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Anibal Sanchez Proves How Valuable He Is to the Detroit Tigers

Pitcher Anibal Sanchez set a Detroit Tigers franchise record on April 26 by throwing 17 strikeouts in a win against the Atlanta Braves. In setting the record for most strikeouts in a game by a Tiger, Sanchez proved how valuable he can be to the Tigers this season.

When the Tigers re-signed Sanchez this past offseason to a five-year $80 million deal, most fans assumed that Sanchez would be the No. 4 pitcher in the starting rotation and that management overpaid.

Even though Sanchez is No. 4 in the Tigers’ rotation, he would be the No. 1 pitcher for several teams.

Sanchez, 29, has great talent and as he has matured, he has learned not just to throw, but to pitch as well. That is why the Tigers will arguably be getting Sanchez’s best years of his career over the life of this contract.

Generally, most people assume that pitchers struggle when they switch leagues from the NL to the AL. Sanchez, who was traded to the Tigers from the Miami Marlins in July 2012, has pitched brilliantly since switching leagues.

In the coming days, Sanchez should have many articles written about his brilliant strikeout performance in the 10-0 win against the Braves. However, the fact of the matter is that Sanchez has been excelling long before this performance.

In 2012, Sanchez was only 4-6 in the regular season with a 3.74 ERA, but he lowered his walks per nine innings to 1.8 and pitched better than his statistics.

The 2012 postseason is where Sanchez really put it all together by having a 1.75 ERA in 20.1 innings and having a WHIP of 0.984. His performance helped the Tigers make the World Series.

While Sanchez’s 2012 postseason was great, he has even raised the bar with his pitching this season. In 33.2 innings pitched, Sanchez has a 3-1 record to go along with a 1.34 ERA. He also has not allowed a home run while holding batters to a .213 batting average.

The Tigers have been playing .500 baseball and Sanchez took it upon himself to do what No. 1 starters do and win a game against the Braves that the Tigers needed.

It is still early in the season, but Sanchez has proven himself to be an important member of the rotation regardless of where he pitches. Seventeen strikeouts are impressive, but all of Sanchez’s starts in 2013 may hint at greater things to come.

*All statistics are as of April 26

**All statistics are from and

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Detroit Tigers: Make Two Key Moves in Bullpen Including Naming Valverde Closer

After a lackluster start to the season by the bullpen, the Detroit Tigers made two big moves on April 23 to try and stabilize it.

According to’s Chris Iott, the first move is that the Tigers called up pitcher Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo and placed pitcher Octavio Dotel on the DL for elbow soreness:

The Tigers announced this afternoon that they have recalled Rondon and placed Octavio Dotel on the disabled list.

The second surprise move of the afternoon was that the Tigers officially signed former closer Jose Valverde to a one-year deal. According to the Detroit Free Press, Tigers manager Jim Leyland announced that Valverde would be the closer:

The team announced they signed the relief pitcher to a 1-year major-league deal shortly after their game with the Kansas City Royals tonight was postponed. He will be available out of the bullpen Wednesday as the team’s closer if there is a save situation, manager Jim Leyland said.

While Valverde‘s struggles in the 2012 postseason are well documented, it is a surprise that Valverde is the Tigers’ new closer, especially after the Tigers said they wouldn’t re-sign Valverde in Oct. 2012. 

When Rondon, who was the odds-on favorite to be the closer in 2013, struggled in spring training. When he was shipped to Toledo, there wasn’t an immediate replacement on the roster.

Since the beginning of the season, the Tigers have gone with closer-by-committee, but no one has claimed the closer job.

Then on April 4 the Tigers signed Valverde to a minor-league deal, which was a low-risk move and appears to have paid off.

According to Tony Paul from the Detroit News, Valverde has pitched brilliantly and the Tigers decided to bring him up:

Valverde, 35, has thrown in several games, a combination of extended spring games, scrimmages, and Single A Lakeland games.

The Tigers, late last week, sent front-office officials to see him in person, including assistant GM Al Avila and Al Kaline. The reports, across the board, have been so glowing that the Tigers decided to skip his plan cameo at Triple A Toledo.

Whether Valverde or Rondon are successful in Detroit remains to be seen, but this is a smart gamble by the Tigers.

