Blogs > Out of Left Field

A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to defend their back-to-back American League Central titles.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Austin Jackson gets a day off, as series continues with White Sox


It was supposed to be Verlander vs. Sale, but with Chicago's Chris Sale going on the disabled list on Monday, it's now Justin Verlander vs. lefty Charlie Leesman.

It's also the first day off of the season for center fielder Austin Jackson. Rajai Davis slid over from left to man the middle of the outfield.

DETROIT TIGERS (9-7):
Rajai Davis, CF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
Torii Hunter, RF
J.D. Martinez LF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
Alex Avila, C
Andrew Romine, SS

Pitcher: Justin Verlander, RHP

CHICAGO WHITE SOX:
Jordan Danks CF
Marcus Semien 3B
Jose Abreu 1B
Adam Dunn DH
Dayan Viciedo RF
Alexei Ramirez SS
Alejandro De Aza LF
Tyler Flowers C
Leury Garcia 2B

Pitcher: Charlie Leesman, LHP

Monday, April 21, 2014

Martinez will get work against right-handed pitchers, and off bench


DETROIT — In 2012, when the Tigers were desperately seeking a right-handed bat, they tried to acquire outfielder J.D. Martinez from the Houston Astros.

Now, in 2014, when they have a crying need for left-handed hitters in a right-handed-heavy lineup, the Tigers call up ... J.D. Martinez?

And, yes, he’s still right-handed.

How is that going to work? And why didn’t they go with the left-handed Ezequiel Carrera, who is hitting .364 at Toledo?

Well, there are several factors that make the move make sense.

One, the Tigers have decided to ride Rajai Davis as the starter in left field, rather than platoon, so you don’t necessarily need a left-handed platoon partner for him. You need someone who does something that he doesn’t.

In this case, it’s hit with power.

“Well, (Martinez) obviously can play the outfield, spell someone in the outfield. He’s got power off the bench, as a pinch hitter, late in the game, if it’s a close game, which has to give the opposing manager a little bit of a pause, on what reliever they bring into the game,” manager Brad Ausmus said.

“He’s a threat, whenever he’s in the box.”

Before adding Martinez, the Tigers’ bench players had combined for 27 career home runs — 23 of them by Don Kelly. Martinez had 24 in three seasons with the Astros and 54 in six minor-league seasons, including an minor-leagues best 10 at Toledo this year.

Figuring when he might spell one of the corner outfielders, Davis or Torii Hunter, might be a little more difficult, since you can’t just go with a lefty-righty matchup.

“Well, he’s going to have to get some starts against right-handed pitching. That’s just the simple fact. Because the spot to use him to spell the most would be either with Torii or Rajai, but they’re also right-handed,” Ausmus said. “So he’s going to have to play against some right-handed pitching, to be honest with you. But he has that ability to drive that ball over the wall, which we don’t have a ton of on this team.”

It helps that Martinez has hit relatively well against right-handers in his career, and very well in the minors this year.

In the majors, Martinez hits .249 (.294 on-base percentage, .381 slugging percentage, .675 OPS) against right-handed starters and .257 (.314/.401/.715) against left-handed starters.

Of his 24 career home runs, 16 are against right-handed pitchers, including one off Max Scherzer last year. That came in a series in which he went 5-for-10 with four extra-base hits against the Tigers, most of that damage done against three right-handed starters: Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez (one double) and Doug Fister (two doubles).

With his remodeled swing, it’s even more pronounced this year: He’s hitting just .125 in 16 plate appearances against lefties, and .367 (.415/1.000/1.415) against righties. Nine of his 10 home runs are against right-handers.

“I feel like the ball travels a lot more now. It’s not just a line drive anymore. It’s more like they go,” Martinez said of his new swing. What did he change?

“Everything. I can’t even describe it. I changed everything, top to bottom. It was just more to try to drive the ball, hit the ball in the air, moreso than on the ground. ... I saw a lot of big-league stars that had similarities, and just wanted to make mine as similar to theirs as I could.”

Four of his 10 home runs came in one concentrated burst on Saturday, when he hit three in the first game of a Toledo doubleheader, and another in the nightcap. The last Toledo player to have a three-homer game was Brad Eldred on April 24, 2012, three days before his call-up to the Tigers.

