05/30/11 12:18 AM ET
Valverde rebounds to close out victory
By Jason Beck and Chris Vannini / MLB.com
After giving up a game-winning home run to Boston's David Ortiz in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, Valverde responded with a 1-2-3 inning and a save in the nightcap of a day-night doubleheader.
"The first game is over, and I did my job in the second game. Now the second game is over," Valverde said. "I have to be ready for tomorrow for the last game and this game. I'll be there to throw, whether it's one inning or two innings, and [go] back in again."
Valverde entered the first game in a 3-3 tie after the Tigers had fought back from a 3-0 deficit. With one out, Ortiz came in as a pinch-hitter. Valverde threw a 3-2 fastball across the heart of the plate and Ortiz hit it 412 feet into the stands and the Tigers lost, 4-3.
Valverde came into the second game in the ninth inning and sent the Red Sox down in order -- getting Ortiz to ground out for the final out. After a rainy weekend that saw the Tigers lose the first three games of the four-game series, Valverde was able to give the home crowd something to cheer about.
"The second game, I said, 'You know what? This is a time for the fans to celebrate a little bit,'" Valverde said.
Valverde threw 24 pitches in the first game and 11 in the second. When informed how many he threw, Valverde joked that he looked like pitcher Justin Verlander, who threw 132 pitches in the second game.
"He's a real proud guy," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Valverde. "You could see the determination in his eyes. He was ready for the challenge."
Coke eager to get back as soon as possible
DETROIT -- While the Tigers were taking batting practice and fans were readying for the gates to open Saturday, Phil Coke was running the aisles at Comerica Park, up and down the steps of the lower bowl.
It could be the called the next step in his rehab program, but considering Coke tore off his walking boot earlier because he couldn't walk right with it, the program appears to be relative.
"I'm already drooling," Coke said of his time off. "I'm really bad at being on the disabled list, because I get antsy and irritable, because I want to be on the field very badly."
It appears he won't have to deal with that for long, because his stay on the 15-day DL with a bone bruise in his right foot is looking like it could be a minimal one. In addition to his running work, Coke threw the equivalent of two to three innings in the Tigers' bullpen.
Coke is eligible to come off the DL on June 8. He's expected to make a rehab start with Triple-A Toledo to make sure he's ready to return. If he were to pitch for the Mud Hens on Friday at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he would be on turn to start for the Tigers as soon as he's eligible. However, nothing is set as of yet.
Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin told the Toledo Blade that Duane Below is slated to start Friday, while Thursday's start could go to Brayan Villarreal on short rest. With Below coming off elbow surgery, it would seem unlikely they would push him up.
Depending on how the Tigers maneuver their rotation with Thursday's off-day, a minimal DL stint could bring back Coke within two rotation turns.
Coke said he shed the walking boot because it wasn't really allowing him to walk. Thanks to an abundance of padding under the foot, he said, he felt like he was off-balance.
"I don't wear heels," Coke said.
Raburn working hard to turn things around
DETROIT -- If Ryan Raburn's season began anew this weekend, as manager Jim Leyland said Friday, then Sunday was his Opening Day.
That was the message Leyland gave to Raburn, who was trying his best to look at it as a clean slate. But for someone looking to put history behind it, this is usually the time of year his bat begins to turn around.
"Whether you're going good or bad, you can't live in the past anyways," Raburn said Sunday morning. "So what's behind you is behind you. You can only go forward. Of course, I'm definitely looking forward to putting that stuff behind me, but it's a long season.
"Things can turn around quick. Just got to keep battling and grinding it out. Sooner or later, it's going to come through. Hopefully today's the beginning of something good."
It didn't happen Sunday; Raburn went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the first game of the day-night doubleheader. He wasn't in the starting lineup for the nightcap, but Leyland had planned that going into the day.
Sunday's first game dropped his average to .195, including 5-for-54 in May.
Raburn has had worse numbers at this point in previous seasons, though with fewer at-bats. He had a .186 average on May 29 last year thanks to a 1-for-22 slump after May 1, sandwiched around a stint at Triple-A Toledo. He was batting .196 at the end of May in 2008.
His June performances aren't exactly scorching, but they showed signs of a comfort level building. He batted .255 (12-for-47) with two homers and 11 RBIs last year in June, and .260 the year before.
