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 Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009

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PostSubject: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Wed Jan 02, 2008 9:49 pm

01/02/2008 5:25 PM ET
Mailbag: Will long stretch affect plans?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers fans' questions

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Starting April 8, the Tigers have 20 straight games without a day off. Will this influence the roster regarding the number of pitchers vs. position players the Tigers bring north?
-- Greg O., Toledo, Ohio


That's a good catch, and probably the best question I received over the holidays, for what it's worth. It's actually pretty unusual to see that long of a stretch without an off-day in April, especially with so many games in northern cities with outdoor stadiums except for four games in Toronto. The flip side is that you rarely see makeup doubleheaders in April, anyway. The Tigers haven't played one since 1997.

But back to your question, I don't expect it will affect the roster in terms of numbers, since Jim Leyland has always been pretty firm on opening a season with a 12-man pitching staff. It could affect which relievers make the Opening Day roster if the last spot comes down to, say, a specialist or a guy who can eat some innings or make a spot start.


You are probably sick of Brandon Inge questions, but how possible would a trade to the Giants be, along with Nate Robertson for either Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain?
-- Bob B., Wallingford, Conn.


You're right about the Inge questions getting tiring. No offense, but until something actually happens, they're just the same questions and comments over and over and I think some folks are tired of reading them. To answer your question, such a trade would not be realistic; the Giants wouldn't give up either of their young starters in such a deal.

You can't compare this to an Alex Rios type of deal, which was how the rumors of Lincecum on the block got going in the first place.


Kevin Hooper's departure from the organization has not been reported on here -- OK, I understand there have been way bigger stories. But what's your take on Hooper's departure to the Astros, and who's worth watching down there in the Toledo infield now?
-- Ljudivet G., Saginaw, Mich.


Hooper saw a better opportunity with the Astros, including an invitation to big league camp, and he took it. No fault in that. However, if there's any area where the Tigers could have depth at the upper levels of their farm system, it's the middle infield. Michael Hollimon has a good chance to start the season at Toledo, where he could be ready as a callup to Detroit if he's needed. Tony Giarratano looks to be on track to be ready for the start of the season, but he'll need games to get back close to where he was after missing all of 2007 and part of '06. Brent Dlugach could be back by the end of April. Scott Sizemore needs more development, having spent last season at low Class A West Michigan, but his Fall League performance in Arizona at least showed the potential that could send him up the farm system quickly if the Tigers want to promote him up to midseason.


The last two seasons the Tigers have struggled in the second half of
the season. Does having a more veteran-laden team this year mean that should be more or less of a problem?
-- Russ R., London, Ontario


We'll have to wait and see. Keep in mind it's largely the same pitching staff as last year, except for Dontrelle Willis. But out of the new position players, Jacque Jones and Edgar Renteria were both better hitters in the second half last year. Still, comparing second half to first half gets into the injury question, and no matter how much people can draw from injury reputations, you can't predict with certainty who or how many.


Where does Jordan Tata stand in the farm system? Is he still viewed
as a starter or reliever, and does he even stand a chance to break that rotation? Is he worth trading?
-- Jess H., Williamsburg, Va.


As of now, Tata comes into the year as depth in the rotation and possibly as a relief option, much the same as Yorman Bazardo and Virgil Vasquez. He won't break into the Detroit rotation unless there's an injury or some struggles somewhere along the line.


When Kenny Rogers retires, will Rick Porcello be ready and able to take his place? (This could conceivably happen after next season.)
-- Peter F., Toledo


One year would be way too little time to expect Porcello to be ready. Even with the most optimistic of projections, keep in mind he has yet to pitch in a professional game.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Fri Jan 04, 2008 8:37 pm

Kevin Hooper..... Wave
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PostSubject: Mailbag: 01/14/2008 10:11 PM ET   Tue Jan 15, 2008 12:03 am

01/14/2008 10:11 PM ET
Mailbag: Will Tigers trade Thames?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Does the decision to not trade Brandon Inge for less than they think he is worth, and possibly have him as a supersub next year, mean the Tigers will push harder to trade Marcus Thames? After all, carrying 12 pitchers means only having four subs and with Vance Wilson needed to catch, ramon Santiago for short and Ryan Raburn for second, they really only have room for one more guy. And for Inge to get any serious playing time, he needs to supplant the only sub who does get serious playing time, which is Thames, who manages to get a decent amount of work between the outfield, first and designated hitter. The only other option is to take Raburn's job, but can the Tigers put Raburn back in the Minors without losing him on the waiver wire?
-- John H., Jacksonville, Fla.


I asked Dave Dombrowski about that during the caravan, and while he agreed that Thames, Raburn and Inge can't all make the team, given the roster makeup, he said that doesn't necessarily mean they have to make a trade.

What are the team's plans for pitcher Yorman Bazardo? He has good stuff, and showed up when he was called on to start. With the Tigers rotation as thin as it is, do you see him breaking into any sort of regular SP job in 2008?
-- Ron A., Jacksonville, Fla.


Bazardo will have a chance to compete for a bullpen spot. I wrote last week about him potentially being part of the pitching staff at Triple-A Toledo, but I neglected to notice he's out of options at this point. So, he'd have to pass through waivers to get through, and there's a decent chance he'd be claimed by another team. The rotation is set.

With this new lineup, and an optimistic starting staff, do you thing that the 2008 Tigers have a chance to mimic the 1984 Tigers' 35-5 record in the beginning of the season, or during any period during the season?
-- Alex O., Woodhaven, Mich.


No. I can almost guarantee they won't duplicate the 35-5 start, since they visit the Red Sox and Yankees within the season's first five weeks, and I doubt that it can happen later in the year, too. The American League just has too many strong clubs. Detroit's strongest stretch the last couple seasons has come during Interleague Play, when it can beat up on National League teams, and even that should be tougher this year with the strength of the National League West.

Yes, I read your responses about how the rotation was going to be set up, but I'm still confused as to why you placed Dontrelle Willis at fourth in the rotation. He is not a fourth starter kind of guy, he is a workhorse, and, correct me if I'm wrong, he is one of the top southpaws in the game today. He has had three straight 200-inning seasons, winning 22 games in '05, as I'm sure you know. He is more experienced as a pitcher and as an ace than Justin Verlander, so why would Jim Leyland place him at 4th and Kenny Rogers at 2nd? I know your reason was because he is a finesse pitcher, but he's also 43 and has just recently been on the disabled list for an extended amount of time. Yes, Willis is a risk, but it seems like he's a safer bet than Rogers and is poised for a comeback season. I can see keeping it as you say for Spring Training, but do you think it would change for the regular season?
-- Chris F., Bethesda, Md.


Aside from the first week, it doesn't really matter whether a guy starts first or fourth. The only importance of the rotation order from a sequential standpoint is to mix up lefties and righties and styles, so an opponent doesn't get settled in over a three-game series. The rest is mainly ego.

"That could come up more often in future springs once the Indians move to their new Spring Training home in Arizona, leaving the Yankees as the only AL team within a short drive of Lakeland." Everyone forgets the Rays.
-- David F., Royal Oak, Mich.


Actually, I didn't forget them when I wrote last week about using the DH in Spring Training. The Rays are moving after this spring from St. Petersburg to Port Charlotte, which is about a two-hour drive from Lakeland down the Gulf Coast.

When do tickets for single home games go on sale?
-- Chuck G., Clinton Twp., Mich.


Single-game tickets go on sale March 1.

I am just wondering why Inge just does not suck it up, collect his near $20 million and sit on the bench and relax, laughing all the way to the bank.
-- Frank C., Taylor, Mich.


Pride, belief that he can start somewhere, desire to continue his baseball career beyond this contract. To steal a phrase that Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu used the other week when a reporter asked him about playing through an injury, Brandon Inge is a baseball player, not a baseball watcher.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Jan 15, 2008 1:54 am

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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:00 am

01/21/2008 5:35 PM ET
Mailbag: Where to slot Willis?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Nate Robertson's extension makes him eligible for an extra million in performance-based incentives, such as "X" number of innings pitched. Innings pitched is awfully dependent on what the manager intends to do, which leads me to believe this incentive is offered by upper management, not Robertson himself. So my question is, how do incentives get added in to contracts? Is it based on the player trying to find ways to get more out of the organization or the organization trying to get the player perform at his best?
-- Phil L., Toledo


Incentives are usually a way for an agent and a team to compromise when they can't agree to a salary figure or the length of a contract. A lot of times, they're used with players who have a history of injuries or bench players who might start if there's an injury. If they're healthy enough or valued enough to play in a certain number of games, they'll be paid like an everyday starter. The incentives are agreed upon by both sides, or else they wouldn't make it into the contract. Some agents like to deal with those, while other times, they come from the club. In terms of awards, a lot of contracts have the same bonus clauses if a player becomes an All-Star, wins a postseason award or whatever.

In Robertson's case, if he remains an innings eater and stays healthy, he'll make the money. If he's an effective pitcher in his starts, he'll get the innings.

Whereas I am glad the Tigers have signed Dontrelle Willis and Robertson to new "three-year contracts", in effect, isn't it only one year? They were already committed to the team until 2009. Now they are committed to 2010. Were the two years re-negotiated, or were they given more money for those two years in order to tie them up for one more?
-- James S., Detroit


The short answer is yes, they essentially bought an extra year of control on those guys. The long answer is that those other two years were arbitration years. They technically weren't under contract for those years, but they were under the team's control. The only question was what their salary would be. This sets and guarantees their salaries without having to negotiate or go to arbitration again next winter.

Being that Justin Verlander wears No. 35 and Mike Hessman wears No. 24, what numbers will Willis and Miguel Cabrera will wear?
-- Eddie R., Youngstown, Ohio


Willis will wear No. 21, as he did in his press conference last month. Cabrera will wear 24, and Hessman will wear 26.

I read the question from Chris F. this past week about Willis in the four spot in the rotation. He made valid points about how he's a workhorse, but I disagree with about the comparison with Verlander. Willis was a National League pitcher. It's not like he's coming from another American League team. Pitchers who switch leagues tend to have a difficult time their first year. For example, look at Barry Zito and Tim Hudson. Zito struggled to get used to the hitters in the NL. Hudson struggled his first year, but bounced back with a nice year last year for the Braves. Verlander knows the hitters in the AL and should be the No. 1 or No. 3 in the rotation with Jeremy Bonderman and Kenny Rogers being the other two. Let Willis prove himself against AL hitters. They can always rearrange the rotation after the All-Star break.
-- Joe R., Munster, Ind.


I see your point, but I'm sticking by my answer. Whether Willis starts second, fourth or fifth, he's going to get the ball every turn through the rotation, and he'll generally face the same competition, regardless.

Johan Santana faced the Tigers six times last season. How many times did he face the Tigers' No. 1 starter? If you believe Detroit's No. 1 was Bonderman because he started on Opening Day, the answer is none. Verlander faced him once, but so did Jair Jurrjens, Yorman Bazardo and Andrew Miller. Mike Maroth faced him twice.

