LOS ANGELES -- Gerald Laird remembers homering into the left-field seats at Dodger Stadium. It was in a high-school championship game 12 years ago, and it's a moment he'll never forget.
By contrast, it was a quiet afternoon session of extra batting practice here Friday afternoon when Laird got to clear the fence again. The only cheers in the empty ballpark came from manager Jim Leyland, who was watching intently from the Tigers dugout. Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon was rather quiet behind the batting cage.
It doesn't even count for a hit, let alone a championship. But if the extra BP leads to some better hitting once the games start, it'll be worth it.
"Just trying to get in some extra work," Laird said. I'm working on a few things, me and Mac. We're trying to get things going, trying to get one of us [catchers] going."
Laird was out of the Tigers' lineup for Friday's series opener against the Dodgers, his second straight game sitting, but the way Leyland has mixed and matched his catchers trying to find offense, he'll be back in soon enough. While Laird entered Friday batting .157, Alex Avila started Friday with a .164 clip.
Laird ended an 0-for-11 slump with a bunt single Wednesday at Oakland, his first hit in six days. He did what he had to do to get on base. He has five hits in May, and two of them are infield singles. By contrast, he has had several well-struck line drives go for outs, including a diving catch by White Sox left fielder Juan Pierre on Tuesday.
"It's just been tough," Laird said, "but I'm just going to keep working. I know things are going to turn around. I know they are. But my main concern is to catch and keep doing what I'm doing behind the plate with the [pitching] staff and try to help us win baseball games."
Leyland to mix, match outfielders in LA
LOS ANGELES -- The Interleague conundrum of fitting four Tigers outfielders into just three starting spots worked out with Johnny Damon on the bench for Friday's series opener against the Dodgers. However, manager Jim Leyland intends to mix and match this series among Damon, veteran Magglio Ordonez and rookie Brennan Boesch.
"I'm just going to switch it out," Leyland said Friday afternoon. "Damon will definitely play tomorrow."
The Tigers figured on having an outfield glut to solve this series when they signed Damon in February. However, they would've expected it to involve Carlos Guillen, who moved to DH whenever Damon signed. Guillen's on the disabled list, but Boesch has hit so well since being called up last month that it's difficult for the Tigers to take him out of the lineup.
Considering Boesch is playing for the first time at the ballpark where he grew up watching games with his dad as a Southern California native, Boesch probably wasn't going to sit the series opener. Boesch had several friends and family members in attendance, so many that he lost track. His parents handled tickets for his family with help from the Dodgers, while Boesch took care of his close friends from his hometown of Santa Monica, Calif.
Ordonez was a question mark for the outfield going into the series with a right heel he injured in Oakland, but he said he was fine now. Ordonez said Friday he isn't quite sure how he hurt it, but it wasn't bothering him Tuesday against the White Sox. His best guess at the moment is that he slept on it wrong Tuesday night in a way that pulled his foot back.
Fortunately for the Tigers, they'll only have to go without the DH spot for two more games here. They won't have to play in any National League parks again for another month until they visit the Mets and Braves in late June.
Tigers 'thrilled' by Scherzer's progress
LOS ANGELES -- The reports that the Tigers received on Max Scherzer's outing at Triple-A Toledo on Thursday night were even more encouraging than the numbers, manager Jim Leyland said Friday. Now it's a matter of following it up.
"We like him a lot," he said, "but I think it just goes to show you. Sometimes it's not a popular move at the time with the player, but sometimes it's the best thing to do. Scherzer's going to be back, and I'm not going to jump up and down and get all crazy for one outing. I want to see what happens the next time out, see how he looks. But we're thrilled."
Scherzer threw eight innings of one-hit ball for the Mud Hens on Thursday with only one walk and 10 strikeouts against a Durham lineup that has no shortage of hitting talent, including outfield prospect Desmond Jennings and former Major Leaguer Dan Johnson. It was Scherzer's first outing since the Tigers optioned him out last Saturday and called up Armando Galarraga.
Tigers pitching coach Rick Knapp said Friday they felt Scherzer had been close to figuring out the mechanical issues that had led to his struggles in Detroit, having given up 27 runs on 33 hits over 18 innings in his last four starts. Scherzer's stuff, as well as his remarks to reporters afterward, suggested he had found what was wrong. Knapp gave credit to Mud Hens pitching coach A.J. Sager for working with him and translating adjustments into performance.
