Results tagged ‘ Andy Oliver ’

Tigers option Oliver to Toledo

The battle for the Tigers’ fifth starter job is now down to two pitchers. And neither the perceived favorite going in, nor the perceived favorite from last week, are left in the field.

The Tigers optioned Andy Oliver to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday after two subpar outings, including six earned runs in three-plus innings against the Astros on Tuesday, ruined what had the makings of a breakout spring for the power left-hander.

With Oliver out, the field for the fifth starter is now down to hard-charging prospect Drew Smyly and more experienced left-hander Duane Below. Smyly stayed in the race by pitching 4 2/3 innings with three runs allowed against the Cardinals on Wednesday in Jupiter. Below will get his final audition Friday against the Orioles in Sarasota.

Oliver held Grapefruit League opponents scoreless for his first nine innings this spring, including four innings of one-hit ball against the Mets March 12. His performances seemed to suggest that his mid-summer struggles last season at Triple-A Toledo were behind him, and he was able to command the ball consistently.

However, a five-walk outing against the Twins last Wednesday put that into serious question.

Tuesday’s outing, including seven hits and a 30-pitch second inning, raised too many doubts for the Tigers to break camp with him. His earned-run average, in turn, rose from 0.00 to 5.17 in just over a week.

Oliver will be on his third turn through Toledo. He ended the 2010 season there before spending most of last year in the Mud Hens rotation. He’ll join top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, who appeared to be the favorite for the job until early spring struggles and a bout with shoulder tendinitis put him too far behind.

Trade for fifth starter more likely? Hold on

While Andy Oliver walked five batters over 3 2/3 innings — and let’s be fair, that’s more of the question about his outing than the three-run homer — John Lannan tossed four scoreless innings for the Nationals Wednesday afternoon against the Braves. That was obviously a pretty big contrast in the question about the fifth starter job, though the tables were turned on Oliver and Lannan before that.

But then came the postgame word from Nationals manager Davey Johnson, who apparently gave the impression to reporters — including’s Bill Ladson — that they’re not expecting Chien-Ming Wang to be ready for the start of the season.

John Lannan’s rumored availability on the trade market centered on the expectation that Washington won’t have a rotation spot for him. If Wang opens the season on the disabled list with his hamstring injury, then the Nats have a rotation spot to fill. One would expect they’d do it with Lannan.

Whenever the idea of trading for a starting pitcher has been mentioned, Lannan has been the oft-mentioned name. In fact, there aren’t a whole lot of names that have been mentioned after that. Some have speculated that Freddy Garcia could be available if the Yankees open the season with Andy Pettitte back in the rotation,  but even if he is, he isn’t a name that should be linked with the Tigers. Roy Oswalt doesn’t sound like a realistic option at this point.

At some point — and maybe you have already — you have to ask yourself: Is what’s out there on the market really better than what’s in the system right now? And if it is, is it important enough to go get right now?

Bottom line: I’m not so sure Oliver’s struggles Wednesday make a trade any more likely than it was 24 hours ago. Drew Smyly will get his shot to answer against Nationals minor-league hitters tomorrow at noon, and Duane Below gets a crack at the Yankees on Sunday in Tampa. After that, the Tigers still have nine days of Grapefruit League games left, essentially two more turns through the rotation. Two turns provides ample chances for a pitcher to bounce back from one struggling outing.

That’s not to say a trade won’t happen. It’s certainly not unthinkable anymore. But using one start as a reason for it seems like an overreaction.

What we learned today: That inconsistent command Andy Oliver had last year might not completely be in the past, though it would be incomplete to grade it now.

For what it’s worth, Jim Leyland said after the game that he felt like he noticed something that could help out Oliver, and he passed it along to pitching coach Jeff Jones.

What to remember: Austin Jackson’s stolen base on Liam Hendriks’ first pitch to Brennan Boesch wasn’t called. He had the green light, and he wanted to test out leads and reading pitchers. He wants to get some work in on that between now and the end of camp, which could be a good sign for Tigers fans who wonder why he hasn’t stolen more bases.

Hey, it’s only Spring Training: Brennan Boesch, who was belting the ball earlier this spring, is now batting .211 in Grapefruit League play after going 0-for-2 Wednesday. Here’s guessing he will not do that come the regular season.

What’s left? Pitching invites, maybe Cespedes?

Here’s the deal: Whatever follows this first paragraph, take it with a grain of salt. As we saw on the Prince Fielder thing, plans change around these parts.

That said, the Tigers don’t sound like they have another major move in store.

