Results tagged ‘ Jose Ortega ’
Neil Walker is a switch-hitter, but his splits have always been stronger against right-handed pitching (.286 career average, .801 OPS) than lefties (.260, .662). Never have those splits been stronger than this year, albeit in limited at-bats after missing time to the disabled list. He’s 5-for-30 so far off southpaws, and 30-for-105 against right-handers, including all three of his home runs.
So why did Walker face right-hander Jose Ortega in the 11th inning Tuesday night? It was the situation — one out, nobody on base. Jim Leyland said afterwards that he had Phil Coke ready, and would have brought him in if leadoff man Starling Marte had reached base.
“If the first guy would’ve gotten on, I would’ve brought in Coke to turn Walker around [and] to hopefully hold [Marte] at first base,” Leyland said. “And then you’ve got [Andrew] McCutchen coming up next, so you might have had to make another move, which is all right. But once he got Marte out, I was going to leave him in.”
Drew Smyly was on rest last night. Darin Downs was another option. The main motivation, though, would have been to hold Marte at first.
“If he got on, I was going to bring Cokey in so he could hold him at first, because that guy can really run,” Leyland continued. “If Walker bunts, gets him to second, then you can walk McCutchen and then you’ve got [Garrett] Jones, the left-hander. And then you’ve still got a right-hander ready if they happen to pinch-hit. You’re still ready to do that.”
Al Alburquerque’s struggles commanding the strike zone not only cost him his manager’s trust on Wednesday, it also cost him his spot in the Tigers bullpen. The Tigers optioned Alburquerque to Triple-A Toledo on Thursday and called up Evan Reed, who will join the team in Texas.
It’s a stunning move considering the way Alburquerque looked a few weeks ago and the role he was carving in the bullpen with Octavio Dotel on the disabled list. It was less stunning considering Leyland’s remarks after Wednesday’s loss to the Astros.
Alburquerque was enjoying maybe the best stretch of his career three weeks ago, delivering five scoreless innings on one hit with 10 strikeouts over three appearances on the Tigers’ West Coast trip last month. Half of those strikeouts came in two innings against the Angels, throwing 17 of his 20 pitches for strikes, which Alburquerque called the best outing of his career.
A mechanical tweak Alburquerque made with help from pitching coach Jeff Jones had him throwing not only with more consistency, but more deception. Sometime after that, though, Alburquerque’s command went haywire.
The strikeouts are still there, 10 of them over 5 1/3 innings in six outings since then. However, Alburquerque has allowed three runs on seven hits with nine walks. He threw just 56 percent of his pitches for strikes in that stretch, compared to 65 percent in his first nine games.
The last straw for Leyland came Wednesday, when he turned to Alburquerque with two runners on and two out in the eighth to strike out Chris Carter. Alburquerque ran the count full before striking out Carter chasing a slider in the dirt, but but then walked J.D. Martinez on five pitches to lead off the ninth.
With back-to-back switch-hitters due up, the kind of situation that normally favors Alburquerque, Leyland pulled him in favor of Phil Coke, knowing Coke’s struggles against right-handed hitters.
“You can’t let [Alburquerque] walk them,” Leyland said. “I mean, that’s depressing. If I had felt like he was going to throw the ball over the plate, or had shown any signs that he was going to throw it over the plate, I would’ve obviously left him in. But when you’re having trouble and you’re bouncing the ball, that’s not real comfortable.”
The forthcoming seventh-inning situations might not be easy on him, either. Dotel is nowhere close to a return, by Leyland’s admission, and Leyland doesn’t want to wear down Joaquin Benoit early, which was why Alburquerque was pitching in the ninth inning in the first place.
This might be the chance for Jose Ortega to claim a valuable role in the bullpen. He has thrown 6 2/3 scoreless innings on two hits with six strikeouts since coming up from Triple-A Toledo a few weeks ago. The Tigers had been stretching out Ortega to be a multi-inning reliever.
They’ll also see what they have in Reed, a waiver claim from the Miami Marlins last month who has racked up 28 strikeouts over 21 innings at Triple-A Toledo. The 27-year-old will get his first Major League work in his seventh pro season.
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.