Tigers Mailbag: Time to move V-Mart down in lineup?
I had the tweet written, right after Oswaldo Arcia hit his longest home run since he faced Andrew Romine.
It read something along the lines of, "Well, this one's over."
Then I stopped, thought for a second, and deleted it — wisely, it turns out. The Tigers trailed, 7-3, on Wednesday afternoon, but I remembered that this team, unlike some of their predecessors and even though they've struggled to score in bunches recently, isn't out of a four-run game.
And, just like that, they came roaring back to beat the Twins, 10-7 — improving to 15-7 on the season, and 12-3 against the American League Central, heading to a big early series against the Royals in Kansas City.
But, of course, there are still some questions, and Tigers fans are asking them.
Here's this week's Tigers Mailbag.
Question: Should Victor Martinez go on the DL and be replaced with a guy who can actually contribute? — Matthew Cook (twitter.com/itsMatthewCook).
Answer: The disabled list? Probably not. I don't see a Victor Martinez that is in a whole lot of pain. What I see is a Victor Martinez who doesn't have anything close to his legs underneath him yet.
And hitting is almost entirely legs. It's why Popeye was a sailor, and not a major-leaguer.
What we're seeing is very similar to what we saw from Martinez early in the 2013 season, after he missed all of 2012 following knee surgery. He didn't become a feared hitter again until the second half, and the Tigers are hoping he doesn't take that long this time around — but, by the looks of it, he sure might.
Now, Martinez has helped the Tigers win some games this year. He did have the two RBI hits in a game last week, and he's had a couple of sacrifice flies, but he's also had just one extra-base hit, and no home runs.
The power just isn't there right now, and he's barely hitting any balls hard, either. His slugging percentage looks more like a batting average, and a bad one, and he's creating fewer runs than almost every other designated hitter.
Because of that, his fear factor is about to drop off the table, if it hasn't already.
And then manager Brad Ausmus will have a decision to make: Keep Martinez, 36, in the cleanup spot, or move him down.
I say, move him down, and soon.
Twins manager Paul Molitor made a fatal mistake Wednesday when he pitched to Miguel Cabrera in the ninth inning, and Cabrera made him pay with yet another bomb.
More managers, though, will begin to follow the lead of Indians manager Terry Francona, who was more than willing to walk Cabrera to get to Victor Martinez. And if Martinez doesn't get it together soon, that could be tire spikes for the Tigers offense.
I say get J.D. Martinez up to fourth, and Yoenis Cespedes up to fifth, and then maybe Victor Martinez sixth. I'd even be fine with him hitting seventh.
And then, when he's got his strength back and his swing back, move him back to cleanup.
He's sure not a cleanup hitter right now.
Question: Do you think Shane Greene can be a good No. 3 starter from what you saw? — LeslieinFortLee (twitter.com/DisgustedNYer)
Answer: Of course.
Look, Wednesday was a struggle. When you can't get your sinker down and you leave your slider and fastball up, there's a good chance you'll get hit — even by the Twins, who, by the way, are a lot better offensively than what they showed in that first series of the year at Comerica Park.
Remember, Greene is young, just 26, with very limited major-league experience. There are going to bumps in the road, just like there were for Justin Verlander when he first came up, just like there were when Max Scherzer first got to Detroit. Remember, Scherzer was good and then awful early in his Tigers tenure. He got sent to Toledo, they worked out some kinks, he came back, and the rest is history — or $215 million.
Not saying Greene will have the success in his career that Scherzer has had. Just saying, young guys still are a work in progress, and Jeff Jones is one of the best at figuring out mechanical flaws, and fixing them in short order. See, Sanchez, Anibal.
With two clunkers in a row, I suspect Jones and Greene will be busy before his next start, against the White Sox. And don't be surprised if he looks a lot more like Greene from the first three Tigers starts than Greene from the last two.
Of course, while I don't think we saw the real Shane Greene in his last two starts, nor did we in his first three — when he allowed one earned run, total.
He's probably somewhere in between, and has the potential to a huge piece for this Tigers team's World Series aspirations.
