Archive for February, 2008

Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello Impress In Tigers Third Straight Spring Win

I finally splurged and picked up the MLB.TV premium package.  I’m watching the Red Sox/Twins game on my desktop computer right now while I write on the laptop.  Very nice and this game doesn’t even have the premium feed.

Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello both threw two shutout innings as the Tigers took another spring training game against the Blue Jays today.  Verlander gave up just one hit while Porcello threw two perfect frames in the 3-1 win.  Nate Robertson gave up the only run and Freddy Dolsi pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to pick up the save.

Ryan Raburn had three hits in the contest and Placido Polanco and Jacque Jones each singled twice.  Curtis Granderson homered for the second time in as many days while Raburn, Marcus Thames and Matthew Joyce all doubled.

Tomorrow will be the Tigers first taste of their nemesis this year as they take on the Indians in back to back games over the weekend.  Dontrelle Willis gets the start tomorrow while C.C. Sabathia goes for the Indians.

Justin Verlander was named the opening day starter.  No big surprise as he’s been the Tigers best pitcher the past two years. 

Virgil Vasquez, Aquilino Lopez Pitch Tigers to Second Straight Spring Win

Virgil Vasquez made the most of his surprise start today as the Tigers took care of the Blue Jays 4-1.  Vasquez pitched in place of Nate Robertson, who’s wife had a baby boy earlier in the morning.  Congratulations to Nate and his wife. 

Vasquez threw two no-hit frames to start the game and he gave up a walk.  Aquilino Lopez struck out three in two shutout innings and the only pitcher to give up a run was Macay McBride, and even that was unearned.  Matt Mantei walked two and struck out one in his one inning.

Curtis Granderson went yard with a two run shot in the second inning.  Magglio Ordonez had a pair of hits including a two run double that put the Tigers on the board in the first inning.

Tomorrow, you’ll have two starters getting time with Justin Verlander and Nate Robertson pitching a couple of innings.  All eyes will probably on Rick Porcello though, who makes his spring debut in a rematch against the Blue Jays.

First Inning Woes Continue For Jeremy Bonderman

I know these games don’t mean anything and I know it’s Jeremy Bonderman’s first time against real competition but this afternoon’s spring game was a microcosm of his 2007 season.  Against the Mets B team, Bonderman was tagged for two runs including one in the first inning in a pretty mediocre start.  Jason Grilli and Zach Miner both threw a pair of shutout frames though and Denny Bautista picked up the save despite giving up two baserunners in the ninth.

Wilkin Ramirez had the big hit of the game with a two run single.  Brandon Inge singled home a run and he was a late replacement for Curtis Granderson in centerfield.  No Tiger had more then on hit in the contest.

Nate Robertson gets the start tomorrow.  One of the pitchers will be Matt Mantei, who is trying to make a comeback.

In other news, Joel Zumaya appears to be making progress in rehabbing his shoulder while Fernando Rodney has been shut down until next week because of shoulder tendanitis.  It’s not a good start for the Tigers pen.

Miguel Cabrera Homers In First Spring At Bat

The Tigers dismanted Florida Southern today, as they should have.  The final was 17-4 with five Tigers going yard in the game.  Miguel Cabrera and Placido Polanco both homered in the first inning and then Brandon Inge (who played DH), Michael Hollimon and Scott Sizemore all went yard in the contest. 

On the pitching side, Jordan Tata was touched up for four runs after Todd Jones threw a shutout first frame.  Chris Lambert got the Tigers out of a jam and went on to throw 2 1/3 shutout innings with three strikeouts.

Tomorrow, the games count.  Sort of.  The Tigers open up their spring season at home against the Mets.  Jeremy Bonderman will get the start with Jason Grilli, Zach Miner, Yorman Bazardo, Denny Bautista and Tim Byrdak all getting some throws in.

