Junkballing: Red Sox recap, Miner’s elbow

My stream of consciousness on the Tigers most recent two games against the Red Sox, Zach Miner’s injury, and what ever else comes to mind.

Beating the Red Sox

Honestly, I’m thrilled with the series. Friday night was certainly a clunker and Saturday was shaping up to be one. From where they were in the first half of that second game to where they ended the series is reason to be excited.

Many of the Tigers earlier comebacks were against struggling pitchers or weak bullpens. That Detroit came back against the Red Sox and Jon Lester, and later out lasted the Boston bullpen is quite the endorsement for all those things like grit and never-say-die, and of course talent.

  • Dontrelle Willis might have been rusty. He might have reverted to his 2008-9 ways. He was all over the place, and not the least bit comfortable on the mound. It’s one thing to have rust, it’s another to walk 7 and not last through the 4th inning. I’m hoping for the best but have much skepticism, even given his success this year.
  • The Brennan Boesch phenomenon is something to behold. When I watch games now there are 3 Tigers who I don’t leave the room for when they are up. Boesch has joined Miguel Cabrera and Austin Jackson in that regard. That he is hitting lefties and breaking pitches is probably the most surprising aspect of his success. A Run Boesched In (Coleman term that is awesome) is around the corner.
  • Eddie Bonine gave up a two run homer. His first runs allowed since April 11th. A remarkable streak and one that has been instrumental in at least 2 wins. He’s definitely less heralded than other members of the bullpen but the ability to suck up 3 innings at a crack is huge for an overworked pen.
  • There are days like Sunday when the pitching match-up is heavily tilted one way, and Jim Leyland doesn’t put out the “A” lineup and there is a sense of hopelessness. Yet here come the Tigers, chipping away at Lackey to build a comfortable lead, and Galarraga finding his way through 5.2 innings of 1 run ball.
  • I love watching players make their debuts, so it’s been a good year to be a Tigers fan. Worth “blistered” a shot to shallow second base resulting in his first hit and RBI. The coolest part might have been Miguel Cabrera recognizing both feats right away and tracking down the game ball for him.
  • The bullpen isn’t out of the woods yet, even with Jeremy Bonderman chipping in an inning of help. Valverde has been used in consecutive days, as has Ryan Perry. But Phil Coke, Fu-Te Ni, and Joel Zumaya should all be ready tomorrow.

Zach Miner

Zach Miner has been battling an injury for the last 2 months now. He’s been rehabbing and an MRI just revealed a torn UCL. He’s going for a second opinion in terms of treatment options (surgery versus rehab and a strengthening program).

I don’t know if the UCL just recently tore or not. But if it had been torn all along this is certainly disappointing. Regardless it is unlikely that Miner will be able to contribute this year.

Miner is the type of pitcher a team with a struggling rotation could use. Someone who can make spot starts or eat 3-4 innings. Yet the Tigers are getting by without him, and will need to continue to do so. It also opens up a potential role for an Enrique Gonzalez or another minor league free agent should injuries or ineffectiveness creep in at some point on the staff.

Robertson traded

Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis have secured the final two spots in the Tigers rotation, and Nate Robertson secured a spot with the Marlins. The Tigers today traded Robertson and $9.6 million of his $10 million contract for Marlins left handed prospect Jay Voss. For my thoughts on the trade, well, just look back a couple days.

Robertson outpitched his two competitors not only this spring, but last year as well. The stats say that Robertson should be in the rotation. It has to be a tough pill for Robertson to swallow.*

Continue reading Robertson traded

Seay, Miner hit the DL

The Tigers trimmed their roster down to 32 this morning with a couple of disabled list moves and other cuts. Most notable was the placement of Bobby Seay and Zach Miner on the 15 day disabled list.

Seay has been traveling from doctor to doctor in search of a diagnosis on his balky left arm (UPDATE: It’s a torn rotator cuff. There’s more info at the bottom of the post). Miner’s malady seems less dire but he won’t be ready for the beginning of the season. The moves do open up two spots on the active roster.

Miner’s long relief role could be the destination for the loser of the Nate Robertson-Dontrelle Willis-Jeremy Bonderman battle (assuming Robertson doesn’t get traded). Right handed reliever Robbie Weinhardt also remains in camp meaning he still has a shot. On the left side of things it would see to boost Brad Thomas’ chances of heading to Kansas City for the opener.

Daniel Schlereth, one of the lefties looking for a spot in the pen, was among those cut today. Scherleth was optioned along with Wilkin Ramirez to Toledo. Enrique Gonzalez, Phil Dumatrait, and Max St. Pierre were sent to minor league camp.

