DETROIT -- When Jim Leyland talked about getting Daniel Schlereth some opportunities in late-inning situations, Sunday's situation wasn't what he had in mind.
Leyland wanted to see how Schlereth fared in matchups against left-handed Major League hitters. On Sunday, he had Manny Ramirez, one of baseball's most feared right-handed hitters over the years, at the plate with no open base to put him on in a two-run game in the 11th inning. He answered by spotting back-to-back breaking balls in the strike zone to finish off Ramirez, who was taking everything except fastballs.
It earned Schlereth his first big league save and a non-alcoholic beer shower from teammates after the game. Leyland hopes the investment pays off with bigger dividends down the road. He said recently that games in September are more revealing for evaluation purposes than games in Spring Training, and this game was up there.
"That's good [for] the future, really good," Leyland said. "That's a confidence boost."
On Monday, the Tigers found out how Schlereth responds to big situations on back-to-back nights. He struck out the side in the eighth inning to protect Detroit's 7-5 lead.
Likewise, Leyland felt strong about Robbie Weinhardt's performance Sunday night. Had he not lost a two-strike pitch up and hit Alex Rios, Leyland said, he might have finished that save.
"I felt fine," Weinhardt said. "I wasn't trying to make too good of pitches. I felt like my stuff was good enough to go right after those guys."
On the ensuing wild pitch to Paul Konerko that scored the tying run, Weinhardt said he just got the ball too far off the plate.
From there, though, Weinhardt held Chicago without another run through the 10th. As Leyland said, Weinhardt's a low-ball pitcher; he just needs to be more consistent keeping his pitches low.
"He's a young pitcher and he makes young mistakes," Leyland said. "But that's to be expected."
Valverde has MRI on troublesome elbow
DETROIT -- The Tigers don't believe closer Jose Valverde's right elbow issues are going to be a long-term injury. Still, they wanted to make sure, so they had Valverde undergo an MRI on Monday afternoon.
The results showed no serious concerns, manager Jim Leyland said.
Valverde visited with the team physician, Dr. Stephen Lemos. The results should give the Tigers and their closer peace of mind -- even if it doesn't give them any idea when he'll pitch again this season.
As it is, Valverde's last appearance on Sept. 15 at Texas is his only game in two weeks. He threw just two strikes out of 11 pitches that night, and he was unavailable when the Tigers began their weekend series against the White Sox two days later.
Leyland has said for the past few days that he won't pitch Valverde until the closer tells him he feels fine. Valverde has not had the kind of quick recovery he hoped for.
Valverde has a little history with biceps tendinitis, but it goes back to 2005, when it caused him to miss the season's first month. He bounced back and made 61 appearances that year as a setup man for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The domino effect on the Tigers' bullpen without Valverde has been particularly tough. Left-hander Phil Coke has shifted from setup to closer, where he locked down Monday's win over the Royals after struggling Sunday night at Chicago. Daniel Schlereth followed his first Major League save Sunday by striking out the side in Monday's eighth inning.
Cabrera: Shoulder is not an issue
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera is not going to use his recent shoulder issues as an excuse for a tough series against the White Sox. He said on Monday that his left shoulder feels fine, and that he is not wearing down over the final few weeks of the season.
Cabrera has been playing for the last week-and-a-half after missing a couple games with bicep tendinitis, and he was in the starting lineup again on Monday night against Royals ace Zack Greinke after a 1-for-15, six-strikeout performance over three games against the White Sox. As long as he can play, he's going to be out there trying to finish strong.
"It's OK," Cabrera said on Monday afternoon. "I feel strong. Go out there, play hard and see what happens."
Granted, the White Sox have had a lot to do with the few struggles Cabrera has had this season; Sunday's 0-for-5, two-strikeout evening closed the book on his splits against Chicago at 9-for-56 (.161) with two home runs and 14 walks. Still, it led some to wonder whether the shoulder was still an issue.
In two weeks, Cabrera will have an entire offseason to rest and strengthen the shoulder in preparation for 2011. Short term, his struggles are potentially bruising his chances at becoming the Tigers' first MVP in more than a quarter-century. Josh Hamilton, seemingly an MVP favorite at one point this summer, hasn't played since Sept. 4 due to a right rib-cage bruise and has no timetable on a return, though he's expected to be back by the end of the regular season.
Yet, Cabrera has by no means been able to take advantage. His weekend struggles dropped his September average under .200, as he's gone 10-for-52 (.192) with one home run and 11 RBIs. They also whittled away at his season average, bringing it to .326, its lowest point since June 23.
It's unlikely Cabrera will sit out more than a game or two for general rest. His reply when asked about time off is consistent: The Tigers pay him to play, and he wants to contribute. Moreover, even though the Tigers managed to score runs in bunches over the weekend despite his struggles, he's the one formidable bat with a track record in the middle of a very young lineup.
Tigers debate maple bat issue
DETROIT -- The Tigers had a good look at replays of Cubs outfielder Tyler Colvin's impaling by a broken bat on Sunday. Many have seen broken bats nearly injure other players in person.
As for what, if anything, should be done about it, that's a more difficult observation.
"I use maple bats. I enjoy using them," catcher Alex Avila said. "At the same time, the ash bats, I don't mind using them, either. I'm sure if more incidents happen like this, people are going to be looking a little bit more into it rather than just the testing they have now."
Manager Jim Leyland pointed out that the bat issue has already come under scrutiny from Major League Baseball's special on-field committee, of which he is a member. Others noted that bats are currently tested for the grain of the wood.
But disposing of maple bats, many agreed, wouldn't necessarily solve the issue. Other factors come into play, such as the many bats that now feature an extra skinny handle and a fat barrel. That preference, Avila suggested, closely tracks the metal bats many sluggers use in college.
"Nowadays, guys are using a bigger barrel and a skinnier handle, which makes for a bigger difference in the balance of a bat," Avila said. "The bat that I use, it's a thicker handle than what most guys use. So a lot of times when I break a bat, it won't splinter like that or fly off. It'll just break apart or more often be a cracked bat. But now everybody is using a bigger barrel and a much skinner handle, which makes that barrel of the bat fly.
"But they make those models in ash as well. Ash has certain models that maple has. It's just the way the wood is."
Third baseman Brandon Inge said he's more concerned with bats going into the stands than going at baserunners, since fans often can be caught not paying attention.
"At third base, I'm constantly watching a guy's bat to see where the ball's going to go," Inge said. "So anytime the bat breaks, I see the bat and I see the ball."