Dontrelle Willis on the Mound and Todd Jones Gets the Start

Just a few odds and ends from over the weekend.  Dontrelle Willis made a solid first impression in camp this weekend.  With some pinpoint accuracy, the story yesterday was how Willis picked apart his Marlins teammate Miguel Cabrera.  Also impressive is one of the guys who I think could make a solid contribution to the pen this year, Denny Cabrera.  He let one pitch get away from him but overall, he threw the ball well.  I really think guys like Denny Cabrera Bautista and Francisco Cruceta could bolster the Tigers pen without them having to hit the trade market.

In other news, Todd Jones was announced as the Tigers starter tomorrow in their exhibition game against Florida Southern and Ivan Rodriguez is going to hit eight this year.  Be sure to check out Billfer’s analysis of how the Tigers lineup should shake out heading into opening day.

Brandon Inge’s New Swing and Fernando Rodney’s Shoulder

It looks like Brandon Inge worked on his swing this offseason.  In an interesting look, Jason Beck breaks down what he did to refine things.  What’s interesting is, way back in 2003, Brandon Inge had a horrible first half and was eventually sent to the minors.  When brought back up, his attitude was to swing away and he had one of the best months of his career.  Now he’s come full circle and it’ll be interesting to see how things work out.

Reports have surfaced that Fernando Rodney has some pain his pitching shoulder.  The Tigers weak point is their pen and while they do have some potential darkhorses, Rodney was one of the guys the Tigers were banking on in the eighth inning.  For now, Rodney has shut himself down to see if a little rest fixes the problem.

I missed this, but Justin Verlander turned 25 yesterday.  Happy Birthday.

Book News

I’ve mentioned Tigers Corner 2008a number of times on this site so I just wanted to pass on a glitch with that book and  Apparently, the publication was initially listed as a book on Amazon and it has since been changed to a magazine (it’s sort of a hybrid but that’s another story) in their system but the magazine page isn’t showing up.  In short, the problem is that if you preordered the book, you might not get it and if you do, it won’t be timely.  For now, Maple Street Press is recommending you buy the book through their website until the problem is resolved.

Also, the Hardball Times Season Preview 2008 has come back from the printer.  I don’t have my copy yet but I’ve seen a scan and it’s a pretty neat publication.  They’ve improved on last year’s edition and I really think we (I wrote the Tigers section) did a good job of differentiating the book from the other preseason annuals.

Sweet Lou

Growing up, Tigers second baseman Lou Whitaker was my favorite player.  I thought it was cool how he was a right handed fielder yet hit left handed and he was as smooth as anyone out in the field.

In a flashback column, Mitch Albom goes back to August 5, 1985 to look at what he wrote about Whitaker in the season following the Tigers historic 1984 season.  Also, this was Albom before he stretched himself out with books and television and everything else and in my opinion, he was definitely on top of his game.

And in another flashback, here’s a piece I wrote over three years ago about how I think Whitaker got the shaft by the Hall of Fame voters.  When Robbie Alomar gets voted in, we’ll be having a similar discussion.

Are You Ready?

First off, I’m going to pose a question.  Is this the most anticipated Tigers season ever?  There was a lot of buildup in 1968 after the Tigers near pennant in 1967 and 1984 had it’s share of hype after what was then the biggest free agent signing by the Tigers in Darrell Evans.  Here we are though, over two months removed from the winter meetings, and we’ve been salivating over the prospect of seeing this Tiger team on the field.  Well, the spring season is here and while games don’t start until next week, it’s nice to see all of the good news coming out of camp.

The first bit of news is the fact that Miguel Cabrera came into camp 15 pounds lighter then last season.  It also looks like one of his goals is to improve his fielding at third base and in that regard, he has some tall shoes to fill in Brandon Inge.  Still, I’d take his stick over just about anyone in the Tigers lineup outside of Gary Sheffield.  I’ve seen Cabera’s name popping up quite a bit as a preseason AL MVP winner.

There’s also a nice story on Kenny Rogers.  At 43, he’s the senior statesman and you hope some of that experience rubs off on the kids.

