Results tagged ‘ Duane Below ’

Duane Below designated for assignment

Whether or not you believe that Duane Below was the pitcher who deserved to be dropped from the 40-man roster, he’s somebody the Tigers had to believe stands a reasonable chance of sneaking through waivers. Thus, when it came time today to clear a spot on the 40-man roster Jose Valverde, Below was the guy designated for assignment.

If somebody claims him (hey, the Blue Jays have been claiming players left and right this month), then the Tigers will lose out on somebody who currently stands as an insurance starter for them at Triple-A Toledo. If not, he’ll return to the Mud Hens rotation next week, and the Tigers can purchase his contract back if they have the need to call him up this summer.

The 27-year-old Below has bounced back from a miserable Spring Training to put up four quality starts in as many chances at Toledo. His 1-2 record belies his 2.10 ERA and 15 hits allowed over 25 2/3 innings. He has walked four and struck out 15.

Tigers-Royals rained out, rescheduled for Sept. 24

With the radar showing a steady line of showers coming through this evening, the Tigers postponed Monday’s series opener against the Royals. They’ll make it up as a single game on Monday, Sept. 24, which was a common off-day for both teams before the Royals’ third and final visit to Detroit Sept. 25-27.

Thus, the Tigers’ final homestand is now 10 games in 10 days. They’ll also close out their regular season with 16 straight games following their final scheduled off-day Sept. 17.

That could have a minor effect on the Tigers’ playoff push if those games still mean anything, or even if the Tigers are cruising to the playoffs at that point. Shorter-term, the postponement makes a big difference in the rotation.

While the Royals are pushing their starters back a day, the Tigers are scratching Duane Below and sending him back to the bullpen. The way manager Jim Leyland talked about Doug Fister’s road to return, this was sounding like a spot start for Below regardless.

If Fister gets through Wednesday’s rehab start for Triple-A Toledo well enough, Leyland said Monday afternoon, he’ll likely start Monday for the Tigers in their series opener in Seattle. It’ll be his first meeting with the Mariners since Seattle traded him to Detroit last July.

Below, meanwhile, moves back to the bullpen, which is where Leyland valued him most the way he was pitching.

Rick Porcello, who was already scheduled to pitch Tuesday, will still pitch Tuesday. He’ll just be pitching opposite Luke Hochevar instead of Jonathan Sanchez. Justin Verlander will pitch opposite Sanchez Wednesday afternoon.

Crosby struggles in Hens loss

Casey Crosby’s would-be audition for the Tigers rotation fill-in role apparently looked like a kid making his Triple-A debut, which he was. The big left-hander showed his potential, striking out four of his first six batters and fanning six over four innings against just two walks, the six runs and five hits he allowed in the process sent the Hens to defeat and likely sent Jim Leyland (who was in attendance) into serious thought on how he’ll fill Doug Fister’s rotation spot coming up later this week.

Crosby spent all of last season at Double-A Erie, his first full, healthy season since coming off a spat of injuries that slowed his career since he was a highly-regarded draft pick in 2007. He made an impression in Tigers camp this spring, and Leyland said over the weekend in response to questions about the rotation that he would be heading to Fifth Third Field to watch Crosby. Other Tigers officials had watch fellow Hens lefty Andy Oliver struggle with walks on Sunday night.

Crosby didn’t struggle with walks, but he gave up early damage — a leadoff triple and two-run double in the first inning, then a tape-measure home run to Denis Phipps following an Argenis Diaz error.

So at some point very shortly, Leyland and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski have to decide how to approach this rotation spot for the next couple weeks. Duane Below would still seem to be an option despite pitching back-to-back days over the weekend (hey, he does lead the Majors in wins at the moment). Adam Wilk still stands as the most effective Mud Hens starter out of the gate with five scoreless innings on one hit to go with six strikeouts last Friday.

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 MLB.com’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.

Tigers agree to terms with six players

With the Tigers pretty well done in free agency and clear of arbitration, they began the process of signing their younger players by reaching agreement with six members of their 40-man roster on Tuesday.

