Notes: Tigers have become a target
Bonderman works on slider; Pudge can bat leadoff
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Placido Polanco couldn't stop getting hits last week. On Monday, he had to stop getting hit.
For the second time in three days, inside pitches were the story of the day for the Tigers, who added two more hit-by-pitches to their Major League-leading Spring Training total on Monday, hit a Devil Rays batter in between and had a warning issued to both benches to boot. The Tigers don't think it's intentional, but it's certainly not normal.
"I don't remember having a Spring Training like this," Polanco said.
Polanco was the first of the hit-by-pitches, taking an Al Reyes delivery off his left biceps in the top of the third inning immediately after Ivan Rodriguez led off with a home run. Polanco didn't say anything, instead taking his base.
"Reyes, I personally don't think he was trying to hit me," Polanco said. "But after a home run, it smells bad."
After two Tigers batters were hit on Saturday, their noses were at least sensitive to it. In the bottom half of the inning, Jeremy Bonderman retired the first two batters he faced before his next pitch hit Rays first baseman Ty Wigginton. That prompted a warning from home-plate umpire Chad Fairchild as Wigginton kicked at the dirt on his way to first base, clearly frustrated.
"Wiggy was upset," said Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon, who was surprised to see a warning issued. "He had a right to be upset."
The next time Polanco came to bat with two outs and no one on in the top of the fifth, Gary Glover threw well inside with his first pitch. Polanco said the pitch grazed him, and he yelled out to the mound.
"I told [Glover], 'What's going on? Do you have a problem?'" Polanco said. "When I told the umpire, he didn't do anything. [Glover] kept throwing in. It was like he was trying to hit me and missed."
The other three pitches all went inside, giving Polanco a four-pitch walk.
"Maybe he was just trying to throw me in," Polanco said, "but it didn't look good either, especially after we hit [Wigginton] and the guy going to first base is yelling."
An inning later, non-roster pitcher Steve Andrade lost a curveball that hit Gary Sheffield in the back as he turned away from the pitch. Neither Fairchild nor Sheffield, who was also hit on Saturday, believed the pitch was intentional.
"I knew it slipped as soon as he threw it," Sheffield said. "I just tried to not flinch backwards and run into it like I've been doing lately. ... It's just a matter of trying to get out of the way. I'm just choosing the wrong way."
At that point, ironically, the Tigers had Todd Jones warming up in their bullpen. Jones was ejected without a warning on Saturday after throwing back-to-back pitches inside on Red Sox slugger J.D. Drew, the second of which went behind him. When Jones entered in the middle of the sixth, Fairchild met him in front of the mound to remind him about the warning.
"I told him I just don't throw hard enough to hurt anybody anymore," Jones said.
Jones actually avoided pitching inside altogether. He ended up retiring the side in order, including a strikeout of former Tiger Carlos Pena.
So while the Commissioner's office won't have to review the game or an umpire's report, the Tigers are still scratching their heads about the pitches they're taking. Their 13 hit-by-pitches through Monday were two more than the Royals and A's for the big-league lead, and more than twice as many as the six batters hit by Detroit pitchers. The latter total ranks in the middle of the pack among Major League team totals.
"I think it's just coincidental, to tell you the truth," manager Jim Leyland said.
When asked about a talk he had with Fairchild between innings following Polanco's inside pitches, Leyland joked, "Actually, he was telling me about a golf course."
Sheffield, while saying the Polanco hit-by-pitch looked suspect, believes it's a matter of pitchers battling their control and hitters standing close to the plate.
"That's the thing you're concerned about as a hitter in Spring Training," Sheffield said. "You've got young guys trying to make an impression, and their pitches sometimes will get away from them. Sometimes that happens. You just have to move on from it."
Bonderman's battle: Though Jeremy Bonderman tossed four scoreless innings in his third start of the spring, he was less happy with his pitches than his stats. After working well with his newly-refined changeup in his previous two outings, he struggled to find a feel for it Monday. He worked more on his slider against the Rays.
"I'd only thrown three sliders coming into today," Bonderman said. "I didn't expect it to be great, but I'd have liked it to be a little better than it was."
Said Leyland: "That's a good sign, because he pitched. He got by those first two hard-hit pitches. He got away with a couple hanging breaking balls. He wasn't sharp, but he pitched."
Leading off: Rodriguez's home run was part a 2-for-3 day for him back atop the Tigers order, with Curtis Granderson not on the trip. He's batting .429 for the spring, and he's looking comfortable in the spot. His homer came after he fell into an 0-2 count and fouled off a 1-2 pitch to extend the at-bat.
Though Leyland isn't discussing lineups, his catcher appears to have emerged as a legitimate leadoff option on days when Granderson isn't playing, or when the Tigers are facing a left-handed pitcher.
"Pudge is the type of guy who can do it all," Polanco said. "I'm not telling you that because he's my teammate, but you saw last year. He put on a second baseman's glove and played like he'd been there forever."
As for leading off, Polanco said, "I think when you're a catcher, you have that advantage that you see how to take pitches and get on base."
Injury updates: Both Magglio Ordonez and Craig Monroe are scheduled to join the Tigers on Tuesday against the Dodgers in Vero Beach. Ordonez, who was hit in the head by a pitch Saturday, said Monday morning he's feeling fine and expects to play. Monroe hasn't played since leaving Friday's game with patellar tendinitis in his left knee.
Fellow outfielder Ryan Raburn, battling a sore left ankle, is expected to return to action no later than Thursday.
The line forms here: More than 158,000 fans registered online or by phone for the Tigers' random drawing for Opening Day ticket purchases, the club announced Monday. The team expects to make more than 1,000 tickets available, including standing room only tickets. Meanwhile, season-ticket sales stood at 18,200 full-season equivalents entering Monday.
Coming up: The Tigers cross to the Atlantic coast of the state on Tuesday for a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Dodgers at Vero Beach. Nate Robertson will make his third start of the spring opposite Dearborn native Derek Lowe. Jason Grilli, Jose Mesa and Edward Campusano are also slated to pitch. In addition to Ordonez and Monroe, Brandon Inge and Granderson are among the regulars on the travel roster.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.