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Written by Matt Snyder | 07 April 2012

ValverdeBlownSave

We all knew the streak would eventually end. Jose Valverde, the All-Star closer who was a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities a season ago blew his first chance of the season on Thursday.

I wasn’t necessarily a fan of the Tigers picking up the $9 million team option on Valverde’s contract for this season (I’m a big believer that you don’t pay for saves), so watching the Somewhat Smaller Potato labor on the hill while Justin Verlander’s lead evaporated got under my skin a little bit. I got over my annoyance as soon as Austin Jackson’s ground ball skipped through the infield but, upon reflection, I really shouldn’t have been all that annoyed in the first place.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 07 April 2012

MiLB_LogoToledo 5, Indianapolis 1 -- AAA

The Mud Hens only managed five hits, but they also drew eight walks en route to putting up five runs on the board. Audy Ciriaco homered and Omir Santos doubled for the cause. Matt Young used a pair of walks to reach base three times.

Adam Wilk got the opening day start for the Hens. He went five scoreless innings with six strikeouts while allowing only one hit and one walk. Brayan Villarreal was the first pitcher in relief -- he gave Toledo two scoreless innings and three strikeouts (no walks).

Altoona 4, Erie 2 -- AA

The SeaWolves fall to 0-2 as they managed to scratch out only two runs. Michael Rockett was the only multi-hit player; he had a triple and a single. Jamie Johnson drew a pair of walks and scored a run.

Zack Segovia was the starting pitcher for Erie, but he didn't last through five innings after allowing nine hits and three earned runs. Kelvin De La Cruz pitched an inning and a third and struck out three.

Lakeland 4, Tampa 2 -- A+

The Lakeland offense was lead by third baseman Nick Castellanos who ended the night with two doubles and two walks in five plate appearances. Tyler Collins also chipped in three hits, including a double.

Kevin Eichhorn had a nice outing on the mound. He threw six innings with four strikeouts, six hits, one walk, and only one unearned run. Bruce Rondon blew the save in relief (1 IP, 2 ER, 3 H, 2 SO, 0 BB, 0 HR), but the offense picked him up and he ended up recording a Valverdian win.

Dayton 3, West Michigan 2 -- A

The Whitecaps could only push across two runs (their first two of the season) in the loss to Dayton. Danry Vasquez reached base in each of his four plate appearances with three singles and a walk. Curt Casali blasted a solo home run in the losing effort.

Thomas Collier went four strong innings in a starting effort. He struck out six, walked on, and only allowed a single (unearned) run to score. Tim Kelley and Michael Torrealba combined for four innings and five strikeouts in relief before Daniel Bennett blew the save and recorded the loss.

Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter
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Written by Matt Snyder | 06 April 2012

MiLB_LogoThe Toledo Mud Hens (AAA) did not play. They open their season tomorrow versus Indianapolis at 5:00 PM.

Altoona 7, Erie 4 – AA

Rawley Bishop (2-3, 2B, BB), Tony Plagman (1-2, 2 BB), and Jamie Johnson (2-5, 2B) each reached base multiple times, and catching prospect Rob Brantly homered, but the SeaWolves couldn’t come up with enough offense to overcome a poor pitching night.

Jay Voss got the start, but he was pulled after 4.2 innings and five runs allowed. He struck out two, walked two, and allowed a home run.

Lakeland 8, Tampa 5 – A+

The Lakeland Flying Tigers offense erupted for eight runs as five players came away with a multi-hit game. Tyler Collins and Avisail Garcia had three hits apiece while Daniel Fields, James Robbins, and James McCann each had two hits. Top hitting prospect Nick Castellanos was 1-5 with two strikeouts in his Advanced-A debut.

Left-hander Alex Burgos got the ball for Lakeland and went on to record the win. He gave the club six innings with five strikeouts while allowing three walks.

