Tigers push back Liriano's start ahead of Deadline

August 29th, 2018

KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers decided to push back in their rotation, partly giving him some extra time between starts amid his August struggles, partly to give Matthew Boyd and a chance to start on their standard rest. But by starting Liriano on Thursday at Yankee Stadium, Detroit will also give teams one more look at the left-hander ahead of Friday night's deadline for players to be traded and be eligible for postseason play.
The Tigers are acutely aware of how quickly deals can come together on Aug. 31, having dealt and in the final hours of the day last year. They won't do anything nearly as big this time around, mainly because they don't have that level of All-Star talent to offer. But they could still do something. No deal was imminent as of Tuesday.
Liriano is one such candidate, despite his recent struggles. Though he's 0-4 with a 6.88 ERA in four starts this month, allowing a 1.022 OPS to hitters in August, his numbers for the season against left-handed batters are stingy enough to consider him for a relief option. He's holding lefty hitters to a .138 average (11-for-80), .458 OPS and 20 strikeouts.
It's a small sample size of lefty hitters. The flip side of the argument is that left-handed hitters who would stay in the lineup against him can generally hold their own against lefty pitchers. Mike Moustakas, who has hit lefties for a slightly higher average than righties this year (.253 to .250 entering Friday), is 1-for-9 against Liriano. is hitting just .180 off lefties this year, but is 2-for-8 with three RBIs off Liriano. The only other left-handed batter with multiple hits off Liriano is his old Twins teammate, Joe Mauer, at 2-for-4.
Liriano worked out of the Astros bullpen down the stretch last year after a July trade from Toronto, so he's familiar with such a role. He cleared trade waivers this month, according to a source. So did , but the shortstop appears unlikely to be traded given the lack of contending teams with a pressing need at the position.
Norris to start for Tigers in September
' rehab start at Triple-A Toledo on Sunday was strong enough to convince the Tigers that he could start for them down the stretch. That could happen as soon as next weekend at Yankee Stadium.
Norris is an option to start against the Yankees on Saturday, according to manager Ron Gardenhire. That's the first day of expanded rosters for September, and it's the day the Tigers need a fifth starter to fill 's old spot. The Tigers could activate him from the 60-day disabled list in time for that outing without needing a corresponding move on the active roster, though they'd have to open a 40-man roster spot.
Even if Norris doesn't start Saturday, Gardenhire said he's likely to start at some point.
"I want to get him a start," Gardenhire said. "I would love to get him a start. I think we need to. I think he needs it. So our goal is to probably get him a start or two. We'll see."
Norris yielded a run on three hits over four innings Sunday for the Mud Hens, walking one but striking out four. His fastball was reportedly in the low 90s, and he stretched out to 72 pitches. He'll need to be more efficient, but at this point the Tigers want to look at him.
Gardenhire said last week that Norris would likely fill a relief role if called up.
"He's stretched out now and he's healthy," Gardenhire said. "This is one of our guys we're probably counting on, so yeah, I'd like to [start him]."
Quick hits
• While Gardenhire is eagerly awaiting September call-ups, especially for pitching depth, he said they don't want to take away key players from Toledo while the Hens are still in playoff contention. Their regular season wraps up on Labor Day as they sit a game and a half out of a playoff spot.
• Among the Tigers' September call-ups will likely be a third catcher. With out for the season, and are the only two catchers on Detroit's 40-man roster. , who backed up McCann in 2016, has played all season for Toledo.
• Double-A Erie corner infielder Josh Lester was named Eastern League Player of the Week after batting 11-for-28 (.393) with six home runs and 11 RBIs. The former 15th-round pick out of the University of Missouri had two multi-homer games.