Surrounded by trade rumors Blue Jays continue series with Tigers (Jul 15, 2017)

BY AP • July 15, 2017

DETROIT -- The rumors never stop.

Buyers hear them and sellers hear them as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches.

The Detroit Tigers face the Toronto Blue Jays in the second game three-game weekend series on Saturday that will gently nudge one team closer to the seller side. It's a topic of conversation in the media, in the stands and in the clubhouses.

"The easiest way (to lessen the focus) is to keep you guys out of the clubhouse," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "If they're not asked about it, they're not thinking about it. They should get off social media, it's a waste of time.

"The important thing is when the game starts, when the bell rings, it's not on their minds. When they step in the batter's box, they're not thinking, 'Could I be getting traded while I'm trying to see this guy's breaking ball.'"

"I think it's more of a distraction around the game than during the actual game. The one thing you can do is talk to them about it. Be honest when they ask."

Detroit was pushed another step closer to be a selling team as the deadline approaches when it lost, 7-2, Friday night to Toronto. The Tigers have dropped to 39-49 by going 7-15 in their last 22 games.

Left-handed closer Justin Wilson, right fielder J.D. Martinez and catcher Alex Avila are the Detroit names being tossed around the most.

On the Toronto side, the prospective free agents are drawing the talk -- lefty Francisco Liriano, right-hander Marco Estrada, right-handed reliever Joe Smith and lefty J.P. Howell.

"In my time here, it's never really been an issue," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It's part of the game. Most of the guys have been through it.

"I think most of them have learned to block it out. There's a lot of stuff that's said. Not a whole lot of basis for some of it. It's very rare that actual trades like (those talked about) actually happen.

"It could be a distraction for some. But this particular group, I've been with them a couple years now. They focus on playing."

Gibbons will be sending southpaw Francisco Liriano (5-4, 5.56 ERA) out Saturday against Detroit. Liriano owns some gems against the Tigers but overall in 27 games (20 starts) he is 6-10 with a 5.26 ERA.

The Tigers counter with All-Star right-hander Michael Fulmer (9-6, 3.19 ERA). Fulmer has faced the Blue Jays just once in his two major league seasons, earning a win for six shutout innings on June 6, 2016 at Comerica Park.

Fulmer was acquired from the New York Mets for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes when the Tigers elected to be sellers at the 2015 deadline. It was the same deadline that saw the Tigers send David Price to Toronto a year after obtaining him from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Fulmer takes a three-start winning streak to Saturday. He allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings during Sunday's 5-3 win at Cleveland.



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