Tag Archive: Tigers


Austin Jackson delivers the game-winning hit in the ninth inning on Thursday against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. Jackson went 3 for 5 with a triple, run and RBI. (AP photo)

Much of the hype and hoopla surrounded Prince Fielder and the Tigers other two big stars in Thursday’s season opener at Comerica Park.

After all Fielder, the $219 million offseason acquisition and son of former Tigers masher Cecil Fielder was making his debut in a town where he spent a good portion of his childhood.

And reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander was back on the mound looking in midseason form.

And Miguel Cabrera was playing his first game at third base since the 2008 season, making his move across the diamond to accommodate Fielder’s arrival. (And he did make an error)

In the end the day belonged to Austin Jackson, the Tigers much maligned leadoff hitter who has been constantly criticized for his numerous strikeouts over his first two professional seasons. It also didn’t help that he took over center field for Curtis Granderson, who put together an MVP-caliber season for the Yankees last year.

After spending the offseason working on his hitting approach (Jackson got rid of his leg kick and shortened his stride to the ball), the center fielder came through with an impressive start to the season. Jackson went 3 for 5 and delivered the game-winning single down the third base line in the ninth inning to score pinch runner Danny Worth and lift the Tigers to a 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox.

It was the first career walk-off hit for Jackson, who bailed out the Tigers after closer Jose Valverde blew his first save since the 2010 season by giving up two runs in the ninth.

Austin Jackson (right) drove in Danny Worth (29) for the winning run in the ninth inning in Detroit's 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Thursday. (Getty Images)

Jackson used all parts of the field with his hits, singling the first pitch he saw from Boston starter Jon Lester into center field to start the game. He tripled to right field to lead off the eighth inning before scoring on Fielder’s sac fly to put the Tigers ahead 2-0. Then with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth he tucked the winning hit just down the third-base line.

Besides using all fields, Jackson didn’t strike out and displayed a good approach when he had two strikes on him. That is worth noting since Jackson has struck out 351 times over his first two seasons in the majors and his strikeout-rate of 27.1 percent was the fifth worst among qualified hitters in 2011. In the third inning, Jackson got down in the count 0-2 before working it full. After seeing a ball, Jackson fouled off a pitch before getting two straight balls. Jackson ended up flying out to center field. In the fifth he was ahead in the count 3-0 before Lester worked it full. He then flied out right.

While it was just one game, the Jackson performance was an encouraging sign for the Tigers to see. The outing resembled some of the many strong performances from his rookie year, where Jackson’s batting average was above .300 for a vast majority of the season and he finished runner-up in the voting for AL rookie of the year.

Him being a table setter for the four power hitters behind him (Brennan Boesch, Cabrera, Fielder and Delmon Young) will make the Tigers offense that much better. And it could be one of the big keys in helping the Tigers accomplish their goal of bringing a World Series title back to Motown.

And more performances like Thursday’s will make fans forget about that guy that patrolled center field in Comerica Park before him.

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.

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES

The signing of Victor Martinez in the offseason has proven to be a key reason behind the Tigers winning the AL Central this season. (B. Calloway photo)

Dave Dombrowski entered the season with his job on the line.

The  Detroit Tigers general manager was on the final year of his contract and needed to help the team get back to the postseason.

He made several key decisions that helped the Tigers win the AL Central division title – their first division crown since 1987 and first playoff berth since reaching the World Series in 2006. Here is a look at some of the decisions he made that helped get the Tigers back into the postseason.

Signing Victor Martinez in the offseason

This might be one of the single most important decisions Dombrowski made.  The Tigers had several players they could pursue to bolster their lineup with Jayson Werth, Adam Dunn and Carl Crawford also being available. The decision to bring Martinez aboard for four years looks to be the be the best move of the bunch. Dunn, who is in his 1st season in the AL, is hitting .160 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs for the White Sox. Crawford (.254, 11 HR, 18 SBs) is having a down year with the Red Sox and the same has been the case for Werth  (.232, 20 HR, 58 RBIS) with the Nationals.  Meanwhile Martinez has been a leader on and off the field for the Tigers

The switch-hitting Martinez is batting .324 with 12 home runs and 102 RBIs. He has come up with a number of big hits for the Tigers and made teams pay when they pitched around Miguel Cabrera. With runners on base he is hitting .399 and .390 when they are in scoring position.

