Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bonderman under control

After walking a combined 13 batters in his last two starts, Jeremy Bonderman walked just two tonight in a 6-2 victory over the Yankees. Bonderman pitched 7 2/3 innings which tied him with Justin Verlander for the longest Tigers start of the year. He had a rough first inning allowing three hits and a walk for two runs but settled down nicely allowing just three more base runners the rest of the way. He was pretty efficient reaching 100 pitches before yielding to Clay Rapada with two outs in the eighth. Rapada proceeded to retire the last four Yankees in succession to secure the win.

Marcus Thames put the Tigers ahead 3-2 with a two run blast in the fifth but the biggest power source of the night was Placido Polanco. The now red hot Placebo (my father used to call him that when he played for the Cardinals) belted not one but two homers tonight. The other Tiger with two hits was Gary Sheffield who also seems to be waking up a bit.

They finished up the month of April with a 13-15 record which is not too bad considering they started 0-7 and 2-10. After getting shutout four times in the first 11 games, they also managed to lead the league with 148 runs scored for the month. On the negative side, their 4.78 ERA was the second highest in the league after the Rangers.

Grilli traded to Rockies

Jason Grilli was traded to the Rockies for minor league pitcher Zachary Simons today. The much maligned Grilli had a 3.29 ERA in 13 2/3 innings pitched this year and had not allowed a run in his last 11 1/3 innings over six appearances. However, the inconsistent right-hander was traded to make room for Francisco Cruceta who was throwing really well in Toledo after missing spring training with visa problems. Cruceta had 15 strikeouts and had allowed one run in 7 innings so far.

I occasionally referred to Grilli as "fan favorite" here because he was bashed pretty soundly by online fans and booed loudly by Comerica Park fans. He wasn't great - a 4.31 ERA in 120 games as a Tiger since 2005 - but I never felt he was as bad as many made him out to be. I think one problem was that Jim Leyland used him too much at times as he led Tigers relief pitchers with 79 2/3 innings pitched last year. I also think fans never forgave him for walking three batters on 12 consecutive balls in game four of the 2006 ALCS. He now gets a fresh start with the Rockies.

The 22 year old Simon was converted from starter to reliever last year and posted a 4.46 ERA and 46/31 K/BB ratio in 70 1/3 innings for Asheville of the Sally League. This year, the 6-3 200 pound right-hander had a 14/9 k/BB ratio in 13 1/3 innings for Modesto of the California League. As you can see, he's a strikes outs a lot of batters and walks a lot too. He'll probably start out in the Tigers system pitching for Lakeland.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tigers hold off Yankees

Two older players who have received a lot of criticism from fans (including myself) lately showed that they still have something left in the tank tonight. Kenny Rogers pitched six solid innings And Gary Sheffield hit a two run homer to help the Tigers beat the Yankees 6-4 in the opener of a three game series. Rogers allowed just two runs on six hits in one of his better starts of the year. The only runs off Rogers scored on a two run homer by Robinson Cano in the second. On the negative side, Kenny continued to have control troubles walking four including three in the third inning.

The bullpen was not quite as sharp as they have been the last couple of weeks but they managed to hold the lead. With a 6-2 lead in the eighth, Denny Bautista walked the bases loaded then hit a batter to allow a run. Thankfully, Clay Rapada came in and got the left-handed Bobby Abreu to ground to third for the final out. Todd Jones allowed a walk, a hit and a run in the ninth but got the save when he punched out Cano to end the game. The Yankees left twelve runners on base for the night.

The Tigers built up an early 6-2 lead versus starter Phil Hughes. Magglio Ordonez had a two run single in the first. They then scored three in the third on a lead off homer by Curtis Granderson and a two run shot by Sheffield. Sheffield's blast ended a woeful 0 for 17 slump and helped him get revenge against booing Yankee fans. Back to back doubles by Granderson and Placido Polanco capped the Tiger scoring in the fourth. It was a four hit night for Polanco who seems to have shaken his early slump. He is 8 for 17 in his last four games.

Tomorrow night, Jeremy Bonderman will oppose Andy Pettitte in the second game of the series.

Billfer bumped by Bush

I tune into WDET today expecting to hear a blogger round table featuring Bill Ferris and four other detroit sports bloggers and I get George Bush instead. That was disappointing. Fortunately, the blogger discussion is still going to take place, just not today. Maybe Wednesday. The other bloggers are: Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience and Side Lion Report, Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys, and Bruce Macleod of Red Wings Corner and The Macomb Daily.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Galarraga, Tigers top Angels 6-4

It was another solid start for Armando Galarraga this afternoon as the Tigers defeated the Angels 6-4. The Big Cat loaded the bases in the first on two walks and an Edgar Renteria error but got out of it unscathed and went on to retire 15 batters in a row. Armando seemed to run out of gas in the 7th making a throwing error and eventually allowing a two run double to Macier Izturis before yielding to Aquilino Lopez. Chone Figgins then singled to tie the game at three.

The Tigers bounced right back with three runs of their own in the bottom of the seventh. Curtis Granderson (who earlier doubled) led off with a triple and scored when Gary Sheffield chopped into a fielder's choice. Magglio Ordonez then hit a two run double to give him three RBI on the day.

The bullpen was good again. Lopez allowed the single to Figgins but got the last three outs of the seventh. Denny Bautista allowed one run in the eighth and Todd Jones got the save with a scoreless 9th. That's now two runs in the last 30 innings pitched by the bullpen.

The Tigers are now 9-4 since their 2-10 start and are just 2 1/2 games behind the first place White Sox pending Chicago's second game of their twin bill with the Orioles. The rubber game of the three game series versus the Angels will be tomorrow night on ESPN. It will be Jered Weaver against Justin Verlander.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Baseball Race and Integration Symposium

The Detroit Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) is hosting a big event this weekend. The Baseball Race and Integration Symposium will look at integration at the major league level.


The itinerary includes a bus tour of historic Detroit baseball sites on Saturday. On Sunday, there is a brunch and panel discussions at the Marriott hotel. Participants include Willie Horton, Gates Brown, Mickey Briggs, Don Lund, Jim Rile, and others.


The event is open to everyone and there is a raffle that is coinciding with the event. They are also still looking for sponsors so if you have a business and wish to sponsor the event, please let them know.

Tigers lose close one to Angels

The Tigers opened a three game series versus the Angels at Comerica Park tonight and this one had a "big game" feel to it. It was a close well played game that unfortunately went to the Halos 4-3. Nate Robertson had one bad inning - a four run fourth highlighted (or low-lighted) by a two run homer by Vladimir Guerrero and a two run single by Casey Kotchman. It put the Tigers in a 4-0 hole from which they would not recover. To his credit, Robertson did bounce back and retired the last ten batters he faced to keep the game close. It was a rare 7 inning stint by a Tigers starter.

The bullpen was solid again with Denny Bautista pitching a scoreless eighth and Todd Jones dealing a perfect ninth. The fact that Jones pitched in a non-save situation showed just how much Jim Leyland wanted to win this game. The Tigers bullpen has now allowed just one run in 27 innings over the last seven games.

The Tigers chipped away at the four run deficit but missed out on some good opportunities to score more. Curtis Granderson led off the bottom of the fourth with his second homer in two games. Placido Polanco followed with a double, moved to third on a grounder by Gary Sheffield and scored on a ground out by magglio Ordonez. They received the obligatory high fives in the dugout for moving runners over but I'm pretty sure they were looking for more than a couple of infield outs.

In the sixth, Miguel hit into a force out with the bases loaded and Granderson scored the third run as Sheffield did a nice job breaking up the double play with a hard slide at second. Again, they got a run but could have had more. Sheffield then hit into some tough luck in the seventh when he just missed a grand slam to deep right center for the third out. In the eighth, two men were left on when Pudge Rodriguez hit a scorching liner to first for the final out.

