Cabrera hits Little League homer

DETROIT — The Tigers have had a lot of strange plays
go against them this season. When they finally had one go their way, it turned
out to be a doozy.

In the fifth inning of their 4-1 win over the visiting Colorado Rockies on Saturday,
Detroit held a slim 2-0 lead when Miguel Cabrera led off with a routine
grounder back to rookie pitcher Christian Friedrich.

That’s when the stadium DJ should have really hit the callopie music.

Cabrera didn’t break hard out of the batter’s box, only getting up to speed
when he saw the ball bounce off Friedrich’s glove. Because of the slow start,
he still had plenty of time to scramble after the ball and throw Cabrera out at
first.

Friedrich didn’t know that.

“I was upset because I didn’t make the original play,” Friedrich said. “That’s
a play you make 99 times out of 100. So I was running after the ball with my
back to the runner and I rushed things. I didn’t see how much time I had until
just after I released the throw.”

By that point, it was too late.

The throw sailed past first baseman Todd Helton and down the right-field line.
To make things worse for the Rockies, the ball lodged against the tarp instead
of bouncing back toward the field or any Rockies fielder.

That led to a wild chase, with catcher Wilin Rosario, second baseman Chris
Nelson and right fielder Michael Cuddyer going after the ball while Cabrera
rounded second and headed for third.

The rest of the Rockies fielders were going in every other direction. With the
catcher in right field, third baseman Jordan Pacheco had gone to cover the
plate, leaving Friedrich at third base with Carlos Gonzalez racing in from left
field to back him up.

“There were a lot of kids involved in that play, and once you start having
to chase down a loose ball like that, things get out of kilter,” Rockies
manager Jim Tracy said. “(Cabrera) doesn’t score on that play if someone
just grabs the ball and holds on to it, but young players try to do too
much.”

Rosario grabbed the ball but, to Terry’s chagrin, didn’t hold on to it. Rosario
fired to third, and his throw skipped past Friedrich, allowing Cabrera to trot
home on a ball that was hit about 60 feet and wildly thrown about 250.

“That’s the old Little League home run. That’s what that was,” Tigers
manager Jim Leyland said. “We’ve all been through that before. That’s off
the sandlot, and it was fun to watch.”

GETTING AVILA BACK

Alex Avila is eligible to come off the disabled list on Thursday, and the
Tigers think there is a chance he will be able to return for that afternoon’s home
game against the Cardinals.

If things go well for him during Sunday’s workout at Comerica, he would begin a
three-day rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Monday.

“I think Alex is going to go out very soon, and that’s good news,”
said Leyland, who has been dealing with Detroit’s injury problems all season.
“If we get back to pretty much normal, not that we’ve made any excuses, but
then you have no excuses.

“We’ve had a couple good signs, having (center fielder Austin) Jackson
back and (starting pitcher Doug) Fister today, and as bad as everything has
gone so far, it’s not like we are off the radar screen.”

ROTATION UP IN THE AIR

The Tigers still haven’t made an announcement about their pitching rotation
past the middle of the next week.

Max Scherzer will pitch Sunday against the Rockies, and Justin Verlander and
Rick Porcello are scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday against St. Louis.

But with Casey Crosby back in Toledo and Drew Smyly on the disabled list with
the biggest blister Leyland has ever seen, the Tigers will need to add someone
to the rotation sooner rather than later.

Even if Fister and Scherzer come back on four days’ rest, the Tigers won’t have
anyone ready for Saturday’s game in Pittsburgh.

There are several possibilities. Jacob Turner or Adam Wilk could get called up from
Toledo, or Duane Below could get a spot start out of the bullpen.

A final decision probably won’t be made until after Scherzer’s start on Sunday.