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Tigers try to fix woes against soft-tossing right-handers

The Detroit News
Wally Joyner 
(Robin Buckson / Detroit News)

Detroit – The first step toward solving a problem is recognizing one exists.

The Tigers fully recognize they have struggled offensively against soft-tossing right-handed pitching.

"You have to understand what's happening and what you are seeing is what we are seeing," hitting coach Wally Joyner said. "We are addressing it."

Mike Pelfrey, Jeremy Guthrie, Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco, Mike Fiers, Masahiro Tanaka, Chris Young (twice), Lance Lynn, Jimmy Nelson and Kyle Lohse – all right-handers known more for the off-speed and breaking pitches than their velocity – have limited the Tigers to two runs or less this season.

"Chris Young is different," J.D. Martinez said. "He's got that Chris Young Effect, throwing that high thing (from a 6-feet-10 arm slot). But it's hard to say that (the Tigers struggle against soft-throwing righties). You just go through periods where sometimes you hit them well and other times you don't.

"I remember last year there was a stretch where we couldn't hit soft-tossing lefties, but when we faced Corey Kluber we hit him hard. But a guy who throws just soft, soft, soft, he ruins us."

Joyner, as good coaches have to do, is walking that line between addressing the problem and not overreacting to the point where other parts of the offensive game suffer.

"Overall we are struggling a little bit in our ability to score runs this year," Joyner said. "Is it due to soft-tossing right-handers? I hope not. I think it's just a situation that's happened. If we have some soft-tossing right-handers coming up, I will take our chances."

The Tigers were to face another Thursday in Houston's Scott Feldman, a pitcher the Tigers have crushed over his career.

"I think we see them pretty good," Joyner said. "I think at times it's baseball, where the balls you hit hard are caught. Miggy (Cabrera) over the last three or four weeks has hit some balls hard that have been run down and he doesn't have anything to show for it.

"I don't believe there are guys in this locker room that don't enjoy hitting soft-tossing right-handers."

Martinez believes the team's recent offensive struggles – they've been limited to two runs or less in 19 games – go beyond soft-throwing right-handed pitchers.

"I think it's more than just a particular pitcher," he said. "I feel like in some situations guys are pressing a little too hard, trying to make it happen. When we are good, we're out there having fun, almost like the pressure isn't on us, it's on them."

That hasn't been the case too often yet this season. Joyner, meanwhile, is being proactive. He is having right-handed hitters track curveballs and off-speed pitches during cage work.

"We get our work in," he said. "I think it's useful. Seeing an off-speed pitch out of a machine on occasion makes you do a lot of correct things that will get you back to what you're trying to do at the plate."

Twitter @cmccosky