It was a tough game but also a good one to watch. Game two will be tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 on Fox. Since the Yankees are on Fox at the same time, I won't be able to see the Tigers game in Massachusetts. Anyway, it will be the surprising Armando Galarraga versus Dustin Moseley.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tigers sweep Rangers

The Tigers smacked the Rangers 8-2 this afternoon to finish a sweep of a series in which they outscored the Texans 37-10. It was a familiar story today - poor starting pitching, powerful hitting and solid relief work. Curtis Granderson led off the game for the Tigers with his first home run of the season. Magglio Ordonez had a pair of homers on the day including a three run blast in the 5th which put them ahead 5-2. Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn also added homers. Raburn's round tripper was originally ruled in play but was then changed to a homer. It is unclear whether it hit the top of the wall for a legitimate homer or whether it was touched by a fan.

Jeremy Bonderman gave up only two hits and two runs including a first inning homer to Michael Young but was extremely wild for the second straight game. He walked 7 batters, hit another and threw 111 pitches in just 4 2/3 innings before leaving the game with the bases loaded. That's 13 walks in his last two games for Bonderman, a pitcher who walked just 2.5 batters per nine innings last year. The one positive for Jeremy today was his season high seven strikeouts.

Fortunately, Zach Miner got the final out of the fifth with no more damage being done and went on to toss 3 1/3 scoreless and hitless innings. In the last 7 games, the bullpen has allowed just one run in 25 innings for an 0.36 ERA.

As usual, the daily injury report is lengthy. The good news is that Placido Polanco is back, although he went 0 for 3 and is now batting .140. The bad news is that Carlos Guillen was in a lot of pain today after fouling a pitch off his knee last night. He has a bruised knee and is now day to day. Jacque Jones also hurt is knee today when he fell into the stands trying to catch a foul fly. X-rays were negative but he'll still likely miss at least one game. Gary Sheffield received another cortisone shot and hopes to return to the line-up tomorrow.

The Tigers now host the Los Angeles Angels in a three game series starting tomorrow night. The first game will feature a match-up between Nate Robertson and Ervin Santana.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Grandy back in Center, Tigers win 19-6

The much discussed Miguel Cabrera/Carlos Guillen position switch was delayed at least one night as Guillen played first and Cabrera was the designated hitter. Meanwhile, Brandon Inge played third and Gary Sheffield remained on the bench with two bad bad shoulders. I'm not sure why Cabrera was not at first and Guillen at DH but Inge was the obvious choice for third with Sheffield out of the line-up. With Sheffield's shoulder problems and Guillen's frequent injuries, I suspect we will see the Inge at third with either Cabrera or Guillen at designated hitter alignment fairly often. Everything worked just great tonight as Guillen, Cabrera and Inge combined for 9 RBI. Who cares about defense when you do that?

The big move that actually did happen tonight was Curtis Granderson's return from the disabled list. Clete Thomas, who batted .295 in Grandy's absence, was sent to Toedo where he will try to continue his development with regular at bats. He wasn't going to get that in Detroit with Curtis back in center field. Granderson had a good 2008 debut tonight with two hits, two walks, two RBI and three runs scored. It's great to see him back in the line-up.

As for the rest of the team tonight, here are the highlights:
  • 19 runs, 14 hits, 10 walks
  • Guillen - 3 hits, 5 RBI
  • Jacque Jones - 2 hits including his first homer (3 extra base hits in two nights)
  • Edgar Renteria - 2 hits giving him 6 for 8 in the series so far.
  • The bullpen continued their very solid work as of late and some of their work happened before the game got out of hand. Clay Rapada, Aquilino Lopez and Jason Grilli combined for 5 2/3 scoreless innings allowing just 2 hits and no walks and striking out 6.

The 11 run 6th deserves its own highlight list:
  • 7 hits, 3 walks, 2 hit batsmen and a sacrifice fly
  • A one armed opposite field 3 run homer by Cabrera
  • 2 hits, 2 runs and 2 RBI for Granderson.
The only negative tonight was Kenny Rogers who allowed six runs on nine hits and three walks and saw his ERA climb to 7.66. There were some cheap hits and poor defense (including a botched double play ball by Ramon Santiago that led to three runs) but Rogers didn't look good.

they will go for a sweep tomorrow afternoon with Jeremy Bonderman on the mound against Scott Feldman. After 29 runs in two nights, here's hoping they saved something for the always tough for them get away day game.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Verlander Regains Velocity, Tigers win 10-2

There has been much discussion about Justin Verlander's lack of velocity this season. After consistently throwing his fastball in the 94-97 range last year, his first few starts this year saw him in the 91-92 range most often. A quick look at pitch f/x for tonight shows that he was consistently throwing his fastball between 94-96. Some have been hypothesizing that his lack of velocity in previous starts could be due to an injury. I hadn't been overly concerned about it but I wasn't ruling out the possibility either so tonight's start was reassuring. Verlander was not dominant tonight but he did toss his first quality start of the year - one run in six innings - and his control was better (just two walks).

The Tigers gave Justin plenty of support tonight taking the lead with two runs in the second and blowing the game open with a five run third. The third inning featured home runs by Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and believe it or not Ramon Santiago (his first since 2003). The following Tigers had multiple hits:
  • Santiago - double, homer and three RBI
  • Edgar Renteria - four for four to raise his batting average to .333
  • Jacque Jones - double and triple.
Game two of the series will be tomorrow night with Kenny Rogers facing Luis Mendoza.

Notes:

Francisco Cruceta
had an impressive debut for the Toledo Mud Hens tonight - three scoreless, hitless innings. He also had six strikeouts and didn't allow a ball to be hit out of the infield.

Gary Sheffield
learned today that he has no structural damage in his shoulder and that his troubles are related to tearing scar tissue (a normal result of surgery). He received cortisone shots in both shoulders and will likely miss the entire Rangers series but will not be going on the DL. Placido Polanco may be able to return for tomorrow's game.

There is so much going on today that the much anticipated return of Curtis Granderson gets only a note. He is done with his rehab and will be back tomorrow. The funny thing is that when Leyland made his "major announcement" tonight, I thought it was going to be about Granderson's return.

Cabrera to first, Guillen to third

After the game tonight, Jim Leyland announced that Miguel Cabrera is moving to first base and that Carlos Guillen is moving to third. He said "I have a major announcement to make" twice before giving us the news. He then refused to discuss it any further. It certainly was a major announcement and a big surprise but also a move I think can work out well.

Cabrera to first is a move for which I've been campaigning for a while so obviously I'm happy about that. it's been apparent that his off-season conditioning program has not helped his range which was among the worst in the majors for third basemen last year. Cabrera moving to first is something I figured would happen eventually but I wasn't expecting it this year.

I also was not expecting Guillen to move to third this year even if Cabrera was moved to first. I had envisioned Gary Sheffield going to the DL, Brandon Inge going to third, Cabrera moving to first and Guillen moving to DH. The Guillen switch to third does make sense though for two reasons: (1) he has not adjusted to first base very well. (2) he has played third before in Seattle. However, it's also true that Guillen is not the same defender he was a few years ago. He should have more mobility than Cabrera but he had trouble making throws from short to first last year so it remains to be seen how well he will handle the move to third

Monday, April 21, 2008

MLB Awards Poll - AL week3

David Bloom over at Baseball Happenings is conducting a weekly poll where bloggers vote for the 2008 MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. This week we voted for the American League and the results have been posted. My choices are listed below.

MVP

  1. Manny Ramirez
  2. Carlos Guillen
  3. AJ Pierzynski
The mysterious Manny Ramirez seems quite motivated right now batting .338 with a .703 slugging average.

It's not Guillen's fault that the Tigers are off to an awful start. He is shining through the motown rubble with the second highest OBP (.471) and second highest slugging percentage (.623) in the league (as of Sunday when I voted).

Cy Young
  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Zach Greinke
  3. Cliff Lee

Felix Hernandez seems primed for a breakout season at the age of 22. He has 24 strikeouts and a 1.47 ERA in four starts.