Now, let's change the opponent to C.C. Sabathia. Bonderman faced him once. Verlander faced him three times, but remember, Verlander was the third man in the rotation order when the season began.

The point is, again, that aside from the first week or two of the season, then the first week after the All-Star break, rotation order isn't necessarily a reflection on the quality of pitcher if all five starters pitch every turn through the order. The only time you can guarantee one No. 1 starter is going to face another is Opening Day. I'm not saying it's meaningless, because it means something. But to make a big deal out of whether someone deserves to start third, fourth or fifth is missing the big picture. There's a lot more that goes into it.

When do the Tigers report for Spring Training? I know that their first game is Feb. 26, but when do they report? I am trying to plan a trip to Lakeland.
-- Bill P., Raleigh, N.C.


Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 14, with the first workout the next day. Position players report on Feb. 19, with the first workout on the 20th.

A local retail store is selling Edgar Renteria No. 11 jerseys. I haven't heard anything on numbers for the newly acquired players, and I thought I certainly would have if Sparky's number was assigned.
-- Brad B., Muskegon, Mich.


If what you say is true, then they have the wrong number. Renteria will wear No. 8.

I don't have a question, rather a statement. My daughter, myself, my brother-in-law and my father-in-law went to TigerFest. We met the players and enjoyed the kids activities in the stadium. After TigerFest, we left the stadium, and due to the economy, there were homeless asking for handouts. My family went to Johnny Rockets across from the stadium to get a bite to eat before our 250-mile ride north. While we were sitting there, a gentleman in a very nice suit came in with one of those homeless people and bought them dinner. That person was Robertson. You hear about what the players do for the community, but you don't realize it sometimes till you see it first-hand. As my family left Johnny Rockets, we passed the Fox Theatre, where there is another restaurant where we saw Robertson with his wife. He took time away from his dinner and his wife to help this person who did not know who he was. Makes me proud to be a Tiger fan. -- Dan H., Leroy, Mich.

Thank you for sharing that. It's a nice way to close the mailbag. I don't think I need to add anything.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:03 am

01/28/2008 10:00 PM ET
Mailbag: Will timing trip up duo?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Does anyone foresee a timing problem with new shortstop Edgar Renteria and Placido Polanco? Polanco obviously is one of the better second baseman in the game, but he has gotten used to Carlos Guillen's tendencies and vice versa. Will this just be a growing pain of training camp?
-- Todd, Southgate, Mich.


It shouldn't be an issue after the first week or two of camp. Polanco has worked with several different shortstops during his career, including in Detroit when Guillen has been injured or rested. Besides that, Polanco and Renteria were teammates in St. Louis for several years.

I cannot bear it anymore! I'm sick. I need to know what the mock lineup is. Is Miguel Cabrera going to hit third or fourth? Will Gary Sheffield hit fifth? Please help me before I go crazy. Thank you.
-- Felix G., Adrian, Mich.


Cabrera is expected to hit either third or fifth, with Sheffield taking the other spot, but that probably won't be set until well into Spring Training. Until then, you might want to consider a hobby or something to pass the time.

It seems to me the Tigers should address the issue of where to draw the line between players playing hurt and putting them on the disabled list to get healthy. Last year, Jeremy Bonderman and Sheffield had long periods of poor production while trying to play hurt. This is detrimental to the team and cost them a number of wins. How can teams recognize a player is hurt earlier and know when it's time to stick him on the DL because he's not getting better? I respect that players want to tough it out and play though injuries, but at some point it's not worth it.
-- Dan C., Grass Lake, Mich.


Once the Tigers realized the extent of Bonderman's injury last year and how long it had bothered him, manager Jim Leyland made a point of saying he wanted his players to be up-front and tell the coaching or athletic training staff when they're hurt. Other than Leyland and the trainers watching players and pestering them, there's really no way to get it out of them. A team can't really put a player through tests or put him on the DL unless he admits he's hurt.

So let me get this straight, Detroit is going to pay Nate Robertson $21.25 million over three years. Scott Kazmir, the ace for Tampa Bay, just agreed to a one-year deal for $3.785 million. Now, am I crazy, or is it crazy that Detroit is going to pay their fourth, maybe even fifth, starting pitcher almost $6 million-$7 million more than Tampa Bay's ace? Robertson is coming off a sub-par season, and I think that money was a little too much for him. We should be focusing on locking up Cabrera long-term and even Justin Verlander before we shell out that much money for the end of the rotation.
-- Anthony B., Niagara Falls, N.Y.


The Tigers have Cabrera on their radar, and they don't have to worry about Verlander's contract for another year or two. As for your comparison, you're comparing two different situations, beyond the fact that you're comparing the Rays with the Tigers. Kazmir's contract was a one-year deal for a guy who was eligible for arbitration for the first time. Robertson was eligible for the second time, and he agreed to a longer contract that takes him past what would've been his free-agent year. He'll make a little more than Kazmir this coming season, then his salary will jump for his third arbitration year and his free-agent year. Essentially, the Tigers bought out his first year of free agency for $10.25 million -- which, given the salaries for free-agent pitchers this year, should be comparable if he progresses and continues to pitch close to 200 innings a year.

Jason, I love reading your mailbags. It puzzles me, however, that trivial questions like players' uniform numbers or Spring Training reporting dates take up space in the column, when this information clearly is listed within the Tigers Web site. If they can't find that information, they're likely not going to be able to find their way back to the mailbag! Keep up the good work.
-- Michael C., Flint, Mich.


Interesting point. Every once in a while, I'll get a question that already was answered in that week's mailbag a couple days earlier. How many of these answers have gone for nothing? In defense of the uniform numbers question, though, they weren't on the roster page until after the questions came in.

How many different positions can Brandon Inge really play without it being a setback for the team?
-- Larry S., Westland, Mich.


The Tigers would prefer Inge only play one position at a time. Otherwise, you have fewer than nine players on the field. Seriously, though, I don't think anyone -- including Inge -- could answer how many positions he can effectively play until he has a chance to work out around the infield. He says he's willing to play anywhere, and he might be able to play anywhere, and Leyland might be willing to give him a chance at a lot of positions, but time will tell. He's not going to pitch, though.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:07 am

02/18/2008 9:36 PM ET
Mailbag: Who will snag 'pen spots?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Who has the inside track for the open spots in the Tigers' bullpen, and do you think that Zach Miner will be considered the sixth starter, but sent to Toledo so he can remain "stretched out" in case a replacement is needed in the rotation?
-- Patrick O., Costa Mesa, Calif.


At this point, I'm not sure there is an inside track for the bullpen spots, if for no better reason than nobody knows for sure what to expect from Francisco Cruceta and Denny Bautista. They have great arms, but they haven't produced the results yet in the big leagues. Even in winter ball, they had some up-and-down performances. If one or both of them emerge, that affects the picture. If neither do, then the Tigers have to figure out where to go from there. Jason Grilli is an experienced reliever with upside, while Yorman Bazardo has a good arm but is converting over from starting.

As for Miner, he's kind of in between. He's expected to be stretched out at some point, but he still could fit in a relief role. The fact that he still could be optioned to the Minors doesn't help his cause, but if he's outpitching everybody else, I don't think he'll be doomed to Triple-A because of it.

In all I have read and heard about the upcoming season, the depletion of the Tigers' farm system with all the trades made recently and bullpen candidates, I never hear Macay McBride mentioned. Wasn't he supposed to have high potential when acquired last year? What is the story on him?
-- James C., Grand Ridge, Fla.


The plan on McBride is to stretch him out this spring as a starter and try to recapture some of the success he had in that role earlier in his career. Plus, Seay and Byrdak appear set as the left-handed options for the bullpen.

Is everyone writing off Jacque Jones for left field? Isn't this guy a pretty good player? I thought he was a leadoff hitter at one time. With his speed and if he can bunt, he could really be a bother to other teams. How is he on defense?
-- Gerry H., Erie, Pa.


I don't think Jones is getting written off, but I think he's being overshadowed by some of the bigger names the Tigers brought in over the offseason and by some of his numbers last year.

Jones is an interesting player because of last season's splits (.233 average first half, .332 second half) and the fact that his track record suggests a lot more power than he showed in 2007. He was a leadoff hitter early in his career in Minnesota, but that was five years ago, and he won't lead off with the Tigers. He reported to camp early and has been among those working with outfield coach Andy Van Slyke on defensive drills before the full squad reports.

Now that the Tigers have their set position players, is Gary Sheffield going to be strictly in a DH role?
-- Brian E., Swartz Creek, Mich.


Not strictly, but the vast majority of his games will be at DH, especially early in the season. He could still end up in the outfield on spot occasions and when the Tigers have Interleague games on the road and lose the DH spot.

With single-game tickets set to go on sale in March, when can a Tigers fan expect to learn what the team's promotional schedule plans are for the upcoming season?
-- Jason M., Flint, Mich.


The Tigers just released their promotional schedule on Monday. You can check it out here.

In your notes recently you ended the article by saying, "Partial season-ticket plans do not include Opening Day or the option to buy postseason tickets." It was my understanding when I purchased my 41-game partial season-ticket package that I would have the opportunity to purchase postseason tickets if we are in the playoffs. Hopefully this was a rare oversight by you. Please clear up this situation for me.
-- Jeremy D., Au Gres, Mich.


According to Bob Raymond, vice president of ticket sales and service, new 41-game-ticket holders who just ordered their plans are entered into a random drawing for the chance to buy postseason tickets.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:11 am

02/26/2008 1:33 PM ET
Mailbag: Does Skelton need beef?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

In much of the recent prospect talk, James Skelton keeps popping up. The knock on him so far is that he is too small despite the fact that he hit .309 and slugged .448 in 417 plate appearances at Class A West Michigan last season and threw out more than 42 percent of attempted baserunners. Now, at 5-foot-11, he's not too short to be a catcher. Ivan Rodriguez, Russell Martin and Johnny Estrada, to name a few, are all shorter than Skelton. But at 165 pounds, I can see that he's too light. Is it unheard of to think that at age 21 he will be able to put on enough weight to become a Major League prospect? If so, how many pounds separate him from consideration as a legitimate future catcher in the Majors?
-- Andrew S., Jersey City, N.J.


The Tigers are working on putting some weight on Skelton, who estimated last week that he has gained eight to 10 pounds from last season. The organization's strength and conditioning staff gave him an offseason program that had him eating six meals a day.

That said, I'm not in any position to say what a player's ideal weight should be. As Skelton put it, he's used to his body frame, and other players are used to theirs. If he proves capable of handling the workload of a starting catcher, flashes a strong arm and continues to hit, he'll get a chance, no matter what his weight is. One of the neat things about baseball is that it's dictated less by size than other sports.

Does starting pitching guarantee success? With the acquisition of Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins, the Tigers now have a rotation with five starters, each of whom could exceed 150 innings -- or maybe three will pitch more than 200 innings. Do these kinds of numbers ensure success? What does Tigers and/or MLB history say about the success of teams with pitching staffs that had five pitchers over 150 innings or three pitchers over 200 innings?
-- David M., Rochester Hills, Mich.


