5/17/2013 8:45 P.M. ET
V-Mart impresses Leyland with tough at-bat
By Jim Reeves / Special to MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Manager Jim Leyland was impressed with what he called a spectacular at-bat by Victor Martinez in the Tigers' three-run third inning on Thursday night, calling it "one of the best at-bats by any player on any team this season."
Martinez kept fouling off pitch after pitch from Rangers starter Yu Darvish in a 10-pitch at-bat that finally resulted in a long sacrifice fly to center. The at-bat may have encouraged fans who have been concerned about Martinez's slow start to the season (.211, two homers, 19 RBIs), but don't put Leyland on that list. Knowing Martinez's track record is all the encouragement the manager has ever needed.
"The book says he hits," Leyland said. "Just look at the media guide; it says he hits, and before all is said and done, he will hit."
Verlander, Leyland aren't shaken by one start
ARLINGTON -- Jim Leyland didn't exactly put it this way, but the implication was there in the tone of his voice: When he has to start worrying about Justin Verlander, there's a good chance it's time to pack up and go home.
Even after one of the roughest starts of Verlander's illustrious career on Thursday, the manager has absolutely no concerns about his ace right-hander.
"All I worry about any of my pitchers is their health," Leyland said, "and he's healthy. People forget he had a 1-something ERA going into the game last night."
Verlander allowed eight runs on six hits in just 2 2/3 innings in a 10-4 loss to Texas, but at least Leyland won't be hearing about Verlander's diminished velocity for a while. Verlander had been averaging about two mph below his career average velocity this season but, according to PitchFX data, he averaged 95.5 on fastballs in the loss to the Rangers.
Verlander said after the game that he can fix what ails him with some hard work in the bullpen, and that what he really needs is simply consistency in his delivery, which will come with repetition.
"I'm not really worried about him at all," Leyland said. "If that's what he said, he should know that better than me."
Verlander is slated to start next in Cleveland on Wednesday night.
Miggy's rocket shot proves too close to call
ARLINGTON -- When can Miguel Cabrera, known for his batting prowess and not so much for his foot speed, turn a sizzling line drive to the third baseman into a bang-bang play at first base? When he hits the ball so hard, it ricochets off the third baseman's glove and winds up in the shortstop's hands instead, like he did in Thursday night's 10-4 loss to the Rangers.
Adrian Beltre, one of the best defensive third basemen in the game, had no chance on Cabrera's wicked one-hopper in the eighth inning, but the ball caromed right to Elvis Andrus, whose throw nipped Cabrera at first. Or did it? Don't ask Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
"From the dugout, I thought he was safe," Leyland said. "I went out there because of Raffy's [first-base coach Rafael Belliard] reaction. He doesn't do that unless he thinks he's right."
Leyland had a brief discussion with first-base umpire Ron Kulpa before returning to the dugout. Later, the skipper took a look at the replay.
"To be honest, in fairness to the umpire, I couldn't tell if he was safe or out on the replay," Leyland said.
Even facing one of the American League's best in Texas right-hander Yu Darvish, Cabrera was hitting bullets all over the field, though he only had one hit, a double to left. He also lined out hard to left and was robbed of another hit on a diving stop by Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland.
"He could have had four hits," Leyland said. "He's the best hitter in the game right now, in my opinion. Plain and simple."
Cabrera started Friday night's game ranked second in the league in hitting at .366, just behind James Loney's .367 mark for Tampa Bay.
Downs, Reed lessen workload in Tigers' bullpen
ARLINGTON -- Manager Jim Leyland was delighted with the work delivered by relievers Darin Downs and Evan Reed, who made his Major League debut on Thursday night.
In a strange quirk of baseball fate, the Tigers used three pitchers and all worked 2 2/3 innings. Unfortunately, the first of those segments -- and eight Texas runs -- came from starter Justin Verlander. It was the 2 2/3 that Downs and Reed worked that Leyland appreciated most. Each gave up two hits and a run in their outings, but Verlander's short stay could have easily decimated the bullpen to a much larger degree.
"They saved us, really," Leyland said. "Both of them did a really good job."
It was Leyland's first look at Reed, who was called up when Al Alburquerque was demoted to Triple-A Toledo.
"He's got a good arm, obviously," Leyland said, "and he did well last night. That's about all I can say right now."
Neither was available for Friday night's game, and Leyland said he expected they might need Saturday off as well.
Tigers set to honor '68 World Series champs
ARLINGTON -- The Tigers will celebrate one of their most beloved teams when the 1968 World Series champions are honored on Saturday, May 25 at Comerica Park.
Gates will open at 2 p.m. ET for the 3:40 pregame festivities, followed by that afternoon's game against the Minnesota Twins at 4:05.
The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a 1968 Tigers 45th anniversary commemorative coin, courtesy of Belle Tire.
Jose Feliciano, who performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to Game 5 of the '68 Series between the Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals at Tiger Stadium, will reprise his rendition for the May 25 game.
More than a dozen players and coaches from the '68 team are expected to be in attendance, including Al Kaline, Mickey Lolich, Denny McLain and Mickey Stanley.
• The four games in Texas marked a homecoming for assistant hitting coach Toby Harrah, who is a member of the Rangers Hall of Fame and still has a home in the area.
• The home runs on Thursday night by Jhonny Peralta and Don Kelly ran the Tigers' tater streak to eight straight as a team. It's the longest home run streak by a Tigers' team since an eight-game streak Sept. 21-28, 2011. The Tigers are third in the American League with 20 homers in May.
• Entering Friday, Tigers pitchers had combined for 395 strikeouts this season, tops in the league. Their average of 9.96 K's per nine innings also ranked first.
Jim Reeves is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.