One of the best stories of the 2008 season so far is Zach Greinke who is living up to his potential after treatment for depression and anxiety.

Rookie


  1. Nick Blackburn
  2. Daric Barton
  3. David Murphy

After a great Arizona Fall League performance, Nick Blackburn has a 2.49 ERA and has walked just three in four starts.

Tigers split series with Blue Jays

The Tigers defeated the Blue Jays 5-1 this afternoon behind the pitching of Armando Galarraga who made his second straight solid start in place of the injured Dontrelle Willis. The Big Cat loaded the bases twice but managed to pitch shutout ball for 5 1/3 innings. From there, the bullpen took over with Clay Rapada, Aquilino Lopez and Denny Bautista pitching 2 2/3 scoreless innings. The only Blue Jay run was a solo homer by Gregg Zaun in the ninth off of Todd Jones.

The Tigers offense did most of the damage in a four run second inning versus Blue Jays starer Shaun Marcum. The highlights of that inning were a two run single by Ryan Raburn, a sacrifice fly by Brandon Inge and an RBI single by Pudge Rodriguez (4 hits on the day). Edgar Renteria added a solo shot in the sixth, his third of the year.

The victory was the Tigers first afternoon win of the year after ten losses and it salvaged a split of their four game series with the Blue Jays. They now go home for a three game series versus the Rangers with Justin Verlander facing Vicente Padilla in game one.

Notes:

Placido Polanco's MRI revealed no structural damage in his lower back and it's possible he might be ready for the Rangers series. He has been put on medication to reduce inflammation. Ryan Raburn got another start at second base today.

If you noticed that the starting staff has been a bigger problem that the bullpen this year, CHASFH from motownsports provided some quick stats to back it up. Now, a 5.04 ERA is not good (the AL average is 4.13 for relievers) but it's better than the starter ERA of 6.11 (AL Avg = 4.30). Take away Zach Miner and Jason Grilli and the bullpen ERA is 2.22.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Another loss for Tigers

At least the bullpen did well. The supposed achilles heel of the 2008 Tigers pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings on Friday, 3 yesterday and 3 today (Zach Miner and Bobby Seay). Yet, the Tigers only won one of those games (Friday). Today, the biggest culprit was starting pitcher Nate Robertson who gave up a four runs in the fourth inning of today's 5-3 loss. The big blow was a three home run by light hitting David Eckstein.

The offense, which seemed to be waking up earlier in the week, went back to sleep the last two days. Once again, they wasted a lot of opportunities against a pitcher, AJ Burnett, who couldn't get the ball over the plate. He walked six and allowed four hits in five innings but the Tigers managed only three runs. The only hitting hero for the Tigers today was Clete Thomas who got three hits and two RBI.

Notes:

Placido Polanco returned to Detroit to have his back examined. He has had stiffness and pain in his lower back all season and the cold weather made it worse. Gary Sheffield continues to have problems with his surgically repaired shoulder and will have it examined by doctors after the current series versus the Blue Jays.

Neither Polanco nor Sheffield was in the starting line-up to day. Ryan Raburn played second, Carlos Guillen was the designated hitter, Miguel Cabrera was at first base and Brandon Inge at third. With Sheffield not getting better and Curtis Granderson almost ready to return, I think Sheffield going to the DL, Inge going to third and Cabrera to first and Guillen to DH would help the team. Raburn playing second base on a regular basis would not be a good thing (although I like his bat).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Bondo wild,Tigers nipped by Jays

Dustin McGowan pitched 7 strong innings to lead the Blue Jays to a 3-2 win over the Tigers this afternoon. The Blue Jay victory evened the series at one game apiece. The Tigers managed nine hits including three each by Carlos Guillen (now batting .379) and Pudge Rodriguez but had trouble pushing runs across. They left seven on base and hit into two more double plays.

Walks continued to haunt the Tigers today as Jeremy Bonderman walked six in five innings. Jeremy now has 5.2 bases on balls and only 4 strikeouts per 9 innings on the season. Both figures are way off of last year's pace - 2.5 BB/9 IP and 7.4 K/9 IP. It's still early but that's not an encouraging sign. As a team, the Tigers have walked a league worst 88 batters.

Defensively, Miguel Cabrera made his fifth error of the year leading to another unearned run. Big errors have also been a problem for the Tigers this year as they have led to 11 unearned runs, second most in the league to the Rangers.

As it was yesterday, the bullpen was a bring spot this afternoon. Jason Grilli, Clay Rapada and Aquilino Lopez kept the game close by pitching three scoreless innings. The series continues tomorrow with Nate Robertson facing AJ Burnett.

Notes:

Placido Polanco missed another game today due to his stiff lower back. Although he doesn't use it as an excuse, the back is probably partly responsible for his .148 batting average.

Curtis Granderson takes his rehab tour to Toledo tonight in a game versus Louisville at 7:00.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Tigers take opener

The Tigers were amazingly shut out in each of Kenny Rogers' three previous starts. Today, they scored eight runs and topped the Blue Jays 8-4. As has generally been the case this year, it was not an easy win. Rogers was better than his last two starts (where he couldn't get through the fifth inning) but still walked four and allowed four runs in 6 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, the Tigers scored only one run in 4 1/3 innings versus the debuting David Purcey despite seven walks. The result was a 4-1 deficit after five innings.

For the third time this week, the Tigers did most of their scoring in the sixth inning and beyond, They scored two in the sixth on an RBI single by Marcus Thames and an RBI double by Ivan Rodriguez. That made it 4-3. They then took a 7-4 lead with a four run seventh highlighted by doubles by Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez and a two run home run by Edgar Renteria. They added another run in the ninth on an RBI hit by Renteria.

They held on to to win thanks to 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief by Aquilino Lopez, Denny Bautista and Todd Jones. Yeah, Jones put his usual two men on base but with a four run lead it wasn't too scary this time. Game two of the series will be tomorrow afternoon with Jeremy Bonderman opposing Dustin McGowan.

Granderson leads off for Whitecaps


Photo credit: Chuckles (The Surge)

It was dollar hot dog/beer night at Fifth Third Park in Grand Rapids tonight. As a bonus, they were giving away bobble head dolls of two former Whitecaps stars - Cameron Maybin and Gorkys Hernandez. Just a typical night in the Midwest League except for one thing - Curtis Granderson was leading off and playing center field for the Whitecaps. His night went like this:

First inning - singled to second base.

Third inning - flied out to left field

Sixth inning - Tripled to right field

eighth inning - Lined to center field

That's two for four with a triple, much like many of his games with the Tigers last year. His teammates were unable to figure out Burlington Bees starter Alexander Caldera getting only two other hits in a 3-0 loss. However, Curtis was the big attraction tonight.

Grandy will be back in Detroit soon, maybe as early as Monday. Rod Allen just mentioned during tonight's broadcast that the Tigers will evaluate him after three games and make a decision at that time whether he'll need further rehab.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Indians do the laughing tonight

The Indians turned the tables on the Tigers tonight pounding them 11-1 to avenge last night's Tigers rout. Justin Verlander had a rough outing throwing 104 pitches and allowing five runs in just five innings. His control was not good as he walked four and hit two batters. Zach Miner continued to get lit up in relief allowing an Indian cycle and 5 runs in just one inning. He now has a 15.75 ERA in six appearances and you have to wonder how many more chances he'll get before they send him to Toledo.

After showing some life the past three nights, the Tiger bats went silent again tonight especially with men on base as Indians starter Fausto Carmona and three relievers held them to one run on seven hits. The Tigers actually had several opportunities to score more runs but they left nine men on base. No Tiger had more than one hit.

They now head to Toronto for a four game series against the Blue Jays. Tomorrow night, it will be Kenny Rogers versus rokkie David Purcey just called up from Syracuse. .

