BOSTON -- Two outings into Al Alburquerque's Minor League rehab assignment, the right-handed reliever appears to at least be back in his strikeout form. All four outs he recorded at Class A Lakeland came by strikeout, while all four balls put in play against him went for base hits.
Alburquerque has a long way to go yet before he's declared ready for the big leagues, and until he can get to that point, he isn't anywhere near the forefront of manager Jim Leyland's concerns.
"Alburquerque right now is on the back burner for me, way back," Leyland said, "because you don't know how he's going to come out of it health-wise. I mean, if Alburquerque could get himself into the form that he was last year, he's going to be a big league pitcher, and he'd be on this staff."
In other words, he needs to continue it for a longer stretch against upper-level hitters before he becomes a serious consideration for the bullpen.
"A lot of people don't understand, because a guy's back throwing doesn't mean he's ready for the big leagues. The guy gets through a two-inning performance in Lakeland, but it doesn't mean he's ready for the big leagues. His arm's got to be able to take the stress. You have to find those things out. He's got to pitch. He's got to build back up."
Castellanos uses off-day to visit Tigers at Fenway
BOSTON -- Considering all the attention on the Tigers' timetable for top prospect Nick Castellanos, he almost went unnoticed as he ambled his way into the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park along with fellow outfield prospect Avisail Garcia. The fact that they weren't dragging their baseball gear probably made a difference.
For Monday, they were tourists, taking in the sights during an off-day for Double-A Erie in nearby New Hampshire. The next time he gets to a big league park, it figures to be for real.
"There's been people like these guys saying, 'Get used to it. It's your locker in September,'" Castellanos said. "It's awesome to hear these guys say it, but I know that it's not real until it happens. I'm definitely taking this all in, but I definitely realize that it's a visit. It's not because I deserve to be here."
Castellanos, who is the Tigers' top ranked prospect by MLB.com, is batting .309 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 47 games with the SeaWolves.
The visit was an idea on their part after an all-night bus ride from Erie. When they checked the schedule and saw the Tigers were in Boston, they made some calls, got some tickets from Brayan Villarreal and found a driver willing to make the 40-minute trek, as long as the fare was paid up front.
They chatted with Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Prince Fielder, Ramon Santiago and Delmon Young. They hung out in the dugout, on the field and behind the cage during batting practice, and they caught the game from the stands.
All the while, you had to figure what they were thinking: This could be them soon. In Castellanos' case, it could be sooner rather than later.
"I want to get to the big leagues as soon as possible," Castellanos said, "but if these guys think Triple-A is necessary, then that's something that I don't control, nor would I try to."
At this point, he doesn't know where his season is going to end once Erie wraps up its campaign the first week in September. He's almost certain to be somewhere doing baseball work in September and October, whether it's Detroit or the Arizona Fall League or getting ready for winter ball.
"That's a possibility," said Castellanos, who was named the Futures MVP after a three-hit, three-run, three-RBI performance to help the United States team cruise to a 17-5 win over the World squad. "I've heard instructional league's a possibility. I've heard if we make the postseason and I keep hitting off lefties, I stay with the team to the postseason. So everything's a possibility. We're just going to have to wait and see what happens."
He has also heard more than enough trade rumors for his liking.
"Last year, I was able to avoid it," he said. "This year, no. This year, it's been every day, all the time, in my face. I'm definitely ready for the Trade Deadline, so I can just relax."
Leyland not expecting any more deals
BOSTON -- By now, manager Jim Leyland's statement that he doesn't expect a trade to happen has become almost a standard line. When he says it with less than 24 hours to go before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, though, he seemingly has a very good chance of being spot-on.
"We made our deal," Leyland said Monday. "Our boss went out and gave us a starting pitcher and a second baseman, and it is what it is, and we're going forward with it. Do I expect anything else to happen? I doubt it, but could [general manager] Dave Dombrowski come in 10 minutes [later] and say we made a trade? Yeah, that could happen, but I don't expect it.
"We've got what we've got, and I'm going forward like I did before we got [Anibal] Sanchez and [Omar] Infante."
The one area left where the Tigers could upgrade, looking at the roster, would be a right-handed role hitter -- not a star such as Hunter Pence, but someone who could step in against left-handed pitchers. None of those types of hitters have moved on the trade market yet, though there's obviously still time.
The thing with the Tigers' search for right-handed hitting, though, is that it won't necessarily end with the non-waiver Trade Deadline. After all, it didn't end there last year.
"I don't pay any attention to it," Leyland said of Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, "for one simple reason: Last year, we got Delmon Young after the Trade Deadline. That's all shop talk."