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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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Written by Matt Snyder | 22 March 2012

DrewSmylyAndy Oliver’s struggles yesterday left Drew Smyly as the “numbers” leader for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. But this has lead to concern amongst Tigers fans that awarding Smyly the spot (after only one year in the minor leagues) would cause his development to be stunted. The theory here is that it would be better to allow him to develop in the minor leagues where he can “work on things” than (potentially) get pounded in the big leagues where he might lose confidence in his less refined offerings.

The easy comparison here is Rick Porcello. He was a highly touted prospect that spent just a single season in the minor leagues, but after three big league seasons, has yet to come close to realizing his top-of-the-rotation potential. But once you look past their identical minor league service time, you’ll find that there’s really very little in common between 2009 Rick Porcello and 2012 Drew Smyly.

First of all, Smyly was a college pitcher, where Porcello made the jump to professional baseball out of high school. So, whereas Porcello was 20 years old when he made his major league debut, Smyly would be 22 (and would turn 23 in June). And Smyly’s two years of action at the University of Arkansas also serve as two years of experience versus post high school hitters. That’s not the same experience one would gain in some of the upper levels of the minor leagues, but it’s probably not all that dissimilar to a Tigers prospect spending a year in Connecticut and a year in West Michigan.

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Written by Matt Snyder | 21 March 2012

AndyOliver2Andy Oliver gave up his first three runs of the spring all at once on a three-run homer off the bat of Minnesota’s Luke Hughes on Wednesday afternoon. But it wasn’t the home runs, or the run total that badly wounded Oliver on this day, it was the re-emergence of his walk problem.

Five of the eighteen batters that stepped to the plate against Oliver were issued a free pass, nearly doubling his spring walk rate (from 3 BB/9 to 5.7 BB/9). Compounding his high-walk problem (both in this game and for the spring as a whole) has been a somewhat surprising lack of strikeouts. He’s totaled just seven in 12.2 innings of work thus far. If Oliver can’t completely shake off the walk demon (though he must control it), he’s going to at least need to ratchet up the strikeouts if he hopes to ever experience success in the big leagues.

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