Until then, we’ll have to wait until the Tigers play their first spring game.  They have their annual exhibition game against Florida Southern a week from tomorrow (Tuesday) and then the next day they take on the Mets at 1:05.  I’m a little annoyed because I’m working again and won’t be able to stream the game.  I’ll be sure to catch an inning or two in the car though.

Carlos Guillen’s Move to First

A lot is being made about Carlos Guillen’s move to first base and what should be a decrease in stress on his knees because of the move.  Seems like this might be a myth because Will Carroll still gives Guillen a red light in a column on surprising red and green lights and he talks about how most of the stress on the knees comes from standing, not running.  He’ll be doing just as much standing first and he’ll have to get used to a newer position, hence the chance that he lands on the disabled list isn’t really diminished.  Still, the move makes sense with Edgar Renteria being the at least moderately slightly superior fielder at shortstop.

Rick Porcello on Kenny Rogers

Drills started today and Rick Porcello marveled at how well Kenny Rogers fields his position.  Some great stuff and if Porcello can learn a thing or two from the gambler, he’ll be well on his way to a fruitful career.  Also in the piece, there’s yet more on Brandon Inge’s role with the Tigers this spring.

Reporting Day

Tigers’ pitchers and catchers reported yesterday as the 2008 spring training season kicked off.  Some year soon, I’m hoping to make it down to Lakeland to see some spring training action.  Right now though, I’m just happy baseball is on the horizon.

Brandon Inge is the big talk of camp.  Jim Leyland said it’s likely he’ll still be traded but in the meantime, he’s going to revert back to his 2004 roles as a utility player.  According to this report by Tom Gage, there’s only two spots he won’t see action at this spring.  Pitcher is the obvious one and first base, where Carlos Guillen will be making a permanent move too, is the second.

Gary Sheffield Pain Free

John Lowe reports that Gary Sheffield will be entering spring training pain free after offseason shoulder surgery.  There’s no doubt an effective Sheffield would be huge in an already stacked lineup and imagine how good of a season he’ll have if he doesn’t have to go through his April 2007 DH growing pains and his injury filled August and September.  Sheffield is a borderline Hall of Famer and in my opinion, he’s going to have a season that puts him into the definite Hall of Famer category. 

Lowe also comments on Joel Zumaya, who’s expected to be back in July.  It’d be great if we could get him back before the trading deadline because an effective Zumaya might mean we don’t have to go out and deal for relief pitching.

Odd Man Out

With spring camp just days away, one of the big questions in March will be what the Tigers do with their bench.  Lynn Henning touches on this and a lot depends on whether Vance Wilson will be ready to start the season or not.  If Wilson is healthy and ready to assume his duties as the backup catcher, then Marcus Thames, Brandon Inge, Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn will all fight for three spots on the roster.  I think Thames is a lock based on talent and Santiago will make the team because he fills a vital need as a backup middle infielder.  That leaves Inge and Raburn, who basically could fill similar roles.  They’re paying Inge and he has the pedigree so that leaves Raburn sitting at Toledo until somebody goes down with an injury.

Of course the wild card would be if the Tigers can shop Inge.  Then the next question would be, would any player(s) they get in the deal also compete for a bench spot.  Unless a team loses a third baseman this spring, I don’t see the Tigers getting a good enough deal for Inge meaning Raburn is the odd man out.

Pitchers and Catchers

In a lot of ways, this is the most anticipated Tigers season since I’ve been alive.  We’re two months removed from the blockbuster deal that netted the Tigers Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera and now we’re within a week from spring training kicking off.  After a long offseason, baseball is finally back and reporting day is this Thursday.

I had an interesting conversation the other day about what the Tigers lineup would look like.  When I threw out Edgar Renteria hitting ninth, I got an initial scoff but after going through the players, it might be the only spot to hit him.  Or, you could see Renteria hitting ninth against lefties righties and Granderson ninth against righties lefties.  We both agreed that Ivan Rodriguez should probably be hitting ninth, but also thought it wouldn’t happen just based on his reputation.

