Tigers locked in against tough relievers

Miggy says club is more focused when facing hard-throwing bullpen arms

April 14th, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- The way the Tigers approached hard-throwing Arquimedes Caminero on Wednesday night was a microcosm of what they've done so far this season against relievers. After batting .257 with a .717 OPS off opposing bullpens last season, Detroit entered Thursday's series finale at PNC Park hitting .296 with an .898 OPS off relievers. The Tigers have scored almost as many runs off bullpens (20) as rotations (22).

Just over a week into the season, it's a small sample size, to be sure. But it's enough for Miguel Cabrera to see a difference in approach.

"We're looking to focus more when they come in with some guy who throws hard," Cabrera said Wednesday night. "We don't get big [with our approach]. We fight the at-bat.

"We have an attitude out there. We have to."

Manager Brad Ausmus doesn't want to make too much of it yet. But the timing of the runs off relievers, some of which have arguably halted the momentum of opposing rallies, have caught his attention more.

"It's a good offensive team, and I think good offensive teams are going to score runs against relievers and against starters," Ausmus said Thursday morning. "I think the important thing is we've scored some runs against opposing relievers after they may have scored a run or two, and that kind of takes the wind out of their sails."

It's not necessarily a killer instinct that Cabrera is noting with add-on runs. But the focus of the at-bats, looking to shorten approaches against hard throwers, notes an attitude. They don't give in against tough relievers, no matter the situation.

"Before, especially last year, we know we're good and we're like OK. No, it's not OK. You have to do it," Cabrera said. "It doesn't matter if you're hitting .350 or .250. You have to go out there and do something. You have to be mentally strong and believe you can do it."

It's early, but so far, this team believes. Wednesday's two-out rally off Caminero, beginning with Cabrera's double and continuing with a J.D. Martinez walk and Nick Castellanos single before Jarrod Saltalamacchia's grand slam, was an example.

"We fight every inning," Cabrera said. "It was a big, big rally with two outs. It seemed like we never gave up in that inning. We were aggressive, ready to swing the bat, make something happen. Castellanos, Salty come through with big, big swings."