Recent history shows that durable starting pitching is a strong requirement for success, but it doesn't guarantee success. The Indians led the Majors in innings pitched by their starters last year, had four guys over 150 innings and won the American League Central. The Red Sox had four with 150 innings and won everything. The White Sox, on the other hand, had three starters with more than 200 innings and almost finished in the division cellar. They had four pitchers with 200 innings and a fifth with 196 in 2006 and still missed the playoffs, albeit with 90 wins. The 2005 Twins barely finished .500 with five pitchers over 150 innings.

Still, with the exception of the 2002 Angels, the last 10 years or so in the AL have shown that teams usually don't get to the World Series without three pitchers around 200 innings or five pitchers around 150 innings.

The rule of thumb I heard a few years ago is that if you can get 70 wins out of your starting pitchers, you should at least contend for the playoffs. The Tigers had 75 wins from starters when they went to the World Series two years ago, when they had three pitchers top 200 innings. It doesn't necessarily mean three guys with 200 innings or five with 150, but it means they've given enough solid starts to be in line for victories.

What Tigers player has played the most positions during one season? Any chance Brandon Inge could contend for this record?
-- Dave D., Holland, Mich.


Shane Halter played all nine positions in the final game of the Tigers' 2000 season at Minnesota. That is not a record Inge is going to match, or any Tiger anytime soon. Only three other players have done it in Major League history.

Will Gary Sheffield have to miss time in Spring Training again this year to go to that arbitration hearing with agent Scott Boras like he did last year? Was that ever settled? If so, who won?
-- Amy S., Minnetonka, Minn.


Yes. He'll have to miss some time -- at least one day, maybe more -- for depositions starting later this week. Considering the matter has dragged on for five years, I don't think anybody's a winner in this.

I am a huge Justin Verlander fan, and I was just wondering if you know if FSN Detroit is going to replay in its full broadcast of the no-hitter Verlander threw last season sometime leading up to the 2008 season, or will there be a DVD available?
-- Aaron S., Wyoming


The Tigers will be giving away a DVD of Verlander's no-hitter to the first 10,000 fans at the April 15 game against the Twins. Also, MLB.TV subscribers will have instant access to archived games from last season. You can sign up and watch it today.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:15 am

03/03/2008 7:22 PM ET
Mailbag: The word on Bonderman
Tigers beat reporter Jason Beck answers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Jason, everyone keeps talking about how well Dontrelle Willis will adjust and whether or not he will rebound from last season. I, however, am much more concerned with how well Jeremy Bonderman will do this year, and I think his success will have a greater impact on the Tigers' overall success. How does he look? Is there reason to believe that he will take the next step towards being the dominant pitcher he was always expected to become?
-- Sam O., Mt. Pleasant, Mich.


The keys for Bonderman will be the health of his arm and the development of his changeup. So far, his elbow has been fine, and there's no reason at this point to think it'll be a factor early in the year. As for his offspeed pitch, he said after his start Monday that he has found a grip he likes on that and can repeat with consistency. He threw about a half-dozen changeups in his start Monday, with some good ones and one that he left up in the strike zone, resulting in a Jason Bartlett double. If he can keep the pitch down and stay with it, both he and manager Jim Leyland believe that will be the key towards him taking that next step in his career.

Looking at statistics throughout the organization, I have become one of those fans that thinks the farm was not "depleted" entirely by all of the offseason trades. However, the one position I feel lacking in the most depth is at catcher. What has been said regarding Dane Sardinha? Has the former highly touted first-round Draft choice been progressing to a point where he can be an effective Major Leaguer if needed this season?
-- Phil L., Toledo, Ohio


If Vance Wilson has to open the season on the disabled list, Sardinha would appear to be the most likely choice to serve as the backup. He's relatively strong on defense, especially on the running game, and he works with the pitchers well. His offense has always been the weak point for him. As a backup, though, game management and defense are usually more valuable.

As a longtime, very enthusiastic Tigers fan, I was disappointed to see that the team will not sell Opening Day tickets to fans that don't hold full-season tickets. I have gone to every Opening Day since I was 4 years old, but I cannot afford full-season ticket packages, so I will be forced to miss the game this year. This is the epitome of unfair ticket management. Opening Day tickets have always been distributed through an egalitarian process, and now only the rich can afford to enjoy baseball's best holiday. This is a shameful mark on the Tigers record, and it is difficult to bear.
-- John M., Detroit


I don't think it was really an unfair process so much as it was a result of the team selling way more season tickets than anyone could've expected. The policy on season-ticket holders and Opening Day tickets was the same as in past years, but the popularity went through the roof. As of Monday afternoon, they had the equivalent of more than 27,000 full-season tickets sold -- better than three-fifths of the ballpark capacity.

With that, Opening Day tickets were bought up to points they hadn't seen before, but keep in mind that they almost reached that point last year, when they had to go to a lottery system for the opener. Unfortunately, it's the price you pay when a team gets really good, much like the Pistons a few years ago. Tickets aren't as easy to buy.

Leyland said last week that he will not consider using Willis as a left-handed pinch-hitter in any situation. Rarely does Jim offer such a strong absolute. Why is this idea not an option for Jim?
-- Nick C., Detroit


It wasn't a total absolute; he relented that Willis could possibly pinch-hit in an extra-inning game if the bench gets short. But the point Leyland was making when he said it was that in a regular game, who are you going to pinch-hit for? It's not as if there's a .200 hitter in the lineup that needs to be lifted in close/late situations. The one situation that might prompt a move, opponents putting in a lefty reliever to face Jacque Jones, can be countered with Marcus Thames off the bench.

The other factor that I think gets ignored is the rust. In the National League, Willis had the advantage of counting on at-bats every fifth game or so, and it kept his skills fresh. That won't be the case now, and American League pitchers don't even take batting practice during the season until Interleague Play approaches.

After last season's disappointing end, do you think we as Tigers fans are taking too much stock in Justin Verlander simply because of a no-hitter? Don't get me wrong, Justin is a great up-and-coming pitcher, but hasn't the parade gone on long enough? DVDs of the game? Come on. Enough already.
-- Christopher T., Oakland Township, Mich.


I can answer that this way: How many times over the years have you heard fans referring back to Jack Morris' no-hitter from 1984? I'll grant you that celebrating it the next year is kind of a long time to do it, and maybe it overshadows some of the other success he had last year. Still, as giveaway promotions go, a no-hitter DVD is actually pretty good.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:19 am

03/10/2008 5:56 PM ET
Mailbag: Will Sheffield hit 40 homers?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

If Gary Sheffield stays healthy this year, does he still have a chance to have a 40-homer season?
-- Lee H., Portage, Mich.


Statistically, you want to say yes. If you take the stats he had when he injured his shoulder and remove the numbers he had from then on when he tried to play through it, those stats would project to a 40-homer season. The question, of course, is more about whether he can stay healthy all season than what he would do if he was healthy.

Now, to be fair, Sheffield has had just two 40-homer seasons in his career -- 1996 in Florida and 2000 with the Dodgers. He fell one homer shy in 2003 and had 36 two other times. In both of his 40-homer years, he had massive first-half numbers. But when he sets his mind on proving he can do something, especially if others are doubtful, he tends to do it.

I know Spring Training is where regular players get into condition and organizations check out invitees. Fans shouldn't put much importance on Spring Training stats. But even so, Miguel Cabrera's stats are weak. Compared to Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen, Brandon Inge, Magglio Ordonez, Placido Polanco and Ivan Rodriguez, Cabrera is at the bottom of the heap. And four of those players are several years his senior. Even if Cabrera has a relaxed approach to Spring Training, I would think his stats would be better.
-- Janice N., Farmington Hills, Mich.


This is kind of the tricky area fans get into with Cabrera. As much media and fan attention as he has had since the trade, as much speculation as there has been about what he does to Detroit's lineup, I think sometimes the expectations are too much for reality. The fact is, he's like any player, especially a young player. He'll go into slumps. His timing will be off at the plate. The fact that he's younger than so many of his teammates doesn't change that. If anything, Polanco, Ordonez, Guillen and others have more experience on their side when they get into struggles.

Both Cabrera and manager Jim Leyland acknowledge that he's off to a slow start, and the stats reflect that his timing has been off, though he has started to come out of it with solid contact in recent days. And it has been frustrating for him. Keep in mind, aside from what you mentioned, he's a young player on a new team who wants to make a good impression. It's a slump worth noting, but I wouldn't panic or complain about it quite yet. Timing and repetitions are what Spring Training games are for.

We heard before Spring Training that Francisco Cruceta was a key pickup and the Tigers thought he might be ready to help them big time in the sixth and seventh innings. His visa issues (along with Fernando Rodney's tendinitis and Matt Mantei's retirement) don't seem to be helping shore up the team's weakest area. What's the latest? I'm concerned. Are the Tigers? And is Cruceta still big time in their plans or is he in danger of falling too far behind?
-- Mark M., Eaton Rapids, Mich.


Still waiting for Cruceta. That's all the Tigers can really do right now. This is basically a government issue. Leyland has been fair to say that they haven't written off Cruceta yet, that he can still come in and make a case to win a job. However, they also admit they can't simply assume he's going to get here in time to do that. At some point, they have to see him pitch or judge the guys they have now. Because of that, I don't think you can say he's a major piece in their plans unless and until something happens in his case.

Well, I am going to take a spin back to the possibility of the possible Inge trade that just can't seem to happen. With the Dodgers losing Andy LaRoche for two to three months and Nomar Garciaparra inconsistent, do you think a trade could go down very soon?
-- Bob M., Oregon, Ohio


The reported stance out of Dodgers camp so far is that they're not looking for a big deal, that they want to see Garciaparra at third. Any trade they would make immediately would supposedly be for a backup. The Dodgers had senior advisor Bill Lajoie at Joker Marchant Stadium on Sunday, but it apparently wasn't a scouting trip to watch. If a deal were to happen, it might happen later in the spring rather than sooner, once the Dodgers weigh their options and get a better idea on LaRoche's timetable.

Am I the only one tired of the Inge situation? The guy is good defensively, but at best he is average at the plate. His numbers dropped off considerably last season, and he was replaced by a superior player. Anyone can understand his desire to be an everyday player, but I cannot comprehend the amount of press associated with such an average ball player.
-- Mike H., Mount Joy, Pa.


Inge's issue has become a polarizing one for a lot of fans. One side is tired of all the stories and updates. The other side keeps asking about his status and why nothing has happened yet. He's a popular player, has treated fans very well, was a key player in 2006 and has been a Tiger longer than anyone else here.

Keep in mind, Inge isn't demanding the attention. As he said Sunday, he looks at the lineup they have and is amazed so many people focus on him. But this is part of the process in Spring Training: We tend to focus on players whose situations are in flux, whether they're on the trading block or fighting for a roster spot.

When the Tigers have split-squad games during Spring Training, how do they divide the coaching staff? Where does Jim Leyland go?
-- Kevin K., Toledo


Usually, Leyland and maybe Gene Lamont will go to one place, and Lloyd McClendon will go to the other. If it's a home-road split, Leyland will usually take the road game, because he believes it sends a good message to the players who make the trip. Last week was an exception because both McClendon and Lamont have homes near Bradenton, Fla., where the Tigers were facing the Pirates.