Notes:

Rod Allen confirmed on tonight's broadcast that Curtis Granderson will begin his rehab in West Michigan this weekend and that Jim Leyland would like to see him get at least 25-30 at bats before playing for the Tigers. That would be a pretty long rehab stint but it sounds like he should be back in about a week from now which is good news.

The news on Fernando Rodney is somewhat good. Any time you leave Dr James Andrews office without requiring surgery, it has to be viewed as a positive. Andrews said he has no structural damage but as long he has pain when he throws, none of this will be great news.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tigers win a laugher

For the first time this year, the Tigers had an easy win as they crushed the Indians 13-2. That's more like it. Pitching in place of the disabled Dontrelle Willis, Armando Galarraga made his Tiger debut and it was an impressive one. After allowing a home run in the first inning to Dave Dellucci, the Big Cat retired 17 Indians in a row. He tired a bit in the 7th inning and hit two batters but he allowed just one hit and no walks in 6 2/3 innings. It was a big lift for a pitching staff that had allowed a major league worst by far 6.6 runs per game coming in.

The Tigers had their biggest offensive game of the year so far with seasons highs in runs (13) and hits (17) plus 9 bases on balls. Much of the damage was done off the struggling CC Sabathia who allowed 9 runs on 8 hits and 5 walks to raise his season ERA to 13.50. The hitting heroes for the Bengals were Miguel Cabrera (4 hits including a homer and 5 RBI) and Edgar Renteria (3 hits with a grand slam and 5 RBI).

The win was the third in a row for the slow starting Tigers who moved into a fourth place tie with the Indians at 5-10. Who thought that the two divisional favorites would be tied for last after 2 1/2 weeks? The Tigers will try to make it four in a row tomorrow night when Justin Verlander faces Fausto Carmona.

Notes:

In perhaps the best news of the day, it appears that Curtis Granderson may be back soon. He could go on minor league rehab as early as Friday. Normally, he would rehab in Toledo but, due to more convenient scheduling, he may be headed to West Michigan for a few days. That would be a rare treat for Whitecaps fans.

In order to make room for Galarraga on the 25 man roster, the Tigers designated Francis Beltran for assignment. Since Beltran is out of options, this means the Tigers will have ten days to either trade him or pass him through waivers. Yorman Bazardo is in the same boat. Neither should have much problem getting through waivers.

Remembering Brian Bluhm

It's been a full year to the day since the Virginia Tech tragedy, which took the lives of 32 students and teachers, but the memory of Brian Bluhm is still strong in the Detroit Tigers online community. Motownsports and other online forums in which Brian participated still miss his insight and kindness as much as ever. Many have expressed the sentiment that the fateful day will forever impact the way they think about their lives.

One of Brian's favorite activities as a Tigers fan was to closely follow all the players in their minor league system. As a tribute to his dedication to Tigers prospects, the members of Motownsports collectively purchased memorial plaques and bricks to be placed in all the Tigers minor league parks. I'll be going to Lakeland in May so I'll get a chance to see his brick. Hopefully, I'll get the opportunity to see the memorials at the other parks some day as well.

A week doesn't go by where we don't bring up an old post of Brian and say: "He was right about that". It's well known that Brian was one of Curtis Granderson's biggest supporters all the way back to the day he was drafted. When Curtis heard of Brian's death, he honored him on his blog and talked to his family. The two will always be connected in our minds.

Brian was right about a lot of other things too. Just the other day, somebody brought up an old thread about Clete Thomas when he played for Oneonta. A lot of people didn't know much about Clete back then but Brian had been following him and mentioned that he a chance to be good some day. As usual, it turned out that he was right. Brian was also a big fan of Scott Sizemore who is curently playing for Lakeland. So, keep an eye on Scott too.

More importantly, Brian was a friend. Most of us never met him in person but when you talked to Brian, you didn't talk to an anonymous online poster. You talked to a real person who was interested in what you had to say. One of the most encouraging thing that could happen on any message board was to write a post and have Brian drop by and simply say "I agree". That simple phrase always felt good coming from him.

My thoughts are with his family today. It is still, of course, a very difficult time for them. All I can offer to them is the assurance that we will never forget him.

Tigers come back again

The Tigers now have their first two game winning "streak" of the season as they came back from a 4-1 deficit to beat the Twins 6-5 tonight. I did not see the game as I was up in Manchester, NH watching the Eastern League New Hampshire Fisher Cats host the New Britain Rock Cats. Neither team belongs to the Tigers and I had no particular interest in the game but I got a chance to talk baseball with a friend who happened to be in Manchester for the day. I did hear many of the key events of the game on XM radio as I drove home.

One of the first things I heard was Nate Robertson leaving the game with an injury in the seventh inning. I started cursing at the time but I'm not sure whether it was because I happened to be lost and headed in the wrong direction on a dark highway or because of the injury. Anyway, I found out later that he left the game because of a tight lat muscle on his left side. He doesn't expect to miss a start but we'll know more later.

Robertson pitched 6 1/3 innings allowing 4 runs and left trailing 4-1. The Tigers got one back in the bottom of the 6th on a solo homer by Magglio Ordonez and cut the lead to one on another solo shot by Carlos Guillen in the seventh. Meanwhile, Aquilino Lopez (one perfect inning) and Clay Rapada (two thirds of a perfect inning) kept it 4-3 going into the bottom of the eighth.

For the second straight night, the Tigers then rallied to go ahead in the eighth. Placido Polanco drew a one out walk off of reliever Jesse Crain and went to third on a errant pickoff throw. Ordonez then tied the game with two out double. Miguel Cabrera followed the double by smacking a homer to left to give them a 6-4 lead.

In the ninth, it was roller coaster time as Todd Jones gave up two hits and a run but the got the save. So, it was really a lot like last night's games but with fewer runs scored. The Tigers fell behind, came back by scoring in the 6th , 7th and 8th and then Jones just barely held on to the lead

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MLB awards poll - NL week 2

David Bloom over at Baseball Happenings is conducting a weekly poll where bloggers vote for the 2008 MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. This week we voted for the National League and the results have been posted. My choices are listed below.

MVP

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Hanley Ramirez
  3. Justin Upton

Many fantasy leaguers avoided Pujols like the plague in pre-season drafts but maybe every player should play with a shredded elbow ligament.


Cy Young

  1. Jake Peavy
  2. Ben Sheets
  3. Brandon Webb

Peavy starts on top and may finish there.


Rookie

  1. Geovanny Soto
  2. kusoke Fukudome
  3. Johnny Cueto

A catcher who can catch and hit for power, Soto already looks to be one of the most valuable receivers in the league.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tigers wake up

After getting shut out for 24 consecutive innings, the Tigers broke lose for 11 runs in the final three innings tonight and came back to beat the Twins 11-9. Like most games this year, this one started out ugly. The Tigers were down 5-0 in the top of the sixth and had made three errors behind starting pitcher Jeremy Bonderman. They were facing their third straight shutout and the Comerica Park fans were booing loudly.

They finally got on the board with a four run sixth on consecutive hits by Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen and Edgar Renteria. Cabrera and especially Guillen limped around the bases to score the third and fourth runs. They were down 5-4 and for the first time in three games, the Tigers and their fans had something to get excited about.

Unfortunately, they gave the four runs right back in the top of the seventh. The generally reliable Bobby Seay could not get anyone out until he had allowed a walk and three singles. The Tigers were now down 9-4 and Tiger fans hopes were crushed.. They were going to lose again and this one was particularly deflating after the come back. Even the most optimistic of fans could sense the season slipping away.

The Tigers got one back on a homer by Pudge Rodriguez off the glove of the glove of right fielder Denard Span. Then they exploded for six in the eighth off relivers Matt Guerrier and Pat Neshek. It started off with doubles by Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez. Carlos Guillen singled to make it 9-7. Rodriguez eventually tied it with a two run triple to right. Jacque Jones put them ahead with sacrifice fly scoring Pudge who came up from his slide with his fist pumping in exhilaration.