Positionally, team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said they’re pretty well set. Yes, there’s still some free agent DH/outfielder types, but if the Tigers added somebody there, they’d essentially be locking themselves into Miguel Cabrera as a third baseman before seeing how he handles the position in spring training.

But there’s a big-name hitter still out there who has been connected with Tigers interest since November. When Dombrowski was asked about Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, he crafted his response to allow some leeway should somebody above his pay grade decide he’s worth pursuing.

“I don’t want to say on that,” Dombrowski said. “Most likely [they’re out], but you never can tell.”

Not lately, no.

Their outlook on pitching sounds a little more secure. Though the Tigers reportedly went after Roy Oswalt earlier, Dombrowski gave a pretty strong indication that they’re not looking for that kind of deal anymore. They’re still looking for veteran pitching, but Dombrowski is now downplaying expectations to the level of non-roster invitees. The 40-man roster is full, though they’ll open a spot by Opening Day by placing Victor Martinez on the 60-day disabled list.

Martinez, by the way, was scheduled to have a second opinion on his left knee Thursday afternoon from Dr. Richard Steadman. No news was available as of Thursday night, but the Tigers are expecting to hear he’ll need surgery for a torn ACL.

That would open up a roster spot for a non-roster pitcher who comes to camp. At this point, though, Dombrowski sounds more open than ever to having one of his young pitcher take the fifth starter job, especially if he’s going to get an uptick in run support.

“We’re having some conversations with a few guys,” Dombrowski said. “I don’t know if it’ll happen for not. But I don’t want it sound like we’re signing some guy to a long-term contract, or even in a position to be giving a big one-year deal. We’re talking more [to] bring a guy into camp, and if our youngsters don’t make it, then we can maybe lean on that guy to do it.”

The added run support the Tigers can expect from this offense gives them some leeway.

“You’re trying to win, and I think you can do that,” Dombrowski said. “But we have four veteran starters, a better offense. So it’s conducive to breaking that [young] guy in there if you can. At some point, you’re trying to break young guys in, because you want a guy or two to break in on a yearly basis somewhere. I know people write about payroll and I know we have a high payroll, but even the Yankees try to break young guys in, because you need to have somebody making lesser salaries. … It’s important, and I think it’s a good place to do it for us. But I don’t want to feed somebody to the wolves if they go to spring training and then they don’t look like they can handle it. That’s why you’re trying to protect yourself if you can.”

I said this on twitter earlier, but at this point, I would be surprised if one of the youngsters heading to camp — Duane Below, Jacob Turner, Adam Wilk, Andy Oliver or Drew Smyly — doesn’t win the open rotation spot. There’s more talent in that group than in the lower ranks of the free agency market right now. It’s the experience that’s lacking.

Coke all set to start Wednesday at Texas

Just watched Phil Coke have a long tossing session on an otherwise empty field Saturday afternoon here at U.S. Cellular Field. He seemingly got through that fine, and the Tigers have him listed as their probable starter Wednesday at Texas.

Coke gave up three runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings of work in his rehab start Friday night for Triple-A Toledo at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Most of the damage happened in the sixth. It was his first game action since May 23, when he suffered a bone bruise on his right foot.

Unless something drastically changes, Andy Oliver is headed back to Toledo. He’s not listed among the other probables through next series.

Oliver pushed back at Toledo

I’m off for this weekend’s series at Toronto, but I decided to head down to Toledo tonight to get a look at Andy Oliver. Except …

It sounds worse than it actually is, apparently, but it still sounds funny. Oliver was messing around with a slingshot during the Mud Hens’ off-day Thursday, and while he didn’t have an accident or anything, his hand was sore today. To hear him describe it, he was using some muscles in his hand he doesn’t normally use, and they became sore.

Both Oliver and Hens manager Phil Nevin said he could’ve pitched tonight. But with the ability to push ahead their other starters without forcing them to pitch on short rest, they played it cautious.

“We’ve been wanting to maybe a skip a start and get some extra days [off] throughout the season,” Nevin said. “He could’ve pitched today.”

Instead, he’ll pitch Monday.

“I played catch and felt fine,” Oliver said. “It’s nothing. I’m not even concerned about it at all.”

That said, management relayed the message about off-field activities that impact his pitching.

“I think he realizes the ramifications of missing today’s start,” Nevin said. “But it’s part of growing up and realizing priorities. We’re not angry with him or anything like that. It’s not a huge deal.”

It’s also not a deal that has a clear ulterior motive. As it was, Oliver would’ve started tonight around the same time Phil Coke was pitching. Pushing him back a few days doesn’t foreshadow anything.