Well, we needed that off-day. I’m not speaking for the team; the fans certainly did though.
The news of the day is that Octavio Dotel has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation, the 2nd time he has suffered this ailment (the first just landed him on the day-to-day list). Whether the elbow inflammation caused his ineffectiveness or his ineffectiveness caused the inflammation diagnosis, the Tigers decided it was time to give Rondon a roll in the bigs. Rondon solved some control problems from Spring Training (he hasn’t walked a batter in his last 4 Mud Hen outings), and he has been rewarded. It remains to be seen how this might effect the Valverde situation–Valverde continues to pitch well, and has a May 5 call-up deadline in his contract.
Surprisingly though, the bullpen had very little to do with the Tigers slumping on the 2nd half of their West Coast trip. The bats simply disappeared, especially with runners in scoring position. (For those wondering why Phil Coke was left in to face Trumbo, by the way, Dotel’s injury meant there were no right-handers left in the bullpen to bring in anyway).
The Tigers have a meager 12 home runs for the season, and an anemic .379 slugging percentage, good for 12th in the league (they are being outslugged by the Royals). With runners in scoring position they are only hitting .230, with a .654 OPS (12th), and with bases loaded it only gets worse, an astounding .087 BA with a .301 OPS.
Prince Fielder, after being named Player of the Week, began striking out like his body had been snatched by Inge, and had a golden sombrero and a platinum poncho to add to his luggage for the return trip. It would be easy to just say “that’s baseball,” but the more astute fan would detect the working of a jinx, and blame John Lowe for wondering if the Tigers could have two .400 hitters this season.
A big part of the offensive malaise of course is the continued struggles of Victor Martinez, which have left the Tigers with a Ramon Santiago-like OPS of .542 from the DH position (14th) and from the 5th spot in the lineup (13th). Martinez has had some bad luck on balls in play, but he is not making any excuses. At any rate, the Martinez situation could turn into one of those Raburn/Boesch/Ordonez situations: it is too early to do anything but stay with the course, but if the Tigers end up on the other side of the All-Star break with a 5-hitter with a .600 OPS, that spells trouble.
Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Max Scherzer. Max will strike out a bushel of batters, but more than that, we are going with the slump-busting, Creepy Max Glare game picture to hypnotize the Royals. If Max gets in trouble, look for Leyland to bring Rondon in for his first MLB appearance with bases loaded and nobody out.
Today’s Powerless Lineup (reverse jinx in effect):