Trading for Doug Fister at the trade deadline

Since being acquired from the Mariners in July, Doug Fister is 8-1 in 10 starts for the Tigers. (AP)

The Tigers needed pitching at the deadline to bolster their chances at winning the division. Fister has been the answer. Ubaldo Jimenez was considered to be one of the highly coveted players on the market but the Tiger and Dombrowski were smart to work out a trade with Seattle for Fister instead. Jimenez has struggled with the rival Indians, while Fister has become a top of the line starter for Detroit. In 10 starts since being acquired by the Tigers on July 30, Fister is 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA. He has struck out 54 and walked five over 70 1/3 innings. He and likely AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander have formed a formidable 1-2 combination with a combined 14-0 record and 1.61 ERA since Aug. 16. Fister ranks fourth in the AL with a 2.83 ERA. Jimenez is 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 11 starts since the Indians acquired him from the Rockies.

Landing Wilson Betemit, Delmon Young from division rivals

Dombrowski made trades with division rivals during the season to land players that have been important pieces for the Tigers. In July, he acquired Betemit from the Royals. Betemit stepped in for the struggling Brandon Inge at third base. Betemit has hit .281 with four homers and 18 RBIs since joining the Tigers. Young was acquired in August from the Twins and has anchored left field and the No. 3 spot in the Detroit lineup. He has hit .264 with seven homers with 29 RBIs and four doubles in 38 games with the Tigers. Acquiring Young has proved as extra important with the Tigers having lost Brennan Boesch for the season with a thumb injury in August.

Acquiring Jhonny Peralta from Cleveland and re-signing him

Dombrowski acquired Peralta before the trade deadline in 2010, but the decision has made a big impact on this year’s team. Signed to a two-year contract in the offseason to play shortstop, Peralta has been a valuable contributor to the Tigers offense and has played steady defense. Peralta, who has mostly hit in the No. 6 or 7 spots in the lineup, entered Tuesday’s game hitting a career-best .301 with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs. He also has 25 doubles.

Tigers prospect Nick Castellanos, who was the 44th overall pick in the 2010 draft, is hitting .302 with 28 doubles and 60 RBIs at West Michigan this season.

The Tigers made their move to bolster their chances at making the postseason with the acquisition of pitchers Doug Fister and Dave Pauley from Seattle.

With the trade they lost four players, including Double-A third baseman Francisco Martinez, one of two Tigers players that participated in this year’s Futures Games during All-Star weekend in July.

That puts the future focus for the Tigers on 19-year old third baseman Nick Castellanos, rated Detroit’s No. 2 prospect by Baseball America. He is now the heir apparent to take over at third base for Detroit in a couple of seasons. There were questions what the Tigers would do in a few years when both Castellanos and Martinez would be ready for the bigs and if one of the highly touted prospects would be in line for a position switch in order for Detroit to get both of their bats in the lineup. That point becomes now moot with the departure of Martinez.

It still bears watching to see how each of the players performs in the future to see which of the players performs better down the line and if the Tigers made the right decision to keep Castellanos over Martinez.

What’s clear is that the future is bright for Castellanos, who was Detroit’s top selection in the 2010 draft and received a $3 million signing bonus.

Since a rocky first month of the season in which he hit just .194, the Davie, Fla., native has been one of the best offensive players in the Midwest League. Castellanos has anchored the cleanup spot for Low Single-A West Michigan and is batting .302 with 28 doubles, six home runs and 60 RBIs as the season winds down.

He has hit better than .300 in every month since the slow April, including a sizzling month of June in which he hit .375. He is hitting .321 since the Midwest League’s All-Star game.

Defensively, Castellanos is still a work in progress and will continue to get better as he gets more experience playing at third base. Castellanos, who has 20 errors this season – including three in an extra-inning loss last month –  played mostly shortstop prior to this season. He has a strong arm so its only a matter of getting more experience at third and boosting his .904 fielding percentage.

Meanwhile Martinez, who is 20,  was hitting .282 with 14 doubles and seven homers at Double-A Erie and has a .909 fielding percentage. He likely will be ready for a full-time job in the big leagues in 2013. It bears watching which one has the better career in the majors and if the Tigers parted with the right third baseman.

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