Ahead 11-9 in the ninth, Todd Jones came in and got a typical Jones save. He put two runners on base and then allowed a long scary fly to left. Ryan Raburn went back near the fence, twisted around awkwardly and then reached out his glove at the last instant to make the catch. Comerica Park could now celebrate for the first time in 2008.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Leyland loses patience

A lot of fans have been saying the manager needed to yell at his team and today it happened. Like the rest of us, Jim Leyland is fed up with the way the team has started the season and apparently today's game was the final straw. In fact, Leyland said there was one particular event which set him off:
"I finally got ticked off to where I didn't hold it in,'' Leyland admitted. "There was one thing that sticks out, and that was the straw that broke the camel's back.''
Leyland didn't say what it was but Danny Knobler suggested that it could be that they seemed to give up after they fell behind 11-0:
Leyland wouldn't say what that one thing was, but past explosions have been set off by a feeling that the Tigers gave in when they got down in a game. Sunday, after Joe Crede's sixth-inning grand slam gave the White Sox a double-digit lead, the Tigers made the next nine outs on just 24 pitches.
Billfer theorizes that it could have been Zach Miner's control problems leading up the White Sox second grand slam. My theory is that it really wasn't one thing but something that had built up and that Leyland used one particular event (whatever it was) as an example because the message sounds more genuine that way. In actuality, none of us knows what set him off and the only thing that matters is that they start playing a lot better.

Most of us remember his most famous tirade early in his tenure as Tigers manager. Many have credited that outburst with their great 2006 season. I never bought into that notion although I admit it may helped a little just because they had never seen him like that before and he caught them by surprise. Will his latest tongue lashing help? I don't know if one team meeting can cure all that ails them right now but, if nothing else, they certainly deserved a scolding the way they've been playing.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Willis to DL, Galarraga to start

Dontrelle Willis has been placed on the 15 day disabled list with a hyper-extended knee suffered when he slipped and fell on the mound last night. Ryan Raburn has been recalled to take his place on the roster. They will later call up Armando Galarraga who will take Dontrelle's place in the rotation. He will probably pitch on Wednesday. There is no word yet on who will go down when Galarraga is added to the roster.

Galarraga is a 26 year old right-hander who pitched well in his first two stars for Toledo this year compiling a 2.25 ERA and 11 strikeouts against 1 walk in 12 innings. Last year, he pitched for AA Frisco and AAA Oklahoma in the Rangers organization posting a combined 4.17 ERA and 135/58 K/BB ratio in 151 innings. He appeared in three games for the Rangers late in the year. He was acquired by the Tigers in exchange for outfielder Michael Hernandez after the season.

According to the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, Galarraga throws in the low 90s with a fastball that he keeps low in the strike zone. He also has an above average slider and an adequate change-up. They see him has a potential 5th starter in the majors.

Floyd, White Sox blank Tigers

Gavin Floyd no hit the Tigers for 7 1/3 innings today and combined with Scott Linebrink and Bobby Jenks on a two hit 7-0 shutout. Edgar Renteria broke up the no hit bid with a single in the eighth and Brandon Inge added a single in the ninth. Even with two hits, the Tigers still managed to ground into three double plays. They have now hit into a league leading 19 double plays. They are also last in the league with just 33 runs scored in 11 games.

Justin Verlander pitched better than his final line allowing just two hits and one run over 7 innings before tiring in the eighth. After retiring the first batter in the eighth, he proceeded to allow 5 runs on two hits, a walk and two hit batsmen. I would guess that the reason he was left in so long was that the bullpen was forced to pitch nine innings last night.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bullpen saves Tigers

The Tigers bullpen has taken a lot of heat from fans this year and deservedly so. Last night, they had perhaps their most embarrassing performance of the season walking seven batters and giving up eight runs in 2 2/3 innings in a 12-6 loss to the Red Sox. Tonight, the bullpen pitched nine innings and allowed just one run as the Tigers topped the White Sox 5-2.

How does a bullpen record 27 outs in a regulation game? Dontrelle Willis slipped and fell on a wet mound in the first inning and left the game with a hyper-extended knee. Aquilino Lopez entered the game with runners on second and third (two walks and a wild pitch by Willis) and got out of it with just one run scoring. He went on to pitch four innings allowing just one run on three hits and striking out four.

Fan favorite Jason Grilli pitched himself into a bases loaded jam with two walks and a hit batsman in the fifth but got escaped unscathed. He followed that up with two perfect innings. Denny Bautista then pitched a scoreless eighth and Todd Jones pitched a perfect ninth including two strikeouts to get the save. The composite line for the bullpen was

IP

R

ER

H

W

K

9

1

1

4

2

10


The bats showed some life for third straight night as 8 batters combined for 11 hits with Pudge Rodriguez the only one going hitless. After falling behind 2-0 early, they broke loose with a three run third highlighted by a bases loaded two out two run single by Magglio Ordonez. Hitting with runners in scoring position is something that the Tigers in general and Magglio in particular have not been doing this year. Another slow starter Miguel Cabrera also came up with a run scoring single in the eighth. He had two hits on the night.

Gary Sheffield did not start tonight due to a swollen finger so Jacque Jones was the designated hitter and Clete Thomas played left and led off. Once again, Thomas took advantage of his opportunity going two for five with a double and an RBI. He also made a beautiful throw to cut down Jermaine Dye trying to stretch a single into a double in the 8th.

Cabrera was limping around again tonight - presumably because of his quad injury. I have a feeling we may see him at designated hitter tomorrow with Brandon Inge at third and Thomas in center. As if there weren't enough injuries, Carlos Guillen seemed to strain his hamstring running to first in the ninth but stayed in the game.

Despite all the injuries, it was a good night for the Tigers and a fantastic night for a battered bullpen.

Rapada up, Bazardo designated for assignment

The Tigers designated Yorman Bazardo for assignment and recalled Clap Rapada from Toledo today. Bazardo needs to clear waivers before he can be sent to Toledo but I suspect that won't be a problem as he does not seem ready for the majors right now. Bazardo contributed two bases on balls to last night's embarrassing walk parade (9 walks by 4 pitchers) and has now given up 8 runs on 7 hits and 5 walks in 3 innings so far this season.

After being acquired from the Cubs last year as the player to named in the Craig Monroe trade, Rapada was shelled in his brief stint with the Tigers last September. He had, however, had some success in the minors and could work out as a situational lefty. Rapada has a 3.00 ERA and 310 strikeouts while allowing just 12 homers in 315 minor league innings, mostly in the Cubs system.

The Tigers figure to be shuffling their bullpen all year long so stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Tigers Win! Tigers Win!

The Tigers beat the Red Sox 7-2 tonight for their first victory of the season. It wasn't without a little early drama though as it started out like the first 7 games of the season. The Tigers were down 2-0 after three. Red Sox starter John Lester held them to one hit through the first three frames. Jeremy Bonderman was struggling with his control and his defense was not helping.

After 186 consecutive errorless games, Placido Polanco made his second error in two games, this time a bobble of a routine grounder. Another simple grounder to third was turned into an error on either Miguel Cabrera or Carlos Guillen (the official scorer had a tough time making up his mind although the ESPN box score says Cabrera). The throw was a bit wide but Guillen was not standing on the bag properly. Anyway, it was another miscue in a month of blunders by the infield.

The Tiger bats woke up in the fourth inning. Edgar Renteria followed a couple of walks with a two run double to left to tie the game 2-2. Marcus Thames then smacked a two run shot over the green monster in left to put the Tigers up 4-2. Later, Brandon Inge followed a nicely executed pinch hit sacrifice bunt by Clete Thomas with a two run single. Carlos Guillen capped the scoring with a solo homer to left.