Rondon hasn’t allowed a run in 7.2 innings with nine strikeouts and only two walks for Toledo. If Rondon has finally mastered his control, the Tigers might have two strong choices for closer after not having any to begin the season. 

According to the Paul, Brayan Villarreal was optioned to Triple-A to clear the bullpen spot for Valverde:

To make room for Valverde, the Tigers optioned struggling right-hander Brayan Villarreal to Triple A Toledo.

Regardless how fans feel about Valverde or Rondon, it is good to see the Tigers willing to make changes and not standing put.

*All statistics are as of April 23

**All statistics are from

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Report: Pitcher Bruce Rondon Called Up to Detroit Tigers

According to’s Chris Iott, on April 23 the Detroit Tigers called up rookie pitcher Bruce Rondon from Triple-A Toledo and placed pitcher Octavio Dotel on the disabled list.

The Tigers announced this afternoon that they have recalled Rondon and placed Octavio Dotel on the disabled list.

Rondon, who was expected to become the closer for the Tigers this season, struggled with his control in spring training and the Tigers decided he need to start the season in Triple-A.

Without a full-time closer on the roster the Tigers started the season with a closer-by-committee system. However, no pitcher in the bullpen stepped up and seized the closer role. Now, with Rondon on the major league roster, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he eventually becomes the Tigers’ closer.

 The questions surrounding Rondon have always been around his control, but not his pitching ability. However, at Toledo Rondon has pitched in 7.2 innings without allowing a run, while striking out nine and only walking two. 

If Rondon continues throwing the way he has this season, then this answers a key question for the Tigers in their pursuit of a World Series title. At the same time, this would allow the other pitchers in the bullpen to have a more defined role, which would make them more comfortable.

While no one knows for sure how Rondon will perform, the Tigers have handled Rondon‘s situation brilliantly so far by allowing himself to get confidence in Triple-A.

*All statistics are as of April 23

 **All statistics are from

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Rick Porcello’s ‘Win’ Is No Guarantee That He Will Remain with Detroit Tigers

According to’s Jason Beck on March 26, pitcher Rick Porcello won the Detroit Tigers‘ competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

Porcello, who has pitched terrifically in spring training, was the subject of speculation throughout the offseason and training camp regarding being traded.

Porcello was recently linked to the Texas Rangers by Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi.

That Porcello “won” the No. 5 spot in the Tigers’ rotation over Drew Smyly shouldn’t be the surprise—it’s that Porcello is still on the team.

Porcello, who has a 3.00 earned run average (ERA) in spring training in 24 innings pitched, had no walks and 21 strikeouts. The 24-year-old exhibited great command of his breaking ball, which has sometimes eluded him over his major league career.

Still, Porcello has 48 career wins in four major league seasons and looks to finally be realizing his full potential.

Smyly, who still made the Tigers by pitching out of the bullpen, is a favorite of the Tigers’ coaching staff and front office.

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski spoke with Sirius XM’s Jim Duquette on Jan. 16 about Porcello and Smyly (h/t and the pitching competition between the two:

You’ve got two guys who we think can both start.

I’d think you’d have to say Porcello has a leg up because he’s got more experience at that point, but Smyly did such a good job for us last year and you ideally want a left-hander in your rotation.

Smyly had a very good spring as well, ending up with a 3.38 ERA in 21.1 innings and appears to have a future with the Tigers.

Don’t expect the Tigers’ front office to hold on to Porcello if they get a trade offer that meets their asking price. Porcello has raised his stock around the major league with his great performance and several teams will still be interested in him.

Porcello‘s trade value will continue to rise if he continues to pitch well. The Tigers are handling the Porcello-Smyly situation as best as they can. Teams can never have enough pitching and the Tigers currently have an excess of riches with their starting pitching.

If Porcello is traded, expect a huge return that will greatly benefit the Tigers into the future. If they don’t trade him, then they have a pitcher who will only keep getting better.

At this point though, my prediction is that Porcello will not remain with the Tigers past the July trade deadline, as they push toward trying to win the World Series.

*All statistics are as of March 25

**All statistics are from

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Detroit Tigers: Is Justin Verlander Leaning Toward Free Agency?

