Tigers tab Smyly to replace Fister on Saturday
Rookie left-hander returns to the starting rotation to face Angels
DETROIT -- The Tigers didn't need to wait until the last minute to make a decision on Doug Fister. He has been scratched from his scheduled start on Saturday against the Angels after the team medical staff determined his right groin strain wouldn't allow him to be ready to pitch.
Thus, the Tigers will follow their contingency plan and start rookie left-hander Drew Smyly in Fister's place. Smyly began the year in the rotation but lost his spot while he was injured once Detroit traded for Anibal Sanchez last month. He'll be making his first start for the Tigers since July 6, the final week before the All-Star break.
Whether it'll be a one-time start for Smyly or something more is the next question. The fact that the Tigers haven't put Fister on the disabled list suggests at least some hope they can get him ready for next weekend against the White Sox.
If the Tigers send down a reliever for Saturday, for instance, they could go a man short in the bullpen for a day and then get back to full strength by recalling left-hander Duane Below, who would be eligible to return by then. The catch with going a reliever short, however, is that Smyly hasn't lasted five innings in any of his five starts since the Tigers optioned him to Triple-A Toledo after the Sanchez trade, though he pitched only one inning on Monday in order to be ready to pitch on short rest.
Smyly opened the season in Detroit's rotation and maintained his starting spot through the first half, save for his mid-June stint on the disabled list with a blister problem. He went back on the DL after the All-Star break with an intercostal strain, but by the time Smyly was ready to come back, the Sanchez trade filled a spot in the rotation.
Jackson adds diving grab to highlight reel
DETROIT -- Austin Jackson has a lot of big catches to cite for a potential American League Gold Glove Award this year. He finally has a diving grab to go with them.
Part of the reason the outfielder doesn't dive is that his speed allows him to run down a lot of fly balls and line drives before they drop to his shoestrings. He doesn't dive unless he has to.
On Thursday, as Anthony Gose's drive to right-center soared toward the gap, Jackson had to. In a tie game in the 10th inning, the game pretty much depended on it.
"I haven't dove too many times," Jackson said. "I probably could count on one hand how many times I've dove. That was one of those situations if it drops, I knew he was going to score. It's better to just go ahead and attempt to make the catch, leaving your feet right there."
Jackson's attempt looked like someone who has done it plenty of times. The catch was a little shaky, the ball bobbling in his glove as he slid along the grass and tried to keep his hand in the air, but it never popped out. Mike McCoy, the potential tying run, had to stay at second base.
"He's made some great ones," manager Jim Leyland said. "To me, that's one of the best he's ever made. I thought he had no chance."
It was the culmination of a mad dash that saw Jackson cross from left-center to right in maybe four seconds. The outfield alignment had shaded Gose for an opposite-field fly ball against Octavio Dotel.
Off the bat, Leyland thought the ball was going to fall in. So did catcher Alex Avila. So, for that matter, did Gose.
"He made a great play," Gose said. "I didn't think he was anywhere near it. He came out of nowhere. He's a great center fielder, plays shallow, takes away those hits. Nothing you can do about it."
Tigers option Alburquerque to Triple-A Toledo
DETROIT -- The clock has officially run out on Al Alburquerque's Minor League rehab assignment. Alburquerque spent 30 days rehabbing between Class A Lakeland and Triple-A Toledo, and the Tigers needed to make a move on Thursday.
The club announced during the series finale against Toronto that the right-hander has been reinstated from the DL and his contract was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. As a result, a spot needed to be cleared on the 40-man roster, and Thad Weber was placed on waivers and claimed by the San Diego Padres.
Weber was 7-11 with a 4.20 ERA in 22 games and 21 starts pitching for the Mud Hens this year. He appeared in two games with Detroit, allowing four runs in four innings of relief.
For Alburquerque, it's just another step in the process. The Tigers essentially had two options with his 30 days being up: Activate him from the DL and put him in the bullpen -- at the Major or Minor League level -- or keep him on the disabled list and shut him down for the year.