Bonderman walked four, allowed 5 hits and threw 96 pitches through 5 innings but limited the Red Sox to two runs, one earned. The much maligned bullpen then took over and pitched four scoreless innings. Bobby Seay took over in the sixth with a man on first and retired all four batters he faced. Francis Beltran got the last two outs in the seventh and Denny Bautista pitched a scoreless eighth. In typical roller coaster fashion, Todd Jones loaded the based in the ninth but allowed no runs.

Now, we don't have to read any more stories about how no team has ever made it to the World Series after starting 0-7. The question now is: has any team ever gone to the World Series after starting 1-7?

Cruceta finally gets visa approved

Francisco Cruceta finally had his visa approved and will report to Lakeland later this week. The Tigers now have 30 days to decide what to do with him. Because he is out of options, they have to either put him on the 25 man roster or place him on outright waivers. He has been throwing in the Dominican all along so he may be able to make the Tigers before the 30 days are up. Before that, I would guess he would pitch for the Mud Hens.

The 26 year old right-hander was signed as a minor league free agent out of the Rangers system where he struck out 70 and compiled a 3.02 ERA in 65 2/3 innings for AAA Oklahoma City in 2007. He also had a strong Dominican Winter League season posting a 1.14 ERA with 31 strikeouts in 23 2/3 innings. He pitched briefly for the Indians in 2004 and the Mariners in 2006. I'm not convinced he'll live up to his off-season hype but if he's got anything at all you can be sure he'll get an opportunity with this staff.

In other news, the Tigers signed veteran left-hander Casey Fossum to a minor league contract. The 30 year old righty has a lifetime ERA of 5.46 in 203 games over seven seasons with the Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Rays. He was released by Tampa Bay after compiling a 7.70 ERA in 40 games as a starter and reliever last year. He was invited to spring training by the Pirates but was then released. He will join Aaron Fultz, another lefty trying to salvage his career, in Toledo.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

0-7

Yesterday, Billfer analyzed the Tigers first six games statistically and confirmed that they are doing a lot of things wrong. Pretty much everything actually. They didn't solve any of their problems today in a 5-0 loss to the Red Sox.

Often times, it is easier to write about a team win they are losing because I can write about what's going wrong and discuss what needs to happen for them to start winning. However, right now they are just so awful in every phase of the game that there isn't much to say. They have lost 7 in a row and they haven't even been competitive in most games. They are just horrible right now and not showing any signs of turning it around any time soon.

MLB Awards Voting

David Bloom over at Baseball Happenings is conducting a weekly poll where bloggers vote for the 2008 MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year. This week we voted for the American League and the results have been posted. My choices are listed below.

MVP

1. AJ Pierzinski - a catcher with 24 runs created per game.

2.Jermaine Dye - off to a great start in an attempted comback season.

3. Brian Roberts - big player in Orioles fast start.

Cy Young

1.Felix Hernandez - still a very young pitcher looking for a breakout season - 15 shutout innings over 2 starts.

2. Rich Harden - hoping to finally stay healthy this year.

3.Chien-Ming Wang - underrated pitcher (for a Yankee) continues to roll.

Rookie

1. David Murphy - surprising young outfielder starts where he left off last September.

2.Nick Blakburn - solid first start

3.Clete Thomas Played well in place of Curtis Granderson/ Gary Sheffield

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Ugly

I usually have something positive to say about every game but there is not much you can say about a 13-2 loss. The Tigers were awful tonight. Poor pitching (by their Ace Justin Verlander no less), poor hitting including five double plays, horrible fielding especially by Carlos Guillen. They are now 0-6.

I'm less concerned about the record than I am about the fact that they are just awful in every phase of the game right now. I'm still very confident that this team is going to score a lot of runs this year but other than that I'm not sure what to expect. The pitching is filled with question marks and their infield defense looks much worse this year with the immobile Miguel Cabrera at third and Guillen struggling at first. Even Edgar Renteria, while an improvement over Guillen, is showing his lack of range at shortstop.

The only positive piece of news tonight is that Curtis Granderson's X-rays looked good and that he can begin swinging a bat and doing everything else necessary to get ready to play games. Dave Dombrowski said On the ESPN broadcast tonight that he is hopeful that Curtis can return in about 10 days.

In other health news, Placido Polanco did not play tonight because of a stiff back. Ramon Santiago played in his place and went 2 for 3 with an RBI. Polanco's injury is not believed to be serious and may have been available for pinch hitting tonight if the situation had called for it. Also, Gary Sheffield returned to the line-up tonight and went 1 for 3 with a walk.

Good teams with bad starts

There is a stat all over the internet right now which goes like this:
"Only two teams in the history of baseball have started the season 0-5 and made it to the playoffs."
I've seen it on mainstream sites. I've seen it on blogs. I saw it posted on one message board multiple times. It's an interesting fun fact (well, not really very fun for Tigers fans) but what does it really mean? The problem with the stat is that not that many teams (even bad ones) start off the season 0-5. Thus, we have a small sample size. The fact is many good teams get off to poor starts. You need to look no further than a few past Tigers teams to see that. Consider this:
  • On May 11, 1987, the Tigers were 11-19
  • On April 27, 1935, the Tigers were 2-9
  • On April 30, 1908, the Tigers were 3-9
And we all know that those years turned out pretty well for the Tigers. If you need more recent examples, you only need to look to last year:
  • The Yankees started out 9-14
  • The Rockies started out 18-27
Both, of course, made it to the playoffs. This is not to say that people shouldn't be frustrated or disappointed by the Tigers bad start. The point is that getting off to a bad start and still having a great season is not all that not unusual. Personally, I'm not worried about the record or the lack of hitting. They will hit. I am somewhat concerned about the pitching but that concern was there even when they were 0-0.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Erie Sea Wolves 2008 preview

The Erie Sea Wolves have started off the season with two wins over Bowie - 8-3 on Friday and 3-2 today. In last night's game, Jeff Frazier (back in the organization after spending a year in the Seattle system) went 4 for 6 with a homer, a double and 5 RBI. Frazier had two more hits today and Wilkin Ramirez (making a quick recovery from a spring training shoulder injury) homered. There are a number of good prospects playing for the Sea Wolves:

Danny Worth is a 22 year old shortstop taken in the second round of last year's draft. Between Lakeland and a brief stint at Erie last year, Worth batted .265/.333/.389 which is pretty solid for a player playing at an advanced level coming out of college. He is a good all around defender with above average range and a quick release on throws. He does not have home run power but is capable of gap power. He has the potential be a starting shortstop in the majors some day.

Deik Scram is a 24 year old outfielder who was selected in the 18th round out of Oklahoma state in 2006. He started to emerge as a serious prospect last year at West Michigan where he batted .327/.416/.447. in 71 games and then held his own in Lakeland batting .283/.355/.454 in 41 games. He does not have great home run power (just 5 last year at both stops combined) but has some power potential. The speedy Scram stole 21 bases last year and is improving as a defender. He's an intriguing player but at his age, he'll need to move fast in order to remain a major prospect.

Wilkin Ramirez has been a bit of a disappointment statistically but is still considered a top prospect by scouts at the young age of 22. Playing for Lakeland and Erie last year, he batted a combined .257 with 12 homers and a 124/28 K/BB ratio. He has very good power potential but needs to improve his pitch recognition. He has above average speed and stole 34 bases last year. The converted third baseman is not a strong defender but is improving as an outfielder.

Other players of interest include pitchers Casey Fien, who I profiled earlier, Andrew Kown, Brett Jensen and Matt Rusch. The complete Sea Wolves roster is listed below. For more news and discussion of the Sea Wolves, check out the following sites:

Sea Wolves official site
Motownsports.com
Take 75 North
Tigers Minor League Baseball Blog
Tigs Town

Erie Sea Wolves Opening Day Roster

Pitchers
Lucas French
Jon Connolly
Danny Zell
Andrew Kown
Casey Fien
Brett Jensen
Benjamin Fritz
Juan Cedeno
Daniel Christensen
Josh Rainwater
Matt Rusch
Andrew Tomey

Catchers
Dusty Ryan
Max St. Pierre

Infielders
Ryan Roberson 1B
William Rhymes 2B
Danny Worth SS
Kody Kirkland 3B
Nick McIntyre SS
Max Leon 3B

Outfielders
Wilkin Ramirez
Deik Scram
Freddy Guzman
Jeff Frazier

White Sox walk away with win

I thought for sure Fox TV would show the Mets game in Massachusetts today but surprisingly it was the Tigers game. Thus, I got to watch another lackluster performance by the Tigers. They lost 5-3 to the White Sox and are now 0-5 in a season that started with so much anticipation. i'm not too worried but the losing is getting frustrating.

