DETROIT -- Jim Leyland managed Mark Fidrych in the Tigers' farm system in the 1970s, and he watched a Fidrych game as a fan at Tiger Stadium during the right-hander's magical 1976 rookie season. So when he talks about the phenomenon that "The Bird" created, he knows it from experience.
He sees some of the same reaction over Angels wunderkind Mike Trout.
"This is a little exaggeration, because it's a different type of admiration, but this is a Mark Fidrych-type thing," Leyland said about fan reaction. "Here's this young kid, and everybody's paying attention to him. It's great for the game."
Leyland noted that there's an influx of young players making an impact this year, citing Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie before he was injured, plus others. That type of infusion with new faces, he said, can be good for the game.
From a publicity standpoint, Fidrych might be a fitting comparison. From a talent and impact standpoint, the last 20-year-old to make that big of a splash might be Miguel Cabrera, whose rookie season with the 2003 Marlins ended in a World Series title.
When asked if Trout's rookie season reminded him of his own, Cabrera said, "He's better."
Injured ankle relegates Miggy to DH duty
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera doesn't like to serve as a designated hitter unless he has to. On Friday, with his sore right ankle wrapped, he had to.
"The [head athletic] trainer suggested I DH him tonight," manager Jim Leyland said, "so I DH'ed him."
Cabrera homered in the eighth inning, plating the sole run in the Tigers' 2-1 loss to the Angels.
Neither Leyland nor Cabrera knows how long Cabrera will have to start at DH. Cabrera suggested that "maybe" he'll be able to play third base on Saturday, saying that his ankle is much better on Friday then it was when he had to leave Thursday's game. However, he was noticeably slowed on his sixth-inning double.
"I'm concerned about it," Leyland said after the game. "Watching him tonight obviously he looked good at the plate, but the way he moved around, certainly you'd have to say there's some question. So we'll just have to wait and see."
This isn't the same ankle that bothered him for a few weeks earlier in the season. That was the left ankle, and that doesn't appear to be as big of an issue as it was. Still, all the minor injuries are enough for Leyland to at least mention the possibility that he'll give Cabrera a day off sometime soon.
Leyland saying that might have been at least a bit self-serving, potentially softening the reaction of fans if it happens, but nonetheless, it might have been a warning.
"You know what? That would be good for a controversial discussion," Leyland said on Thursday. "If I give him a day off and I rest him, everybody will say, 'How can you do that in a pennant race?' But you know what? If I have to do it, I have to do it. And I don't know that I'll have to do it.
"I'm not going to do anything stupid. I mean, look at the lineups. Look at them all over baseball. Guys get days off. If you have to give a guy a day off, I mean, I'm not going to put a guy out there that's hurt and can't perform. If it means [giving] him a day, if it means two days, you give it until the kid's right."
Berry making the most of chances to steal
DETROIT -- Stealing bases in a blowout game with the outcome decided is one thing, manager Jim Leyland likes to say. Stealing them in a close game is another.
Stealing bases when everyone expects it is yet another.
That's what Quintin Berry did on Thursday in the 11th inning with the score tied, as the pickoff throws and pitchout preceding the steal proved.
"It's tough," Berry said on Thursday, "but you've got to take those little windows that you get. I'm going to give everything that I got. I'm not playing every day, so I've got a lot of energy built up, so I'm going to try to put all that into one play for them. I'm just glad we were able to get it."
Berry had entered the game as a pinch-runner. Whether that becomes a primary role for him, especially now that Andy Dirks is getting the vast majority of starts in left field against right-handed pitching, remains to be seen, but it would certainly be playing to a strength.
So far Berry is 17-for-17 stealing bases in the big leagues. Five of those stolen bases have come in the seventh inning or later in either a one-run game, tied contest or with the tying run on deck, according to baseball-reference.com.
Smyly happy about making another start in bigs
DETROIT -- Drew Smyly had a feeling that something was up when Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin moved him up a day to pitch a lone inning of work. A day later, when he read about Doug Fister's injury, he realized why.
"I mean, I had an idea," Smyly said, "but I didn't even know anything was wrong with Fister until all that other stuff came out."
With that, Smyly was heading back to the big leagues, getting a chance to pitch in the stretch run of a playoff race. He'll start on Saturday in Fister's place and could do the same next Saturday against the White Sox if the injury is still an issue.
"I'm glad they trust me," Smyly said. "Hopefully, I can go out and help the team, contribute, however they need me when they call on me."
Saturday's start will be his first with the Tigers since July 6. He missed three weeks on the disabled list before the Tigers simultaneously activated him and optioned him to Triple-A Toledo following the trade for Anibal Sanchez.
In some ways it feels far longer than that since Smyly has taken the mound. In other ways it feels as though he was here just the other day.
"I have 15 starts up here. I know what to expect. I know how to go about it," he said. "But, I mean, I get excited and nervous for any game. It's just fun going out and pitching in front of 40,000 people, especially this late in the season when the team needs you. Every game counts. It's just fun. I'm glad I get to be part of it."
The Tigers haven't placed Fister on the disabled list, so they had to make room on the roster to add Smyly. They optioned right-handed reliever Luke Putkonen to Triple-A Toledo after Friday's game. Detroit called up Putkonen last week to take Duane Below's role as long reliever, and pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday against Baltimore.
Major League Baseball handed Minor League outfielder Darren Driggers a 50-game suspension without pay on Friday after he tested positive for a metabolite of Drostanolone. Driggers, a 22nd-round selection in this year's Draft, had been playing in the rookie Gulf Coast League.
Justin Verlander will not get an extra day of rest before his next start. With Monday's off-day, he'll be bumped ahead of Anibal Sanchez to start Tuesday's series opener in Kansas City. That will put him in line to face the White Sox next Sunday night in what will probably be a showdown with fellow American League Cy Young contender Chris Sale.