04/08/12 2:21 PM ET
No answers yet on Fister's replacement
By Jason Beck and Anthony Odoardi / MLB.com
"I have no clue who's going to start, absolutely none," manager Jim Leyland said before Sunday's series finale against the Red Sox. "[Brayan] Villarreal has joined the team and we will have a starter at the appropriate time. Who it is, I have no clue. None."
Duane Below replaced Fister in relief Saturday and tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings to earn his first Major League win, then earned another victory in Sunday's comeback. He was the runner-up in Detroit's fifth-starter competition that ended a week ago and would seemingly be the logical candidate.
At this point, Leyland is keeping his options open.
The organization will spend the next two days watching starters at Triple-A Toledo, Leyland said. Somebody from the club watched Andy Oliver pitch for the Mud Hens Sunday night, and Leyland said he might spend the off-day Monday in Toledo to watch Casey Crosby start. Oliver looked like the front-runner for the fifth-starter job midway through Spring Training until he battled control problems in back-to-back starts, issues that seemed to surface again in five walks over 3 2/3 innings Sunday night.
The Tigers also don't appear to be closing off the trade route. Yet if they liked their in-house candidates over their trade options entering the final weeks camp, they might not feel much differently now. Detroit spent much of Spring Training monitoring Nationals starter John Lannan, who has since ended up in Triple-A and has publicly asked for a trade. Just because Lannan wants a trade, though, doesn't mean the Nats will give him away or eat a good chunk of his $5 million salary to deal him.
With Monday's off-day, the Tigers have the option of moving up Max Scherzer to start in Fister's place Friday instead of Saturday. Given that Friday is the White Sox home opener, having Scherzer pitch that day could be an option. If Detroit does that, though, it won't have Scherzer for the four-game series against Texas at Comerica Park from April 19-22.
As for a timetable on Fister, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, "Not right now. We've just got to get him pain free. Once we get him pain free, then we can move forward."
Fister agreed, saying he's still dealing with tightness and soreness in his left side.
Jackson's peskiness at first pays off Saturday
DETROIT -- The Tigers have spent the past couple years balancing the potential to use Austin Jackson's speed on the basepaths with the reluctance to run themselves out of innings with Miguel Cabrera and other All-Star sluggers due up. Saturday was a perfect example of how Jackson can change a game on the bases without a steal attempt.
Once Jackson's leadoff walk in Saturday's first inning put him on base, Red Sox starter Josh Beckett clearly saw him as a threat to steal or run, throwing to first no fewer than five times over the next two batters. Beckett still had the concentration to retire Brennan Boesch, but when Beckett made a mistake to Miguel Cabrera, he paid for it with a two-run homer.
Asked if Jackson made a difference, manager Jim Leyland said absolutely.
"I think that they were paying quite a bit of attention to him," Leyland said. "You get guys uncomfortable. That happens to us, too, when guys [on base] can run. It happens to everybody. You just have to try to keep that to a minimum. But you're right, I think it looked like maybe it was divided attention. When you get dividend attention with a big hitter up there like that, it can be costly."
Jackson finally took off on the pitch that Cabrera hit out. He ended up being able to trot home.
"It's one of my jobs as a leadoff hitter to make the pitcher worry about me a little bit over there when I'm on the basepaths," Jackson said. "Anything I can do to disrupt his timing a little bit, kind of get in his head that I'm going to steal a base, can work out just as well as stealing a base."
Prince notches 1,000th career hit in first inning
DETROIT -- A day after Prince Fielder hit his first and second home runs as a Tiger, he hit another milestone with his 1,000th hit as a Major Leaguer, this one a ground-ball single through the right side in Sunday's four-run first inning against the Red Sox.
It was another set of back-to-back hits for Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, only this time with similar grounders for hits.
Just four of those first 1,000 hits came as a Tiger for Fielder, who picked up the rest with the Brewers. But the honor drew no less of an ovation from the Comerica Park crowd when it popped up on the scoreboard.
Fielder's 1,000th hit came in his 1,001st Major League game, part of a two-hit, two-run performance. He has averaged better than a hit a game every year since 2007.
Bullpen played big role in blowout vs. Boston
DETROIT -- The Tigers demonstrated their potential for offensive dominance Saturday in a 10-0 win against the Red Sox as they tagged five home runs off right-hander Josh Beckett. But it was perhaps the bullpen, not the power swings, that was most impressive.
After Doug Fister came up from a pitch holding his left side and was removed with two outs in the fourth inning, four Detroit relievers combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings, preserving a shutout of last season's most dangerous Major League lineup.
Pitching to Red Sox right fielder Ryan Sweeney, Fister felt a sting in the left side of his ribs. Manager Jim Leyland and trainer Kevin Rand ran out to the mound and Fister was removed. Without warning, Duane Below, the left-hander who eight days prior had been set to pitch for Triple-A Toledo, ran out of the bullpen dugout to face Boston's lineup.
With what began as a 2-0 lead, Below went 2 1/3 innings, allowing just one hit, striking out four batters in a lineup that scored 875 runs in 2011 -- the most in the Majors.
"I think what you saw yesterday was also one of the reasons I was hoping that the 12th guy would be a left-hander," Leyland said. "We had him for [Adrian] Gonzalez and [David] Ortiz and [Jacoby] Ellsbury."
Of the three, only Gonzalez got a hit off the Tigers rookie. Octavio Dotel took over in the seventh and went 1 1/3 innings, giving up a hit then striking out Cody Ross, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Aviles in order.
Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit followed and got the last six outs to earn the Tigers their largest shutout win against the Red Sox since a 13-0 victory in 1948.
Smyly roughed up in Triple-A debut
DETROIT -- Drew Smyly's tuneup at Triple-A Toledo on Saturday before he makes his Major League debut later this week ended up the kind of outing usually seen at the end of Spring Training. The 22-year-old left-hander began his second pro season by yielding three runs on three hits and two walks while recording just five outs.
Smyly threw 30 of his 50 pitches for strikes. All of the damage, as well as 39 of those pitches, came in the second inning, according to the Toledo Blade. He gave up a triple, two doubles and an 11-pitch walk in his final four batters, according to the paper.
Smyly is scheduled to start Thursday's series finale against the Rays at Comerica Park, having won the fifth-starter competition out of Spring Training. He had never pitched above Double-A until Saturday.
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.