MLB Team Report - Detroit Tigers - INSIDE PITCH
DETROIT -- Victor Martinez was at first base for the Detroit Tigers on Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
It was sort of a dress rehearsal for Detroit's week-long road trip to National League cities Los Angeles and San Diego, which starts Tuesday with a pair of games against the Dodgers.
Not being able to use a designated hitter in those NL cities handicaps Detroit because it means one of its primary offensive weapons, Martinez, can't be utilized unless he plays a position on the field.
And if he plays a position on the field, the normal occupant of that spot has to sit out.
Detroit has a day off after the first two games before shifting to San Diego for a weekend series with the Padres.
"I can't have Victor out of the lineup for that long," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said.
To work around that, Ausmus is going to us Martinez as a catcher in one game, probably against a left-hander to minimize the loss of regular catcher Alex Avila.
He will also have Martinez play first at least once, with first baseman Miguel Cabrera moving back to the position he played for the previous two seasons, third base.
That would mean third baseman Nick Castellanos sits out -- unless Ausmus is inclined to have the rookie play one game in left field, a spot he played last year.
The practical effect of not having Martinez in the lineup is that it strips the Tigers of key protection for No. 3 hitter Cabrera in the batting order.
Who's going to pitch to Cabrera in a game-deciding situation when they can work around him and face Mr. X instead? The Tigers are using a different fifth-place hitter on almost a daily basis.
For that reason, it wouldn't be surprising to see Detroit have Martinez on the field three or four of the five games.
MLB Team Report - Detroit Tigers - NOTES, QUOTES
STREAK: Lost one
NEXT: Tigers (RHP Max Scherzer, 0-0, 0.00) at Dodgers (TBA)
--DH Miguel Cabrera worries managers every time he comes to bat -- with or without a runner on base. "The only way he makes an out is when he gets bored," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said Sunday. Cabrera won three straight batting titles and his single in four at-bats left him at .350. Look for Cabrera to play third base once or twice in Los Angeles and San Diego as Detroit searches for ways to get regular DH Victor Martinez into the lineup. Martinez can play first or catcher.
--1B Victor Martinez subbed on the field Sunday for DH Miguel Cabrera, who normally plays first base. Martinez is going to catch at least one of the five West Coast games Detroit has coming up this week in National League cities Los Angeles and San Diego. Martinez is also likely to play first base in at least one of the games, with Cabrera playing where he spent the last two seasons, third base. Not being able to use Martinez in NL parks deprives Detroit of its cleanup hitter unless it can find a way to get him on the field at a position.
--RHP Justin Verlander moved into fourth place on Detroit's all-time strikeout list Sunday by fanning three batters. His second strikeout moved him past RHP Tommy Bridges. He now has 1,676 strikeouts but only five this season in his two starts. "I feel like I'm throwing the ball well," Verlander said. "You get a feel for sttrikeouts and that feel is not there yet. You end up finding a feel for it."
--RF Torii Hunter hit his third home run in as many games Sunday, giving Detroit a brief 1-0 lead with his third home run, which came in the fourth inning. "I was just happy to get a mistake," Hunter said. "Thank you." It's the fourth time in his career that Hunter has hit a home run in three straight games.
--C Bryan Holaday got his first start of the season, giving a rest to C Alex Avila. As manager Brad Ausmus indicated earlier, it wasn't so much that Avila needed a rest as it was that Holaday needed to get in a game. "At this point in the season, Alex doesn't need a day off," Ausmus said. "It's a tough thing to balance because it isn't fair to ask your bench guys to start if they haven't played in more than a week." Holaday was 0-for-3.
--LF Tyler Collins is still looking for his first major league hit. He's 0-for-7 after making his second start of the season Sunday. Collins looked more than adequate defensively and has had some good at-bats without getting that first hit. For example, he grounded out to second Sunday to end the game with a runner on second in a 3-1 loss but despite being down in the count 1-2 he fouled off some good pitches before hitting a routine grounder to second.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like I'm throwing the ball well. You get a feel for strikeouts and that feel is not there yet. You end up finding a feel for it." --RHP Justin Verlander, on his lack of strikeouts in the early going. He has eight strikeouts in three starts after a 3-1 Tigers loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
MLB Team Report - Detroit Tigers - ROSTER REPORT
--RHP Bruce Rondon (Tommy John surgery on right elbow) underwent surgery March 29. He will be out for the season.
--LF Andy Dirks (lower back surgery in March 2014) went on the 15-day disabled list March 29. He is expected to be out until late June or early July. Dirks said he has had problems with his lower back since high school, but it locked up on him early in spring training.
--SS Jose Iglesias (stress fractures in both shins) went on the 60-day disabled list March 29. He is expected to be out most if not all of the 2014 season.
RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Anibal Sanchez
RHP Rick Porcello
LHP Drew Smyly
RHP Joe Nathan (closer)
RHP Al Alburquerque
RHP Joba Chamberlain
LHP Ian Krol
LHP Phil Coke
RHP Luke Putkonen
RHP Evan Reed
1B Miguel Cabrera
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Alex Gonzalez
3B Nick Castellanos
SS Andrew Romine
UT Don Kelly
UT Andrew Romine
UT Victor Martinez
LF Rajai Davis
CF Austin Jackson
RF Torii Hunter
OF Tyler Collins