The Tigers decided on the former. Manager Jim Leyland has not said whether or not Alburquerque will be called up on Sept. 1 when the rosters expand. Although, if healthy, he would certainly be a weapon as he went 6-1 and struck out 67 hitters in 43 1/3 innings for Detroit last season.
Valverde hits saves century mark with Tigers
DETROIT -- With a scoreless ninth inning to seal a 3-2 win over the Blue Jays on Wednesday night, closer Jose Valverde became the fifth pitcher in Tigers history to record 100 career saves with the club.
And Valverde did it exactly the way you would expect him, too.
He didn't strike anyone out. He didn't have a clean inning. He did allow things to get a bit interesting when 45-year-old Omar Vizquel singled with two outs in a one-run game -- although it was nothing like Valverde's usual heart-stoppers. But in the end, he danced.
"I think he deserved that and it's going to be a lot more coming," said Joaquin Benoit, the eighth-inning guy who has been setting up most of Valverde's save opportunities since last season. "It's a good milestone for him and hopefully he can keep getting some more with us."
In his three years with the Tigers, Valverde has been one of the best closers in the game. Although he keeps it interesting, his conversion rate on save chances ranks as the best of any closer since 2010.
Valverde tallied 26 saves his first year in the Motor City before his historic 49-for-49 season in 2011. When catcher Alex Avila threw out Vizquel attempting to steal second on Wednesday, Valverde recorded his 25th save this year.
"I'm happy for him," Avila said. "Getting 100 saves, that's a pretty good accomplishment. It's not easy throwing a guy out with him on the mound, but I was pretty excited to end the game."
Holding runners on is one area Valverde hasn't excelled. Until Vizquel, opponents had been 17-for-17 in stolen base attempts against Valverde since Avila threw out Kansas City's Eric Hosmer trying to steal third base on July 10, 2011.
"When Jose's on the mound and a guy takes off, I just try to get rid of it as quickly as possible and try to put a perfect throw," Avila said. "I know a perfect throw is the way I'm going to get a guy with him."
Raburn gets desired results in rehab stint
DETROIT -- Heading into his rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo, it didn't necessarily matter what position Tigers outfielder/second baseman Ryan Raburn played, just that he began getting results at the plate.
At least that's what was most important for Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
"The fact of the matter is, he has to swing the bat," the skipper said on Tuesday. "So it doesn't matter whether he's the DH or left field or first baseman, right field of second baseman. It's a matter of getting him to swing the bat."
In his first game with the Mud Hens, Raburn did just that, going 3-for-5 with a double, home run, four RBIs and a run scored as Toledo defeated the Columbus Clippers, 8-3.
Obviously, it's only one game, but it strongly suggests that the 31-year-old, who posted a .172 batting average in 63 games in the Majors this year, has recovered from a sprained right thumb that has sidelined him since Aug. 1.
Leyland mentioned nothing Thursday morning of a timetable for Raburn's return to the club. With the addition of right-handed bat Jeff Baker from the Cubs, it's also unclear what Raburn's role will be upon his return.
However, if Raburn can find sustained success in the Minors and show that he's regained some of last year's second-half form -- when he hit .341 from the All-Star break until the end of the season -- his bat could be useful down the stretch once rosters expand in September.
Major League Baseball reversed a scoring decision from last Friday and awarded Alex Avila with a triple on his line drive that Orioles All-Star center fielder Adam Jones overran. That gave Avila two triples on the year and six since the start of last season.
Count manager Jim Leyland among those impressed with young Blue Jays shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who started Wednesday and Thursday with Yunel Escobar on paternity leave. The Tigers were interested in Hechevarria after he defected from Cuba, Leyland said, until Toronto signed him in April 2010.
Anibal Sanchez's six strikeouts on Wednesday night pushed the Tigers over 1,000 for the season, marking the 14th year they've reached the mark in franchise history. Detroit entered Thursday ranked second in the American League with 1,007 strikeouts -- 19 behind Tampa Bay.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.