May 21, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Tony Paul

MLB Insider: Tigers set to intensify analysis of Toledo shortstops Hernan Perez, Eugenio Suarez

The Tigers seemingly want to see Eugenio Suarez hit against more advanced pitching. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

On the day the Tigers lost any hope of signing free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew, they made another eye-opening move.

They sent their Double-A shortstop, Eugenio Suarez, to Triple-A Toledo from Double-A Erie. That puts him one step closer to the major leagues, which is where he very well soon could end up if the Tigers can't find another suitable platoon for the light-hitting Andrew Romine.

The Tigers liked the idea of playing Suarez at Double A this year and Hernan Perez at Triple A. That way, both could work as everyday shortstops, in case they were needed in The Show.

Now, it seems, the Tigers want to see Suarez hit against more advanced pitching.

Question is: Who gets the call first, Suarez or Perez?

"They're still developing," Tigers assistant GM Al Avila said last week. "If we needed a middle infielder because of an injury or something, at this point it would probably be Hernan Perez. He's a little more advanced with the bat.

"But Suarez is probably a little more advanced defensively at the shortstop position."

That makes sense. Suarez is a natural shortstop, while Perez is a natural second baseman. Perez's arm strength isn't what you'd typically see from the shortstop spot, though he still can pick it.

But the Tigers have a phenomenal fielder in Romine; what they're lacking there is offense. Romine is batting .179 in 29 games, while his platoon partner, Danny Worth, is hitting .212 in 13 games. Only the Mariners in the American League have had such weak offensive production from the shortstop position.

The lack of another left-handed-hitting threat is why the Tigers were interested in Drew, before he signed a $10 million contract to return to the Red Sox on Tuesday. There will be other options available via trade, but that market is looking slow to develop, since few teams are running away with divisions and few teams are out of contention. In other words, there are very few definite sellers at this point.

Further, the trade market always is unpredictable; the Tigers don't know for certain if they'll be able to find their man.

That's why they'll take a long look at Suarez and Perez at Toledo, where the Venezuelan duo will work side by side at short and second.

Neither man was viewed this spring as being ready to help the Tigers. Otherwise, obviously, the Tigers wouldn't have gone out and traded for Romine and the since-released Alex Gonzalez.

Suarez, 22, had six homers, 29 RBIs and 14 doubles in 42 games at Erie, posting a nice slash line of .284/.347/.503. That gave him a nifty OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .850.

Meanwhile, Perez, 23 — who had stints with the Tigers the last two years, and was quite green, especially in pitch recognition — has hit one homer and 13 RBIs in 43 games at Toledo. His slash line is much less impressive than Suarez's, at .244/.298/.313, for an OPS of .611.

"They're both good players," Avila said of Suarez and Perez, who both also can run a little bit.

Both Suarez and Perez bat right-handed, so if either gets called up, it's likely the switch-batting Romine will remain in the fold.

Trade talk

We're still more than two months till the non-waiver trade deadline, so it's tough to accurately assess where the market will be.

But here are a few shortstops who could catch the Tigers attention:

■ Asdrubal Cabrera: Here's one who hits from the left side — a plus for the Tigers — and has 20-homer potential. Yet at 28, he apparently already is falling out of favor with Indians brass. The Tigers know him well, having played against him 18 or 19 times a year, and they like that he's a free agent at season's end (Jose Iglesias remains their shortstop of the future). This, however, figures to be a lot more expensive pickup than the last time the Tigers acquired a shortstop from Cleveland. Detroit plucked Jhonny Peralta for a minor-league pitcher who has yet to reach the major leagues. For Cabrera, in turn, you're probably looking at a Tigers player the caliber of Suarez, for starters.

■ Jimmy Rollins: He's having a nice career resurgence at age 35, after a disastrous 2013. The Phillies would be wise to start getting younger, which would mean making some trades. Problem is: Rollins likes it in Philly, where he's just 20 hits from passing Mike Schmidt and becoming the franchise's all-time hits leader. And he also has full veto power over a trade. There would be some pause on the Tigers part, too: Rollins has an $11 million option for 2015 that is likely to vest, assuming he stays relatively healthy.

■ Didi Gregorius: This is by far the bigger stretch, given Gregorius, 22, is more along the lines of Suarez and Perez — there's upside there, but no guarantee that he's developed enough to help a major-league team, let alone a major-league contender like the Tigers. That said, the Tigers and Diamondbacks have been tied to discussions about the left-handed slugger, who is stuck behind Chris Owings in Arizona.

So, there's a few to chew on.

Of course, you can bet, there'll be more names that pop up as the deadline inches closer.

Fielding boos

Sorry, Tigers fans. Sounds like there will be no Prince Fielder reunion this weekend in Detroit.

He's set to stay behind in Texas to undergo tests regarding the neck issue he says he's been dealing with since last season.

