Phoenix — Once again, the Tigers bullpen is dealing with a mini-disaster. And once again, the Tigers cosmos wonders how many hours pass before front-office chief Dave Dombrowski makes some kind of deal to reinforce his battered relievers.
The trade deadline (non-waiver) is eight days away and everyone in baseball knows the Tigers are hunting for back-end help. The need will be seen as more of an imperative after Detroit tossed away a 4-3 lead Tuesday and lost to the Diamondbacks, 5-4, at Chase Field.
It was more of the same Tuesday. Phil Coke walked back-to-back hitters. Al Alburquerque walked a batter with two out. Ian Krol, who had put Miguel Montero in peril with an 0-and-2 count, instead grooved a two-seam fastball that Montero lashed for a bases-loaded, two-run single that gave Arizona a victory and the Tigers another bout with heartburn.
The Tigers have been scouting both leagues. They are known to have sized up Joakim Soria and Neal Cotts of the Rangers. They have been linked to Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies, and, perhaps, even to Phillies closer Jon Papelbon.
But the price for relievers is regarded by the nation’s big-league analysts and front-office moles to be particularly high, as often is the case in the waning days of the annual July trade surge.
Dombrowski, though, traditionally makes a dramatic swap, particularly when his needs are acute, as was the case two years ago, when Detroit got second baseman Omar Infante in a package that also included Anibal Sanchez.
Last year, he dealt for shortstop Jose Iglesias. Three years ago, it was starter Doug Fister. In all cases, the trade market was viewed as expensive and as difficult when so many teams have sights on at least a wildcard playoff spot.
But with one steady reliever, Joba Chamberlain, and a pack of question marks alongside him, Dombrowski this week is working in Detroit while assistant general manager Al Avila travels with the team.
That alignment has everything to do with Dombrowski’s current concern: being close to his office and to his headquarters as the Tigers seek bullpen help that has become a veritable mandate.
Austin Jackson singled twice and scored the Tigers’ first two runs Tuesday as his sizzling July continues. Jackson has had five consecutive multi-hit games and has more than one hit in eight of his last nine.
Jackson, Ian Kinsler, and Miguel Cabrera each had two hits Tuesday. The Tigers, though, had only four hits from their Nos. 4-9 hitters on a night when the Diamondbacks were also challenged: six hits, total.
Rick Porcello allowed five hits and three runs in his seven innings of duty that ended when he was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the eighth.
Porcello has a 2.27 ERA in his last six starts.
Not so fast
He had planned to give Nick Castellanos no more than two days off, preferably sandwiched around a Tuesday start against the Diamondbacks.
“Now, I’m not so sure,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus after the Tigers’ rookie third baseman was Tuesday night’s lineup loser as Ausmus dealt with the National League’s prohibition against the designated hitter.
The reality for Ausmus — and Castellanos — is that Cabrera and Victor Martinez are so strong and so accomplished at a pair of corner infield positions that a rookie, even one with a bat as potentially helpful as Castellanos’, can find himself shelved.
And that could extend into Wednesday’s series finale against the Diamondbacks.
“Miggy looks natural at third base,” Ausmus said of Cabrera, who played at third base the past two seasons before returning to first base this year.
Ausmus by no means disapproves of Castellanos’ work through the season’s first 90-plus games. But excising a couple of star hitters from your batting order isn’t the kind of move any manager would relish, Ausmus included.
Drew VerHagen started Saturday for the Tigers when they confronted a schedule jam-up set in motion by a make-up game with the Indians.
VerHagen quickly returned to Triple A Toledo. And now he is on the Mud Hens disabled list.
The 23-year-old VerHagen, who was drafted in the fourth round in 2013 out of Vanderbilt, is dealing with a lower-back issue that could require a bone scan if warranted by results from a MRI that will be administered today in Norfolk, Va.
The bone scan, if required, would take place in St. Petersburg, Fla., under the direction of Thomas C. Tolli, an orthopedic specialist.
VerHagen has had lower-back issues “off and on,” said Kevin Rand, the Tigers team trainer.
Rand offered updates on other Tigers players who continue to heal from various past procedures:
Andy Dirks, who has missed the past four months because of back surgery, has been cleared to resume baseball activities after “muscular soreness” curtailed his rehabilitation timetable. Dirks is a left-handed hitting outfielder the Tigers originally planned to platoon in left field in 2014 alongside Rajai Davis.
Joel Hanrahan, a relief pitcher signed in May, will be re-examined after he was shut down following a bullpen session last weekend at the Tigers’ minor-league and rehabilitation complex at Lakeland, Fla.
Will Allen, a catcher drafted in the 13th round in June from the University of Mississippi, will spend the next 4-5 months recovering from surgery for a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The Tigers are uncertain if Allen will be ready for spring training in 2015.