Lefty starting candidates Duane Below and Casey Crosby reached agreement on one-year contracts, as did prospects Avisail Garcia, Jose Ortega, Tyler Stohr and Brayan Villarreal. The deals raise the total of signed Tigers to 24 players on the 40-man roster.

The deals are essentially a foregone conclusion. Players on the 40-man roster without enough time in the Majors to qualify for arbitration can either negotiate a contract with the team or have the club renew their contract at the last possible date – this year, it’s March 11. Most players will reach an agreement before then.

None of the players who agreed to terms Tuesday have a full season in the big leagues yet. In fact, Below is the only one with more than a month in the Majors. He turned a couple of midsummer spot starts into a bullpen role down the stretch in a pennant race, and could be poised to win a rotation spot out of camp this year.

The 26-year-old Michigan native went 0-2 with a 4.34 ERA in 14 games, allowing 28 hits over 29 innings with 11 walks and 14 strikeouts.

Crosby came out of the same 2007 draft that brought Rick Porcello to the Tigers. The left-hander passed up on a football scholarship to Illinois to sign with Detroit for a bonus just under $750,000 before injuries slowed his development. A healthy 2011 season put him back on the prospect watch with a 9-7 record and 4.10 ERA at Double-A Erie. Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski mentioned him last week as part of the rotation competition for the lone open spot.

Villarreal was the surprise of last year’s camp, making the Tigers’ Opening Day roster as a reliever. The 24-year-old right-hander gave up 12 earned runs on 21 hits over 16 innings before spending the rest of the season at Triple-A Toledo.

Dombrowski rules out Oswalt, rules in Smyly

You might have read on the blog yesterday the quote from Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski saying they’re only likely to go for a non-roster invite if they do add a pitcher to compete for the open rotation. He pretty much repeated that Friday to MLB Network Radio, ruling themselves out of the Roy Oswalt hunt.

“I don’t think we’ll get Roy Oswalt, no,” Dombrowski told host Jim Bowden. “I don’t think that’s a potential. But I do think that we have other guys internally, guys that don’t get much attention at this point, but guys that could fill a fifth starter spot.”

That wasn’t really a surprise, since reportedly Oswalt spurned any interest from the Tigers earlier. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman reported late Friday night that the Tigers offered Oswalt a one-year, $10 million contract well before they moved aggressively to sign Prince Fielder. Oswalt rejected the offer, even though it supposedly met the agent’s asking price.

Dombrowski again sounded like someone leaning towards letting his organizational products compete for the fifth spot. He gave an extra plug, however, to left-hander Drew Smyly, who won Tigers minor league pitcher of the year honors in his first pro season.

“He was a second-round pick for us a couple years ago,” Dombrowski said, “and a lot of people think that he’s ready to pitch here right now. We’ll see. He pitched very well last year, and also pitched well internationally this wintertime [at the Pan Am Games]. He was the top pitcher on the team there.”

Dombrowski also mentioned Adam Wilk and Duane Below as options if Jacob Turner doesn’t get the job, which was the question Bowden asked.

“Those are the possibilities,” Dombrowski said, “and I also wouldn’t discount signing someone that is a non-roster invitee and bringing him to camp and seeing if they can challenge for it.

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.

Updating the potential roster picture: Friday

What ended up being a regrettable finale for Jacob Turner ended up being a good day for helping the Tigers sort out their bullpen. Al Alburquerque got the inning he needed, and while he wasn’t as sharp as he’ll need to be come postseason play in a week, he was healthy. He’ll sit on Friday, then Jim Leyland hopes to test him with an inning each on Saturday and Sunday.

Assuming Alburquerque gets through that, I’d say he’s pretty much a lock for the postseason roster, leaving Leyland and the Tigers with one less bullpen decision. If you count the guys who are good to go (Valverde, Benoit, Schlereth, Coke, Alburquerque if he’s healthy), it could leave with maybe only one or two.

“I don’t think there’s any secret we’re looking,” Leyland said. “That’s as simple as it is. There’s no sense in trying to hide that from the players. There’s no sense in trying to hide that from the media, the fans. At some point, we’re going to have to decide on a roster.”

