Ryan Howard

Miguel Cabrera

In the wake of the Miguel Cabrera injury the Tigers have few good options

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DETROIT — It may be the Fourth of July, but Miguel Cabrera’s calf strain has sapped Comerica Park of its festive spirit. Indeed, despite sunny summer skies and red white and blue everywhere you look, it’s the gloomiest I’ve ever seen it.

When Cabrera came out of last night’s game with a calf strain you knew it had to be serious. Cabrera has played hurt in the past. He’s played injured in the past. He’s played when he probably shouldn’t have more times than I can count. But short of him literally missing a limb you never expect him to come out of a game.

That’s when Brad Ausmus knew it was bad, well before the MRI results showing a grade-3 calf strain came back.

“When Miggy says he can’t play, it’s serious, because Miggy plays through anything,” Ausmus said this morning. But he won’t be playing though this. Ausmus said he’s still waiting on a second opinion, but he doesn’t expect it to be any better. “I looked at the MRI. You can ask me about it,” Ausmus said. But even Dr. Ausmus is resigned to the fact that the best hitter in baseball will be out six weeks. And as he sat and spoke to the media this morning, he made it clear that the Tigers’ options are limited.

Alex Avilia will get the start today, but he has played only three career games at first base. And, Ausmus reminded us, he was just activated from the disabled list himself. He’s worried enough about Avila playing back-to-back games at the position he knows, let alone one that’s mostly unfamiliar.

source:
Jefry Marte taks grounders the morning after being called up. — photo Craig Calcaterra

The Tigers called up Jefry Marte from Toledo to take Caberea’s spot on the roster. Marte is 24 and is an eight-year minor league veteran. He’s hitting a respectable .271/.337/.497 at Toledo this year, but he is a third baseman, having only played a handful of games at first base in the Texas League and the Arizona Fall League. The system is devoid of anyone at first with major league experience. “Minor league free agent first basemen don’t want to sign with the Tigers,” Ausmus said “knowing that the best hitter in the game is here on a long term deal.” The 37-year-old Mike Hessman, just a few homers shy of the all-time minor league record, has played over 450 games at first between the majors and minors, but no one considers him an option.

What say you about Victor Martinez, Brad Ausmus? He’s played nearly 200 games at first.

“Victor in my mind is not an option,” Ausmus said. “He’s not on the radar.” The reason is simple: health. And, Ausmus added, “if you play him at first base and he gets hurt, then you’ve lost two bats.”

That leaves the trade market, but the pickings for a solid first baseman look slim. Ryan Howard is out there, but given how he’s hitting this year you can’t bet on him being a better option than Marte, at many, many times the price, either in salary or trade. And what do the Tigers trade anyway? Their most obvious trade chit may be Yoenis Cespedes, but you have to think the Tigers were hoping to hold him for a trade for a pitcher. Or two. And if you deal him now, the lineup will have only one serious power threat in J.D. Martinez.

One option, which I presume no one associated with the Tigers is eager to consider let alone speak about in public, is to make the best of a bad situation and use the Cabrera injury as an excuse to punt on 2015 and reposition for 2016. Be willing to go without that power in the second half if you can get someone who helps next year. Move some other pieces or even engage in an on-the-fly rebuild. After all, the Tigers are six games out in the AL Central. Maybe it’s time to get creative.

Or, maybe, when your owner is 90-years-old and has poured serious, serious money into this club, “rebuild” is a four-letter word.

Where does that leave the Tigers?

“Sometimes you find out more about a team when a player like Miggy goes down,” Ausmus said. “We’ll see what type of fight we have.”

We’ll find out right along with him.

 

And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

Walkoff Balk
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Dodgers 1, Rangers 0: One run in the game and it came via a walkoff balk. It was caused by pinch runner Enrique Hernandez faking out Rangers reliever Keone Kela, making him think he was pulling a straight steal of home. No need to steal a base, I guess, when the pitcher is gonna give it to you. A no-decision for Zack Greinke despite seven shutout innings. He’s 0-2 with a 1.99 ERA in his past eight starts. That takes some serious doing.

Yankees 9, Marlins 4: Down 3-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Yankees put up eight runs over the next three innings, thanks in part to Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran each hitting two-run homers.  A-Rod had two hits and an RBI and now stands one hit away from 3,000. He was cheered wildly throughout the game. He had one more plate appearance after 2,999 but Marlins pitcher Sam Dyson didn’t give him anything to hit, causing the crowd to boo and jeer Dyson. A-Rod, as things currently stands, is the most popular and, possibly, the best-loved current Yankees player. This has to drive the folks up in the press box absolutely bonkers.

Royals 3, Brewers 2: Ned Yost becomes the Royals’ all-time winningest manager and did so by beating his old employer. Behind him on the list: Whitey Herzog and Dick Howser. Which, man, baseball is weird when two of the best managers in the past couple of decades are behind a guy like Yost. Who I’m sure is a nice man, but he ain’t no Herzog or Howser. And that’s not me hating. Yost agrees:

“It’s nice, but again I don’t look at it as an individual achievement,” Yost said “First of all, I don’t feel like I’m in the same class as Whitey Herzog and Dick Howser, one. Two, this is an organizational-wide achievement and I’m proud to be part of that. Everybody is involved.”