On March 23, Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander told CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman that he won’t discuss a contract extension during the regular season:

“Once this last start comes around, I want to concentrate on the start of the season,” Verlander said about his decision to halt any negotiations as of Wednesday. (The Tigers are aware of this stance, and seem to concur it’s the proper way to go.)

While Heyman also quotes Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski in the article about Verlander’s stance, this could be a setback for the Tigers:

I don’t think anything productive comes from talking about a contract during the season. We try to keep distractions out. It’s been rare when we’ve done it, and it’s usually more about free agents.

The problem with Verlander not wanting to discuss an extension during the season is that next offseason, he’ll be only a year away from free agency. 

Verlander is extremely competitive and has gone on record saying that he wants to be the first $200 million pitcher in baseball. It was on March 6 that Verlander addressed his desire for a $200 million contract to USA Today‘s James Jahnke:

On comments he made about the $200 million: “They got taken out of context a little bit, but I’m not going to take back what I said. Do you want to be the first $200-million pitcher? Yeah, absolutely.”

Verlander has discussed experiencing free agency as well, which has to be a concern for the Tigers front office.

On Feb. 12, Verlander talked about his interest in testing free agency with Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi:

Absolutely. I think that’d be a blast. If I have two more years like I just had, it would be pretty interesting.

Verlander then explained what he would enjoy about it:

You know how competitive I am. It’s kind of fun thinking about having teams battle for you.

The speculation over Verlander’s contract status had been put on the back burner over the last several weeks, but with his comments on March 23, his status will be a topic entering the regular season.

While it is probably for the best that Verlander and the Tigers won’t allow talks to affect his pitching, Verlander is so focused due to his competitive nature that his pitching would have been unlikely to be affected if talks were occurring.

Now with the clock ticking on Verlander’s current contract, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched for Verlander to hit the open market. If that occurs, it will be hard for the Tigers to try to compete with the clubs in the bigger markets.

Hopefully, Verlander wants to finish his career in Detroit and be considered a Tiger for life. However, it will be a challenge to get him to sign an extension next offseason, when he’ll only be closer to free agency.

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Detroit Tigers: Danny Worth Is a Threat to Jhonny Peralta’s Starting Position

Many fans were speculating throughout the offseason that the Detroit TigersJhonny Peralta could be replaced due to a perceived lack of range at shortstop. It seems the Tigers might have found a replacement internally.

It got to the point where even Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski needed to address it with‘s Jason Beck on Dec. 6, 2012:

“We’re happy with Peralta,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said after Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. “What happens is a lot of times, people talk about getting more athletic with our club. There are very few positions we can get more athletic. That is one of the spots that is often discussed, but we’re happy with Jhonny Peralta. When you look at his numbers over the last couple years, we’re very happy with him.

Dombrowski tried to quiet speculation with that comment, but the rumors about the Tigers attempting to find a new shortstop continued.

On Jan. 8, 2013 there was a report by Roch Kubatko of that the Tigers wanted to trade for Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, who won a Gold Glove in 2012 and is known for his great range at shortstop.

Nothing transpired from the Hardy rumors and eventually the speculation went away. However, during spring training, Peralta, 30, has raised questions again due to his struggles at the plate.

Peralta hit a feeble .239 at the plate in 2012 and has started poorly in spring training by batting .182 in 34 plate appearances. The Tigers could probably forgive Peralta’s hitting if his range were greater, but it’s not.

In Peralta’s defense, he has great hands. He had a .988 fielding percentage in 2012, which was second among major-league shortstops. He also only had seven errors, which was the second fewest among shortstops. The issue comes into focus when Peralta’s range is measured. His range factor per game at shortstop last year was 3.95, which is below the league average of 4.40. That is why the Tigers need to have a defensive upgrade.

In the meantime, Tigers prospect Danny Worth, 27, was always known for his fielding, but not his hitting. That is slowly starting to change. 

Worth is hitting .333 in 33 plate appearances and may have finally solved the last piece in becoming a Tigers starter.

Worth has played 112 games in the major leagues, but his career average of .244 has held him back.
It looked like Worth was competing with Ramon Santiago for a roster spot on the Tigers this spring training, but could the Tigers consider him as their everyday shortstop, making Peralta expendable?