The game in which Shane Halter played all nine positions was at Comerica Park, not in Minnesota. I'm pretty sure since I was there.
-- Justin N., Tacoma, Wash.


This refers back to a question a couple weeks back about the team record for most positions. And you're correct; it was in Detroit, not Minnesota as I had written.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:22 am

03/17/2008 4:38 PM ET
Mailbag: Is Bautista a lock for the 'pen?
Tigers beat reporter Jason Beck answers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

What are the chances that Denny Bautista will make the team? As a season-ticket holder this spring, I have been impressed with him. He has great velocity and control on the mound. With all of the injuries in the 'pen Denny could fill that seventh or eighth inning spot nicely.
-- James C., Orlando, Fla.


Barring a late collapse, he appears to be a safe bet, especially with Fernando Rodney expected to start the season on the disabled list. His Spring Training stats speak for themselves, for what that's worth, but his stuff has been the key. He has consistently spotted his fastball well with velocity, and he has avoided getting himself into trouble with walks, which was an anchor tied to him in his other stops.

Bautista has been a intriguing player to watch this spring because of his history. He has always impressed teams with his arm but couldn't put everything together in the big leagues during his previous stops in Kansas City and Colorado. He could look great one outing and couldn't find the strike zone the next. But he threw very well in winter ball, and the Tigers picked him up in a minor trade the day of the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis deal, and those wild outings haven't come up here in camp.

Am I correct in thinking that Marcus Thames and Jacque Jones will split time depending on the pitcher?
-- Max P., Ann Arbor, Mich.


Jim Leyland says that it's not going to be a strict platoon, but yes, they will share time in left field. Leyland added that Thames will also get some starts in first base and right field on days that Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez are off.

Leyland seems to want to get Thames a good number of at-bats and keep his bat fresh. We'll see how the mix works out.

Silly question. I have been to a couple of the Tigers Spring Training games in Kissimmee and Viera, and both games they wore their home hats with the white olde English 'D' instead of the traditional orange 'D' away hats. Are the Tigers giving up their orange D hats?
- Dan S., Melbourne, Fla.


Someone else asked about that earlier this spring. The Tigers don't wear the orange 'D' hats at all in Spring Training, even for road games. It's just simpler using one set of hats when you have so many players in camp to outfit early on.

I'm wondering about the reasoning behind sitting Granderson so much against left-handers this spring. I realize that he struggles against lefties, but he's not going to get any better if he never gets to play against them. It seems to me that Spring Training would be the perfect time to get him some swings against lefties. Are they worried that that will somehow have a negative impact on his approach against right-handers?
-- Alex M., Ann Arbor, Mich.


Part of the reason for sitting him early was that Leyland wanted to get him some rest over the first couple weeks and save his energy for the regular season. He was in the lineup against Astros lefty Wandy Rodriguez last Friday before that game was rained out, so I think he'll get some looks at lefties over the next week and a half.

Could Brandon Inge's contract be career-ending? I ask this because it seems his contract is the main reason teams do not want to trade for him. If this is the case, what could be done so he could be dealt?
-- Justin R., Saint Clair Shores, Mich.


No contract is career-ending. Sometimes they're career-continuing, as the Tigers have found out over the years. But yes, the contract is proving to be a big obstacle in Detroit's efforts to trade Inge. The only thing the Tigers can do about that, really, is to up the portion of the contract they'll pay in future years. But depending on how much they'd have to pay, it reaches a point where they have to ask if it makes sense to keep the player at that price, even if only to trade him later.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:26 am

04/07/2008 5:40 PM ET
Mailbag: Keep waiting on Rodney?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

How much longer do we keep waiting for Fernando Rodney to break through or graduate? It seems to me he has a lot of issues with nagging shoulder problems. Is this a matter of his offseason conditioning or a lack of?
-- Dan O., Port Huron, Mich.


I think at this point, the Tigers don't have much of a choice but to wait on Rodney and hope that his shoulder problems don't end up with him needing to go on an operating table for surgery. They built this bullpen around the idea that they would have Rodney healthy this year after all his shoulder problems in 2007. Now that the latter hope is out for now, it's next to impossible to find an eighth-inning type of reliever a week into the season.

When Rodney's healthy, he has shown he can break through -- as his second-half numbers reflect. Obviously, it's the health that's the issue. In Rodney's defense, he spent the offseason working out in Florida rather than playing winter ball like he normally does. And other than his injury history, by all accounts, there were no signs that he was headed for more issues when he reported to Spring Training. His nagging shoulder tendinitis from last year was believed to be behind him.

So let me get this straight: Rodney has another setback, and the Tigers call up another reliever from the Minors? How many teams have an eight-man bullpen? How will this affect the bench when somebody needs a day off?
-- Drew W., Toledo


The eight-man bullpen isn't necessarily rare. A few teams will go with eight relievers from time to time, but that's usually during a stretch when they only need four starters. Such is the case with the Texas Rangers, who don't need a fifth starter until next weekend and decided to go with a four-man rotation and an extra reliever until then. The fact that the Tigers have 13 pitchers and 12 position players doesn't happen every often. They're the only team in the Majors with that many pitchers right now.

As far as how it affects the bench -- that's where having Brandon Inge on the bench makes this possible. When your interim center fielder can also serve as your backup catcher and a second utility infielder, that covers a lot of roster spots.

I'm sure you get this a lot, but is trading Inge still in the picture? I think he has proven himself quite well by making very good plays at third base, being able to play different positions and his hitting has picked up. I mean, in two games, he scored our only runs.
-- Rachel, Clinton Twp, Mich.


For now, the Tigers need Inge. But that could be an interesting question soon, assuming Curtis Granderson returns from the disabled list in the next couple weeks and Vance Wilson gets closer to a return. Inge's fast start and ability to play center field certainly can't hurt his trade value. But if the Tigers are in the same roster position in a couple weeks as they are now, can they afford to trade him? As mentioned above, it's his versatility that allows the Tigers to go with eight relievers and just three bench players.

What do you think of the Tigers' serious and utter lack of any speed? I mean, hopefully Granderson gets you 20 swipes and Gary Sheffield and Carlos Guillen might get you 15 each, but I even think you could outrun some of the other guys, Beck.
-- Carl H. Steamerville, Ohio


This is not going to be an aggressive team as far as stealing bases outside of those guys, no question. But ideally, if this offense gets going, stolen bases shouldn't be as big of an issue. It's when the offense is struggling like it is now that the lack of speed becomes conspicuous.

What manager Jim Leyland tried to emphasize during Spring Training is to have this be a smarter baserunning team. Even without an abundance of speed, he wants his team to be more aware of opportunities and look to take them when they're out there. If they can take more chances and be more successful going from first to third or second to home on singles, or going from first to home on doubles, that's about what you would like to get out of this team.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Apr 22, 2008 1:32 am

04/21/2008 5:10 PM ET
Mailbag: What's on tap for Willis?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

With Dontrelle Willis' control problems in Spring Training and then also to start the season, is there any chance that the Tigers will send him to Triple-A Toledo for a rehab assignment and keep him down there until he proves he can throw strikes? I've watched both of his starts, and he really appears to just be trying to guide a fastball over the plate, almost willing or praying for a strike. Also, how far below .500 do you think this team can fall and still recover? I know the saying goes you can't lose a pennant in April, but the team certainly looks like it's trying to prove otherwise this year.
-- Jeff S., Chicago


I'd expect to see Willis in Toledo, Ohio, for a rehab assignment soon. Manager Jim Leyland has mentioned more than once that he'd like to see Willis do that, and the lefty has said that he'd be willing to do it. And while it's true that he could use the time to make sure he's comfortable with his right knee and that he doesn't throw his delivery out of whack to compensate, there would also be a benefit for him to work on his fastball command.

As for the other question, I don't really have an answer other than to point out that the Tigers' schedule gets very difficult for two or three weeks once they're done with this upcoming homestand. To expect them to erase their deficit right away just isn't going to happen.

This might seem a little out there and I know the guy is young, but what Rick Porcello did in Spring Training was outstanding. So what are the chances of having Porcello called up for a start at some point this year -- maybe even for some work out of the bullpen?
-- D.J., Plattsburgh, N.Y.


I can't totally rule it out, but I think it's still highly unlikely. He's pitching very well at Class A Lakeland, but it still comes down to the fact that he's 19 years old and a huge piece of the future.

What is the longest losing streak that a Tigers team has had and still made the playoffs? Also, on the flip side, what is the longest winning streak that a Tigers team has had and made the playoffs?
-- Steve M., Indianapolis


According to research on baseball-reference.com, no Tigers team has lost more than six games in a row during the season and still made the playoffs. In fact, for half of Detroit's playoff ballclubs, their longest losing streak during the season was just four games. The longest winning streak by a playoff-bound Tigers team is 14, set by the 1909 American League champions and matched by the '34 AL pennant winners.

Is there any way that the team will make room for Clete Thomas on the roster after Curtis Granderson comes back? With a surplus of expendable pitchers, it seems like the Tigers could at least try and keep him as a sub.
-- Ira H., Kalkaska, Mich.

Considering Thomas can play all three outfield spots, there's little doubt the Tigers could find room to keep him on the roster if they really wanted to. But the other question that needs to be considered is, whether it's best for his development to stick around if he isn't going to get regular at-bats. And that's why the Tigers would probably want him playing every day in Toledo.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue May 20, 2008 3:50 am

05/20/2008 1:45 AM ET
Mailbag: A change(up) for Bonderman?
Beat reporter Jason Beck tackles fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Has Jeremy Bonderman been throwing more changeups this year?
-- Dave M., Windsor, Ontario


Compared with last year, he is throwing more changeups, albeit slightly so, by one measure. According to billjamesonline.net, Bonderman has thrown about 7 percent of his pitches for changeups, compared with 6 percent last season. He threw higher percentages in previous years, according to the site, but keep in mind that some of this is subjective. There are a certain number of pitches each season that go untracked.

Why does Jim Leyland keep removing Armando Galarraga so early in the game? Most of the time, he has only thrown about 85 pitches. Also, what is the plan for him once Dontrelle Willis is healthy?
-- Chris C., Royal Oak, Mich.


The thought process with removing Galarraga was to do so before big innings sprouted up -- that hitters might catch up to him quickly if he tired late in a game. However, he worked deeper into his last start, with 111 pitches on Saturday night at Arizona, before back-to-back walks prompted a pitching change.

The plan for Galarraga has been to either send him to the bullpen or the Minors once Willis returns from his rehab assignment. However, Leyland also said after Saturday's game that Galarraga deserves to stick in the Majors at this point. That doesn't mean he will stay, because the roster picture gets complicated, but it shows he has at least proven himself.