Dontrelle Willis made his debut as a Tiger and the wildness which plagued him last year and in spring training this year was still a problem today. He made it through 5 innings without allowing a run or a hit but struggled with his control throughout. The Tigers were up 3-0 after five innings but Willis walked the first two hitters to start the sixth. At that point, Jim Leyland went to the mound to check if he was hurt but Willis insisted that he was OK as he has been saying all along. The big left-hander then gave up his first hit, a double to Thome which brought in the first White Sox run. After the double, Willis yielded to Zach Miner who proceeded to give up a walk, a single and a sacrifice fly before getting out of the inning down 4-3.

Offensively, the Tigers looked sluggish once again. The main exception was Brandon Inge who knocked in all three runs with a double and a two run homer. He also walked and hit a deep fly ball to left center field. Inge was playing third base again today as Cabrera was the designated hitter. Frankly, when you consider defense in the equation, I don't think they lose much (if anything) by having Inge at third, Cabrera at DH and Gary Sheffield on the bench. At the same time, I really do like the idea of Inge as a super-sub.

Other Tigers with two hits today were Clete Thomas and Jacque Jones. Thomas continues to impress in his opportunity to play. When and if the whole line-up gets healthy at the same time, it will be interesting to see what they will do with Thomas.

Notes:

There was more bad news before even started today. Rodney felt some pain in his shoulder during Friday's bullpen session and won't be ready any time soon. His health is definitely becoming a big concern (That's me saying that, not the Tigers).

In an attempt to bolster their bullpen, they made a roster move before today's game. They added Francis Beltran and sent Ryan Raburn to Toledo. Beltran had a 5.87 ERA in 56 appearances for the Cubs and Expos between 2002-2004. Last year, pitching for AAA Norfolk in the Orioles organization, the 28 year old right-hander, had a 4.70 ERA and 47/15 K/BB ratio in 59 1/3 innings. Beltran made his Tiger debut today giving up one hit - a homer to Jermaine Dye - in two innings of work.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Toledo Mud Hens 2008 preview

The Toledo Mud Hens have started off the season with two wins over Durham - 3-2 on Thursday and 9-2 tonight. In last night's game, Virgil Vazquez had 8 strikeouts and allowed just one run in 5 2/3 innings and catcher Dane Sardinha had a solo homer to lead the Mud Hens. Tonight, Armando Galarraga pitched 5 scoreless innings and Jeff Larish hit a three run homer.

Jeff Larish is one of the interesting prospects to watch at Toledo this year. Larish finished strong at AA Erie last year and batted .267/.390/.515 overall. The 25 year old left-handed batter has tremendous power leading the Eastern League with 28 homers last year. He has a lot of patience accumulating 168 walks over the last two years. His defense at first base is solid. He is blocked from the majors by Carlos Guillen but should get a September call-up if he continues to slug.

Outfielder Matt Joyce had a horrible start last year batting under .200 in the first two months. However, the 23 year old left-handed batter hit .293 with 13 homers over the last three months. An excellent defender, he was voted the best defensive outfielder in the Eastern League by Baseball America. He has pretty good gap power (53 extra base hits last year) but needs to cut down his strikeouts (127 in 456 at bats last year) and improve his batting average (.257 over the last two years).

Other players to follow are pitchers Virgil Vasquez and currently disabled Jordan Tata (broken hand). Position players of interest include outfielder Brent Clevlen and infielder Michael Hollimon who is on the disabled list with a dislocated shoulder. The complete roster is listed below. For more news and discussion of the Mud Hens, check out the following sites:

Mud Hens official site
Motownsports.com
Tigers Minor League Baseball Blog
Take 75 North


Toledo Mud Hens Opening Day Roster

Pitchers
Virgil Vasquez
Armando Galarraga
Chris Lambert
Eddie Bonine
Macay McBride
Preston Larrison
Francis Beltran
Anastacio Martinez
Clay Rapada
Blaine Neal
Aaron Fultz
Preston Larrison
Ian Ostlund (DL)

Catchers
Dane Sardinha
Nick Trzesniak

Infielders
Caonabe Cosme
Mike Hessman
Derek Watham
Erick Almonte
Henry Mateo
Jeff Larish
Michael Hollimon (DL)

Outfielders
Matt Joyce
Brent Clevlen
Timo Perez
Jackson Melian

Tigers still winless

The Tigers hit a little better today but still lost to the White Sox 8-5. Among their 11 hits were three apiece by center fielder Clete Thomas (three singles and a stolen base) and Pudge Rodriguez (two doubles and a single). The Tigers also had six walks for a total of 17 base runners but left 10 men on base and hit into a pair of double plays.

Nate Robertson was not sharp allowing five runs on seven hits in five innings but left with the game tied 5-5. The go ahead runs came home in the 7th inning when fan favorite Jason Grilli allowed five straight hits for three runs. Grilli was showered with a chorus of boos for much of the inning.

Miguel Cabrera returned to the Tigers line-up today as a designated hitter going 1 for 2 with 3 walks. Inge played third base and made a couple of very nice defensive plays. Thomas was in the line-up because Gary Sheffield has a torn tendon in his left ring finger. He is not expected to go on the disabled list.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tigers swept by Royals, Sheffield hurt

Could the Tigers have gotten off to a worse start? They have been swept by the Royals at home 5-4, 4-0 and today 4-1. An offense, which many predict will be the best Tigers offense since the 1930s, has scored just 5 runs in 3 games. I did not see today's games but from most accounts it was another lackluster performance. Zack Greinke held them to just 1 run on 6 hits over 7 innings with the only Tiger run scoring on a solo home run by Brandon Inge in the 7th.

Starter Jeremy Bonderman gave up all four runs in 6 1/3 innings, one of the runs scoring after he left the game. Bobby Seay and Aquilino Lopez finished it off keeping at 4 runs. That's 4 straight games the pitching staff held the Royals to 4 runs. With the Tigers offense that kind of pitching should win most games but not way they are hitting right now.

As if the weak hitting was not bad enough, the injuries are starting to mount. With Curtis Granderson already of the disabled list, Miguel Cabrera missed today's game with a sore left quad, the same one that bothered him in spring training. He will try to return tomorrow. Then, during the game, Gary Sheffield hurt his finger on an attempted steal. Sheffield says he'll see how it feels tomorrow but the description does not sound encouraging to me:
He injured his left ring finger sliding into the bag. He said he tore a tendon in there, and he couldn't use it to grab a bat later in the game, so he wouldn't have been available. The finger was in a splint after the game to try to contain the swelling.
All of this suggests that we might see Cabrera at designated hitter and Inge at third base this weekend. Clete Thomas would probably continue to play center field but I imagine he could be platooned against left-handers.

Speaking of Thomas, he went 1 for 4 and hit another ball really well in his first major league start. He learned less than two hours before the game that he would be starting in center field (with Inge moving to third to replace the injured Cabrera) and leading off. Thomas faced former Team Florida USA teammates Greinke and Billy Butler.

The Tigers will stay at home for a three game series versus the White Sox this weekend. Tomorrow afternoon's series opener will feature a match-up of Nate Robertson versus Jose Contreras.