UPDATE: The injury to Bobby Seay is a torn rotator cuff. The plan is for Seay to try and rehab the injury and avoid surgery if at all possible. While the Tigers have other lefty options, it really is a blow to Seay who is a free agent after this year and will likely have his open market value severely hampered due to the injury.

Willis will start Sunday

The Tigers have made a decision, at least for the time being, to stick with Dontrelle Willis in the starting rotation. Jeremy Bonderman will head to the bullpen…for now. Keeping Willis in the rotation is probably the right decision if Bonderman is the other option. Of course I kind of agree with Lee that perhaps that pool should include Zach Miner. That doesn’t seem like an option the team is exploring at the moment though, so what can we take from this decision?

First of all, Bonderman isn’t ready. I don’t think there is a lot of questioning of this point. I don’t see him being able to rebuild his arm strength pitching in sporadic low leverage situations in the pen. My guess is he gets optioned to Toledo (assuming he clears waivers and agrees to it) to work in the rotation and hopefully get his velocity back. He’s in the pen now because they need another arm in the pen, and likely want to bring Ryan Perry back. But Perry has to stay on optional assignment for a minimum of 10 days.

As for Willis, it appears he is pitching just well enough (not necessarily good) to hang in the rotation. This will be another test. I guess the goodish news is that we get to see Dontrelle hit for the first time.

Clearing up some roster confusion

The Tigers have some roster decisions looming with the imminent return of Jeremy Bonderman and Marcus Thames. In both cases there aren’t clear cut performance based decisions on who gets sent down so things like options come into play. There has been some confusion about the option status and service time of various players so let’s clear that up.

MLB roster rules are never simple and chuck full of exceptions. While salary data and service time data is generally findable, options are harder to find and often requires combing through transaction lists. Fortunately for Tigers fans Eddie Bajek compiled this information during the offseason.

Continue reading Clearing up some roster confusion

Willis is back in the rotation

Dontrelle Willis has a start scheduled for next Wednesday against the Twins. This will end his stint on the DL due to anxiety disorder. I don’t really know what to expect from Willis, but as Jim Leyland said:

“I think that’s good. I think it’s time to find out. The report is that he’s throwing pretty much around the plate all the time, 89-93 (mph) with his fastball, throwing some breaking balls, some change-ups, using all his pitches.

“I think it’s a huge thing for us, definitely. I’m all for finding out. I’m hoping he’s really good. Having a left-hander in the rotation would be really good for us.

“Regardless, it’s time to find out.”

Indeed it is.

Zach Miner is the one getting bumped from the rotation and he will be in the bullpen. No announcement has been made on who will head off the 25 man roster, and that decision likely won’t come until closer to the start.

Dontrelle Willis to start for Tigers on Wednesday | detnews.com | The Detroit News

Also, Dylan pointed me to this Fire Brand of the American League article about Dontrelle’s rehab start in Pawtucket.

Rotation shuffle

With today’s rain out, the Tigers have changed their rotation, or have they demoted Zach Miner to the bullpen?

The two different stories have a different feel to be sure. First though, the upcoming pitchers are: Galarraga, Verlander, Jackson, Porcello. That’s what we know for sure. The Tigers are effectively skipping Rick Porcello this turn through the rotation. And with an off day Thursday, and another off day on Monday, Galarraga is expected to start the Tuesday game in LAAnaheim. Which means Zach Miner is being skipped in the next turn through the rotation.

I really think this is more a matter of maximizing the starts for the Verlander/Galarraga/Jackson triumvirate than it is a relegation of Zach Miner to the bullpen. Miner wasn’t good on Monday, but not many pitchers were good in that weather and I can’t see that as a reason for him to lose a spot in the rotation. But…who knows what will happen between now and the next time the team needs a 5th starter.

Analysis: Breaking down today’s roster decisions

Today’s roster decisions pretty much wrapped up nearly 2 months (and in some cases even more) of speculation. There is one spot yet to be decided. That will go to either Jeff Larish or Brent Clevlen, though the Tigers are reportedly in trade talks with the Pirates regarding Clevlen. (ironically, or at least coincidentally, such a trade would displace former Tiger Craig Monroe) But with 96% of the roster decided we shift our guessing from personnel to performance.
Continue reading Analysis: Breaking down today’s roster decisions

Starting pitching not so ready

The news from Lakeland today is that Joel Zumaya and Jeremy Bonderman may not be ready by Opening Day. The Zumaya news isn’t at all surprising. The Bonderman news isn’t especially surprising, but a little concerning as he looks to regain velocity. But that’s not all…

There is of course the Nate Robertson thumb injury which thankfully doesn’t sound too serious. Still, it’s not a lock that he’ll make his next scheduled turn.