I was watching the Tigers and Diamondbacks game on Friday night. Bonderman was perfect through four innings. Miguel Cabrera missed the foul ball and was charged with an error. If he would have continued to be perfect, would that have been a perfect game? He would have faced the minimum number of batters without having one reach base. Yet there was an error, so it couldn't be a perfect game, right? Help settle this debate for me and my Pops. Thanks. -- Jacob B., Freeland, Mich.

My understanding is that as long as the error doesn't result in the batter reaching base, the perfect game remains intact.

After releasing Jacque Jones, why did the Tigers bring up an untested Matt Joyce to take over left field when we have Clete Thomas waiting in the wings? He not only produced earlier in the season, but he would help our speed quite a bit as well.
-- Aaron G., Livonia, Mich.


Whenever the Tigers make a callup like that, they ask officials in the player-development department, as well as coaches and managers in the farm system, which player is performing the best for what they need. Thomas struggled after being sent down to Triple-A Toledo last month, but he has come out of it lately. Joyce, meanwhile, was quietly performing well down there, and he ended up being the recommendation.

I attended the Tigers' frustrating 2-0 loss in Kansas City last Wednesday. The eighth inning was the hardest to watch, when Detroit had runners on first and second with no outs for Magglio Ordonez. Instead of doing the fundamental thing and bunting the guys over for Cabrera, Magglio ended up grounding into a double play, and the threat was soon over. It was a situation where they were playing for a big inning when they really only needed one or two runs. When a team is struggling, shouldn't they concentrate on doing the little things right?
-- Lowell W., Newton, Kan.


I understand the frustration, but very few teams are going to take the bat out of their cleanup hitter's hands there, especially a hitter that drove in 139 runs last year and batted .429 with runners in scoring position. Despite the team's offensive struggles, this is still somebody who's batting over .300 this season, including .294 through Sunday with runners in scoring position, and remains the best run producer on the team. He's earned the right to swing the bat there.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Jun 03, 2008 9:20 pm

06/03/2008 2:12 AM ET
Mailbag: Why isn't Thames in left field?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

After manager Jim Leyland said that Marcus Thames would be getting lots of playing time, why do I see Carlos Guillen in the box score as having played left field? Why, oh why does Leyland seem to be willing to play anyone but Thames, when he has proven his worth with his bat over and over again? He doesn't hit for average, but he hits home runs so frequently that he's a natural 7-8-9 hitter every time. Yet, Guillen gets to play left field? Is playing Jeff Larish that important?
-- Joe H., Mt. Pleasant, Mich.


Fair question, especially since Guillen had been taking fly balls in the outfield for a while. A handful of people wrote in over the weekend asking the same thing. Still, the thing to keep in mind is that Guillen is not a regular left fielder right now. He's an option out there on some days to keep him in the lineup and get Brandon Inge and his glove at third base. Options are what the Tigers have going right now with Thames, Guillen, Inge and Larish. Just as many e-mailers, if not more, have asked why the Tigers don't play Inge at third more often. Others were asking before Larish was called up why the Tigers don't give him a shot.

They have a lot of players who could argue for playing time right now and not enough spots to play them all. I don't think we'll know how this plays out before the Tigers return home.

So, why play Larish over Thames at designated hitter? Basically, they have to figure out what they have with him, whether his power translates to the big leagues right now or if he needs more seasoning in the Minors. And let's be honest, the left-handed bat plays a big part, too. The bottom line, though, is that there isn't one sure-fire remedy so much as a handful of different ideas going on with the Tigers right now.

Leyland has changed his lineup quite a few times this year. Why not try moving Curtis Granderson down in the order, say in front of Magglio Ordonez? Maybe he would see some better pitches.
-- Tim N., Leamington, Ontario


Leyland has said before that he could envision Granderson hitting in the middle of a lineup later in his career. The problem with doing it now is that the Tigers don't have anyone else that really fits into the leadoff role, certainly not from a baserunning standpoint.

Am I the only Tigers fan that has noticed a tremendous drop in Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman's velocity? Last I saw, Verlander was consistantly in the upper 90s all year last year and Bonderman was always around 95 mph. Now Verlander is at 94-95 mph, tops, and Bonderman barely reaches 94 mph. Maybe I'm crazy, I don't know. At least both of them are throwing good breaking stuff.
-- Matt W., West Palm Beach, Fla.


You aren't crazy, though I don't think it's a tremendous drop anymore. The velocity had been down on Verlander until two starts ago, when he hit 99 mph on the radar gun at Comerica Park and was consistently in the mid- to upper-90s. He was consistently hitting 95 mph Saturday at Seattle and topped out in the upper-90s. Both Verlander and Leyland made a note of it afterwards, so they were noticing, too. Bonderman's drop has been noted this season, too. He had better readings against the Angels and Mariners last week.

I would like to add a point to the last question from Lowell from Newton, Kan., in your latest issue of Tigers mailbag. I don't care if the guy up had 1,000 RBIs a year ago, the approach the Tigers have taken this year hasn't seen many results. Bunting Magglio in a 2-0 game to get to Miguel Cabrera is called shaking things up, not changing the lineup, their positions, or personnel. All that has done changed the look of the same struggling approach. That is why we are losing low-scoring games, because we don't do the little things right and are forced to go for the big inning.
-- Tony G., West Unity, Ohio


I understand your point, but taking the bat out of the hands of the team's RBI leader and someone who remains among the AL batting leaders -- not to mention someone hitting .337 with men on base, and .409 with runners on first and second -- isn't shaking things up. It's doing something different for the sake of doing something different. There are just certain guys around the league you don't tinker with in situations like that, and Ordonez is one of them.

I am of the belief that managers make too many decisions based on their overwhelming amount of stats during the game. Whatever happened with gut instincts, particularly when it comes to starting pitchers, regardless of a pitcher's pitch count? If the guy is throwing a heck of game, then let him finish it. I think these managers of today have been forced to abandon their gut instincts that before made baseball more interesting to watch. Your thoughts?
-- Chad P., Grand Rapids, Mich.


Actually, compared to other managers, Leyland makes a decent amount of choices based on things other than statistics. Mind you, he makes most of his decisions based on stats; the decision to pull Bonderman last week against the Angels had a lot to do with Gary Matthews Jr. being 6-for-16 against him. But he also felt in that situation like Francisco Cruceta was his best chance at a strikeout. He makes decisions on when to start reserves as much, or more, on off-days and feel as stats against a starting pitcher. And his recent decisions on pulling the infield in early in games is an aggressive move. But he always has a reason for what he does, whether it's related to stats, skill sets or pitches.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Jun 17, 2008 2:22 am

06/16/2008 5:59 PM ET
Mailbag: Longest shutout drought?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

The 5-0 win over L.A. last Friday was the first shutout recorded by Detroit pitching this season. And not surprisingly, they were the last team to record a shutout for the 2008 season. What are the most games into a season any team has gone without recording a shutout?
-- Martin T., Flint, Mich.


The Baltimore Orioles went 141 games into their 1996 season without posting a shutout. They finally blanked a team on Sept. 7 of that year when Mike Mussina pitched a complete-game six-hitter against the Tigers. Other teams have had longer streaks that have carried over from one season into another, but that's the longest a team has gone from the start of a season without shutting out anybody.

Isn't it safe to say that the Tigers don't have a single All-Star candidate this year? My thought is that Magglio Ordonez will be the one selection from the Tigers, as each team must have a representative on the All-Star roster.
-- Tom U., Holland, Mich.


As far as a candidate to make the starting lineup, no, their chances don't look good. I think Ordonez is a deserving candidate to make the team as a reserve, but as you know, deserving sometimes goes out the window when it comes to All-Star selections. Unless the Tigers somehow get somebody onto the All-Star pitching staff, then your scenario seems likely. Keep in mind, though, that the outfield is one of the most difficult areas to decide because of the abundance of candidates and the fact that every team has to be represented.

I would really like to know why baseball has a rule that Draft choices can not be traded like in the other big sports? I understand that Draft picks are awarded in return for losing free agents, but they are not true trades. A little insight please.
-- Denny P., Bowling Green, Ohio


Yes, baseball is the only sport that doesn't allow trading Draft picks, but baseball also has more signability concerns in its Draft than any other sport. One concern is that if teams are freed up to trade picks, and top players demand more money that smaller-market teams don't want to pay, it could encourage teams to trade away their Draft picks. At that point, it arguably works against the competitive balance that the Draft is meant to maintain -- not that drafting based first on signability doesn't do that in a way already.

I know there was all the talk about the Tigers scoring over 1,000 runs this season, but they lead the Majors in being shut out. Could their offensive struggles come from the lack of a consistent lineup both offensively and defensively? Constantly changing positions in the field has to affect these guys at some point.
-- Tony P., Brooklyn, Mich.


Statistically, no American League team has had as many different lineups as the Tigers, who entered Monday having used 58 different batting orders. But remember, the Tigers had a pretty stable lineup early in the season, and they were struggling to score runs. In fact, I recall more than a few mailbag questions in April asking why Jim Leyland didn't do more shuffling then while he tried to wait out his offense. After a while, of course, Leyland started shuffling, to the point where it seemed like he was trying something different every other day. It didn't look good for continuity, but I don't think it was holding the offense back. The one debate is whether Marcus Thames would've heated up sooner with more consistent playing time, but Leyland has traditionally tried to pick his matchups with Thames. In Leyland's defense, he has also done his part trying to keep some players steady in the lineup, such as rookie Jeff Larish at DH against right-handed pitchers.

For the record, the number of different Tigers lineups narrowly beats out the Angels (57) and Rangers (56). Injuries have played a big part in that, certainly with the Tigers and Angels.

What did the Tigers see in Francisco Cruceta? It certainly couldn't have been his stats. Before Detroit, in his 14 1/3 innings he gave up 20 hits, 16 runs and walked 10. He was on the same lousy pace with the Tigers with three more losses. I know they were waiting for Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya to return, but this guy, I just don't see what they see.
-- Herb C., White Lake, Mich.


The Tigers saw what other teams did this winter: A reliever with a punchout splitter and a fastball he could command. He still has the splitter, but the fastball command wasn't there once he got back to the big leagues. The Major League stats you mention were from 2004 and 2006, but his Triple-A stats last year were dominant. He's very much like Denny Bautista, a pitcher with very good stuff that a team could pick up for relatively little and try to coach him to the point where he can use it. Once the Tigers realized they'd be without Zumaya for at least half the season and possibly all of it, that's the route they went.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Jul 01, 2008 10:17 am

07/01/2008 12:58 AM ET
Mailbag: Can Tigers win without Mags?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

What will the Tigers do without Magglio Ordonez? Can their offense keep scoring runs without him?
-- Drew W., Toledo, Ohio


The Tigers are going to have a different looking lineup without Ordonez, that's for sure. Miguel Cabrera batted cleanup on Sunday and appears set to do so going forward. That makes recent hot hitters like Gary Sheffield and Marcus Thames all the more important to provide protection in the lineup.

As for right field, the Tigers will most likely extend their left-field mix over to right. It gives manager Jim Leyland a chance to put Clete Thomas and Thames in the same lineup, but look for Matt Joyce and Ryan Raburn to work into the lineup in the right spots, too.

