Tigers Today: July 7, 2010

BallBatGrass.jpgTigers’ Record:

45-37, 1st place; 1/2-game ahead of Twins

Today’s Game

Tigers vs. Orioles | 7:05 p.m. ET – Comerica Park | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Pitching Matchup

Max Scherzer (5-6, 4.88 ERA) vs. RHP Brad Bergesen (3-5, 6.44 ERA)

Yesterday’s Results

Tigers 7 – Orioles 5

Continue reading Tigers Today: July 7, 2010

Time to Get More Than the Minimum from Max

[Note: This post also appeared on ESPN.com’s SweetSpot Blog.]

Coming into this week, the Tigers had a rotation in tatters and a bullpen at risk of being overworked. And though Justin Verlander appears to have solved his customary early-season woes—evidenced by his masterful start on Thursday against the Yankees—the rest of the Tigers’ starting five was causing Jim Leyland to tap into his steady relief corps far too early and far too often. Coming into Friday, Tigers starters have the fewest innings pitched (184) in the American League and rank 29th overall.

Things might be looking up in Detroit, though. Rick Porcello at last may be untracked thanks to his performance against the Yankees on Wednesday and Jeremy Bonderman is showing signs that he might (again) be a reliable starter after all. So, at least for now the Tigers’ rotation appears to be steadying itself. That is, except for a guy they expected to gobble up innings in 2010: Max Scherzer.

After a dazzling debut on April 7 in which he held the Royals to one hit over six innings in a no-decision, Scherzer has been nothing but a question mark in Detroit’s rotation. He hasn’t won in nearly as month, he’s given up 48 hits in 37 innings so far, and in his last two starts alone he allowed 15 earned runs in 9.1 IP.

Scherzer enters his Friday start against the Red Sox with a 1-3 record and a bulky 6.81 ERA. He’s also been a major contributor to the number of innings the Tigers bullpen has pitched in the first six weeks of the season: Scherzer averages barely five innings of work.

Not exactly what the Tigers had in mind when they made him a key piece of the Curtis Granderson/Edwin Jackson trade last winter.

But should we be surprised with Scherzer’s struggles adjusting to the American League? Well, if he were regularly facing lineups like the Yankees and Rays, the answer would be yes. But the fact is he’s getting pounded by the likes of the Royals and Indians—and Twins and Rangers and, well, you get the idea. Even with the DH factored in Scherzer should not be faring this poorly against A.L. opponents.

What should the Tigers do with Scherzer? Unfortunately, they have few choices at this point.

With his 1.68 WHIP, Scherzer’s not a candidate for the bullpen. And even if he did move into a relief role, the Tigers aren’t exactly brimming with capable replacements to slot into the rotation. Maybe Armando Galarraga. Or perhaps recently recalled and even more recently demoted Alfredo Figaro.

The Tigers are enchanted with Scherzer’s potential—after all, he was taken by the Diamondbacks with the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft—and are likely to let pitching coach Rick Knapp tinker with him and hope things click as they have for Verlander, Porcello and, just maybe, Bonderman.

Yes, Scherzer’s upside is tremendous – the guy throws in the mid 90s and he’s only 25 – which explains why the Tigers were so intent on bringing him to Detroit. Though, presumably the club thought he was ready to elevate his performance to a higher level than what he displayed last year for the Diamondbacks in his rookie season.

For now, the Tigers will have to live with some growing pains and hope he starts pitching past the fifth inning—beginning tonight.

Three for Thursday: ’06 All Over Again

3 fingers.jpgLooking at the scene today at Comerica Park — brilliant blue skies, a sun-drenched field — I can’t help but think back to three years ago today when the Tigers choked on a golden opportunity to win a division title. History repeating itself?

  1. Dan Gladden made an interesting point on the pre-game interview with Jim Price Wednesday evening. The Twins don’t have a Latin coach on their big-league staff and Orlando Cabrera has helped calm some of the club’s Latin players. I wonder what impact the Tigers’ infield coach Rafael Belliard has had on Miguel Cabrera, Ramon Santiago, et al? We know he worked wonders with Cabrera’s defensive work at first base. How much did the language thing play into it?

  2. The last Tigers’ division champion relied on contributions from several rookies including Scott Lusader, Jim Walewander, Matt Nokes and Mike Henneman. This year’s club has Rick Porcello, Alex Avila and Ryan Perry. At this point, 1987 wins on contributors and championships. For now.

  3. From the moment I saw the Tigers’ 2009 schedule, I didn’t like them playing the White Sox to end the season under any circumstances. Now the Tigers have to win two of three if they want to guarantee a championship. The weekend starts by facing Jake Peavy on Friday night, and then the Tigers are counting on Alfredo Figaro on Saturday? Yeah, things are certainly aligning nicely for Detroit.

Finally, Happy 63rd Birthday, 1968 Tiger Jon Warden.

40-man Roster Almost Full

The Tigers added five prospects to the 40-man roster this morning: right-handers Alfredo Figaro, Guillermo Moscoso and Zach Simons; and outfielders Wilkin Ramirez and Casper Wells. That leaves two spots that must be filled by midnight tonight.

In a blog post today, the Free Press‘s Jon Paul Morosi thought infielder Will Rhymes, currently playing in the Arizona Fall League, would end up on the 40-man roster and, more important, not be exposed in the Rule 5 Draft next month.

It’ll be interesting to see how – or if – this impacts trade activity in the next few weeks.