One positive to take out of Wednesday's start: The right-hander still struck out eight. When you're striking guys out, there's something there, something good. When you're getting rocked and not striking anybody out, well, you've got a longer way to go to get back to being good.
Question: If Alex Avila continues to not hit, does James McCann get a chance to get the most playing time? — Garrett Elliott (twitter.com/BigRed6810)
Answer: Hold your horses, there.
Fans really just want to find any way to get Avila out of the lineup. Last year, some even suggested — sober, I think — that Bryan Holaday should be the starter.
Avila is a streaky hitter, to be sure. He got off to a good start this year, when he was focusing on driving the ball the other way. He's got away from that lately, pulling off the ball.
But Avila still gets on base, to a .358 clip — a very respectable figure. And Avila, again, is elite defensively, particularly at blocking balls in the dirt.
Don't get me wrong. I like McCann. A lot. I thought he should've been up with the Tigers last summer, and on the postseason roster. He hits left-handed pitching well, and with time, he will hit right-handed pitching enough to get more starts.
He had a great game Wednesday, with the three hits — including his first career homer, and inside-the-parker. The kid who wears a Captain America undershirt every game played the part in the Tigers' latest victory. And McCann, 24, has an arm is stronger, and more accurate, than even I knew.
But for now, the job remains mostly Avila's, because the Tigers face mostly right-handed pitching.
That said, I'd be fine if McCann starts getting an occasional extra start against a hittable right-handed starter. When you're hot, you're forcing the manager to get you into more games. That's why Andrew Romine (4-for-4 Wednesday from the No. 9 spot, while McCann was 3-for-4 from No. 8) should get more reps for a bit, too.
Question: Safe to assume once Bruce Rondon returns, barring a Joakim Soria collapse, he's the eighth-inning guy, right? —Swaggy G (twitter.com/Nick_George37)
Answer: I'd say so, though it probably wouldn't happen right away. Rondon would probably be eased into the bullpen rotation, since he's coming off Tommy John surgery, and then some shoulder tendinitis this spring.
The good news is, he appears to be getting close to going on a rehab assignment, after throwing several days in a row last week.
The next step after that would be Detroit, which has been itching to see what this guy really has for three years now.
The Tigers have other eighth-inning options, by the way.
If you haven't noticed, Angel Nesbitt has really impressed in his Tigers debut, Tom Gorzelanny looks like a different guy than the one who was getting rocked on the back fields in Tigertown this spring, and Joba Chamberlain has some experience in the role — and would be the guy if he ever finds a way to get that slider down.
Alex Wilson is another guy to keep an eye on, as is Buck Farmer, who's on a tear at Triple-A Toledo.
But, yes, Rondon, 24, would be the ideal guy, since he throws 100 — and you usually want, or even need strikeouts out of the bullpen in the late innings.
He just has to get healthy first, and then prove he's the pitcher the Tigers have long thought he would be.
Question: How big of a threat do you view the Royals? Are they legit or will they fizzle out? — Swaggy G (twitter.com/Nick_George37)
Answer: I have never, ever taken two questions from the same Tigers fan in the same Tigers Mailbag. Until now.
So, congrats, Swaggy. That's how on point your questions were this week.
The Royals are absolutely a threat. Most defending American League champions, who come within 90 feet of a World Series title, are to be taken seriously. That said, they're doing a bit better than even I expected. I was counting on some sort of a letdown.
But they're 14-6, their bullpen is still spectacular, the rotation has impressed and they're finally hitting for some power.
The only letdown, really, is their attitude — they're developing quite the reputation around the league has a nasty bunch, with all their beanballs and benches-clearing brawls. Earlier this month, they brawled with the A's, and then the White Sox, racking up a whole bunch of suspensions for a whole bunch of players.
Some might start serving those suspensions during the four-game series with the Tigers, starting Thursday night.
But don't expect to see any tempers flare between these two — they're rivals, because they're clearly the cream of the crop in the division, but not bitter ones.
Well, at least not yet, anyway. Anything can happen, I suppose.