Three for Thursday

3 fingers.jpgAs anticipation builds for the debut of Rick Porcello, here are three items for your Thursday consideration.

The Non Sequiturs: Final Four Edition

basketball hoop.jpgWatching countless commercial breaks and a little Final Four hoops, I thought I’d finger-roll some non sequiturs:

  • There’s no place to put him, unfortunately, but I wish the Tigers could right and old wrong and bring back the now-available Frank Catalanotto.

  • In case you were wondering, with the Opening Day roster set, the Tigers have assigned official uniform numbers to: Ryan Perry, 74; Rick Porcello, 48; Juan Rincon, 59; and Josh Anderson, 13.

  • Speaking of Rincon, talk about a guy who flew under the radar all spring. I’ve got a feeling he could be the most important reliever leading up to late innings.

  • And while we’re talking numbers, my post-Sheff release commentary the other day had a misleading headline. I intended to go off on his wearing of Alan Trammell’s number 3 but got, as you saw, sidetracked. I was never happy about him wearing Tram’s number and I think the Tigers need to be more protective of stars’ numbers.

    No one should be able to wear #3 again, or Lou Whitaker‘s #1, Jack Morris‘s #47, or (sorry, Josh Anderson), Lance Parrish‘s #13. Years ago I read somewhere that clubhouse guy Jim Schmakel is very protective of those 1984 stars’ numbers. I think they should make it a policy, plain and simple. What do you think?

Finally, it wouldn’t be Opening Day — or the baseball season for that matter — without more doggerel from the guys at Bardball.com. Chances are you’ve never seen baseball predictions in haiku, so you’re in for a treat.

Go State.

Vance Wilson's St. Patrick's (Birth)Day Celebration

Catcher.jpgThree quick hits:

  1. This past weekend my wife and I traveled to Indian Wells, Calif., to watch the second round of the Pacific Life Open tennis tournament.

    When you take away the two-hour line to park and the gale-force winds, we had a great time watching some big-name players including Lindsay Davenport, Ana Ivanovic, Carlos Moya and defending champ Rafael Nadal.

    Between matches I pulled out my recent issue of Sports Illustrated and read about youngsters and teams making noise in big-league camps. The first snippet was on Tigers phenom Rick Porcello:

    Already Porcello, who has a repertoire of a mid-90s fastball, curve, slider and changeup is drawing comparisons to Josh Beckett (and even Jim Palmer) and stirring talk of a possible late-summer debut.

    Jim Palmer? No pressure there. Though, with all the young talent the Tigers have brought along — or traded — in the past few years, I find myself longing for the days of Sparky Anderson‘s predictions. Can you imagine what Sparky would have said about Justin Verlander, Curtis Granderson, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller and Porcello?

    And while I’m glad the Tigers are high on Porcello, why even toy with a post-Sept. 1 callup? What’s the rush?

  2. With a name like Michael Patrick McClary you can imagine that St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal in my family. Yet, March 17 is probably a much bigger day for Tigers catcher Vance Wilson who happens to have the good fortune of a St. Patrick’s Day birthday. He’s 35 today.
  3. Did you happen to catch the Dontrelle Willis topic on ESPN’s The Sports Reporters on Sunday? It appeared that they needed a hook to talk about the Tigers and asked the panel if the D-Train would be running on time this year now that he’s with a better team. The consensus? A resounding “yeah, probably.”

Emptying Out the Mental Notebook

There have been lots of thoughts percolating around my head lately. Now that I’ve cleared my driveway of snow for the third time today, it’s time to get those thoughts out to the masses.

Brandon Inge
If you recall prior to the 2004 season Mr. Inge acted like a petulant little child when the Tigers signed Pudge Rodriguez. He whined and complained about how the catching job was his and he wasn’t giving it up without a fight. Of course he turned into a super-sub of sorts (playing 139 games, logging 400+ ABs at five different positions) and eventually won the starting third base job.

