Category: Detroit Tigers

Displaced at third base by Miguel Cabrera, Tigers veteran Brandon Inge wants to find a way to get playing time.

Brandon Inge will compete for the second base job during spring training. Inge, who turns 35 in May, has never appeared at second base during a game with the Tigers. (B. Calloway photo)

The 34-year old thinks second base could provide the perfect opportunity.
Inge has asked and been granted a chance by manager Jim Leyland to compete for the second base job during spring training. He will compete with Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth for time at the position. Inge has never appeared at second base during a major league game. Inge, who is regarded as one of the better athletes on the Tigers, has played all the outfield positions, third base and catcher during his tenure in Detroit.
If Inge was to win the second base job, it wouldn’t be a bad thing for the Tigers. Inge at second base could allow the Tigers to make Raburn their everyday left fielder and make Delmon Young their designated hitter. That move would at least strengthen their defense because Raburn can cover more ground in left field and also has a better arm. Raburn did commit six errors in the outfield last season and had a .948 fielding percentage in 72 games playing the outfield, while Young had seven errors, seven assists and a .969 fielding percentage in 115 games.
Regardless if Inge was to adjust adequately defensively to second base, he still must find a way to produce at the plate after hitting .197 last season. Those will likely be the determining factors of how much of Inge we will see this season.


Gio Gonzalez would be a good fit at the Tigers, but only at the right price. The left-hander ranked ninth in the AL in strikeouts and 10th in ERA in 2011. (Google image)

The Oakland A’s are willing to part with Gio Gonzalez, and the Tigers have been rumored to be one of the teams interested in acquiring the 26-year old left-handed pitcher.

Gonzalez would no doubt be a good acquisition for the Tigers. He would give them a much-needed lefty for their rotation and would also address their need for a fifth starter. Gonzalez has had a strong past couple of seasons for the Athletics. He ranked 16-12 and ranked ninth in the American League with 197 strikeouts and 10th with a 3.12 ERA and was an All-Star last season. Gonzalez was better pitcher at home last season with an ERA that was almost a run better at the Oakland Coliseum than on the road. Still he has a 38-32 career record and a 3.93 ERA in four seasons.

Nick Castellanos appears to be the long-term solution for the Tigers at third base and Detroit shouldn't include him in a deal to acquire Gio Gonzalez. (B. Calloway photo)

Oakland will definitely require a good package in dealing Gonzalez, and it is rumored the Tigers would have to part with top prospects right-handed pitcher Jacob Turner and third baseman Nick Castellanos and a few other pieces to acquire him. If the Tigers could entice the Athletics without including Castellanos would and should be the only way they make such a deal.

After trading third baseman Francisco Martinez, who appeared in the 2011 Futures Game, to Seattle in the deal that landed Doug Fister, the Tigers pretty much determined Castellanos would be their guy at third base when he was ready – which could be sometime in 2013 or 14. Third base is a current position of need for the Tigers and the 19-year old Castellanos seems as if he could be a long-term solution when he is ready.

I don’t blame the Athletics for wanting both of the Tigers top prospects, but Turner would be a lot easier to part with considering the depth of pitching Detroit has in the upper portion of its system. Detroit also has Andrew Oliver, Casey Crosby, Drew Smyly, Duane Below and Adam Wilk and could maybe part with Turner and another pitcher among with something else in a deal. Detroit also has great depth at catcher (Rob Brantly, Jeff Kunkel) that they could deal as well.

With wide interest in Gonzalez, the price will understandingly be high, but the Tigers shouldn’t give up Castellanos in a deal to acquire the lefty.

Will Rhymes, who opened the 2011 season as the Tigers starting second baseman, is now a free agent after the Tigers declined to offer him a new contract before Monday's non-tender deadline. (Brian Calloway photo)

Will Rhymes might have been short on size but was high on heart.

That is what made the 5-foot-9 and 155-pound Rhymes – a 27th round draft pick out of the College of William and Mary in 2005 – endearing to fans upon his arrival to the big leagues in 2010.

