08/20/11 11:08 PM ET
Ex-Tiger Hernandez honored before game
By Jason Beck and Chris Vannini / MLB.com
"God bless him," Hernandez said, "because it was a record that I had for a long time. 27 years I had that record. And somebody [else] had to have it, because I'm out of baseball. I'm a Christian, and as soon as somebody told me that he may break my record, I said, 'Well, God bless him.'"
The Tigers brought back Hernandez this weekend to honor him at Comerica Park as part of their Fiesta Tigres celebration. Every Latin Tigers player joined him in a pregame ceremony, complete with a portrait honoring Hernandez's award-winning 1984 season and a watch presented by current Tigers setup man Joaquin Benoit.
Hernandez was also at Comerica Park for batting practice on Friday, which gave him a chance to meet the current closer whose 35 consecutive saves topped his mark from 1984.
"I talked to him yesterday, and I told him what happened," Hernandez said. "I prayed for him. I prayed for his family. And he told me now that he knows all the sentiments, he thanked me very much for that. He's a good kid. God bless him. He's got the potential to be around for a long time."
It's a different role for closers now than when Hernandez was playing. Hernandez went 32-for-32 in save chances before blowing his final opportunity that year, long after the Tigers had clinched a division title. Twenty of those saves required more than three outs, including five three-inning saves and a four-inning save. Hernandez won the Cy Young Award that season.
Hernandez understands. Once closers became highly-valued players with long-term contracts, he said, their longevity became more important.
Inge brings newfound attitude to clubhouse
DETROIT -- As media members talked to Brandon Inge about his return to the Tigers on Saturday, Miguel Cabrera joined in with an important question of his own.
"Do you wash your hair with shampoo?"
Everyone laughed. The return of Inge has brought a return of jokes and a newfound stress-free attitude that was missing before Inge was designated for assignment in late July. Inge was called up Saturday and was in the starting lineup against Cleveland left-hander David Huff.
Inge's stress-free attitude paid off immediately, as he belted a solo home run on the third pitch he saw in Saturday's win over the Indians. Inge went 2-for-4 with two RBIs in the game. He appeared to have opened up his stance, but Inge said that he didn't notice any change, nor did he care. He just wanted to swing the bat and have fun.
"When I went down there, the furthest thing on my mind was mechanics," Inge said. "I did not care about mechanics, I did not want to hear about my stance, I didn't want to hear [anything]. I just got up there, saw the ball, got comfortable and hit."
Inge battled sickness and a batting average that hovered around .200 for most of the season before the Tigers traded for Wilson Betemit and designated Inge for assignment. Inge chose an assignment at Triple-A Toledo, though he could have chosen to get a fresh start somewhere else.
"They could have released me," Inge said of the Tigers' front office. "That was an option. That was something I could have done. I could have said, 'Fine. Release me and I know I could go to probably 20 other teams and play. Especially National League teams, too.' But I didn't want to. I didn't want to go out like that.
"I still have a lot left. A lot left. I don't care what people say -- I know in my heart that I have a lot left, especially after going down now. I understand how I work best."
Inge said that his head cleared up as soon as he got to Toledo. He didn't care when the Tigers would call him back, he just wanted to go down and have fun. Playing without the stress helped him realize how much that stress in Detroit had gotten to him.
"I played baseball as a kid because I loved it and because I had fun with it," he said. "Somewhere along the way, during this year, I lost sight of that. Going down there was a pleasant change."
Part of Inge's decision to stay with the organization was the loyalty that the Tigers have shown him throughout his career. He wanted to be just as loyal.
"There's tons of other teams that everyone says they want to go to," Inge said. "But in my opinion, if you've been treated well by an organization and your teammates, why would you buck the horse on that one? Just stay there, ride it out."
Now Inge has returned to the Tigers, who are in the middle of a pennant race. Manager Jim Leyland said that Inge will play against left-handed pitching and as a defensive replacement, while Betemit will play against right-handers. Inge hit .395 against lefties in two stints in Toledo, while Betemit has hit .309 against righties in the Majors this year.