Fast forward four seasons and Mr. Inge no longer wants to be a catcher; he fancies himself a third baseman apparently. Though not as loudly, he appears to be lobbying to move out of town now that Miguel Cabrera appears to be the Tigers’ new third baseman. I don’t believe for a minute the Tigers can trade him and the $18 million left on his contract and receive anything close to good value. With that said, I suggest Brandon close his yap, buy a few extra gloves, learn how to scoop balls at first, play all three outfield positions, and get comfortable in the tools of ignorance again. Return to the role of super utilityman for this season. Milwaukee Brewer Bill Hall logged over 500 ABs in a similar role in 2005, playing three different positions. If Inge can play 3B, 1B, OF, and even a bit of C, I would expect enough at bats will come his way to keep him happy.

The goal, or promise to Inge, is that he becomes your full-time catcher effective 2009. He’ll have this year to study the pitching staff, pick Pudge and Vance Wilson‘s brains, and relearn the position. With the offense that will be surrounding him, Inge would merely have to concentrate on his fielding — any hitting would be a bonus. And if you’re really trying to do the hard sell, remind him the staff he would have to catch would include Justin Verlander, Dontrelle Willis, Jeremy Bonderman, and — at some point — Rick Porcello.

Dontrelle Willis

I heard Willis’ first interview on local radio following the trade. WXYT had him on and I liked what I heard. He has a passion for the game, he has a personality, he’s energetic, and he should endear himself to the Detroit fanbase. Will he be able to pitch? The good news, I suppose, is that Detroit isn’t counting on him to be the ace. All they really need from him is 200+ serviceable innings. Ideally (with the bullpen the Tigers have) that’s what they’d like to get from all five starters — save Rogers I suppose. Chew up innings boys. The bats should get enough runs to keep this team in virtually every game.

One other item about Willis. Don’t underestimate the impact another African-American will have on the Tigers’ fan base. Willis is an inner-city kid and, like Curtis Granderson, has a personality that will make him popular. For a city that’s attempting to make a comeback, I think it’s outstanding the youngsters in town will have a couple of role models on the home team to look up to.

By the way, has anyone else noticed an entire Hispanic infield? Non hablas Espanol?

The Mitchell Report

Nothing surprises me (nor should it), but I’d like to launch a conspiracy theory on Roger Clemens. I wonder if his decision to stall his comeback each of the past couple of seasons was due merely to making sure he had it in him or rather he had it in him? I’m certainly no expert on performance enhancing drugs, but doesn’t it suddenly seem plausible that The Rocket was taking a late-winter cycle of PED’s before deciding to come back? Are unsigned free agents subjected to the testing? If not, it wouldn’t surprise me if Clemens got his body finely tuned and then gave his body time to flush the evidence before signing. So much for all those stories of his legendary workouts that I always admired as a younger man.

Mitchell Report Part II

Nook Logan? Mark Carreon? Alex Sanchez? This is our Detroit connection? No wonder our home team stunk during the Steroid Era!

Clearly Carreon wasn’t on the juice when he was a Tiger. He hit a career-low .232 that year.As for Sanchez — the first to be busted — it’s a good thing he was on the stuff, otherwise half of those swinging bunt singles he had would’ve rolled foul at the plate, right?

And Nook? Well, I got nothing for Nook.

Bullpen

If the starters can get into the seventh inning I don’t feel too bad about things. It’s that middle/long relief that gives me the Guillermos. I know Zach Miner will be serviceable and I shouldn’t fret about Jason Grilli, but neither instill a lot of confidence — especially if they get thrown into roles they’re not comfortable in.

I actually feel pretty good about the two situational lefties they’ll enter camp with: Tim Byrdak and Bobby Seay. Seay was especially effective the last half of the season when used correctly. Speaking of using folks correctly, Memo to Jim Leyland: Todd Jones can only pitch one inning this year and it should be at the start of the inning, not mid-inning with runners on base.

I’m not expecting Joel Zumaya to contribute anything this year.