Rhymes wasn’t regarded and didn’t have the tools/skills set of a top prospect like one-time competitor at second base Scott Sizemore had, but turned in a strong showing once called up to the majors during the 2010 season. Rhymes hit .304 in 54 games with 12 doubles and three triples and won over fans with his play. That strong showing over the second half of the season helped in part earn Rhymes the first shot at second base to start the 2011.

Will Rhymes hit .306 in 104 games at Triple-A Toledo in 2011 and was a Triple-A All-Star. (B. Calloway photo)

But Rhymes never got going early in 2011 , batting .221 with 1 double in 19 games before being demoted to Triple-A Toledo and replaced on the Tigers roster by a hot-hitting Sizemore. From there, he pretty much fell out of the Tigers plans.

The 26-year old was a Triple-A All-Star in 2011, but the Tigers obviously don’t see Rhymes in the future plans which is why they declined to offer him a contract for 2012 and allowed him to become a free agent.

Even with the Tigers trading Sizemore to Oakland in May, Rhymes never found his was back to Detroit until rosters expanded in September. Instead the Tigers went with a combination of Carlos Guillen, Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth at second base. And the Tigers appear content right now to use a platoon of Santiago and Raburn for that position in 2012.

This decision by the Tigers brass in essentially the best case scenario for both parties. With Rhymes likely being a longshot to make the major league roster out of spring training, he will get a chance to go elsewhere to try to get back to the majors. And the Tigers still have enough options at second base.

The bullpen was an area the Tigers needed to improve this offseason and they did just that with the acquisition of veteran right-handed reliever Octavio Dotel.

The addition of Octavio Dotel should bolster the Tigers bullpen (Getty Images)

Reports indicate the Tigers signed the 38-year old Dotel to a one-year deal with the option for another. Dotel chose signing with Detroit over returning to St. Louis, where he won a World Series. He is the second Cardinal free agent the Tigers have signed this offseason (Detroit signed St. Louis backup catcher Gerald Laird last month).

Dotel gives the Tigers a strong option for the seventh inning and could give the Tigers a formidable back end of the bullpen with Joaquin Benoit as the eighth inning setup man and Jose Valverde as the closer. Dotel has struck out 10.9 batters per nine innings over his 13-year major league career. He spent 2011 with Toronto and St. Louis, appearing in 65 games and going 5-4 with a 3.50 ERA and 62 strikeouts and 17 walks. Opponents just hit .185 against him.

With Ryan Perry being inconsistent and Al Alburquerque struggling with injuries, the Tigers now have a veteran steady presence for the seventh inning. The Tigers also get flexibility and can alternate Dotel and the lefty Phil Coke for the seventh depending on matchups.

As it stands the Detroit bullpen will likely consist of Alburquerque, Benoit, Dotel, Perry, Daniel Schlereth and Valverde. David Pauley, Duane Below, Adam Wilk and Brayan Villarreal all pitched out of the bullpen in 2011 and could combine for the final bullpen slot, barring any other additions or trades. Below and Wilk also could be in competition for the fifth starter spot.

Dotel is the third offseason signing by the Tigers and all have addressed needs. Laird fills a need as a backup catcher, while allows Victor Martinez to be a full-time DH or spell Cabrera at first base. Detroit also re-signed utility infielder Ramon Santiago, who will likely split time at second base with Ryan Raburn in 2012.

Max Scherzer tossed eight scoreless innings against the White Sox on Sunday to improve to 4-0 on the season (AP)

The Tigers continued a recent string of success against the White Sox by pulling off a series sweep to improve to 12-10 on the season. Detroit outscored the struggling White Sox 21-3 during the series and have won nine straight over the Chi Sox dating back to last season. The Tigers are now 4-2 against the AL Central and 6-3 at home

Win: Max Scherzer (4-0)

Loss: John Danks (0-3)

Save: Jose Valverde (5)

Hero: Max Scherzer

Scherzer delivered another quality start, tossing eight scoreless innings to move to  4-0 on the season. After manager Jim Leyland emphasized the need for Scherzer to be more efficient with his pitches following his start against Seattle earlier in the week, Scherzer did just that. He only needed 104 pitches in his eight innings of work. In his previous starts he had reached the 100 pitch mark by the fifth or sixth inning.

