Rajai Davis' status for Tigers remains uncertain

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — On Sunday, amid the clubhouse celebration, there was more good news on the Tigers front, when general manager Dave Dombrowski painted a positive picture about center fielder Rajai Davis' status for the playoffs.

Two days later, however, manager Brad Ausmus didn't sound as confident.

That's not to say Davis, the Tigers starting center field, won't be on the playoff roster for the American League Division Series against the Orioles. It's just that it's far from a sure thing.

"It could go either way," Ausmus said Tuesday, before the Tigers held a brief workout at Comerica Park, prior to boarding their flight to Baltimore.

"(Monday) I saw him, he said he felt better, but I could tell by his voice that it didn't feel nearly as much better as he thought it would. Tuesday, he seemed a lot more optimistic when I talked to him."

Davis suffered a rare midsection injury while running to first base during Saturday's game, and he hasn't played since. He didn't appear to take part in the workout Tuesday.

Ausmus said Davis has done little activity and really only has been getting treatment.

The Tigers have until Thursday morning to finalize their playoff roster, so they figure to make a decision on Davis after Wednesday's workout at Camden Yards. It'll be a tough one. A player can't be added during a postseason series unless he's replacing another injured player. So if Davis isn't ready for Game 1 of the series, but figures to be ready for Game 3, the Tigers might carry him anyway.

Davis' health will impact the Tigers bullpen, too. Here's why: If Davis is out, Don Kelly is likely to start in center field — and Kelly, unlike Davis, is a candidate to be pinch-hit for late in close games. Under those circumstances, Ausmus likely would carry an extra bench player, like Tyler Collins or Ezequiel Carrera.

If Davis is a go, though, the Tigers figure to go with the eight-man bullpen.

A guy like lefty Kyle Lobstein, who pitched so brilliantly and surprisingly in September, could be on the bubble, though Ausmus wasn't interested in discussing specific scenarios.

"I don't want to get into the actual names," Ausmus said. "I certainly would want to talk to those guys before I talk to you."

Need his speed

This much is certain. The Tigers are far better off with Davis than without him.

In the lineup, he's one of their two legitimate stolen-base threats — and, as the Tigers have seen in recent years, speed seems to be a huge asset in the postseason.

"He's a game-changer," designated hitter Victor Martinez said of Davis. "With Rajai on the bases, you feel like it can be a double with a single. He can be on second and third within two or three pitches.

"He's definitely a game-changer."

Verlander slates J.D. Martinez

Pitcher Justin Verlander spoke for all the Tigers on Tuesday when he, essentially, said thank God for J.D. Martinez.

"We won the division by one game, it came down to the last day, and I don't think we would've been even close to that if it wasn't for J.D. What a pickup he ended up being," Verlander said.

"He had a great effect on our ballclub, and I think our ballclub had a great effect on him. I think coming in and seeing how Miguel Cabrera goes about his business, how Victor Martinez goes about his business, I think all those things helped him a lot. And he obviously helped us a lot."

Buggy memory

It wasn't funny at the time. But Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain now can laugh about his playoff debut. It was Oct. 5, 2007, in Cleveland, otherwise remembered as the day the bugs invaded Progressive Field.

"I finished the seventh, there was none," Chamberlain, then with the Yankees, said Tuesday. "I came back out in the eighth, they were everywhere. No bugs to, 'I can't breathe.'"

He blew the lead that day, back when he was a clean-shaven rookie. What if he had the beard?

"They probably could've stayed in it and it wouldn't have bothered me!" he said. "That'd probably have been better."

It's been awhile

The Tigers took five of six against the Orioles this year, but they haven't played since mid-May. The Tigers have gone through a whole lot of ups and downs and ups and downs since then.

"It seems like about four seasons since," Ausmus said.

But, finally, the playoffs have arrived. And they're special.

"It's baseball at its core," Ausmus said. "Postseason baseball is like baseball when you're in Little League, it's about one thing and one thing only, and winning. Everyone's pulling in the same direction, no one cares whether they're arbitration-eligible or whether they're a free agent, it's about winning. So it's kind of baseball in its simplest form, and it's a good way to have it."

Around the horn

Ausmus wouldn't commit to a lineup for Game 1 or beyond, though if September is an indicator, Andrew Romine is likely to be the Tigers shortstop for the majority, if not all, of the playoffs. He hit .298 in 47 September at-bats, and plays better defense than Eugenio Suarez.

… Asked about Anibal Sanchez's role for the playoffs coming off his side injury, Ausmus said he'd like to limit him to two-inning stints out of the bullpen.

… The Orioles haven't yet announced their playoff rotation, beyond Chris Tillman. Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris probably will pitch Games 2-4, but it's unclear in which order.

… Orioles DH Delmon Young has nine homers in his last 27 postseason games, many with the Tigers.