There's still a shot Fielder, who spent the last two years with the Tigers, will travel to Comerica Park at some point this weekend, and maybe even play. But it might be best if just sits this one out.

Given what went down last fall, with his poor postseason performance and even poorer postseason attitude, no doubt, the boo birds would be out — in full force. In fact, some have speculated the rancor he'd receive from the Detroit fan base would be among the most vile for any visiting player ever appearing against the Tigers.

The No. 1 showering of boos, in my mind, easily is the displeasure heaped on former Tigers reliever Jason Grilli in June 2008. After an up-and-down tenure in the Tigers bullpen, he had been traded to the Rockies earlier in the 2008 season. What followed was an in-the-press war of words between Grilli and then-Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

"Jason Grilli's not here any longer because Jason Grilli didn't pitch good under pressure situations," Leyland told reporters, fueling the fire. "He didn't pitch very well in Detroit."

Those comments, among others, set the stage for the loudest jeers I can remember at Comerica Park. They came pouring down June 28, 2008, when Grilli entered a 5-2 game with the Tigers leading. I remember sitting in the third-base box seats just stunned by the frustration being let out by Tigers fans. The place shook. You'd have thought Grilli played quarterback for Ohio State, it was so bad.

Grilli had a relatively clean inning that day, and another the next day, but the Tigers took both games.

Surprise K.O.

Baseball is such a funny game.

Masahiro Tanaka hadn't lost a start since Aug. 19, 2012, and he was facing the sad-sack Cubs. Sure looked like the Yankees right-hander's streak would live at least another five days.

But it's so unpredictable, this great game of ours.

The Cubs banged out four runs (three earned) on eight hits in six innings Tuesday, and handed Tanaka his first defeat States-side.

Tanaka had gone 42 starts without suffering a loss — going 34-0 during that span, first in Japan (28-0) and now in New York (6-0) — before the Cubs, of all teams, put an end to that.

"We beat the (Floyd) Mayweather of baseball," Cubs catcher John Baker told the Chicago Tribune.

To put Tanaka's streak in perspective, between his loss in August 2012 and Tuesday, Felix Hernandez had lost 15 times, Clayton Kershaw 12 times and Max Scherzer five times.

Tanaka, 25, of course remains the early front-runner for AL Cy Young. He's struck out 73 and walked just eight in 64 innings, and owns a league-best WHIP of 0.969. Question is, how will he perform when he starts seeing teams for a second and third time?

They make adjustments in the major leagues. Tanaka will have to, too.

Around the horn

The Tigers already have had one Zubaz-themed night this year, celebrating the zebra-striped garb made popular in the 1990s which is enjoying an impressive resurrection the last few years. Given how much publicity the Tigers — and their players, who have taken to the attire — have given Zubaz, the team is planning a second Zubaz night later this season.

... Give the Indians credit. They were down on their luck and facing a rolling Tigers team, and really came to fight. In the last two games of the series, they pummeled the last two starting pitchers for the AL in the All-Star Game -- Justin Verlander (five runs, 11 hits) and Max Scherzer (seven runs, 12 hits).

... Good choice by the Diamondbacks to turn over baseball operations to a baseball lifer, Tony La Russa. The Tigers get some credit here, too. After La Russa, 69, retired from managing following the 2011 season, he set his sights on a front-office job. So in the spring of 2012, he shadowed Dave Dombrowski and Leyland.

... Ugh. The elbow woes keep piling up, the latest victims Padres ace Andrew Cashner and Phillies ace Cliff Lee. No Tommy John surgery needed, though, at least not yet.

Three up ...

1. The A's continue to amaze. They've scored the most runs in the AL (238), and allowed the fewest (140).

2. Kurt Suzuki was a desperate signing by the Twins (they wanted A.J. Pierzynski), and he's hitting .310.

3. There probably isn't a bigger surprise in baseball than the Rockies. With that offense, they're legitimate.

... Three down

1. The Cubs somehow have a record of 16-27, despite a run differential of plus-2. That's almost impossible.

2. Stephen Drew oddly signed with the Red Sox just two weeks before a bidding war was set to commence.

3. The usually powerhouse AL East is a combined five games under .500, ahead of only the NL Central (12 under).

Diamond digits

3 — Home runs by Orioles slugger Chris Davis on Tuesday against the Pirates, matching his total from the first 30 games of the season.

4 — Indians wins against the Tigers this season; they had just four in 19 games last season

9-11, 5.36 — Verlander's career record and ERA in 21 starts at Cleveland's Progerssive Field, following Tuesday's rough outing

5/22/90 — Cubs slugger Andre Dawson was intentionally walked a major-league record five times in a 2-1 win over the Reds

He said it

"We don't condone it, and we don't think it's constructive."

— Ned Colletti, Dodgers GM, on the fight between minor-league teammates Miguel Olivo and Alex Guerrero, which ended with Olivo biting off a portion of Guerrero's ear.

tpaul@detroitn0ews.com
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