Thames is consistently a monster with the bat, but still doesn't get full playing time. Is this due to his defense? If not, do you know what the reasoning is behind the platoon?
-- Dave D., Columbus, Ohio

Leyland addressed this a few days ago, saying that Thames had gotten out of his usual form, so he gave him a little break.

"Marcus Thames is going to play a whole bunch," Leyland said Friday, "but sometimes people play best when they're in a comfort zone."

When Thames was swinging at pitches he normally lays off and showing frustration at the plate, that wasn't normal for him. Time will tell whether Thames becomes an everyday player over the next couple weeks with Ordonez on the DL. You might still see Joyce or Raburn get in a game here and there alongside Thomas in the corner outfield spots, but Thames is going to get his shot.

Thomas drew two bases-loaded walks in the win over the Cardinals. How many players in MLB history have drawn more than one bases-loaded walk in a game?
-- Paul S., Washington Twp., Mich.


Actually, according to Elias Sports Bureau, it's fairly common. Two players did it last year -- Todd Helton last July 4, and Julio Lugo on July 28 -- and it somehow happens just about every year. Haven't been able to find the last Tiger to do it, though.

I heard on the radio last week that Dontrelle Willis has been in Lakeland for over two weeks now and has yet to make an appearance? What on earth is he doing in the Minors if he isn't working on his pitching problems?
-- Greg D., Corunna, Ontario.


Since getting this e-mail a couple days ago, Willis made his first game appearance for Lakeland on Sunday night. He gave up a run on a hit and three walks in two innings. Before that, he was working with pitching instructor Jon Matlack and others on the mechanics of his delivery, which were out of whack when he was sent down.

With Jeremy Bonderman now officially done for the year and the Tigers' admitted lack of starting pitching depth in the Minors, what is the chance they put Zach Miner back into the rotation with Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya now back in the fold?
-- Gerald J., Garden City, Mich.


It's not real likely, probably only in a situation where the Tigers were out of other options. Leyland doesn't like to convert relievers into starters on the fly, and Miner has done a quality job for the Tigers in relief lately, giving them some seventh-inning options before Rodney and Zumaya. Plus, Leyland has said before that he sees Miner as a reliever rather than a starter in the big leagues. At this point, the Tigers have a more recent starter in their bullpen with Casey Fossum, plus Virgil Vasquez has started to heat up at Triple-A Toledo.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Jul 22, 2008 1:29 am

07/22/2008 12:01 AM ET
Mailbag: Where to slot Joyce?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Where does Matt Joyce fit into the Tigers' long-term plans? He wasn't really among the Tigers' top prospects the last few years, but with the way he's hitting, can he be the Tigers' left-handed pop for years to come?
-- Michael T., Ft. Wayne, Ind.


The way Joyce came on while Magglio Ordonez was on the disabled list gives the Tigers reason to think. He's going to have to keep it up longer than a few weeks, but if he can, he could help fill the void in left field beyond this season, along with Marcus Thames or another right-handed hitter.

Between Joyce, Clete Thomas and Brent Clevlen, the Tigers have a surprising abundance of young outfielders they can consider for the next few years. Which ones will they keep and which could they offer up in trades? Hard to tell. Thomas offers up a baserunning dimension that the Tigers need, but Joyce's power is something the Tigers have needed from a left-handed hitter for a few years now. Clevlen is an all-around athlete whose defense is superb and whose power should catch up as he makes better contact.

Freddy Garcia rumors are starting to circulate. What are the odds of adding a veteran starter for the second half of the season?
-- Rich, Toledo, Ohio


Haven't heard much on Garcia lately except from others talking about him. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, a close friend of his, told Chicago reporters on Friday that he didn't think Garcia would be ready to return in August, but maybe in September. He based that on Garcia's not having thrown off of a mound when they visited over the All-Star break.

As for trades, it's possible, but the odds are against them. So many teams are looking for starting pitching for the stretch run, and the recent prospect packages the A's have gotten in return for Joe Blanton and Rich Harden doesn't necessarily bode well for the Tigers and other clubs. Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi supposedly told reporters the other day that he doesn't expect to trade A.J. Burnett, for what that's worth. If the Tigers were to pull off a deal, it would seem more likely to be for an innings-eater.

Do you think the Tigers will trade for a starter before the July 31 deadline? Or, with all their recent trades of prospects, do you think they have nothing left to give up?
-- Joe B., East Amherst, NY

They have some intriguing prospects that they could offer, but not necessarily the top-ranked prospects everybody wants to hear about. The one player that Detroit had in last week's All-Star Futures Game, Wilkin Ramirez, just went on the disabled list at Double-A Erie. They might have enough for a smaller deal, but even those seem to involve a lot of prospects these days. The supply-and-demand ratio for teams needing starters and teams that have starters to give is not really in their favor.

As long as I can remember, it always seems that the team goes into a "swoon" in August. I am a relatively young fan, but both my parents say that this is something that has been going on for years. Is there any truth to this?
-- Tom S., Seymour, Conn.


It's true. The Tigers have had a winning record for August just once since the strike-shortened 1994 season. That exception came in 2000, when the Phil Garner-led Tigers made a late charge after a terrible start to get over .500 in early September and put themselves on the fringe of playoff contention before falling back over the final couple weeks.

Last year's Tigers went 11-18 in August. Detroit went 13-16 in August of 2006. The Tigers went 13-13 in August of 2005 to get within a game of .500 on Aug. 23, but went into a tailspin over the final month.


Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Mon Aug 04, 2008 6:47 pm

08/04/2008 5:06 PM ET
Mailbag: What to do about the 'pen?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

First Todd Jones, now Fernando Rodney, even Kyle Farnsworth got into the act Sunday. What is it about the Tigers bullpen this year, and what can they do about it?
-- Drew W., Toledo


Right now, that's the problem: The relievers who have struggled the most are the ones who have the potential to do the best when they're going well. The Tigers need a healthy Joel Zumaya for this year and beyond, but his injury history is forcing them to be cautious. Fernando Rodney has tossed shutdown innings when he can throw his fastball for strikes, but that can't seem to happen for more than an outing or two at a time. As for Farnsworth, it's tough to judge on just one outing, but his stats from New York this year showed the capacity to give up home runs -- about one every four innings -- but he had success in a setup role with the Yanks. The other guys in the bullpen either aren't traditional late-inning arms or don't have the experience for it.

For now, manager Jim Leyland might have to do a lot of mixing and matching, especially in the late innings. He had already hinted last week that he could use Zumaya in save situations if the timing is right, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Farnsworth in the ninth inning. Bobby Seay's recent success is already earning him a heavy workload against lefties and righties alike. As far as possible callups go, it's hard to say, because Triple-A Toledo has had a bullpen shuffle lately, too, with Blaine Neal off to the Olympics. That said, Casey Fien has continued to impress since his call up to the Mud Hens.

I love the Tigers, but I am wondering why Rodney is still in a Tigers uniform. I just watched him blow his fourth save. Jones isn't much better, but if you can throw the ball over the plate, you are probably a better pitcher than Rodney.
-- Alex C., Toledo, Ohio


The Tigers felt they had some signs of hope with Rodney and his fastball a couple weeks ago, but clearly that isn't working. His outing Sunday was arguably his wildest yet, and puts his pitching future in question. His changeup has always been his ticket to the big leagues, and his fastball velocity has been promising since the All-Star break, so the Tigers could go back to work on his command and mechanics. Long term, though, Rodney needs to throw his slider as a regular pitch again.

What was Dave Dombrowski thinking trading Pudge Rodriguez for Farnsworth? I have many friends that are Yankees fans, and I loved watching with them when Kyle gave up runs in every big situation. And losing Pudge as a free agent had to be more than what Kyle will be worth.
-- Dave V., Boston


The Tigers' thinking was that they desperately needed a veteran late-inning reliever, and given the trade market, they weren't going to find one otherwise without giving up top prospects (notice how few relievers were dealt at the deadline despite plenty of demand). Knowing they probably weren't bringing back Pudge next year, they dealt one pending free agent for another. The Tigers are essentially taking a shot on Farnsworth's performance over the last month or so and his success in Detroit a few years ago.

As for free-agent compensation, you're right on: Pudge is likely a Type-A free agent who will bring potentially two Draft picks, while Farnsworth projects as a Type-B. The flip side of that, though, is that the team has to offer arbitration in order to get the picks. If Pudge struggled down the stretch in Detroit and the market wasn't big for him, he could accept the arbitration offer and make a good portion of his old salary on a one-year deal, hampering the Tigers financially and putting them back in a bind on what to do with Brandon Inge.

With the recent change in closer from Jones to Rodney, what is Jones' value right now?
-- Jeff H., Ann Arbor, Mich.


Given the bullpen struggles, I'd still say quite a bit. It's at least enough to warrant some sort of late-innings work when he returns from the DL to see if a healthy arm makes a difference. He hits the strike zone.

How long do you think it will be before Ryan Perry makes his way up into the Tigers bullpen?
-- Andrew K., Kalamazoo, Mich.

If you're asking in a matter of days or weeks, I would be surprised. It's tough to rule out a September callup the way the Tigers bullpen is going right now, but the front office downplayed the possibility publicly and privately after the Draft and then upon signing him. He has pitched very well in the Minors so far, including his first pro save on Sunday in his third outing for Class A Lakeland, but he's also someone with whom the Tigers want to work on his pitching. Keep in mind that Perry didn't start pitching until after high school. He doesn't have the same repertoire or experience that Andrew Miller had coming out of college a couple years ago, and Miller's late-season stint in Detroit had mixed results at best. That said, he could end up on a fast track for next year if he makes adjustments quickly and has a solid offseason.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Aug 19, 2008 1:13 am

08/18/2008 7:43 PM ET
Mailbag: Should Tigers honor Pudge?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Should/will the Tigers retire Ivan Rodriguez's No. 7 due to his reviving the Tigers and putting them back on the map? Or should they just add his name to the other wall with Ernie Harwell, Sam Crawford, and Jackie Robinson's No. 42 to the right of the fountain?
-- Aaron K., Rochester, Mich.


This is going to get a good amount of debate over the next several years as Rodriguez wraps up his career. It was a short tenure for him to have that consideration, but I think you can make a compelling case that the effect he had on this franchise outweighs the tenure argument. The Tigers have a history of honoring Hall of Famers, though Pudge will almost surely go into Cooperstown as a Ranger. Regardless, I don't think you'll see any decision until Rodriguez is inducted into the Hall five years after he retires.

Do you think that we'll be seeing the D-Train again this season?
-- David M., Pinckney, Mich.


That's hard to say, because Tigers officials are generally reluctant to talk about Dontrelle Willis' situation. The term used to describe his outing last Friday at Triple-A Toledo, however, was "encouraging." If he continues to put up effective numbers there, it's conceivable he could get a call in September after the Minor League season wraps up. However, that's neither guaranteed nor probable at this point.

