KANSAS CITY -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't officially name his pitching rotation for the upcoming American League Division Series, other than reconfirming that Justin Verlander would be pitching the opener. However, he laid a pretty good hint on Tuesday.
"You feel pretty comfortable as a manager if you can run, in any order you want, Verlander, [Max] Scherzer, [Doug] Fister and [Anibal] Sanchez," Leyland said. "That's pretty good. I mean, you certainly don't feel like you're behind the 8-ball."
The names aren't exactly a surprise. The four were the key cogs to a Detroit rotation that posted a collective 2.46 ERA in September, best in the Majors by nearly half a run. The other options, lefty Drew Smyly and right-hander Rick Porcello, appear likely to end up in the bullpen.
Leyland said the Tigers will have a seven-man relief corps to go with their four starters. If the Tigers go with Smyly and Phil Coke as their left-handed relievers, they'll have to make a choice among Porcello and high-strikeout pitchers Al Alburquerque and Brayan Villarreal.
Scherzer to miss KC start with ankle injury
KANSAS CITY -- The good news for Max Scherzer is that his right shoulder is fine. He threw off flat ground on Tuesday with no sign of trouble in his bothersome deltoid muscle.
The bad news is that his ankle is now a problem, enough that the Tigers are going to hold him out of pitching in Wednesday's regular-season finale.
It happened during the dog pile on the field after Jose Valverde's final pitch on Monday night to clinch the Tigers' second straight American League Central title.
"This is a slightly twisted ankle, swollen," manager Jim Leyland said before Tuesday's game with the Royals. "It doesn't appear to be serious, but it is obviously serious enough that he won't pitch tomorrow. That's the only thing I can tell you."
Leyland didn't see the injury happen, but he was told about it.
"When people were jumping on the pile, somehow, somebody stepped on his ankle," Leyland said.
Before that update, Leyland was hoping to not only let Scherzer start, despite the division title having already been secured, but have him pitch five innings as a final tuneup before an expected Division Series start.
The Tigers will give Luis Marte his first Major League start on Wednesday. Drew Smyly was originally expected to start in Scherzer's place if the game didn't have any playoff implications, but Leyland said on Tuesday that Smyly will only pitch an inning.
Others who could pitch Wednesday include Darin Downs, Brayan Villarreal and Luke Putkonen. Phil Coke will also be available to pitch, Leyland said.
Porcello celebrates his own win against KC
KANSAS CITY -- Among the many Tigers basking in the clubhouse celebration was starter Rick Porcello, who had a good reason to party. Detroit's American League Central-clinching win on Monday was also his first victory since Aug. 7.
It didn't solve the question of what has gone on with his fastball velocity in the middle innings of his last few starts, but with five-plus innings and only an Alex Gordon homer on his scoring line, Porcello at least ended his regular season on a high note.
Porcello was firing fastballs consistently at 94 mph the first couple innings, topping out at 95. His velocity gradually dropped from there until Gordon's sixth-inning home run came off a 90-mph fastball.
Porcello and catcher Gerald Laird geared their game plan expecting a drop like that.
"To be honest with you, because I've been fatiguing earlier in the game, our plan was to go out there and keep the ball down and not worry about velocity and that sort of thing," Porcello said. "Once I got a runner on in the first inning, I kind of [gave up] that and just went up there and threw everything I had. It worked out. I'm just really happy we got the win."
While Porcello's fastball is puzzling, it shouldn't be a pressing concern for the Tigers as long as Max Scherzer is ready to start in the Division Series. The Tigers are expected to start Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez alongside Scherzer, which would leave Drew Smyly and possibly Porcello as relievers.
In shorter outings from the bullpen, Porcello's middle-inning velocity is highly unlikely to be a factor.