“It was a fun day. It’s not really a you can schedule for, ‘I’m going to do this today.’ I showed up, there was no BP, nothing. Just show up and play,” Martinez said. “I just — I don’t know — it was one of those things where you just kind of black out.”

Tigers put Putkonen on 15-day DL with elbow soreness


DETROIT — First, the Tigers couldn’t find enough chances to pitch him.

Now, his elbow hurts enough that they can’t pitch him at all.

The Tigers on Monday placed little-used long reliever Luke Putkonen on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation, opening a roster spot to add outfielder J.D. Martinez.

“The first I heard about it was a few days ago. But I guess it actually goes back into spring training some, where it wouldn’t necessarily bother him all the time, on all pitches, but on particular pitches it might bother him,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.

“We just need to get it cleared up.”

Detroit’s bullpen was at one over the normal number, after Justin Miller was added on Friday.

The move to DL Putkonen was retroactive to Saturday, the day after the right-hander was pounded around in the Tigers’ 11-6 loss to the Angels, giving up seven runs on five hits in two innings. Before that, he’d pitched only once — six days earlier — causing Ausmus to claim he was a “bad manager” for not getting Putkonen more work.

Still, Putkonen hadn’t said anything.

“He didn’t mention it,” Ausmus said. “It’s a little concerning that it didn’t go away in that period of time where he wasn’t pitching. But (head trainer) Kevin Rand doesn’t seem to think it’s going to be a long-term issue.”

Tigers set to call up J.D. Martinez, for some added pop off the bench


DETROIT — The Toledo Mud Hens announced Monday that outfielder J.D. Martinez was getting the call-up to the Detroit Tigers, after earning himself Minor League Baseball player of the week.

[UPDATE: The Tigers confirmed the move, announcing that Luke Putkonen (elbow inflammation) went on the DL to make room on the active roster, while Andy Dirks was moved to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster.]

[CLICK HERE for an updated story]

Martinez has 10 home runs at Toledo, four of them coming in a doubleheader binge on Saturday, with three in the opener.

While Martinez does give the Tigers yet another right-handed-hitting outfielder on a roster stuffed with righties, he does provide something that a guy like Ezequiel Carrera would not have: power off the bench.

The Tigers have not announced a corresponding move to add Martinez to the active roster, or to get him on the 40-man roster. The latter will likely be simply procedural, as the Tigers can clear a spot by putting Andy Dirks on the 60-day disabled list.

Detroit signed Martinez in the offseason after he was released by the Houston Astros.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Angels commit three errors on a single play, leading to a Kinsler run for the Tigers


The Los Angeles Angels ... umm ... had a little trouble defensively against the Tigers on Sunday, committing three errors on one sequence of events in the first inning. And it all started with a walk.

[READ MORE ABOUT IT HERE]

Here's the video of the play:

Tigers release shortstop Alex Gonzalez, add Danny Worth to SS mix


DETROIT — The Alex Gonzalez experiment lasted 14 games into the regular season.

He was released outright by the Detroit Tigers on Sunday morning, and Danny Worth was called up from Toledo to take his place in the shortstop rotation.

“Time takes its toll on everyone,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We were hoping the spring in his step had returned. It just didn’t work.”

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tigers split the difference on two replay overturns, and see a net gain


DETROIT — You win some, you lose some.

The Tigers split the difference in replay reviews being overturned in Saturday's game against the Angels.

The one that went in their favor cost them. The one that went against them did not.

Miguel Cabrera was initially called out when he tried to take an extra base in the third inning, testing the arm of Mike Trout in center field. Replays showed Cabrera — who’d reached on an error, when Brennan Boesch dropped his fly ball — slid in to third base before the tag. One batter later, Cabrera trotted home on Austin Jackson’s MLB-best fourth sacrifice fly.

In the bottom of the fourth, Ian Stewart was called out trying to steal second, and both teams trotted off the field, before manager Mike Scioscia challenged the call. It, too, was overturned, continuing the inning, but Max Scherzer pitched around it, striking out Erick Aybar.