Hardball Times Season Preview 2008

Sometime in the next couple of weeks, the Hardball Times Season Preview 2008 will be hitting the shelves.  If you bought the inaugural edition last year, you’ll find a ton of new things in this latest installment.  You’ll get projections like in last year’s book but you’ll also find more detailed on your informtion on your favorite teams including player capsules.  I was fortunate to write the Tigers section, which with the anticipation of the 2008 season mounting, was fun to do.

If you really want to help out the Hardball Times site, order the book here.  You’ll pay a few more bucks then you might have otherwise, but you’ll be maximizing the amount of money that goes to the site.

Luis Pujols Interview

After guiding the Erie SeaWolves to a spectacular season in 2001, Pujols was then pushed up into a major league managing role in 2002 after Randy Smith and Phil Garner were abruptly fired just six games into the season.  There, he became a bit of a joke with the penultimate being him batting a player out of order during a game.  He was eventually fired and he then went to serve as the Giants bench coach for Felipe Alou (who also was the Tigers bench coach in 2002 and who was blamed for the batting order gaffe).

Now he’s come full circle and he’s managing the Double A Corpus Christi Hooks.  He talks about his minor league experiences in this interview over at

Tigers Swap Prospects With Rangers

The Tigers traded minor league outfielder Michael Hernandez to the Rangers today for minor league starting pitcher Armando Galarraga.  Hernandez led the Flying Tigers last year with 20 homers and between High A and Double A, he belted 24 homers but at the age of 24, he has just a .320 career on base percentage.  He did drive in 106 runs in his two stops and he looks like his ceiling could be similar to a guy like Craig Monroe.  He won’t hit for average or draw many walks and while he’ll strike out his share of times, his power will give him some solid RBI numbers.  I think the Tigers can do better so I’m not too upset to see him go.

Armando Galarraga was signed by the Expos (yes, the Expos) way back in 1998 and he’s spent eight seasons in the minor leagues.  He was dealt to the Rangers in the Alfonso Soriano trade back in 2005 and his 2006 season was an odd one.  He looked very good at Double A with 114 strikeouts and 47 walks in 127 2/3 innings but when he got bumped up to Triple A and eventually to the Rangers, his control left him and and he struck out 27 while walking 29 in 33 1/3 innings in those two stops.

After a critical review in last year’s book, John Sickels lightens up on the most recent installment of the Baseball Prospect Book.  He doesn’t predict stardom but he gives him a C+ grade (Hernandez received a C) and said that best case, he could see some time at the back of a major league rotation.

Here’s why I like this trade.  Michael Hernandez wouldn’t have seen the light of day with the Tigers anytime in the next few years.  The Tigers took him as a non drafted free agent and dealt him for a mid tier pitching prospect who, at some point in the next couple of years, could actually help the team.  It wouldn’t surprise me if, after an injury or two  in the pen, we see Galarraga in a Tigers uniform in 2008.

Tigers Sign Curtis Granderson to Five Year Deal

The Tigers locked up centerfielder Curtis Granderson to a five year deal today.  While this isn’t unprecedented, giving a long term deal to a guy who isn’t even arbitration eligible is rare but the Tigers felt ponying up $30 million+ (I haven’t seen a final dollar figure, but the rumor is $30.25 million) was worth it after Granderson’s historical season.

There was little doubt that Granderson was not only the centerfielder of the present, but also of the future.  Top prospects Cameron Maybin and Gorkys Hernandez were both dealt this offseason and that just further entrenched Granderson in his role for the forseeable future.

Sean Casey Finds A Home

The Boston Red Sox signed Sean Casey to a one year, $800k deal yesterday as the former Tigers first baseman will now play for the defending champions.  It’s been a while since Casey has served as a backup but after a mediocre season in 2007 for the Tigers, it’s not a huge surprise that the market for him as a starter didn’t exist.  Still, I always liked Casey and he seemed like a top notch guy.  The Red Sox may be getting a guy near the end of his career but Casey could definitely prove to be a positive influence in the club house.

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