04/03/2013 5:30 PM ET
Fundamental baseball turns into 'hit-and-run' play
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Torii Hunter was getting rave reviews on Opening Day after his "hit-and-run" single to the right side moved Austin Jackson from first to third base and set up a two-run first inning. However, it wasn't actually a hit-and-run play.
It wasn't even a reaction on Hunter's part seeing Jackson trying to steal second, according to Hunter. He was trying to hit it to the right side before Jackson took off.
"I was just trying to shoot that hole," said Hunter, referring to the gap that opened up when second baseman Brian Dozier scrambled to cover the bag. "I was just trying to get Austin over."
Plays like that could be the biggest benefit Jackson sees from having Hunter hitting behind him. According to the Bill James Handbook, Jackson went from first to third base 15 times in 43 chances last season, a low ratio for an everyday leadoff hitter with a .377 on-base percentage. Mike Trout, who batted in front of Hunter last year, went from first to third 28 times in 45 chances last year.
Leyland praises Fielder's performance, regimen
MINNEAPOLIS -- Prince Fielder didn't go to Spring Training claiming he was in the best shape of his life. After his Opening Day performance, however, his manager was praising his workouts as much as his work.
"He's in very good shape," Jim Leyland said after Fielder went 2-for-4 Monday. "I mean, he worked very hard this winter. He's got a regimen that he does with somebody, but he's in tremendous shape. He was bouncing around real good."
Fielder said Wednesday that his offseason workouts focused on footwork, which might have helped him on potentially the biggest out of the game. He stretched to dig shortstop Jhonny Peralta's throw out of the dirt to retire pinch-hitter Wilkin Ramirez with runners on second and third and two outs in what was a 3-1 game in the sixth inning.
Fielder's slide home on Josh Roenicke's wild pitch was less graceful, but the eighth-inning run was a critical bit of insurance for a two-run lead as Leyland mixed and matched his bullpen for the save.
"That extra add-on run was huge," Leyland said. "That takes you off the lines [defensively] the next couple innings. You're not playing no-doubles [defense]."
Tigers claim right-hander Reed from Marlins
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Tigers made a waiver claim, but it wasn't a highly speculated move. Instead, they claimed right-handed reliever Evan Reed from the Marlins and optioned him to Triple-A Toledo.
The big 27-year-old went 3-1 with a 2.34 ERA and 12 saves at Double-A Jacksonville, striking out 43 batters in 34 2/3 innings while allowing 24 hits. Reed went to Triple-A New Orleans and those totals flipped, with 27 strikeouts and 43 hits allowed over 32 2/3 innings.
Though Reed has some starting experience in the low levels of the Minor Leagues, the Mud Hens will use him out of their bullpen.
Reed was in big league camp with the Marlins, competing for a bullpen spot, but he was optioned out on March 11. Miami designated his contract for assignment at the end of camp to open a 40-man roster spot.
The addition fills the last opening on the Tigers' 40-man roster. If Detroit ends up making another claim or otherwise adding another player, it would need to remove somebody from the roster to make room. One potential addition could include outfielder Casper Wells, whom the Mariners designated for assignment on Sunday. The Tigers would almost surely have to move a player who is out of options anyway if they were to add Wells, so the roster question would be moot in that situation.
Red Wings' Datsyuk jokes with Verlander about contract
MINNEAPOLIS -- Reactions to Justin Verlander's contract extension aren't limited to baseball anymore. Detroit Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk gave Verlander some ribbing on Twitter Monday.
"Congrats on the new contract! Mr. Ilitch spent all his money," Datsyuk tweeted to Verlander, referring to Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch. "Nothing left for me."
Verlander got a laugh out of it.
"Haha. Thanks, man," Verlander tweeted back. "Dinner is on me."
Datsyuk is actually in the same contract situation Verlander faced before signing his extension. Datsyuk's deal expires after next season. Unlike Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League has a hard salary cap.
Bullpen enjoys off-day after four innings of work
MINNEAPOLIS -- Tuesday's off-day after the season opener wasn't exciting for the Tigers, who mainly hung around the hotel or explored downtown. Still, it was a day of rest for a bullpen that went through four relievers for 12 outs to finish off Justin Verlander's first Opening Day victory.
They'll have another off-day next Monday, but with five straight games coming up and a closer by committee, somebody's probably going to have to pitch back-to-back games. Depending on extra innings, even three straight days isn't out of the question.
It's part of the challenge of managing a bullpen by committee, and it's especially tricky early in the season. One advantage manager Jim Leyland has is a background on all of his relievers, having managed each of them last year.
"I'll common sense," Leyland said. "I'm not going to get anybody hurt. I'm not going to push anybody, particularly early on. You push some guys later on."
It's not as simple as a reliever being good for an inning in a given game, Leyland said, because an inning could last anywhere from a handful of pitches to a couple dozen or more.
Another factor, Leyland said, is how many times a relief pitcher might warm up in a given game. Those get charted as well, though Leyland noted that veteran relievers know how to pace themselves according to how many pitches they need to get warm.
• Leyland said he watched Yu Darvish's perfect game bid fall short Tuesday night, and he sympathized with Rangers manager Ron Washington as he watched Darvish's pitch count climb in the eighth inning. Leyland said that situation is not an easy time for a manager.
"That's a tough call," Leyland said. "That can be real stressful, but you just have to use common sense."
• The 12 strikeouts recorded by Tigers pitchers on Monday marked their highest total on Opening Day since at least 1916. Detroit had racked up 10 punchouts in three other openers.
• Verlander's win on Monday was his 125th in 233 career starts, tying him with Tom Seaver and Mike Mussina for the sixth-highest win total through that many starts.