three games to surrender a run.
After consecutive shutouts of the Twins, the Tigers nearly became the second team in modern Major League history to toss three straight to open a season. Instead, they had to settle for an American League-record 24-inning scoreless streak to begin the year.
“It’s impressive,” catcher Alex Avila said, “but I don’t know how to explain it. We pitched good. But it’s not something I’m celebrating or anything like that. It’s just a result. Gave up a run, try to do another one.”
Shane Greene, making his Tigers debut, tried to follow the pace David Price and Anibal Sanchez set the previous two afternoons. For six innings, Greene did, allowing just three singles and no runners in scoring position.
Once Greene ended the fifth inning by getting Kurt Suzuki to hit into a double play, Detroit eclipsed the previous AL mark of 22 scoreless innings from the White Sox to open the 1947 season. Greene retired the Twins in order in the sixth inning to push the streak to third-longest in Major League history.
Not only had the Twins not scored on the season, they hadn’t even advanced a runner to third base. Joe Mauer’s leadoff walk in the seventh gave Minnesota its opportunity, and the Twins converted when Kennys Vargas lined a single into left field. Yoenis Cespedes, who reached over the left-field fence to rob a home run on Opening Day, mishandled the ball for an error, allowing Mauer to round third base and score easily.
That kept the 1963 Cardinals as the only team in modern history with three straight shutouts to start a season, on complete games from Ernie Broglio, Ray Washburn and Curt Simmons. They also hold the Major League mark of 32 scoreless innings to begin a season, followed by the 1943 Reds at 26.
The Tigers’ streak was also the longest for the franchise at any point in a season since June 20-23, 1996. That team finished with a 6.38 team ERA, but took advantage of complete-game shutouts by Felipe Lira and Brian Williams — also against the Twins in Detroit, in that case at Tiger Stadium.
“I don’t think we’re going to go streaks of three games giving up one run very often,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “But we’ll take it.”
UPDATE: Since folks were asking, the Tigers joined the ’63 Cardinals and ’43 Reds as the only teams to not give up an earned run in their first three games of the season. Again, the Cardinals’ 32-inning streak is the standard. The ’43 Reds, who gave up a pair of unearned runs in their third game of the season and lost, went 31 innings into their season before surrendering an earned run.
The window has finally arrived. It might only last for a few hours before the storms arrive, but they’re going to try to get this one in. Lineups remain the same from this morning.
Whether these lineups get any use is in serious question. Brad Ausmus said before the game that they have a chance to get nine innings in. With showers moving in by game time, though, it could be a wait to get there. They’ll probably get a window of dry weather to get started at some point, but will the rain that follows be light enough to play through?
As for the Tigers lineup, it’s the same nine that produced 11 runs Wednesday. The Twins insert Eduardo Escobar in left field and Chris Herrmann behind the plate.
TIGERS (career numbers off Kyle Gibson)
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-14, HR, walk, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-11, double, HR, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-12, double, 2 walks)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (4-for-11, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-11, walk, 4 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-9, double, walk, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Shane Greene
- Danny Santana, SS
- Brian Dozier, 2B
- Joe Mauer, 1B
- Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-4, K against Greene)
- Kennys Vargas, DH
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B
- Eduardo Escobar, LF
- Chris Herrmann, C
- Jordan Schafer, CF
P: Kyle Gibson