Cabrera out with sore quad

According to Jason Beck, Miguel Cabrera will miss today's game with a sore quad. Brandon Inge will replace Cabrera at third and Clete Thomas will take over for Inge in center field. The importance of having a good bench is becoming evident pretty quickly this year. While these moves weaken their line-up considerably (hopefully just for one day), they will strengthen the defense behind starting pitcher Jeremy Bonderman.

Jim Leyland has also decided to go with Marcus Thames over Jacque Jones (against a right-hander surprisingly). Here is the line-up for today's game:

Thomas cf
Polanco 2b
Sheffield dh
Ordonez rf
Guillen 1b
Rodriguez c
Renteria ss
Thames lf
Inge 3b

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Lakeland Flying Tigers 2008 preview

Deran has posted the Flying Tigers opening day roster at Lakeland Flying Tigers Blog. I was particularly interested in seeing who would be on the Lakeland roster as I will be going there to watch a series in May. It will be a very strong team to open the season and here are some of the most interesting prospects:

Rick Porcello is the top prospect in the Tigers system and one of the best in baseball. Drafted in the first round last year out of Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey in 2007, he fell to the Tigers at pick 27 because of signability issues. The 19 year old right-hander has been compared to Justin Verlander but still has a ways to go before he will pitch in the majors. He throws his fastball in the mid 90s and touches 97 and also has a curve ball, slider and change-up. For a pitcher his age, he has good command of all his pitchers. He is going to be a very exciting pitcher to follow over the next couple of years.

Scott Sizemore had a streaky year at West Michigan in 2007 and ended up batting only .265 but with a solid 73/60 BB/K ratio. He later bounced back finishing among the leading hitters in the Arizona Fall League batting .356 with a .994 OPS in 21 games. The 23 year old Sizemore is an adequate defender with average range and arm at second base. He could move up to AA fairly quickly if he hits well for the Flying Tigers.

Cale Iorg, the son of former major leaguer Garth Iorg, was taken by the Tigers in the 6th round last year and given a $1.5 million signing bonus. He hasn't played ball the last couple of years as he had been doing Mormon missionary work in Portugal. He last played as a freshman at Alabama in 2005. The scouting report on him is that he is a good defensive shortstop with a smooth swing and some power potential. The Tigers think the 22 year old Iorg can develop into a regular big league shortstop but it might take a while to shake off the rust.

James Skelton is one of my favorite Tiger prospects. At 5-11, 165 pounds Skelton is not your typical catcher. The 22 year old backstop Skelton has a good arm and solid all around catching skills. Offensively, the left-haded batter hit .309 with a very good 55/53 BB/K ratio at West Michigan in 2007. He also has good speed for a catcher. He is not expected to develop a lot of home run power but did have 33 extra base hits in 2007.

Some other players to watch at Lakeland are pitchers Duane Below, Jonah Nickerson and Freddy Dolsi, first baseman Ryan Streiby and outfielder Jeramy Laster. The complete roster is listed below. For more news and discussion of the Flying Tigers, check out the following sites:

Lakeland Flying Tigers Blog
Flying Tigers official website
Motownsports.com
Take 75 North
Tigers Minor League Baseball Blog

Starting Pitchers
Rick Porcello
Duane Below
Jonah Nickerson
Matt O’Brien
Luis Marte
Guillermo Moscoso (DL)
Jeff Gerbe (DL)

Bullpen
Freddy Dolsi
Gabe Benitez
Brendan Wise
Derek Witt
Angel Castro
Ed Clelland
Nick Martin

Catchers
James Skelton
Jeff Kunkel

Infielders
Ryan Streiby 1B
Scott Sizemore 2B
Cale Iorg SS
Shawn Roof util
Louis Ott util
Santo De Leon SS
Michael Bertram 3B-1B

Outfielders
Brandon Timm
Justin Justice
Jeremy Laster
Brennan Boesch

Tigers blanked by Royals

Last year, Brian Bannister had a 2.55 ERA in three appearances versus the Tigers and came away with two wins. He continued to stymie the Bengals today with seven shutout innings in a 4-0 Royals victory. Bannister held the Tigers to two hits and walked nobody. It took only 85 pitches for him to get through the seven frames. Leo Nunez and Joakim Soria followed with one scoreless inning apiece to complete the shutout.

Kenny Rogers pitched well for the Tigers allowing two runs in six innings (both in the sixth) on five hits and one walk. It was a positive performance for a 43 year old pitcher coming off a year where his health limited him to 63 innings. Zach Miner pitched a scoreless eighth but then gave up two runs in the eighth. Yorman Bazardo pitched a scoreless ninth.

The Tigers managed just three singles today, all by Edgar Renteria. That's it. The offense is struggling in the early going but you can be sure that it will come around. It's true that every game counts the same whether it's April or September but it's also true that even the best teams have days where they don't hit. So, I'll continue to be more concerned about the pitching (which has been decent so far) than the hitting.

Notes:

According to MLB.COM, Curtis Granderson will have x-rays taken on his injured finger on Saturday but, even if they come out OK, he is not going to be rushed back. He is not going to take batting practice until he can swing and miss without pain. The story also says that he will have another x-ray taken in two weeks. That seems to suggest that he is going to be out for a while.

Mario Impemba and Rod Allen mentioned on today's broadcast that Jeremy Bonderman was feeling ill today and was sent home by Jim Leyland. He is still scheduled to pitch tomorrow's game versus the Royals.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

West Michigan Whitecaps 2008 preview

The Surge is reporting that the West Michigan Whitecaps roster is set for opening day. The complete roster is included below. There are not a lot of high profile prospects at West Michigan this year but there are a number of players worth following:

Brandon Hamilton, a supplemental first round pick in the 2007 draft, is probably the most promising prospect playing for the Whitecaps this year. The right-handed Hamilton is just 19 years old and was playing high school ball at this time last year so he is very raw. However he has a great arm with a fast ball touching the mid 90s and a wicked slider. In 20 1/3 innings for the GCL Tigers last year, he had a 3.10 ERA and struck out 23 but walked 12. He has a lot of potential but still has a long way to go in terms of polish and mechanics.

Noah Krol, an 11th round pick last June, is a pretty strong relief prospect. He is not a hard thrower but has good command of a sinking fastball and slider. After pitching for Wichita State in the spring, he had a 2.20 ERA and 39 strikeouuts in 28 2/3 innings for Oneonta last year. The fact that he pitched in the Arizona Fall League after pitching in short season ball says that he is highly regarded by the Tigers. He is 23 years old and will likely move up quickly if he has early success for the Whitecaps.

Justin Henry is a 22 year old second baseman who was drafted in the 9th round out of Mississippi University last year. His lack of power will make it difficult for him to become a major league starter but he batted an impressive .340 with a .421 OBP for Oneonta last year.

Other prospects of interest are pitcher Mark Brackman and infielder Audi Ciriaco and a special mention goes to Andrew Hess. Hess, a 19th round draft pick out of the University of Michigan last year is now a blogger at Tigers Minor League Baseball, a blog started by Brian Borawski and authored by Mike Cassidy last year. Hess will be writing about his minor league experiences throughout the course of the season and already has one post up about spring training. It will be great to read the perspective of a Tigers minor leaguer.

For more news and discussion of the Whitecaps, check out

The Surge
West Michigan Whitecaps official site
Motownsports.com
Tigers Minor League Baseball Blog
Take 75 North

Opening Day Roster

Catchers

Joe Bowen
Jordan Newton

Infielders
Ron Bourquin 1B
Chris Carlson 1B
Justin Henry 2B
kody Kaiser 2B
roger Tomas 2B
Joe Tucker 3B
Audi Ciriaco SS

Outfielders
Kyle Peter
mark McBratney
Casper Wells
Cory Middleton

Pitchers
Ramon Garcia
Wilton Garcia
Jonathan Kibler
Alfredo Figaro
Santo Mieses
Andrew Hess
Lauren Gagnier
Noah Krol
Kelvin Cedano
Rudy Darrow
Paul Nardozzi
Emmanuel Miguelez

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