"It's good to see he went down and had those kind of results," Leyland said. "The report was actually, to me, better than the results, because you're talking with people who saw and they explain to you that he was pretty electric and everything. He got glowing reports on everything last night. He had his arm up in the right slot, had better velocity. But I think it's just kind of a little wait-and-see [situation] a little bit longer. We made it perfectly clear to him we need him, obviously, and we're counting on him."
Scherzer's next start for the Mud Hens will likely come Tuesday at Syracuse.
Tigers recall Raburn, send down Wells
LOS ANGELES -- Considering Casper Wells' first stint as a big leaguer was planned out to last just a couple days, his weeklong stint exceeded expectations. But that wasn't much consolation for him Friday night as he awaited his return to the Minors.
As expected, the Tigers didn't waste time recalling Ryan Raburn from Triple-A Toledo. He'll rejoin the Tigers for their middle game against the Dodgers on Saturday, the earliest he was eligible to return after being optioned out last Wednesday to make room for an extra reliever. By rule, players cannot be recalled for 10 days after they're sent out, unless they're replacing someone placed on the disabled list.
Raburn, sent out because he had a Minor League option left, took out his frustration on the International League by batting 12-for-27 (.444) with six doubles, two RBIs and five runs scored.
"He's really played well and deserves to be back," manager Jim Leyland said. "Casper did very well, accounted for himself very well, but Raburn with what he did last year, he went down there and did what we asked. He played his tail off. He deserves to be back. He's a nice player for Interleague Play."
Wells played in two games, batting 2-for-9 with a two-run double Wednesday at Oakland. Considering he was batting .205 at Toledo when he was called up, this stint was a confidence boost.
"Right now, I feel really good. I feel confident," Wells said. "I feel like I've got my approach back at the plate and I can hit Major League pitching, which is the main thing. I got a couple key hits. It was just an unbelievable experience, and I'm glad I got to experience it, go through all the jitters and everything, so hopefully next time I get the opportunity to come up here, I won't have to deal with all that stuff."
Worth impressing Tigers at second
LOS ANGELES -- The more Danny Worth plays at second base, the less he looks like a natural shortstop. His back-to-back plays in the first inning Friday night showed looked like someone who had played second for years.
Worth turned a double play out of a hard-hit ball to the right side by Ronnie Belliard. It was such a quick field and flip that shortstop Ramon Santiago was two steps away from the bag when he caught the ball. Two pitches later, Worth made a diving stop behind first base to rob Manny Ramirez of a potential hit.
He reinforced his reputation as one of the strongest fielders in the Tigers' system and made an impression on his starting pitcher.
"He can play," Dontrelle Willis said. "He's very talented, very poised, and he's into every pitch. He isn't intimidated at the plate, and he's having fun. I like to see that behind me."
It was a sweet homecoming for Worth, who was born in Valencia, Calif., and played collegiately at nearby Pepperdine.
"I had a bunch of buddies who were sitting on the first-base side," Worth said, "so I was like right in their face."
Miner to have elbow examined by Yocum
LOS ANGELES -- Injured Tigers reliever Zach Miner will visit with noted orthopedic specialist Lewis Yocum to examine his injured right elbow Wednesday in California, according to Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.
What comes out of that consultation should play a big role in Miner's decision whether to undergo season-ending elbow surgery now or try to rehab.
An MRI exam taken last week revealed a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in Miner's elbow. Miner told MLB.com a few days ago that he would seek a second opinion to try to determine what to do. He had been trying to rehab his way through the injury, which was originally diagnosed as tendinitis after an initial MRI exam showed no structural damage, but underwent a second MRI once his elbow bothered him again in an extended spring training appearance last week.
Whether or not Miner has surgery, he isn't expected back anytime soon. Still, the decision to have surgery not only will determine whether he has any chance to pitch this season, but also how extensive a comeback he'll face.
Miner, an important swing man in Detroit's bullpen last year, is one of two Tigers relievers currently on the disabled list. Left-hander Bobby Seay is expected to visit with Dr. James Andrews shortly to examine his partially torn labrum and hopefully get clearance to start a throwing program. Seay is trying to rehab without surgery, which would keep him out at least all year and would likely put his career in question.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.