Key sequence: The bottom of the sixth

With the Tigers holding on to a 1-0 lead, they added a pair of big runs with two outs. Alex Avila started the rally with his two-out single and came around to score on a double by Brandon Inge. Austin Jackson followed with a double to score Inge and push the Tigers lead to 3-0.

Brad Penny pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just one hit to earn his first victory as a Tiger on Saturday (AP)

The Tigers move above .500 for the first time this season with their shutout of the struggling White Sox.

Win Brad Penny (1-2)

Loss: Edwin Jackson (2-2)

Hero: Brad Penny

Penny entered the game with an ERA in 8s and struggled toward the tail end of his last start but he didn’t have any struggles against the White Sox on Saturday. Penny carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning – his bid ending on a controversial scoring play. He ended the day by throwing seven shutout innings, only allowing one hit in what was his best start by far as a Tiger. Penny struck out three and walked two while lowering his ERA to 6.35.

Key sequence: The Tigers broke the scoreless game open by plating five runs in the fourth inning. Alex Avila had one of the biggest hits, coming up with a two-RBI triple off former Tiger Edwin Jackson during the inning. Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn also had RBI hits in the inning, while Magglio Ordonez drove in a run on a fielder’s choice.

Avila went 3 for 4 in the game to boost his average to .327 – third on the team behind only Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera, who were each hitting .338.

Ryan Raburn (left), shown being congratulated by Austin Jackson (14) following his two-run homer, had four RBIs in Detroit's 9-3 win over the White Sox on Friday (AP)

Justin Verlander recorded his 1,000th career strikeout and limited the White Sox to just three solo home runs as the Tigers opened their three-game series with a win over Chicago.

Win: Verlander (2-2)

Loss: Mark Buehrle (1-2)

Hero: Ryan Raburn

Raburn went 2 for 5 with four RBIs to power the Tigers offense in the win. His two-run home run in the third put the Tigers ahead 4-0 and drove in what would prove to be the winning run. Friday marked the second straight contest in which Raburn homered.

Key: Raburn’s two-run homer was definitely the difference maker, but this was one of the best showings by the Tigers offense this season. The team generated runs throughout the entire contest with two in the second, two in third, one in the fourth, one in the sixth and three in the eighth. Casper Wells added two RBIs from the No. 9 spot, while Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta and Brennan Boesch also drove in runs.

Strong night: Other than allowing a pair of solo homers to Carlos Quentin and a solo homer to Paul Konerko, Verlander was dominant against the White Sox. Verlander struck out eight and didn’t issue a walk while tossing seven innings.

Up next: Vs. Chicago, 4 p.m. Saturday

Tigers leadoff man Austin Jackson is hitting just .157 and has just one multi-hit game this season (B. Calloway photo)

In baseball slumps are inevitable for hitters.

Failure is natural and the best hitters in the business succeed only 3 out of every 10 at-bats.

All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford is off to a slow start with a .149 batting average for the Red Sox

With the season almost a month old, many players with strong track records have gotten off to slow starts this season. Boston left fielder Carl Crawford, one of the biggest offseason acquisitions in baseball, is batting just .149. Big-time prospect and one of the National League’s top rookies last season, Atlanta’s Jason Heyward, is off to a .190 start. Adam Dunn, a key offseason pickup by the White Sox and a former National League All-Star is hitting .175. Derrek Lee, a career .282 hitter, is just batting .206 in his first season with the Orioles.

With quite a few big name players struggling, that is why there isn’t a reason to be overly concerned about Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson’s struggles at the plate this season. Jackson, who was batting above .300 for a majority of his rookie season, finished his first full season in the majors with a .293 average and was a runner-up in the AL rookie of the year voting last season. This year he is off to a .157 start and has just one multi-hit game through the season’s first three weeks.

Slumps are often magnified when they come at the beginning of the season. In Dunn and Lee’s cases, switching over to the American League for the first time in their careers could have something to do with their early season struggles. Heyward and Jackson could have a case of early sophomore slumps after experiencing high levels of success in their rookie seasons.