The goal with Willis is to get him to be an effective pitcher for next season, not this one. The biggest risk that the Tigers run is in thinking that he's ready for a big league taste and call him up early, only to have him fall into the same struggles and have his confidence shattered. Realistically, this is a one-shot project, and it's hard to start over again if it doesn't work the first time.

I can solve manager Jim Leyland's concern about the pitching woes in two words: Game calling. Am I out of my own mind to think that the reason that the pitching is struggling right now is because of the game calling/knowledge of hitters of Brandon Inge/Dane Sardinha just isn't as good as Pudge's was? I firmly feel that I'm right and that Leyland is getting what he's deserved by putting Sardinha out there every day game after a night game. He must think that a pitcher shall never struggle because of who's catching, but I disagree. Just look at how many meetings on the mound we're seeing now compared to the past. Do I have a partial point here?
-- Jordan G., Mount Pleasant, Mich.


Partial, maybe. I think Rodriguez's ability to call a game was underrated, especially with starters. And there was bound to be a transition for pitchers to go from working with Pudge, who had caught them for most of their careers, to working with Inge and Sardinha. But I don't buy that as the main reason behind the pitching struggles. Many of the same pitchers were in a rough stretch when Pudge was still a Tiger, including Justin Verlander and Kenny Rogers. Plus, I don't think the struggles that you're seeing boil down as often to pitch selection, but pitch execution. Nate Robertson is throwing his sliders in slider situations, but his big pitch hasn't been as consistent as in starts past. Rogers was missing spots with Pudge or Inge behind the plate. Fernando Rodney's fastball command and Joel Zumaya's health are independent of catchers.

To what do you attribute the lower batting averages across the American League? Magglio Ordonez won the batting crown with a .363 mark in '07, but it looks like mid-.320's will win it in '08.
-- David M., Pinckney, Mich.


Better pitching overall in the AL, better game plans by opposing teams on how to pitch to guys like Ordonez. As an isolated example, he went 5-for-11 against Paul Byrd last season, but is 1-for-6 off him so far this year. He was 3-for-3 off Ervin Santana last year, but 0-for-5 this season. The Indians and White Sox gave up batting averages of .366 and .348 to Ordonez last year; this year, they're .263 and .286, respectively. Those things happen, but I also think the pitching overall in the AL has been better this year. The league's batting average is down from .271 to .267.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Mon Sep 01, 2008 7:13 pm

09/01/2008 5:05 PM ET
Mailbag: Decision '09 for rotation
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com


Any word on the Tigers' plans for next year's rotation? I expect Justin Verlander, Armando Galarraga, and Jeremy Bonderman are locks to make it. Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson are question marks, despite being signed for next season. They also have Zach Miner, Kenny Rogers and Freddy Garcia as possibilities.
-- Kevin O., Milford, Mich.


Verlander and Galarraga are pretty much set for next year, and Bonderman appears to be a safe bet if he's healthy. While the Tigers haven't set anything for Miner for next year, his performance as a starter certainly is making his case for next year. However, there are too many questions to really be able to plan out a full rotation with a month left to go. They haven't seen Garcia pitch a big league game yet. Robertson has another month in which he can try to get back the consistency in his slider. With Willis, it's hard to say what the plan is for the end of this season, let alone next year, depending on how he works with coaches down the stretch and into the offseason.

What late-season callups can we expect? With the Tigers seemingly out of it, I would think more guys will come up than if we were making a serious run for the playoffs.
-- Rick H., Portland, Tenn.


The Tigers recalled Willis and Freddy Dolsi from Triple-A Toledo on Monday, and they'll be joined by Dusty Ryan, Clay Rapada and Mike Hessman on Tuesday after the Mud Hens' season ends. Manager Jim Leyland said that he's going to keep playing his regular lineup, so most of the moves are for depth purposes.

Does Dusty Ryan have a chance to make the Tigers next year as a backup catcher?
-- Anthony M., Vancleave, Miss.


That's going to depend on whether the Tigers think Ryan is better served catching every day at the Triple-A level next year or doing an apprenticeship behind Brandon Inge in the big leagues. Leyland said before Monday's game that he didn't expect Ryan to play much while he's here, so you can't really look at this September as a tryout in that regard.

Will the Tigers go out this offseason and try to find a new catcher or will they let Inge keep the job? And will this season's offseason be as big as last offseason?
-- Sean, St. Clair, Mich.


Inge will be the starting catcher next season. As for the second question, I wouldn't count on any offseason being as big as the last one for a while. That's not something you're going to see very often.

Could you tell me what the ropes are that some players wear around their neck? They look like bicycle locks, Curtis Granderson always has one or two around his neck. May seem like a silly question, but even seasoned baseball watchers don't know.
-- Janis B., Windsor, Ont.

Those are necklaces that contain titanium, which is advertised to relieve stress and fatigue and promote good health.

You answered four questions in the last mailbag, and two of them were from the same person? What gives?
-- Craig, Flint, Mich.


Those were two relevant questions from David M. in Pinckney, Mich. They just happened to come from the same person.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Sep 16, 2008 12:47 pm

09/15/2008 7:14 PM ET
Mailbag: Will Guillen be back?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

What is the deal with Carlos Guillen? Will he be back this season?
-- Garrett S., Royal Oak, Mich.


Guillen is still dealing with the effects of his stiff lower back. He was throwing, taking ground balls and doing some light swings during the Tigers' last homestand, but all the rain in Chicago over the weekend didn't help his comeback efforts at all, limiting him from doing much of anything on the field. Manager Jim Leyland said last week that he expects Guillen will be able to play again by season's end, and Guillen on Sunday night wouldn't rule himself out from playing as soon as the end of this Texas series. If the injury was thought to be more serious, they wouldn't be going through all this. But obviously, time is running out, and so has the significance of the home stretch.

Any clue on the closer's role for 2009? Will it be Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, maybe even Kyle Farnsworth? Or do you think it will be a "closer-by-commitee" type of thing?
-- Cody B., Wyoming, Mich.


Leyland said last week that it's hard to point out any bullpen role that's set for next year, let alone the closer job. Zumaya will be coming back from injury. Rodney has had his ups and downs in the role since July. Farnsworth is a free agent this winter. And all the uncertainty among the starters is going to spill over into the bullpen if Detroit has more Major League candidates than it has starting spots. There are guys who you can expect to be on the staff next year, but predicting their role is really hard at this point. That's a pretty rare point for any Major League team to be at, even with as many teams looking for relief help as there are.

Will the Tigers go after relief help in the winter dealing?
-- Lex K., Huntsville, Texas

Given all the issues listed above, one would expect they'll look for relief help on some level. But then, so will a lot of Major League teams. Keep that in mind if/when big-name closers like Francisco Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes and top-flight setup men hit the free-agent market this winter.

Is there any chance Clete Thomas will be back in the Majors after the elbow injury?
-- Garrett S., Royal Oak, Mich.


As long as the Tommy John ligament replacement surgery was successful -- and according to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, it was -- there's no reason the injury should keep Thomas from eventually playing in the big leagues again. Right away? No. Whenever he can play again, he's going to have to get back up to speed in the Minor Leagues and make up for lost development time. But long-term, this is far from a career-ending injury. I know Vance Wilson's two Tommy John surgeries provide a reason for concern, but Thomas is younger and should have a better chance of healing. It's a rare surgery for an outfielder, but it's been done, notably by former Tiger Luis Gonzalez.

What are the odds that Ramon Santiago is the Tigers' starting shortstop in 2009? Edgar Renteria hasn't gotten the job done this season, making it likely the Tigers won't pick up his option. They don't appear to have any Minor Leaguer ready to take over until 2010 possibly. The free agent market is thin, and the trade market is anyone's guess.
-- Kevin O., Milford, Mich.

One of the debates that has gone on with Santiago is whether his body could hold up to the wear and tear of everyday play, something he has tried hard to address with his conditioning and offseason workouts. Defensively, he plays a very good shortstop with a strong arm, and his late-season stint alongside Guillen in 2007 showed him capable of playing a platoon-type role. That said, he has not played much down the stretch this year.

Keep in mind with Renteria that the Tigers could decline his option and try to sign him at a lower salary. Also look at his second-half numbers carefully. There are also shortstops out there who could/should be on the market; it's a matter of what the Tigers have at their disposal to try to get them and how much competition they'll have (plenty).

What was the official scoring on the play when David DeJesus was thrown out at home to end the KC game vs. Detroit?
-- Jack F., Toronto


That was just your simple, humdrum, game-saving 2-1 putout.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Mon Oct 06, 2008 11:07 pm

10/06/08 4:15 PM ET
Mailbag: Rotation questions abound
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions
By Jason Beck / MLB.com

What is the status of Jeremy Bonderman? Is he throwing at all right now?
-- Brad N., Soldotna, Alaska


I talked to Bonderman over the final week of the season, and he's currently doing rehab exercises back home in Washington state. He isn't throwing yet, but the hope is that he'll be cleared to start next month. Bonderman plans to be ready to pitch at the start of next season, and president/general manager Dave Dombrowski gave him a vote of confidence a week ago by putting him in the club's plans for next spring.

What are the chances the Tigers will go after a free-agent pitcher like CC Sabathia or Ben Sheets? What do you think their rotation will even look like?
-- Trevor J., Monroe, Mich.


Don't expect the Tigers to get into the bidding on the top of the starting-pitching market. They've tried to avoid big contracts for free-agent starting pitchers in past winters, opting for Kenny Rogers a couple years ago over bigger names. With so much money tied into current pitchers and Justin Verlander heading into his arbitration years, that outlook isn't going to change. Their best shot at a free-agent signing is probably Freddy Garcia, after his September stint in Detroit.

As for the rotation next year, it starts with Verlander, Armando Galarraga and most likely Bonderman. The other two spots are open. Garcia or Zach Miner could fill one or both of the spots, but the Tigers also want to see how Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis look in Spring Training. They're both under contract for two more years, and the Tigers probably need to get production out of one or both of them if they're going to have a rebound season.

My question is about Mike Hessman. Do the Tigers have plans for him, or what? His power numbers, even when he is with the Tigers, are pretty good for the little bit of play he gets. Could they play him at third base next year and have Carlos Guillen as the DH? That might produce more run production and definitely more power.
-- Mark S., Taylor, Mich.


With Miguel Cabrera at first base and Brandon Inge at third, the Tigers don't seem to have a role for Hessman, a right-handed power hitter who plays two positions where the Tigers currently have right-handed hitters. The fact that Jeff Larish also plays the corner infield spots and bats left-handed doesn't help Hessman's situation in Detroit.

Manager Jim Leyland praised Hessman down the stretch and openly hoped that the infielder would find a spot in the big leagues, whether it's in Detroit or somewhere else. That said, Hessman also didn't start many games over the final week or two. Unless the Tigers keep him on the 40-man roster this winter, he'll be a Minor League free agent. Hessman said a couple weeks ago that if he's a free agent, he'll look around and try to find his best shot at a potential big league job.

