04/17/2013 11:21 PM ET
Alburquerque fooling hitters with reworked slider
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland summed up Al Alburquerque's outing Tuesday night as best as he could. He needed very few words.
"Alburquerque was the best I've seen him this year," Leyland said.
For somebody who was overpowering hitters for the first half of Spring Training, that's saying something.
Alburquerque struck out two batters on sliders, sandwiched in between a Franklin Gutierrez groundout, for a perfect eighth inning. It wasn't just nasty, it was efficient.
His recent success wasn't the result of a mechanical overhaul, but a tweak that Alburquerque made in his delivery to better hide his slider. He also said he had a sharper slider going than he had last week, when hitters were making good contact against it.
Tigers honored to wear No. 42, eager to see film
SEATTLE -- Torii Hunter, Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson have all worn No. 42 during Jackie Robinson Day celebrations for several years now, just as they did on Tuesday at Safeco Field. None of them have had a chance yet to see the movie '42.' All of them are hoping to soon.
They also hope it brings home the message of what Robinson had to endure to break baseball's color barrier in 1947. They've heard and read the stories over the years of what Robinson had to hear from the stands, what opposing players and managers alike would say to him.
They don't know if they could've handled it the same way.
"I'm not worthy to wear that number," Hunter said. "For everything he went through during that time, the racial slurs, the death threats and all those things, I don't think I could've been strong enough to go through that. So, am I worthy to wear that number? I don't think so, but I'm honored. He didn't quit. He stayed strong and he changed mindsets, not just in baseball but in America."
The on-field abuse was one thing. What amazes Fielder is what Robinson had to endure in everyday life, both directed at himself and his family.
"What he went through, moreso off the field than on the field, to me that's very special, to have to deal with some of the things," Fielder said. "Because usually when you're playing baseball, fans heckle you, and you can deal with that. But once it starts carrying over to normal life and you're just trying to be a human being and people are trying to be hurtful, it takes a real big man to do what he did and not choke somebody.
"That's not easy to do. It takes a special, special guy to be able to go through all that and be special at baseball."
They all get it, and they all are looking forward to seeing the movie. Hunter said his two sons have already given him glowing reviews of it.
"My boys went to see it already and they loved it," Hunter said. "They saw it in Texas."
The Tigers will remember Jackie Robinson at Comerica Park once they return to Detroit next week. The team holds an annual essay contest to give Detroit-area schoolchildren a chance to put into words what Robinson's legacy means to them. Jackson has taken part in the ceremonies honoring winners for three years now. He gets the sense of appreciation each time.
"I think every time you get a chance to put a jersey on with that number, it's an honor," Jackson said. "It's the same every time. You get that appreciation again, really, for what he did."
Valverde pitches scoreless inning, set for Class A
SEATTLE -- Former Tigers closer Jose Valverde is on track to face Class A hitters this weekend after tossing another scoreless inning at extended spring camp Wednesday afternoon.
Valverde put up one strikeout against a squad of Braves Minor Leaguers at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. It was his third appearance against live hitters since reporting to camp last week on a Minor League contract.
The plan is for Valverde to stay in Florida and pitch for Class A Lakeland on Friday and Saturday. He could be promoted to Triple-A Toledo after that, but team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said the weather could play a role in how soon they promote him.
Avila given day off amid hitting slump
SEATTLE -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't mince words when talking about Alex Avila's recent hitting.
"He's struggling," Leyland said. "He hit early today. We'll see if he can get him going."
The first step Leyland took, though, was to get Avila out for a day. Brayan Pena started behind the plate Wednesday night to catch Max Scherzer and try to hit Felix Hernandez.
Avila took early batting practice Wednesday afternoon, but said it wasn't a matter of trying adjustments amid a 1-for-15 slump. He feels like he has a good approach at the plate but isn't getting the results.
The aggressiveness Avila showed at the plate early in the season is still there at times, Leyland said.
Avila will be back in action Thursday afternoon, catching Justin Verlander for the first time since Opening Day. Avila struck out three times Tuesday night, falling into 0-2 counts twice against Seattle relievers.