Giants 7, Mariners 0: Ryan Vogelsong and three relievers combined on a five-hit shutout. He got good run support two and talked about it afterward:

“It’s always nice to have some points on the board,” said Vogelsong,

“Runs,” Ryan. We call them “runs” in baseball.

Blue Jays 7, Mets 1: The battle of the ancients, with R.A. Dickey facing Bartolo Colon. It was the first time in seven years that two 40-year-old+ pitchers faced off. Back in 2008 it was Greg Maddux and Jamie Moyer. Here it was Dickey certainly getting the better of Colon, allowing one run on three hits and somehow surviving five walks.

Rays 5, Nationals 3: The loss stinks for the Nats, but the hamstring injury to Bryce Harper is way worse news. All the worse because it appeared to happen due to Harper slipping on wet grass. As for the Rays, Chris Archer has been Cy Young-worthy all year. Last night he wasn’t — he allowed three runs over five innings — but he was still good enough to get the win. Yunel Escobar notched five hits.

Indians 4, Cubs 3: Giovanny Urshela drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh and Terry Francona got creative with the pen, using Cody Allen to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning following a rain delay. Imagine: using your best reliever in the toughest spot your club might face all game long.

Phillies 2, Orioles 1: Ryan Howard hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the sixth, which represented the first time the Phillies held a lead in the whole series. And the lead held up, allowing Philly to snap their nine-game losing streak. Wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles.

Twins 2, Cardinals 1: Kennys Vargas hit a walkoff solo shot an inning after Joe Mauer hit a solo shot to tie it. That was the first time in 35 games that the Cardinals lost when leading after seven. And the first time in 25 games the Twins won when trailing after seven. The baseball season is long. Everything happens eventually.

Astros 8, Rockies 4: Houston is the first team to 40 wins in the American League, just as everyone expected. Domingo Santana hit a three run homer to put this one out of reach late. He was just called up this week. The Astros don’t lack for reinforcements from the minors, do they?

Padres 3, Athletics 1: For the first time since 2006 someone besides Bud Black notches a win as manager of the Padres, with interim manager Pat Murphy finally getting a W. The last guy to do it was Bruce Bochy. Well, maybe there was some fill-in manager at some point over the years because Bud Black, I dunno, had his wisdom teeth out or something, but you get the idea. Matt Kemp and Derek Norris each went deep.

Angels 7, Diamondbacks 1: C.J. Wilson struck out nine over eight scoreless innings while allowing only one run and not walking a batter. He also did this:

 

Kind of funny? Also kind of the thing Mike Scioscia should really yell at Wilson for doing because, jeez, dude, he’s a pitcher.

Red Sox 5, Braves 2: The Red Sox split with the Braves, thanks to Clay Buchholz allowing only two runs — neither earned — in seven innings of work. He also had a tough, 10-pitch at bat against his counterpart, Shelby Miller, which caused Miller to have to throw a lot more pitches than he would have otherwise and which Miller said was his toughest out of the game. The next inning Miller was touched for three runs.

Pirates 3, White Sox 2: Gerrit Cole continues to make a case for the Cy Young Award, winning his 11th game and allowing only two runs over seven innings. His ERA actually went up from 1.71 to 1.78 after this game.

Tigers vs. Reds: POSTPONED: Send us a blindfold, send us a blade

Tell the survivors help is on the way

I was a blindfold, never complained
All the survivors singing in the rain
I was the one with the world at my feet

Got us a battle, leave it up to me

Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard are back

Prince Fielder
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Rangers DH Prince Fielder hit two home runs in Friday night’s win against the Yankees and he homered again in a blowout win on Saturday. The slugger, who missed most of the 2014 season after undergoing neck surgery, now has eight home runs on the year with 30 RBI and a .351/.407/.544 triple-slash line.

Meanwhile, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard homered again in a rout of the Nationals on Saturday, giving him three in his last four games and 10 on the season along with 23 RBI and a .270/.316/.554 triple-slash line. Howard suffered a torn Achilles at the end of the 2011 NLDS and tore his meniscus in 2013. He hasn’t shown power at this level since 2009, when he hit 45 home runs.

Fielder and Howard represent two of baseball’s worst contracts, so their respective teams are happy they’re seeing at least some positive return on their investments. Fielder was signed as a free agent to a nine-year, $214 million deal by the Tigers in January 2012. He joined the Rangers along with $30 million in a swap for Ian Kinsler. $144 million over six years remains, including his 2015 salary. Howard signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension with the Phillies in April 2010, two years before he was eligible for free agency. $60 million over two years ($25 million annually in ’15 and ’16 plus a $10 million buyout for ’17) remains on Howard’s deal.