Worth, who can play second base, third base and shortstop, has played 201 games in six minor-league seasons as a shortstop and has a great range factor per game.

Worth’s range factor per game at shortstop is 4.56, which helps him get to a lot more balls than Peralta does. While Worth’s fielding percentage in the minor leagues is only .960, the Tigers would take the tradeoff with a lower fielding percentage than Peralta’s.

The lower fielding percentage from Worth can also be explained by his range. He can get to more balls, some of which are deeper in the hole, making it harder to get off an accurate throw.

With the Tigers being a serious World Series contender, they might need to gamble and take a chance on Worth as a starting shortstop if Peralta doesn’t pick up his batting average.

Peralta’s biggest benefit to the Tigers was his bat, and if he doesn’t pick up his average and show an improvement, then he won’t help the Tigers in 2013.

Normally, spring training statistics shouldn’t be overanalyzed. An example of this is in 2011, when Peralta only hit .197 during spring training before hitting .299 during the regular season. However, due to his struggles at the plate in 2012, this year’s spring-training stats have become more meaningful.   

Peralta, who is a free agent after this season, is now on the clock to prove he can be a factor in 2013.


*All statistics are as of March 15

**All statistics are from, and


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Detroit Tigers: Bruce Rondon Still Has a Chance to Close in 2013

Heading into spring training, the heavy favorite to close for the Detroit Tigers in 2013 was rookie Bruce Rondon.

Fans and media alike were speculating if Rondon could handle the pressure of closing for a World Series contender. When Rondon began spring training by throwing five walks in 3.2 innings and sporting a 7.36 earned run average in four appearances, several people wrote off Rondon as a candidate for closer.

On March 4, rumors began spreading that the Tigers were actively looking for a veteran closer with experience. This happened when the Tigers announced that Rondon would work on his mechanics and skip his next appearance to throw a side session in the bullpen.

In the days following, the Tigers were linked to Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, and according to CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler, the Tigers were pressing to find a closer:

With hard-throwing rookie Bruce Rondon already showing he can’t handle the job, and with no other good options available in their own camp, the Tigers are already pushing hard to find a closer on the trade market, according to major-league sources.

Most people seem to have ignored the fact that the Tigers publicly said Rondon still has a chance to win the closer job. Tigers manager Jim Leyland told Chris Iott at

Is he certainly a good candidate? Absolutely. Just because he’s had a little bit of a rough time, that doesn’t mean he’s no longer a candidate, because he is. … He’s a very good candidate and he’s still a very good candidate. He’s struggled. To put it simple, he’s throwing it pretty hard and they’re hitting it pretty hard.

Still, after all the rumors, it is hard to believe that Rondon was seriously being considered as a closer candidate at the time of Leyland’s comment.

On March 8, Rondon made his first appearance after his side session and had a great performance. Rondon didn’t allow a walk and struck out two batters in one inning of work. He also located his fastball by throwing 10 out of 15 pitches for strikes.

Afterward, Leyland praised Rondon’s performance to Tony Paul of the Detroit News:

“He was around the plate a little bit more,” manager Jim Leyland said after the Tigers’ 3-2 exhibition victory. “There were a couple pitches that had excellent movement. He didn’t do anything wrong today.”

While Rondon’s most recent performance doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be successful during the next outing or win the closer role, it’s a step in the right direction.

The March 8 outing should help the Tigers’ front office out by allowing them to sit back and examine their options.

A few days ago it appeared that the Tigers were close to panicking and overpaying for an average closer, who might not even be successful. Rondon helped to calm everyone’s nerves for a day and in the process, might have put himself back in the mix to close.

*All statistics are as of March 8

**All statistics are from

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Detroit Tigers Should Not Bring Jose Valverde Back as Closer

Earlier in spring training, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland spoke about his surprise that last year’s closer Jose Valverde is still a free agent. According to Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland became emotional this morning, saying that he is “totally shocked and brokenhearted” that Jose Valverde has not found a job as a closer.

“I can’t believe it,” Leyland said. “This guy was absolutely fantastic for us. He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever managed.”