And option Rick Porcello hasn’t been quite as dazzling since the finger injury. He’s struggled somewhat with his control against the Yankees on Saturday. Tonight he walked 3 and allowed 3 hits in 2.1 innings against Tampa.

This spring has seen a lot of ups and downs from the various members of the rotation. Verlander was working on stuff and all over the place before finding his groove. Robertson was washed up and done before turning in back to back nice outings before the thumb injury. Porcello was the best pitcher in camp before his finger injury. Zach Miner was relegated to the bullpen before he seemed to figure things out. Who knows what will happen over the next week. Maybe Dontrelle Willis and his new leg kick will give us reason for hope.

Injuries for everyone

So the Tigers just get everybody back from the WBC, and then they lose Adam Everett and Nate Robertson in the first inning today.

Everett sprained an ankle sliding into second and Robertson took a throw from Danny Worth on his pitching hand resulting in a sprained thumb.

Neither injury sounds especially serious, but with a week left in camp with the whole team together, this is at minimum a nuisance. It also puts into jeopardy Robertson’s ability to start the season in the rotation, a position he was working himself into with his last couple outings.

On the other hand, Zach Miner who was almost assured of a spot in the pen, has now pitched two strong outings in a row and may find himself back in the hunt.

One guy who may have pitched himself off the roster today was Scott Williamson. Williamson allowed 5 runs in one inning of work today. He was probably on the wrong side of the bullpen bubble, and today certainly didn’t help his cause.

Did Porcello make the team?

Lynn Henning has been writing about Rick Porcello daily, basically imploring Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski to take him north. In fact it’s the only story he’s been writing about. (although I haven’t written about much either so I’m not really ragging on him for this). Well in this afternoon’s piece Henning says:

Fans are nervous. Fans are excited. Rick Porcello is coming to town, as near as we can tell today, as part of Tigers manager Jim Leyland’s rotation.

Is this Henning speculation or fact? I have to believe it’s more the former than the latter. Porcello is clearly outperforming Robertson/Willis/Miner and is healthier than Bonderman. And if the season started next week I think the Tigers would take Porcello over the other options. But last I looked it’s March 13th and the season doesn’t start until April.

Why would the Tigers make this decision now? With Robertson and Willis on multi-year contracts there is no money to save by ending the competition now. Both will have several more chances to earn a spot and Porcello will have several more chances to demonstrate his readiness. It all seems premature.

Add in the fact that there is no Leyland quote about this and the other beats don’t make mention of it, and I think this is an informed guess as opposed to breaking news.

In other rotation-y news though, Jason Beck notes that the rotation order is lining up for the regular season with Justin Verlander starting on Opening Day (no surprise) and Edwin Jackson pitching game 2. And Jon Paul Morosi notes that there is no more slack remaining in Jeremy Bonderman’s schedule if he’s going to be ready for the first week. Most years the Tigers could get by with four starters the first week or two, but with the team playing 10 straight days there is no flexibility.

Is it time for Rick Porcello

With a job in the rotation up for grabs, the leading incumbents have struggled. Dontrelle Willis has taken a step forward from his struggles last year, but it hasn’t been a big enough step to warrant a rotation spot. Nate Robertson, who I expected to pitch better this year, simply hasn’t. But Rick Porcello? The longshot? He spun 3 scoreless innings where he did allow 5 hits, but none for extra bases and no walks. We’re still almost a month away from Opening Day, but is it time for the 20 year old?

The most compelling argument to keep Porcello in the minors relates to workload and stamina. In his only professional season he was kept to a hard 75 pitch limit in each of his starts. He also amassed only 125 innings. I say only not because that was too few, but it is less than where he’d need to be. So there is work to do in building stamina.

But the stamina/workload issue might also be the most compelling reason to bring him North right away. If you are of the belief he has multiple major-league-ready pitches right now (which many scouts do), why not take advantage of them early in the season? Why wait until he is closer to his seasonal inning limit later in the year. Why not get what you can from the kid to start the season?

Yes he is all of 20 years old, but poise and maturity don’t seem to be an issue for him.

There are of course economic reasons to keep him in the minors. Two of those are the contracts to Robertson and Willis. A third is the contract to Porcello himself. “Rushing” him and ruining him would be quite the blow given the bonus he received. Plus it accelerates his service time.

The Tigers (and every other team in the Central) are in contention for the division. If Porcello is going to pitch for the club this year, I’d rather it be in April than August. There are reasons to keep him in the minors. But it should only come down to 5 reasons – and those would be the 5 guys who prove themselves to be better options in the rotation. So far, and things could change in the next 4 weeks, those 5 reasons haven’t become apparent.

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