SEATTLE -- The way Andy Dirks has been hitting lately, it's far from automatic that a left-handed starting pitcher could stop him. A bad hamstring, however, could.That was the big reason Tigers manager Jim Leyland cited in not starting Dirks Wednesday night against Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas. It was the same reason Leyland pulled him Tuesday night as one of his defensive substitutions. "I'm giving him a night off," Leyland said Wednesday afternoon. "I mean, I'll pinch-hit him if I have to, but kind of I'm letting that [rest]. I'm going to tell him to go in and get treated. "He's OK, he's playing and he's playing hard. But if he doesn't have to go all out, he's not going all out. And I don't mean that derogatory. I mean that as a compliment." Ryan Raburn started in left field, as he has often been doing against left-handed starters lately, with Danny Worth starting at second base. The difference Wednesday is that Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas has given up his share of hits to left-handed hitters since the start of last season, nullifying the lefty-righty splits. Dirks will likely be back in the lineup Thursday against Oakland right-hander Bartolo Colon. He has held left-handed hitters to a .228 average this year but given up extra bases on 11 of those 23 hits, including five homers.
Laird shows poise in tough spot
SEATTLE -- Gerald Laird couldn't resist the joke on his way out after Tuesday night's win, saying he was "Verlander's psychologist today."OK, so Justin Verlander probably didn't need that much counseling, despite his frustrations over home-plate umpire Brian Knight's strike zone. But somebody had to make sure nobody said a magic word that would either set off Verlander or prompt Knight to eject the reigning American League Cy Young winner and MVP. As the catcher in between the two, Laird had that role. The problem was, he also was the only healthy catcher the Tigers had while Alex Avila was dealing with a sore knee, so he couldn't afford to pick up the fight and take the damage for his pitcher. In fact, manager Jim Leyland reminded Laird of that fact on his way out after his ejection. So Laird played negotiator. "I just told [Knight] I'll take care of it," Laird said. "I said, 'It's just the heat of the game, that's all it is. He wants his pitch.' I said, 'I think they're close, but I'll take care of it.' And then next inning, I said, 'He's just a competitor. He wants his pitches. There's no hard feelings.'" Normally, Laird would be picking up his pitcher's cause, an irony he noted afterwards. "I can't get thrown out right there," Laird said. "I'm trying to be the smart guy. Usually, I'm the other guy yelling at the umpire."
Leyland hopes to see more plate discipline
SEATTLE -- For much of these first five weeks, Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been watching his offense from the dugout and wondering why a team with so many dangerous bats has been struggling to get going. His first ejection of the season on Tuesday might have given him the angle to step back and figure out why."When you're in the dugout, you can't always tell [plate discipline], but one of our problems -- and I was talking with [hitting coach Lloyd McClendon] after the game about it -- one of our problems, and we've watched some of it, but we swung at a lot of balls," Leyland said. "We're not going to hit if we swing at the kind of pitches we swung at after the third or fourth inning. I mean, we just did not show plate discipline, we did not grind out at-bats, and we swung at a lot of balls. We're too good of a team to do that. Our hitters are too good to do that. We made a lot of outs on balls, and we swung at a lot of bad pitches. So that's one thing we're going to have to do a little better at, but we're very capable of that, and we will." It's an angle available to players and coaches when they're looking at video, but it's different just watching the normal course of a game as it happens. In the natural sequence of a game, the regularity of the bad at-bats stands out. It also costs a little perspective -- there was one swing and miss from Raburn that Leyland particularly noticed, he said, only to find out later it was a hit-and-run play -- but that was a one-pitch difference on the regular theme. "When you're just observing a game, sometimes you see things different," Leyland said. "We're just swinging at too many balls. We're not even giving ourselves a chance. We're not making a guy work."
Leyland waiting for Raburn to get going
SEATTLE -- Ryan Raburn didn't get the start at second base on Wednesday, but his shift to left field marked his sixth straight start in as many days as Tigers manager Jim Leyland continues to try to get him going at the plate.Leyland hasn't said how he'll handle second base over the weekend in Oakland, but with Ramon Santiago already scheduled to give shortstop Jhonny Peralta a day off in the opener, Raburn will almost certainly be at second Thursday night, then either at second or back in left field Friday against lefty Tommy Milone. Raburn entered Thursday batting 1-for-7 for the series and 2-for-20 in May, dropping his season average to .135. There's a limit to Leyland's patience, he hinted, but having seen the difference Raburn can make when he's going at the plate, he's trying his best to get him there. "At some point, it'll stop if it doesn't start to get better," Leyland said. "At some point, you do something different. But what I've tried to do is to see. "If you get Raburn going, that's production. He produces. He hits the ball over the fence. If you get [Ramon Santiago] going, he's really a nice player for you. They both have their assets, obviously, but I'm trying to give Raburn the benefit of the doubt to play him a few days in a row to see if we can get him going. Because it just doesn't work when you [mix guys]. We tried that, kind of, to play somebody a game or two and then get him out because he doesn't hit, then play somebody else a game, then try somebody. "I mean, we can't be experimenting with Worth, Santiago and Raburn all year long. Somebody has got to step up. Hopefully it's Raburn, because when he hits, he can score you from first a lot. But right now he's not hitting."