The difference this year, of course, is that he has had a lot more playing time to settle in. Even with a timeshare role in the corner outfield spots, he has 162 plate appearances, more than he had in April and May of his last two seasons combined.
He has put in more at-bats outside of games to try to figure out what's going on. He has been a regular in extra batting practice for at least the past week, hitting alongside Magglio Ordonez the past couple days.
Translating that to the field has been another matter.
"He's definitely got to take his approach from extra BP into the game, because his swing's too long," Leyland said. "He's hitting too many long, lazy fly balls."
The swing, Leyland said, is key. He's going to give Raburn more chances to work through it, which is what his stint at second base provides. It will not be unlimited.
Raburn's best split stats have come in August, when he has batted .314 over the last two seasons with 12 home runs and 27 RBIs over 153 at-bats. But he'll obviously need an uptick sooner than that to maintain regular at-bats to take advantage of that.
"I've talked to some people about this: There does come a point where you've got to get something going, or you've got to do something else," Leyland said. "I don't think that's the time right now. If we had won that game [Sunday afternoon], nobody would've noticed that so much. But we didn't win the game."
Ordonez feels he's close to making return
DETROIT -- Magglio Ordonez believes he's close to a return, close enough that he thinks he could go out on a Minor League rehab assignment next weekend.
Ordonez echoed sentiments from Tigers officials about his batting-practice sessions, saying he feels really good at the plate. He indicated he's feeling the lower-body strength in his swing that he lacked early this season while his ankle was bothering him.
Ordonez took batting practice Friday and Saturday afternoon and pulled pitches for power. He still has to do some outfield work, since he'll have to play the field upon his return.
Triple-A Toledo is on the road this coming week, but still could be an option. Double-A Erie and Class A West Michigan are both at home this weekend.
Leyland understands effect of rainouts on fans
DETROIT -- Although a rainout doesn't have a final score, there are losers: fans, whose nights can be ruined and who might not be able to attend a makeup game. Tigers manager Jim Leyland got a firsthand look when he was leaving Comerica Park on Saturday night as disappointed fans headed home.
"I'm watching them on the street as I'm driving my car. I mean this seriously, I don't want to sound corny, but it was touching," Leyland said. "You could tell little kids were [upset] they got rained out. ... Everybody had Tiger garb on. They had their ponchos, they were all here, the place was packed. It was really a touching thing."
The abundance of rainouts in Detroit -- four in a 14-day span -- has created frustration from players and fans. But Leyland said he didn't truly understand the effect it had on people until last night.
Leyland has often praised the support from Tigers fans, but he called Saturday a "wakeup call."
"You just don't realize -- and I don't mean myself, I mean the team in general -- what impact it has on the life of a person," he said. "The impact it has on people. These people had their night planned, they were down here, there were families, there were single guys, single girls, beer drinkers, there were little kids, there were old people, it was neat. I just don't think you realize the impact you have on people."
Weather frustrating for everyone in clubhouse
DETROIT -- Phil Coke might have put it best as he walked out of Comerica Park on Saturday night following the Tigers' fourth rainout in two weeks.
"Maybe one of these days, we'll get to play," said Coke, currently on the disabled list.
Much as the Tigers like to say they roll with what the schedule and the weather give them, that doesn't mean they have to enjoy what they're getting. While they've at least been able to get in batting practice outside this week -- unlike last week -- they've still spent more than a few hours total waiting to play, or gearing down to leave.
"The rain is a pain," Ryan Raburn admitted.
That said, the Tigers put it in perspective.
"When you think about Joplin, Mo., this is a piece of cake," manager Jim Leyland said.
Carlos Guillen said he believes he could be ready for a Minor League rehab assignment in about 10 days, barring another setback. Guillen said his previously sore back is feeling better now, which should allow him to resume baseball activities. ... The Tigers' two solo homers in Sunday's day game extended their streak of extra-base hits to 51 straight games, tying the franchise record to start a season. The 1986 team set that mark. ... Tigers pitching prospect Jacob Turner allowed three runs on seven hits over seven innings in a no-decision for Double-A Erie on Sunday against Reading. Turner walked two and struck out eight. ... Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a sixth-inning double Sunday afternoon and a first-inning single Sunday night. It's his longest hitting streak of the season. ... Sunday night's 39,873 tickets sold was the highest total for the Tigers since their home opener April 8. That came despite severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings in the area early Sunday evening.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Chris Vannini is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.