In Jackson’s case, some sort of dip in production could have been expected considering he led all of the majors with a .396 batting average with balls batted in play as a rookie last year. Jackson hasn’t had nearly as much luck this season and there have been a few instances, including one in Wednesday’s win over Seattle, that he was robbed of a hit. His swings have looked better and it is only a matter of time before he will start stringing together some hits.

For now, there really isn’t any reason to panic on Jackson. Everyone goes through slumps at some point in time and his first struggles in the majors happen to be taking place right now.

Hot start: Scott Sizemore is off to a .387 start with Toledo this season.

In five of their 16 games this season the Detroit Tigers have been held to two or fewer runs.  They are 0-5 in those games.

On eight occasions this season the team has scored three for fewer runs ans has a 2-6 record in those games. Factor in Friday’s game in which they only scored one run in the first nine innings before a huge scoring outburst in the 10th, that is nine times where the Tigers bats haven’t really done much.

Detroit ranks eighth of 14 American League teams with a .240 batting average and ninth of 14 with a .312 on-base percentage. They clearly will need to find a way to generate some offense if they hope to contend in an AL Central that has seen surprising starts from the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals through the first few weeks of the season.

Getting leadoff hitter Austin Jackson going will certainly be a key to improving offensively considering the Tigers will need his defense in the spacious outfield at Comerica Park. Jackson is batting .175 with 19 strikeouts in in 16 games in his sophomore season, but his strong rookie year provided a sign that he can hit and be a strong top of the order hitter for the Tigers. Victor Martinez is also off to a slow start but he has a track record and is a former All-Star and will eventually round to form.

Which leads us to Will Rhymes, who has manned the No. 2 slot for much of the season. Rhymes is  batting .222 with no extra-base hits and has scored just two runs. While Rhymes did hit .300 in limited action in the majors last year, he has a replacement that is off to a hot start in Triple-A Toledo and the Tigers should look his way if they continue to struggle at the plate. Scott Sizemore, who battled Rhymes for the second base job this spring, is batting .387 (12 for 31) through his first nine games for the Mud Hens this season. While batting at the top of the Toledo lineup he has scored eight runs and has a pair of doubles, four RBIs, five walks and six strikeouts.

With the Tigers offense struggling, it wouldn’t hurt to call up a hot hitter like Sizemore in order to possibly provide a jump start and be a way to ignite the team. If the Tigers were hitting, it would be fine to leave Rhymes in and give him a chance to work his way out of his early season struggles. Since that isn’t the case the Tigers should opt with Sizemore to see if he can provide a spark.

The Tigers made a move with their bullpen last week with the promotion of Al Alburquerque to the bigs. Alburquerque was effective in his debut with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts during Friday’s win over the Athletics.

Detroit should in turn make a similar move with its struggling offense since there isn’t much else to lose. With its starters giving quality outings of late, its a shame a lack of offense has been the cause of several recent losses.

Thoughts on Game 16 of 162

The Tigers dropped to 7-9 with their loss to the Athletics, which led to a split of a four-game series. Once again the offense was quiet with a solo home run by Casper Wells being all the Tigers were able to muster.

W: Cahill (2-0) L: Penny (0-2)

Trevor Cahill held the Tigers to four hits and struck out eight in eight innings on Sunday to improve to 2-0 (AP)

Hero: Trevor Cahill

Like all of Oakland’s starters, Cahill prevented the Tigers from doing anything offensively. He struck out nine and allowed just four hits and one earned run in eight innings to earn the pitching win.

Rough finish: For the most part, Brad Penny’s fourth start in a Tigers uniform wasn’t bad. But in the end his control struggles were ultimately costly. He walked in a run during a three-run fifth inning that Oakland used to take control. Penny only allowed four hits, but walked four and struck out five and also hit a batter in five innings of work. He has an 8.84 ERA.

Key sequence: The bottom of the fifth when the Athletics scored three runs with two outs. After giving up a leadoff double, Penny got two outs before hitting David DeJesus with a pitch and walking Daric Barton to load the bases. He then walked Conor Jackson for Oakland’s first run of that inning and then Josh Willingham had a two-RBI single

Up next: At Seattle, 10 p.m. Monday