OAKLAND -- The last time Gerald Laird was a Tiger, he lost his role in a catching timeshare with Alex Avila because he didn't hit enough. Now, his bat might actually be making it easier for manager Jim Leyland to play him as Avila's backup.
Though Laird didn't start on Saturday against his former Texas teammate, Brandon McCarthy, he started three of the previous four games in Avila's place, going 3-for-11 in the process and actually lowering his batting average to .300.
Laird scored the first of Detroit's four runs on Friday, reaching base on a Brandon Inge error in the third inning before scoring on a Miguel Cabrera single. He hit an opposite-field single on an 0-2 pitch in the fourth.
"I just think he's a little more comfortable," Leyland said Saturday. "For one thing, he's laid off high fastballs. He's done a pretty good job of being more selective and getting into strike counts."
Struggling Raburn sits with sore back
OAKLAND -- Forget about trying to catch a break at the plate. Now Ryan Raburn can't loosen up his back, let alone his nerves.
Raburn's 0-for-4 performance at the plate Friday night included a ground ball in the shortstop hole that turned into a strong defensive play and a well-struck line drive right at right fielder Josh Reddick. Then Raburn went back to the hotel and his back locked up.
Raburn was available to pinch-hit Saturday if needed, and he took batting practice before the game, but manager Jim Leyland didn't want to risk putting him in the field for a start with the back still sore. It marked Raburn's first day out of the starting lineup since May 1.
"Is it absolutely necessary to do? No," Leyland said. "But you try to use common sense."
Danny Worth got the start at second base in Raburn's place Saturday night. He hadn't started in consecutive games since July 29-30, 2010, when he was helping fill in for an injured Brandon Inge.
Leyland said Raburn tweaked his back on a diving attempt in left field on Thursday night. He looked shaken for a second when he tried to rob Reddick of a home run on Friday night, but stayed in the game.
As for Raburn's hitting, the Friday's 0-for-4 dropped his batting average to .128, his lowest since April 26. Raburn has been alternating one-hit and no-hit nights for the past five games. Still, the better contact on Friday had Leyland slightly encouraged.
"He's actually swinging a little bit better," Leyland said.
Turner promoted to Triple-A Toledo
OAKLAND -- Jacob Turner's lower-level rehab assignment is over. The Tigers' top prospect has been promoted to Triple-A Toledo for his next start Sunday against Gwinnett.
Turner had been optioned to Toledo during Spring Training, but was sidelined at the start of the season with right shoulder tendinitis. He returned to action by making four starts at Class-A Lakeland, where he went 1-2 with a 1.66 ERA for the Flying Tigers.
Turner pretty much punched his ticket for Toledo with seven scoreless innings and eight strikeouts on Tuesday.
Turner pushes back fellow Tigers prospect Casey Crosby by a day, but his return restores some semblance of order to a Mud Hens rotation that has been decimated by the many pitching moves in Detroit.