BOSTON -- For the first time since taking over regular shortstop duties from Alex Gonzalez, Andrew Romine saw his batting average drop under .200 Saturday night. It was a rough fall under the Mendoza Line, going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against the Red Sox to send his average to .197.
Romine entered Sunday night's series finale hitless in his last 10 at-bats, and amidst a 2-for-23 slump since his three-hit performance against the Royals two weeks ago. The Tigers have made it clear that defense is their primary concern at shortstop, something Romine made clear he understands earlier in the week.
That said, manager Brad Ausmus said Romine might be pressing at the plate anyway.
"When you're struggling, you want to contribute, you want to help," Ausmus said. "You certainly don't want to fail. But people go through slumps in this game. He had a tough one, but most guys in that clubhouse have struck out three, four times in a game. I know I have."
One way Romine could work his way out of the slump would be to use his speed to leg out an infield hit. Getting the ball on the ground, however, has been a challenge for him lately. His last ground ball was an infield single for his last hit last Sunday against the Twins.
Add in Gonzalez's numbers before his release and Danny Worth's numbers, and Tigers shortstops entered Sunday batting .200 this season, third-lowest in the American League. Their .495 OPS and .263 on-base percentage ranked next to last, ahead of only Seattle. Defensively, however, their Ultimate Zone Rating ranked them fifth.
Ray to get start to give Porcello extra rest
BOSTON -- Robbie Ray is not returning to Triple-A Toledo just yet. He's not joining the Tigers' bullpen, either.
Much like the soreness in Rick Porcello's left side, Ray is lingering longer than expected. And as a result of the soreness in Porcello's left side, Ray is going to get another start with the Tigers.
Ray, who made two very good starts last homestand in place of injured Anibal Sanchez, will start the first game of the Tigers' next homestand, taking the mound Thursday against Texas. That was supposed to be Porcello's turn in the rotation, but he'll get a couple extra days to treat his side soreness before starting Saturday against the Rangers.
"This is probably an overabundance of caution, but I'm trying to think more long-term," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Whether [the soreness] bothers [Porcello] or not, we would like to get rid of it, so it's not even a consideration. We don't want to send him out there every fifth day, and then every day ask how he's feeling. We would like to completely eliminate this issue altogether."
Drew Smyly, who would've been on turn to start Saturday, will be pushed back as well, presumably to the following series at Oakland. Ausmus has made a point that he'd rather not start Porcello and Smyly back to back in the rotation. Porcello's success might have tempered those concerns, but any risk of an early exit due to injury -- remember, Ausmus pulled Porcello after six strong innings Monday in Baltimore due to the side issues -- could leave the bullpen with extra work.
That said, Porcello's issue is minor enough that he did what looked like his normal day-after-start running routine Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park. And that came after he pitched eight innings of one-run ball here Saturday night for his sixth straight win.
"They don't even describe it as a strain. It's just kind of a soreness," Ausmus said. "He said he can feel it the deeper he goes into a game, but it doesn't affect him. But as much as it doesn't affect him, we don't want this lingering for five more months. Because it got better between Baltimore and [Saturday], we're hoping these extra couple days will help get rid of it altogether."
The Tigers still had to make a roster move Sunday to open a spot for Sanchez's return from the disabled list. Instead of Ray, the victim was Justin Miller, who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo just a few days after he picked up his first Major League win in Baltimore with two innings of scoreless relief.
"His last outing was his best outing, in terms of the crispness of his stuff," Ausmus said. "He's really, in a sense, a victim of circumstance. It's nothing that he did. Twenty-four hours ago, the plan was to send Robbie Ray down and activate Sanchie."
Davis' disruptive style on bases paying off
BOSTON -- Edward Mujica made three pickoff throws to second base Saturday night before he threw his first pitch to the plate. If there was any further example needed of how Rajai Davis can dispupt an opponent while on the basepaths, that was it.
"We were talking about it," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. "I don't think I've ever seen someone pick [off] to second three times in a row."
Davis couldn't remember that happening before, either.
"That's amazing," Davis said. "I can't remember [another] time. But I did play under John Farrell, and they have an idea what kind of guy I am on the bases. They know."
They should. Farrell, now the Red Sox manager, managed Davis in Toronto two years ago. Davis stole 46 bases that season, though he also was caught 13 times.
More importantly, when Farrell took the Red Sox job in 2013, Davis swiped 10 of his 45 bases against Boston, easily more than he did against any other opponent. It was the first time he stole double-digit bases against one team in a single season.
The only other opponent to give up at least five stolen bases to Davis last season was the Yankees (six).
Ironically, the extra attention Saturday backfired. After Mujica finally delivered to the plate, he picked off to second again. This time, he misfired. The ball ended up in center field as Davis moved easily to third base, from where he scored on Ian Kinsler's sacrifice fly to earn Detroit its sixth and final run of the night.
It was an example of something Ausmus has mentioned since Spring Training, that a basestealer's effectiveness can also be tracked by how much he can get a pitcher off his game.
"It worked into our advantage," Davis said. "If they're focused on me, you can't focus on two things and be successful at the highest level. You can get one guy or the other."
Ausmus takes Lamont deep over Green Monster
BOSTON -- Brad Ausmus grew up in Connecticut watching Red Sox games at Fenway Park. He hit a home run over the Green Monster 15 years ago as a catcher for the Tigers, taking John Wasdin deep. On Friday, he had the chance to swing again.
"I've never hit a home run into the seats over the Green Monster," Ausmus said proudly of his shot during early batting practice Friday afternoon, "because they weren't there [back in 1999]."
He did it Friday, driving a ball down the line.
The coaches' batting practice was a way to break up the monotony of a long road trip. Ausmus wanted to take his swings at Camden Yards in Baltimore, where he hit two home runs in his playing career, but early work didn't allow for it.
Ausmus' home run pitch Friday came from bench coach Gene Lamont.
"I put it right where he wanted it," Lamont said.
Said Ausmus: "You didn't see the other 15 swings."
Several other coaches took their swings. Third-base coach Dave Clark homered to right, Ausmus said. First-base coach Omar Vizquel hit some drives off the Green Monster. Darnell Coles also swung, as did pitching coach Jeff Jones.
Hitting coach Wally Joyner, who has more Major League home runs than anybody else on the coaching staff, did not hit.
"Hitting coaches don't like to hit, I don't think," Ausmus said. "They're afraid their hitters will judge them."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.