At the time on February 14, no one thought too much about Leyland‘s comments, since rookie Bruce Rondon was targeted to be the Tigers’ closer in 2013.

Fast-forward to March 2 and Bruce Rondon has yet to prove he can successfully handle the closer duties in three spring training appearances.

New York Post columnist Joel Sherman posted a series of tweets this morning about Rondon:

Following those comments, Sherman posted a jaw-dropping tweet saying that Leyland is interested in bringing back Valverde.

After how Valverde was removed from his closer spot in the ALCS because of a disastrous 2012 postseason, could the Tigers actually be considering bringing him back?

Valverde, 34, looks like his best days are behind him. While he saved 35 out of 40 games during the 2012 season, he was abysmal in the postseason.

Valverde appeared in four games, pitched 2.2 innings and had a 30.38 earned run average. For a team with World Series aspirations this season, he does not inspire confidence in his teammates.

While Sherman didn’t state a source regarding Leyland‘s interest, he is very connected throughout baseball and is a trusted columnist.

Also keep in mind that Leyland being interested in Valverde and Valverde actually returning to the Tigers are two separate things.

The Tigers would be making a huge mistake if Valverde does come back. The potential of the fans at Comerica Park constantly booing him is a real threat.

Regardless, with one simple tweet, Tigers fans could be wishing that Todd Jones was returning as closer rather than seeing Valverde.


*All statistics are from and

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Detroit Tigers: Is It Time to Start Looking into Different Options at Closer?

Rookie closer Bruce Rondon entered spring training as the heavy favorite to become the Detroit Tigers‘ closer in 2013. After three appearances so far, Rondon is what most thought he would be. He has an overpowering fastball, control issues and needs to incorporate more breaking balls.

We’ve seen the good Rondon and the bad Rondon, usually in the same inning. The question remains, are the Tigers still content entering the season with him as closer?

Rondon gave up a run in his third appearance of spring training against the New York Mets on March 1. He got himself into a jam by walking Ruben Tejada before David Wright hit an RBI single.

Rondon’s line in spring training so far is 2.2 innings, three hits, four walks and five strikeouts (via Detroit Free Press).

Three games is a small sample size from which to judge Rondon, but the 1.25 K/BB ratio is alarming for a supposed strikeout closer who is expected to shut down opposing lineups in quick fashion.

Another knock on Rondon is his 5.1 BB/9 ratio in the minor leagues and through his 2.2 innings of work, nothing has changed to alleviate that concern.

The Tigers wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they weren’t having some sort of internal discussions about easing Rondon into the closer role by starting him out in a less pressure situation.

Rondon still needs to get adjusted to facing major league hitters and by allowing him to pitch in the sixth and seventh innings, the Tigers can control which batters he faces and what types of situations he’s utilized in. 

In the interim, the Tigers could have Al Alburquerque fill in as closer. Alburquerque has a deceptive pitching motion that helped to produce a 13.5 K/9 ratio in the major leagues. While his career 5.9 BB/9 ratio is high, Alburquerque has held batters to a career .140 batting average.

If the Tigers decide not to go with Alburquerque, there are still other options available to consider, like Phil Coke, who handled the closer duties in the ALCS.

Regardless, Rondon may be the Tigers’ closer of the future, but counting on him in 2013 could prove to be too much pressure on him and too big of a risk for the Tigers to take. While Rondon might blow batters away in some games, who knows if he’ll be consistent every game. That is why the Tigers need to start thinking seriously about other options.

The sooner the Tigers choose a new closer, the sooner that pitcher can start adjusting to his new role. Rondon can then focus on fine-tuning his pitches so that he can eventually become the closer.


*All statistics are as of March 1

**All statistics are from and

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3 Signs the Tigers Pitching Staff Will Have a Better Year in 2013

While the Detroit Tigers‘ pitching staff was successful in 2012, the bullpen was average at best. Their ERA of 3.79 was only the 10th best in the American League out of 14 teams. The starters helped carry the Tigers’ pitching staff, as the back end of the bullpen had the worst ERA of any AL team from the eighth inning on, with 4.07. 

I believe that the pitching staff will have an overall better year in 2013. 

This upcoming season, there are three key reasons why the bullpen and the starters will experience more success.

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