Three things the Tigers must improve in order to get back into the race

Verlander and Sanchez might be in permanent decline right now, so it’s unclear how much the Tigers can (should?) count on them to improve their performance going forward. They have more flexibility with the other two rotation spots. Either way, these results are nowhere good enough to contend. One ace and four other guys getting knocked around is not a quality rotation.

3. Less headaches from the late-inning relief crew

Ah yes, the bullpen. The Tigers have struggled to put together a reliable bullpen for years now, and it’s one of the biggest reasons they were unable to win a title during the glory years from 2011-14. The names have changed by the results stay the same. Take a look at Ausmus’ primary end-game relievers:

We’re only talking about a few dozen innings here. It’s important to keep that in mind. Wilson — Justin, not Alex — had a 0.00 ERA as recently as 10 games ago, for example. These numbers can change in a hurry.

That said, this foursome has not been a shutdown bullpen so far this season. There have again been lots of late-inning headaches and scary situations. It’s a cardiac bullpen for sure. And there’s really not much the Tigers can do here. They’re paying K-Rod and Lowe good money, and they gave up two prospects to get (Justin) Wilson, so these are the guys.

The Tigers are, understandably, trying to keep their window for contention open as long as possible, hence the Zimmermann and Upton signings. The roster isn’t quite as strong as it was a few years back or even early last season, but it is good enough to contend for the postseason spot as long as everyone plays up to their capabilities. Upton, four-fifths of the rotation, and the back-end of the bullpen have not yet done that this season.

Back in January we learned Fox has picked up the pilot for a show called Pitch, an hour-long drama about the first female player in MLB history. Kylie Bunbury has been cast as the lead character Ginny Baker.

Bunbury’s character plays for the Padres, and while the other players on the team are not real, that is absolutely Petco Park and the team’s home clubhouse in the trailer.

Congratulations to Marcus Stroman, big-league moundsman and college graduate!

This Johnny Cueto changeup seems unfair

What you’re about to see is a Johnny Cueto changeup from way back yonder on April 26. Why is the author waiting until this late hour to draw it to your attention? His tardiness is owing to the fact that the Internet conspired to keep it from him until very recently.

Anyhow, in the course of that 11-strikeout, shutout performance against the Padres, the Giants’ right-hander presented Adam Rosales with a two-strike, 84-mph changeup, at which Mr. Rosales flailed and missed. You are about to witness said changeup. If you who are reading this are not a major-league hitter but are somehow under the impression that you could hit major-league pitching, then the following color-television footage should disabuse you of those notions …

2. Acquiring and extending Gio Gonzalez . Believe it or not, there was a time when Gonzalez was viewed as fool’s gold. The argument went that Gonzalez was a Coliseum creation whose poor strikeout-to-walk ratios would catch up with him in time. So much for that. Gonzalez finished third in Cy Young voting in his first season on the East Coast, and has since been a quality mid-rotation starter. Oh, and by the way, he’s locked into a contract that caps his earning potential at $12 million and could keep him in town through the 2018 season. Derek Norris , a solid backstop, was the best player Rizzo gave up. You’ll take it.

3. Acquiring Denard Span . Similar to the Gonzalez trade, at least in the sense that Span’s contract made this sweet deal even sweeter. Span was the total package: a cheap, in-his-prime center fielder who could bat leadoff and add value on the basepaths. Alex Meyer ‘s big-league story is unwritten, but how often can you land a player like Span straight-up for a prospect who is years away from the majors?

4. Acquiring Joe Ross and Trea Turner . You could argue this is a premature ranking — and there is obvious forecasting involved — but think about it this way. At the cost of Steven Souza Jr. (who had no place in the Nats’ lineup) and a low-level pitcher, Rizzo added two near-ready talents: a mid-rotation starter in Ross, and a quality shortstop in Turner. This one should only look better with time.

5. Acquiring Wilson Ramos . A steal from the minute the trade was made. Though Ramos has been limited by injuries — last year was only the second time he had broke the 400-plate appearance threshold in a season — he’s produced more than not when he’s been healthy. That Rizzo netted Ramos for Matt Capps — a reliever who made fewer than 50 appearances in Washington and lost effectiveness almost immediately after leaving — was and remains nothing short of a coup.

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