Some of that could depend on who the Tigers face. A meeting with the Yankees or Red Sox could place a premium on lefty relievers for a pitching staff that doesn’t have a lefty starter. Granted, the Tigers like some of their righties against left-handed hitters, especially Benoit and Alburquerque, but that doesn’t mean they’ll try to leverage that strength rather than play an opponent’s weakness.

Duane Below isn’t a lefty reliever by the stereotype, but he’s a lefty. And while lefties have hit him a little bit harder, his strikeout-to-walk ratio against them in his limited time is much stronger. It’s that skill that would be a stronger ticket onto the postseason roster than long relief, which becomes less of a necessity in a short series but still potentially useful for damage control later in the series. If the Tigers have to reliever Justin Verlander or Doug Fister early in one of the first two games, they have much deeper trouble than long relief.

That same issue seemingly doesn’t play in Pauley’s favor, being right-hander. But while he took the loss, Leyland said he looked better.

“In fairness to him, he really hasn’t gotten to pitch a whole lot since he’s been here,” Leyland said. “So we’re trying to get him some work as well.”

Perry, Leyland said, looked better as well. He’s had more good outings lately, Leyland said, than subpar ones.

“But he still needs a little more consistency,” Leyland said.

For a postseason pitching staff, if the decision’s on talent, there’s a spot for Perry, the former first-round pick with a penchant for quick, solid innings. But he might help his case just as much of he can avoid breakdowns like he had in Oakland, though that one admittedly came the afternoon after the Tigers’ division celebration.

The Tigers still need to know more on Wilson Betemit and Carlos Guillen before they can make decisions on the positional roster. If Betemit’s fine, their decisions whittle down tremendously. Guillen said he isn’t sure about his readiness for the postseason in a week. He can neither run nor swing a bat yet, and his Thursday work was limited to therapy.

Betemit, meanwhile, has hopes of playing Friday. Assuming he’s ready for the postseason, he slots in well as part of a third-base mix with Brandon Inge. Right field could be a three-man mix with Magglio Ordonez, Don Kelly and Andy Dirks. Yes, Dirks and Kelly both bat left-handed, but if the Tigers choose to keep Dirks, that could free up Kelly for a late-inning role in the outfield or third base. Dirks also brings some speed to him.

Add the Santiago/Raburn mix at second, and if the Tigers keep Dirks, they’re left with one more position spot, and a few different ways they can go.

- They could protect themselves at catcher by keeping Omir Santos. Yes, they have the option of making a roster move mid-series if Alex Avila were to be injured. But if they did that, by rule, he would have to miss the next round. That’s a huge conundrum if Avila were to have a day-to-day injury. Leyland said Thursday he can catch Martinez if he wanted, surprising all of us. But the fact remains that he hasn’t, not even for an inning in a blowout.

- They could go with another runner with Will Rhymes, and a batter who can lay down a bunt in a key situation. That might make better sense in the later rounds than it does now, but it’s still possible.

- They could add Guillen if he’s healthy. That’s sounding like a big if right now.

- They could add Danny Worth, but that would seemingly make more sense if Betemit or another infielder isn’t able to go.

Below, Furbush called up; Wilk, Wells optioned

The Tigers announced two moves after the game — one of them expected, one less so. Duane Below is being recalled from Triple-A Toledo in advance of his Major League debut as Wednesday’s starting pitcher. But in addition, Charlie Furbush — who was the Tigers’ other option to start Wednesday — is coming up to handle long relief, which would suggest he’s no longer a starting option for the Tigers, at least not in the near futures.

Heading back to Toledo are left-hander Adam Wilk and outfielder Casper Wells. The latter comes about because the Tigers had an extra position player on their roster while they didn’t have a fifth starter.

“It’s a shame, because he didn’t really deserve to go down,” Leyland said. “He’s played well. He’s done a good job. I just felt like — we felt like — if we rest Magglio against the righty, then we’d have Dirks in the outfield. And right now, he just got the short end of the stick, and it’s a crying shame, because he does not deserve to go down.”

Wilk will start for the Mud Hens Wednesday night in what had been Below’s rotation spot. Fu-Te Ni started in place of Furbush and pitched seven innings of one-run ball with no walks and four strikeouts.

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