Dayton 3, West Michigan 0 – A

The Whitecaps offense was quiet in the season opener. They only recorded four hits (all singles) and failed to push a runner across the plate. Eugenio Suarez, Aaron Westlake, Steven Moya, and Dean Green each had one hit. Catcher Curt Casali walked three times. 18 year old Danry Vasquez went 0-4 with two strikeouts.

Josue Carreno was the starting pitcher for the Whitecaps. He pitched 3.1 innings and allowed three earned runs on seven hits and two walks.

Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 05 April 2012

justin-verlanderRod Allen said during the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast that pitching coach Jeff Jones' only fear about Justin Verlander was that he might be "too amped up" for his first start of the year as the Tigers opened the season against the Boston Red Sox. We've seen that sort of thing in the past from Verlander. At times he would try to rely too much on adrenaline and his 100 mph fastball to overpower hitter after hitter instead of letting his complete (and effective) repertoire do the job for him.

But we saw a different side of Verlander last season as he tore through the American Legue en route to a Cy Young and an MVP award. He dialed the fastball back in the opening innings, he mixed his pitches, and steadily ramped up the velocity as the game progressed and when he needed that 'little extra' to get out of a jam. But it wasn't simply his pitching strategy that changed, it was demeanor as well. Gone was his former 'JV scowl' that would appear when he would hit a road bump, and gone was the stubbornness to (attempt to) will his pitches past hitters. In their stead was a calm confidence and control that displayed his complete trust in his ability to truly pitch (not throw) himself through any situation.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 03 April 2012

DannyWorthTigers are set with their 27 man roster (as @PhilCokesBrain put it) with Brandon Inge hitting the disabled list with the sore groin and Drew Smyly staying in the minor leagues for his first start. And so we must wait for a resolution for two of the three ‘big’ position battles of the spring.

The first battle, the final (6th?) outfield spot, will be officially decided by April 12, when Smyly will need to be added to the active roster to make his Major League debut. Either Andy Dirks will be optioned to the minor leagues, or Clete Thomas will be designated for assignment (after which he will most certainly clear waivers and end up in Toledo).

But the hot topic all spring was the heated battle for the third sting utility infielder position. I hope the rest of baseball gets to enjoy the type of minutia that we’ve enjoyed. This contest won’t be officially settled until Inge is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 13.

But I don’t think there’s any question what the move will be. Inge will be activated and Danny Worth will be sent down to Toledo. I really don’t see any way that the Tigers would string Inge along for 15 days only to cut bait once he’s eligible to play. It’s possible that the Tigers use the extra days to work out a trade, any trade, with a team willing to take even a dollar of Inge’s salary, but the line up of takers for any deal involving Inge probably looks like that scene from Mary Poppins where all of the nanny candidates are blown away in the wind and only a neighborhood dog is left waiting by the door.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 29 March 2012

DuaneBelowThe internal battle for the final spot in the Tigers’ starting rotation appears to be down to the final two players as the Tigers have announced that Andy Oliver has been optioned to AAA Toledo. He follows Casey Crosby, Adam Wilk, and Jacob Turner as fifth starter candidates to be relegated to the minor leagues. Only Duane Below and Drew Smyly remain from the initial group of six pitchers in contention for the spot.

If we are going ‘by the numbers’ then Smyly maintains a fairly significant advantage over Below, but the spring performance gap isn’t quite as extreme as the surface numbers indicate.

Player

IP

ERA

WHIP

Below

12.1

4.38

1.70

Smyly

12.2

2.84

1.04


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Written by Matt Snyder | 23 March 2012

VerlanderScherzerLeylandWe still have no idea who the fifth starting pitcher will eventually be for the Detroit Tigers, but it’s completely possible that they break camp in a couple of weeks with only four starters on their 25 man roster.

The Tigers won’t need a fifth starter until at least April 11 (and they could wait as long as April 14). The way the spring pitching schedule appears to be set right now, the candidates for the final spot would see their final (big league) spring training action on April 1. There’s a ten day gap there in which our mystery man will need to get some work in.

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