In light of Dusty Ryan's strong performance in September and Guillen's persistent health issues, is there any chance we see Ryan getting a look as the potential starting catcher next year? Inge going back to third, unloading Gary Sheffield and moving Carlos to DH would be a great way to free up some money to spend on the bullpen overhaul.
-- Nick G., Kalamazoo, Mich.


Sheffield probably isn't going anywhere, though Guillen is moving to left field. As for Ryan, he has put himself in a position to vie for the starting job at catcher. However, the Tigers have to decide whether he's ready to stick in the Majors and how much of the job he could handle, or if he needs more seasoning in the Minors. While he made an impression down the stretch, scouts and fans alike noted that Ryan needs polish defensively and must block more pitches in the dirt.

The Tigers are going to look on the free-agent and trade markets for a catcher, at least as a platoon option, if not for the bulk of the duty. What they find out there will have a bearing on what they decide with Ryan. But quality young catching is one of the toughest commodities to find, and Ryan has played his way into a good spot.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Oct 14, 2008 3:00 am

10/13/08 8:44 PM ET
Mailbag: Will Tigers sign a catcher?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

With Brandon Inge being moved to third base next year, we seem to have a hole at the catching position, do you see us trying to sign a Gregg Zaun or another older catcher to bring along Dusty Ryan? This would allow Dusty to ease into the spot and maybe get a better handle on the spot.
-- Lloyd E., Waterloo, Mich.

I'd expect the Tigers to look for a veteran catcher, whether it's Zaun, who has the advantage of switch-hitting, or somebody else. With the challenges the Tigers face on the pitching side, experience behind the plate is going to be a benefit.

Whoever the Tigers sign will probably have the capability to handle a good portion of the workload, because the Tigers still have to make the judgment on whether Ryan is ready to catch in the big leagues with regularity or would best be served with more seasoning in the Minors.

Any chance we'll see Pudge Rodriguez back in a Tigers uniform next year?
-- Margie H., Orlando, Fla.


Unless Rodriguez does not look for a multiyear contract on the free-agent market this winter or otherwise has trouble finding suitors, and the Tigers have trouble finding short-term help at catcher, the chances aren't good. Pudge probably also would have to accept less playing time to come back, and now that he can choose his destination, that could be a tough sell.

Everybody is talking about Ryan but seems to forget about Vance Wilson. What is his physical status, and what are the Tigers hoping for in the spring?
-- Billy V., Troy, Ohio


Wilson is back home in Arkansas working out. As of a couple weeks ago, he was on track to begin throwing work again next month. Barring setbacks, he would be on track to be ready in Spring Training. However, he's also a free agent this winter. If he's healthy, the Tigers could give him an invite to camp and let him compete for the job. After two Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgeries, though, they can't count on him being ready or filling the need they have for a veteran catcher.

Do you see the Tigers calling up Rick Porcello midway through next year or does he need more seasoning?
-- Bernie, Racine, Wis.

I don't see it happening. The Tigers have been cautious with their top prospect in terms of development level and innings workload, and I don't expect that to change next year. As well as he pitched last year, he still hasn't pitched above Class A ball. Maybe he could get a September callup under the right circumstances, but that's a big if.

What is the status of Freddy Garcia? Is he hurt? He left the last game of the year and have not heard much about it. Also what are the chances that the Tigers go after K-Rod this winter?
-- Kenneth T., Memphis, Tenn.


Talked late last week to Garcia's agent, Peter Greenberg, who said that Garcia is doing well. He threw a mound session last Friday and was expected to fly back to Venezuela this week to start pitching in winter ball. The injury from the season finale was just a muscle tweak between the right side of his neck and his right arm.

It seems when Justin Verlander was having all of his success was when he kept a very quick pace on the mound. This past season, he seemed to really slow his pace, and as a result really struggled. Any idea why he changed his approach?
-- Blake W., Indianapolis, Ind.


Actually, Tigers coaches felt Verlander's pace picked up at times to the point where he was getting out of rhythm, rushing his pitches and hurting his execution. So one point of emphasis with Verlander was to make sure he kept a steady pace -- not slow, but consistent to where he wasn't hurrying up when he got into trouble.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Oct 14, 2008 1:36 pm

Quote :
Any chance we'll see Pudge Rodriguez back in a Tigers uniform next year?
-- Margie H., Orlando, Fla.


Unless
Rodriguez does not look for a multiyear contract on the free-agent
market this winter or otherwise has trouble finding suitors, and the
Tigers have trouble finding short-term help at catcher, the chances
aren't good. Pudge probably also would have to accept less playing time
to come back, and now that he can choose his destination, that could be
a tough sell.

I like Pudge, but he is too overpaid for a part-time catcher. Even NY found he could not be catcher everyday!

Sorry, no Pudge for Det.


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Oct 14, 2008 1:38 pm

Quote :
What is the status of Freddy Garcia? Is he hurt? He left the last game of the year and have not heard much about it. Also what are the chances that the Tigers go after K-Rod this winter?
-- Kenneth T., Memphis, Tenn.


Talked late last week to Garcia's agent, Peter Greenberg, who said that Garcia is doing well. He threw a mound session last Friday and was expected to fly back to Venezuela this week to start pitching in winter ball. The injury from the season finale was just a muscle tweak between the right side of his neck and his right arm.

I hope we do sign Freddy! He is much better than Nate!


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Oct 14, 2008 2:18 pm

GoGetEmTigers wrote:
Quote :
What is the status of Freddy Garcia? Is he hurt? He left the last game of the year and have not heard much about it. Also what are the chances that the Tigers go after K-Rod this winter?
-- Kenneth T., Memphis, Tenn.


Talked late last week to Garcia's agent, Peter Greenberg, who said that Garcia is doing well. He threw a mound session last Friday and was expected to fly back to Venezuela this week to start pitching in winter ball. The injury from the season finale was just a muscle tweak between the right side of his neck and his right arm.

I hope we do sign Freddy! He is much better than Nate!

The only problem I have with Freddy is the injury risk. I like Zumaya too, but he spends more time on the DL than the mound. If Freddy is healthy, then he'd be a great addition to the starting staff. But if he gets injured, then we are right back where we started. I don't know...I might go with someone that's been a bit more healthier lately. The problem with that is, you'll have to spend more money (which the Tigers don't have a lot to spend in the 1st place). It's a catch-22!


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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Oct 14, 2008 3:09 pm

GoGetEmTigers wrote:
Quote :
Any chance we'll see Pudge Rodriguez back in a Tigers uniform next year?
-- Margie H., Orlando, Fla.


Unless
Rodriguez does not look for a multiyear contract on the free-agent
market this winter or otherwise has trouble finding suitors, and the
Tigers have trouble finding short-term help at catcher, the chances
aren't good. Pudge probably also would have to accept less playing time
to come back, and now that he can choose his destination, that could be
a tough sell.

I like Pudge, but he is too overpaid for a part-time catcher. Even NY found he could not be catcher everyday!

Sorry, no Pudge for Det.


rant rant rant rant
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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Tue Oct 14, 2008 3:25 pm

I would just rather evolve Ryan, then see if he cant get rid of those passed balls problems, and then we have a supreme, power hitting catcher, i think itll happen.
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PostSubject: Re: Jason Beck Mailbag - answers fans' questions 2008-2009   Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:51 pm

10/20/08 5:42 PM ET
Mailbag: Was Jurrjens trade a mistake?
Beat reporter Jason Beck answers Tigers fans' questions

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

Now that the season is over and the Tigers struggled all year with starting pitching, do they have regrets for trading away Jair Jurrjens to Atlanta for Edgar Renteria? I have been a Tigers fan for 60 years and also remember the John Smoltz trade. Pitching is valuable and there needs to be a priority there.
-- Ed S., Detroit


In hindsight, yes, the Tigers have to regret the swap, especially since they're looking for a shortstop again this offseason. At the time, for a team that was expected to contend for a World Series this year and needed a shortstop, they felt like it was worth giving up a young pitcher and center-field prospect for an All-Star caliber player and beating other teams who were also looking for a shortstop, such as the White Sox. But while team officials knew that Renteria didn't have the same range defensively that he did a few years earlier, they didn't anticipate it dropping that far, that quickly.

"As I've told people," president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said a few weeks ago, "I wish I had the capabilities to sit down and watch 162 games of Edgar Renteria playing shortstop in 2007 versus [this year]."

If they knew then what they know now, of course, they wouldn't have done it, certainly not for that price.

Kenneth T from Memphis, Tenn., asked last time what the status of Freddy Garcia was and also what the chances of the Tigers going after Francisco Rodriguez were during the offseason. You answered the part about Garcia but gave no insight about K-Rod. Any chance on that front at all?
-- Brandon B., Toledo, Ohio


Sorry about that, I didn't mean to ignore him. But to answer that, Dombrowski said at season's end that he doesn't foresee the Tigers being in on the bidding for Rodriguez. Unless the market on K-Rod cools, he's going to be out of the Tigers' price range.

What are the chances that Kenny Rogers would be picked up as a pitching coach? The players and fans alike respect him, and he has many years of knowledgeable pitching under his belt.
-- John B., Saginaw, Mich.


I had a handful of similar questions waiting in the mailbag that were sent before the Tigers hired Rick Knapp as their pitching coach. First and foremost, Rogers hasn't yet announced whether he plans to pitch again. And as respectful as everyone is for his knowledge of the art of pitching, going from Major League pitcher to Major League pitching coach not a jump you see players make when their playing career ends.

I actually think Kenny would make a very good pitching coach someday if that's what he wanted to do, but it's an extremely demanding job in terms of time commitment and some experience. And it's very difficult to ask someone who has gone through the rigors of a Major League schedule as a player for so many years to get back on that same schedule right away. For a lot of players, the decision to retire includes the chance to spend more time at home with the family for a while.

Derek Lowe and his sinkerball would be a nice weapon to complement the hard throwers that Dombrowski likes in the rotation. Plus, he's a workhorse who rarely, if ever, misses a start and he's got postseason experience. He could even go back to being a closer if all else fails. Any chance he sports the old English D next year?
-- Jim B., Pittsfield, Mass.


The Tigers have shown interest in Lowe in the past, but so have a lot of other teams. He has a chance to be a pretty valuable commodity on the free-agent market for teams that miss out on the top-tier starters. Reports that returning to Boston would be Lowe's first choice don't help the Tigers' case.

Can Will Rhymes play shortstop? He has the potential to be that scrappy leadoff hitter that will allow Granderson to move down in the lineup.
-- Chad L, Tucson, Ariz.


Rhymes has played a little bit of shortstop in the pros, but not much -- 16 games at Double-A Erie this past year, and one brief appearance at Class A Lakeland a year earlier. His future appears to be at second.

I read earlier that owner Mike Ilitch wants to be competitive with the top teams again. Well, obviously we need an ace pitcher. If you look at the playoff teams, they all have a stud ace and a closer. We don't! But let's quit messing around and go after Manny Ramirez. He's a proven playoff player that can change a game and would look good between Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera in the lineup. Can you imagine that?
-- Mark C., Montpelier


Honestly, I'm trying to imagine what getting Manny Ramirez has to do with an ace and a closer. But to answer your question, no, that won't happen.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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