April 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tony Paul

Tony Paul's MLB Insider: Tigers, Angels boast rich tradition

Albert Pujols, one of the most expensive players in baseball, pays a visit to Comerica Park this weekend. (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images)

Some series are rich in story lines.

Others are just rich — like this weekend’s series at Comerica Park.

The Tigers and Angels, who play Friday through Sunday in Detroit, combined spend nearly $300 million in salaries, and thus feature some of the highest-paid players in the game.

In fact, there are 11 players between the teams who make more than $10 million a year: Albert Pujols ($23M), Miguel Cabrera ($22M), Justin Verlander ($20M), Josh Hamilton ($17M), C.J. Wilson ($16.5M), Jered Weaver ($16.2M), Ian Kinsler ($16M), Anibal Sanchez ($15.8M), Max Scherzer ($15.525M), Torii Hunter ($14M) and Victor Martinez ($14M).

Three of those players — Cabrera, Hamilton and Pujols — have contracts that eventually will play them $30 million a year, as does Mike Trout, whose new deal pays him just $1 million this year before escalating in a hurry. Scherzer might just get there, too.

Who’s gotten the best bang for their buck? Well, the Tigers obviously. They have won three consecutive American League Central championships, while the Angels, amazingly, haven’t made the postseason since 2009, and were just 78-84 in 2013.

That hasn’t stopped the Angels from getting the best of the Tigers, however. Despite a poor 2013, the Angels were 6-0 against the Tigers, and actually have won nine straight against Detroit dating to 2012.

Can the Tigers turn the tide this weekend? It won’t be a cake walk, against Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Hector Santiago. But the Angels have some big injury issues. Hamilton, after foolishly sliding head-first into first base, is out perhaps two months following thumb surgery, and recently, the Angels lost another outfielder, Kole Calhoun, for more than a month with a bad ankle sprain.

Interestingly, the Calhoun injury has opened the door for former Tiger Brennan Boesch, who’s back in Detroit this weekend after signing a minor-league deal with the Angels over the offseason. Just promoted, Boesch has a single in two at-bats, plus a stolen base.

Tigers are all right

There were the Tigers on Thursday, facing a tough right-handed pitcher in Indians youngster Danny Salazar. And, yet, the Tigers had just two left-handed bats in the lineup.

Why? Frankly, they don’t have many other options.

With Andy Dirks (back surgery) out, and Tyler Collins still getting his feet wet, the Tigers are having to roll with a right-handed-heavy order these days.

Not that it’s a huge problem in Dave Dombrowski’s eyes?

“I was thinking. Who has the best record in Major League Baseball?” Dombrowski said earlier this week. “The Brewers. … How many left-handed hitters are in that lineup?”

I looked it up. One. It’s predominately right-handed.

“Where would that left-handed hitter play?” Dombrowski said, turning back to his own team. “Who’s he going to replace?”

Five of the Tigers regulars are right-handed, so is Rajai Davis who is the starter as long as Dirks is out, while Victor Martinez is a switch-hitter and Alex Avila bats left-handed. The only real spot of flexibility is at shortstop, where switch-hitter Andrew Romine could spell right-handed-hitting Alex Gonzalez. And given how Gonzalez has looked lately, Romine is likely to do more than just spell him real soon.

Closing the gap

The Tigers dominated the season series with the Indians a year ago, winning 15 of 19. And not many of the games were particularly close. There were just three one-run games.

Well, already this year, there has been a one-run game and a two-run game. And that’s probably more along the lines of what you can expect the rest of the year. The teams are closer than they showed during head-to-head meetings a season ago.

“They’re deep, that’s a pretty good lineup,” Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. “They have a good mix of guys that can hit it over the fence and also steal a bag, too. That’s a tough lineup. But then again, we’ve been pretty successful with them, putting game plans together against them.

“But it’s a tough lineup to get through multiple times.”

Not to mention, their starting pitching has so much promise, they cut Aaron Harang loose for nothing during spring training — and all he’s done is making three dazzling starts for the Braves.

Replay a work in progress

Red Sox manager John Farrell chastised baseball’s new replay system. Nationals manager Matt Williams said he’s frustrated, too. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus was confused over one ruling. And no doubt, more managers will have beefs as this goes along.

That’s because the umpires have struggled to be consistent, particularly on the transfer play at second base. And there also have been calls overturned seemingly without indisputable video evidence.

This is the reason MLB brass has said from the beginning that this is a work in progress.

“We need to keep working at it,” Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, who helped install this new system, recently told ESPN’s Jayson Stark. “I don’t know what the period of time is, whether it’s a month or six weeks or whatever it is, but we all have learned from what we’ve seen. But I think it’s premature to say the process isn’t going to work.

“The process has been really remarkable in how well it’s worked so far. I’m amazed, in fact, that we haven’t had more hiccups.”

Around the horn

Kudos to Ann Arbor Pioneer alum Zach Putnam, who got called up Thursday by the White Sox. He’ll join their bullpen. The right-hander has made brief major-league cameos each of the last three years, with three different teams: the Cubs, Rockies and Indians.

… According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, more than half of major-league teams were at Joel Hanrahan’s workout today. The Tigers were to be among them, as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery.

… Rick Porcello, the Tigers starter Sunday, is eager for a good outing. In his last three appearances against the Angels, he’s 0-2 with a 17.72 ERA and 27 hits allowed in just 10.2 innings.

Three up ...

1. Blue Jays vet MARK BUEHRLE looks like his vintage self at 35, at 3-0 with a 0.86 ERA in three starts.

2. KEVIN KOUZMANOFF — remember him? — is batting .414 filling in for ailing Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre.

3. Even without Ryan Braun lighting the world on the fire, the BREWERS are the hottest team in MLB.

… Three down

1. The DIAMONDBACKS continue to struggle at 4-14. Manager Kirk Gibson might be on the hot seat.

2. The CUBS offense has been brutal, with four shutouts, including two in a Wednesday doubleheader.

3. NYJER MORGAN was demoted by the Indians (to make room for Michael Bourn), despite hitting .348.

Diamond digits

2 — Times the Cubs were shut out Wednesday, the first team to not score a run in a doubleheader since the A’s on June 26, 1988, according to Elias Sports Bureau.

4 — Home runs by Jhonny Peralta — as many as the Cardinals got from all their shortstops in 2013.

21 — RBIs, through 16 games, for Marlins star Giancarlo Stanton — with a high of five in Tuesday’s victory over the Nationals.

4/18/91 — In the first game at what now is U.S. Cellular Field, the Tigers destroyed the White Sox, 16-0, with Cecil Fielder and Rob Deer combining for three home runs and eight RBIs.

He said it

“It’s a celebration tonight back in Cleveland. You’re all invited.”

Jason Kipnis, Indians second baseman, on earning his first major-league ejection Thursday during the 7-5 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park.

tpaul@detroitnews.com
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