Inge doesn't like being a platoon player; he'd rather be an everyday guy. But he understands why decisions regarding his status have been made. Now, Inge just wants to have fun and win.
Said Inge: "I'm going to make these guys have fun, because I'm tired of watching their butts on TV every once in a while."
Porcello working hard to iron out mechanics
DETROIT -- Most starters will throw a side session or two off the mound between starts. But this late in the season, some pitchers won't throw off a mound between starts at all.
Rick Porcello has thrown nearly every day since his last start on Monday. That's how flustered the right-hander had grown trying to make sure that his mechanical tweaks stick this time.
"I've been off the mound much more than normal, trying to iron out my mechanics," Porcello said, "I'm just trying to create muscle memory again and create some consistency with my mechanics."
He'll get a chance to test them out on Sunday against the team that took advantage of his struggles two starts ago. The last time Porcello faced the Indians, he tied a season-high with 11 hits allowed and a career high with eight runs allowed, all in just 3 2/3 innings. His sinker was moving across rather than down, he said later, and his secondary pitches were no help.
After a solid first turn through the Twins' lineup on Monday, Porcello fell into similar struggles. Added together, the two outings have raised his ERA by half a run.
He isn't at the point yet where he can confidently make adjustments in the middle of a game, so he has to rely on his work between turns. That's why he puts in that much time.
"It's an odd point in the year to do it, because it's a little later in the year," Porcello said. "These days you want to just rest your arm, but my arm feels fine. It's something I felt I wanted to do."
He also wanted another shot at the Tribe. Once the rotation was set for the weekend, pitting Porcello for Sunday rather than Justin Verlander, he had the motivation he needed.
"Absolutely," Porcello said. "I wanted to face them again the next day. I feel like I need to go out and redeem myself against these guys. I feel good about it. I'm up for it."
Peralta's Friday night homer extra special
DETROIT -- Jhonny Peralta had homered off his old club before -- he hit a solo shot off Mitch Talbot on June 16. Still, he didn't seem to enjoy that one quite as much as he enjoyed his Friday night drive off of Josh Tomlin.
Peralta didn't pose for the seventh-inning solo shot, the back half of back-to-back home runs that knocked Tomlin out of the game. Still, he held the bat a little longer than normal before dropping it and making his way around the bases.
"I knew that was out," Peralta said. "I tried to do something a little different with my bat."
It was part of a 2-for-3 night for Peralta, his third straight two-hit performance, which raised his batting average back to .314 for the season. He entered Saturday batting 10-for-30 off Cleveland pitching with two homers and three RBIs in seven games. Against American League Central opponents, he's batting .391 (59-for-151) with 11 doubles, nine home runs and 29 RBIs.
Tigers not expected to make many callups
DETROIT -- With just-optioned Andy Dirks expected back in Detroit once rosters expand on Sept. 1, the Tigers seemingly have the potential to make several September callups for the home stretch.
Most likely, however, they'll stick to their plan of making a few strategic moves for depth purposes.
"I don't think there'll be many callups," manager Jim Leyland said.
Teams can call up anyone on their 40-man roster Sept. 1 without having to make a return move to make room. Leyland and team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski will likely discuss those possible moves in the coming days.
Count Jim Leyland among those less than thrilled with having a Sunday night game on Sept. 4 at Comerica Park against the White Sox ahead of an afternoon game the next day in Cleveland.
"I'm proud that we're going to be on ESPN," Leyland said. "It's a Sunday night game and that's very nice and very flattering, but I don't really think you should do that when you have a day game the next day. I don't think that's fair.
With Wilson Betemit and Brandon Inge now platooning at third base, Leyland said that Don Kelly will return to a utility and late-inning defensive role.
"Kelly will be like an all-purpose guy," Leyland said.
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.