Bad history keeps Tigers working

DETROIT — Nobody can say the Detroit Tigers didn’t learn a lesson from their World Series run in 2006.

That year, the Tigers faced both the New York Yankees and Oakland A’s, albeit in reverse order.

They swept the Oakland A’s, which left them with a week off without any games to play. Although the Tigers tried to hold some workouts, by the time they got to the World Series against St. Louis, their bats had cooled off and they were sloppy on defense, especially the pitchers when they were fielding their position.

To prevent that from happening again, the Tigers held a Saturday workout at Comerica Park and had some of their Instructional League players, who just finished five weeks of work in Lakeland, come up for scrimmages Sunday and Monday.

“The thing is, they (the Instructional League players) have been practicing and playing up to Thursday, so they are in good shape,” assistant general manager Al Avila said. “They’re in playing form, so they can come up here and participate in a normal way.

“Really, we can use them almost any way we want — pitching, hitting-wise. It’ll be good practice for our guys.”

The Tigers held batting practice and a regular workout Saturday, then some players, mostly reserves, faced pitches from the likes of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly and Jose Valverde.

“The guys that are going to hit are mostly the guys that haven’t had much playing time,” manager Jim Leyland said. “As you go into the World Series, you need to pinch hit, so we need to sharpen up (Don) Kelly and (Ramon) Santiago and (Danny) Worth and guys like that.”

Some in the organization feared the Tigers might have to head to their facility in Lakeland, Fla., for a couple of days if the weather in Detroit turned bad. It hasn’t, though, and the forecast is good, which wasn’t the case during the break between ALCS and World Series in 2006.

“I’d rather just stay here in nice weather and work out in the stadium,” catcher Gerald Laird said. “You don’t want to be traveling all over the place just to find good weather. That would be a pain.

“It’s kind of nice that Mother Nature’s going to allow us to stay here and get our work in and get ready to play.”

Leyland said there’s no ideal solution for the layoff, but they’re making the best of it.

“You could get somebody hurt in one of these games,” Leyland said. “But you know what? You can’t have everything.

“I do not want to go into the World Series with us not seeing the speed of live pitching. I just don’t want to do that, so you just have to take your chances.

“We’re not going to do anything foolish. Like (Sunday), I might just DH Prince (Fielder) and (Miguel) Cabrera in the same game, maybe get them off their feet a little bit. There’s no perfect solution, but we learned from the last time that we were pretty stale.”

Laird agreed that too many days without seeing live pitching is bad for timing at the plate.

“You need some at-bats (to) stay sharp,” Laird said. “That’s what they learned in ’06.  

“I like the plan we’ve got in place, and I think we’re going to be ready to go.”

Wide-eyed youngsters

The Instructional League is for the best players in their first year out of the draft and for some young Latin American players.

They’re already in town, staying at the Motor City Casino hotel, and were watching Saturday’s workout from the visitors’ dugout.

In their last meeting after the Instructional League wrapped up Thursday, they learned that some of them would be coming to Detroit.

“It’s absolutely incredible,” second baseman Devon Travis said. “We were all expecting on Thursday to get a message that we were going to finish our last workout and head home.

“Dave (Owen, director of player development) broke the news to us, and I really don’t think it’s still hit anybody yet. It’s kind of surreal that we’re so close to so many great baseball players.”

Joe Rogers, a left-handed pitcher who announced on his Twitter account he was headed to Detroit, said he’d do whatever he could.

“Just try and have them see a lefty, I guess, on the mound,” Rogers said. “Honestly, just do whatever I can to help out.”

Rogers, who was born in Winter Haven, Fla., said that his parents and older sister used to live in Michigan before he was born. The 21-year-old is excited about the potential of pitching to Cabrera and Fielder in the next couple of days.

“Those guys are the best hitters in the game, if not the world,” Rogers said. “It’s always an honor to be able to face those guys.

“We’ll see how it goes. It’s going to definitely be fun, though.”

Travis, 21, who went to Florida State, isn’t so sure about having to bat against someone like Verlander.

“As long as he throws the ball far away from me, where I don’t have to swing, that’d be nice,” Travis said. “Definitely insane. Watching him pitch all year, he’s definitely a special individual, special player.”

Both Rogers and Travis could be home relaxing right now, but there’s no place they’d rather be than at Comerica Park helping the big leaguers get ready for the World Series.

“This is an opportunity of a lifetime to be up here,” Travis said. “I’m definitely really thankful for it.”

Visit from George Lopez

Comedian George Lopez, scheduled to perform at the Fox Theatre on Saturday night, popped by Comerica Park earlier in the day.

He chatted with president and general manager Dave Dombrowski, Leyland and many of the players.

“I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life,” Lopez said. “I’m 51, so ’68 and the old Tiger Stadium was amazing.

“Detroit is great. I come from working-class people, and it’s a great blue-collar town and it deserves this.

“You can’t predict, but it would be wonderful for this town and baseball if the Tigers won the World Series.”

Lopez enjoyed meeting Cabrera and speaking to him in Spanish.

“I told Miggy that a Latino winning the Triple Crown is as impressive as having a black president — or potentially an orange one — and he started laughing,” Lopez said. “Great guy, great sense of humor.”

When Verlander heard that Lopez was performing Saturday night, he said, “I’m in!”

Lopez said, “I think we can squeeze you in.”