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Tigers' offense can't pick up Boyd in nightcap

Martin homers in both games of twin-bill split with Pirates
Special to MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Short starts are possible to overcome with a strong offense. The Tigers proved as much in the first half of Wednesday's doubleheader by matching their season high in runs.

But with several key hitters out of the lineup and a shorthanded bullpen, they couldn't overcome Matthew Boyd's early exit in the second game, as they dropped an 8-3 decision to the Pirates in Game 2 to split the twin bill at PNC Park.

View Full Game Coverage

PITTSBURGH -- Short starts are possible to overcome with a strong offense. The Tigers proved as much in the first half of Wednesday's doubleheader by matching their season high in runs.

But with several key hitters out of the lineup and a shorthanded bullpen, they couldn't overcome Matthew Boyd's early exit in the second game, as they dropped an 8-3 decision to the Pirates in Game 2 to split the twin bill at PNC Park.

View Full Game Coverage

Boyd had been one of the hottest pitchers in baseball after giving up just one run in each of his first three starts, but Wednesday was a different story. He served up a three-run homer to Jose Osuna in the second inning and got himself into trouble two innings later by giving up a single to opposing starter Chad Kuhl and eventually walking him in three batters later.

"Without getting into specifics, I was just a little bit out of sync," said Boyd, who had been battling a cold. "That's what it comes down to. They did a good job putting the ball in play. There was the home run, but a lot of the other ones, they did a good job.

"There's no excuse for what happened. There's always something to deal with. You just go out there and attack ... It's unfortunate that I put my team in that hole early."

While his four runs allowed in 3 2/3 innings may not have felt insurmountable considering the Tigers scored 13 runs on 20 hits in a 13-10 win in Game 1, the offense couldn't capitalize in the nightcap. Missing veteran sluggers Victor Martinez -- with no designated hitter in a National League park -- and Miguel Cabrera -- because he needed a time off with three games scheduled in 24 hours -- from the starting lineup certainly didn't help.

Video: DET@PIT: Castellanos lines an RBI single to right

The Tigers got a rally going in the fourth inning when Jeimer Candelario hit a leadoff triple, Nicholas Castellanos singled him home, and Niko Goodrum doubled to center field. But that inning was quickly snuffed out when JaCoby Jones barreled a ball at 98.2 mph right at second baseman Max Moroff, who caught it and doubled up Goodrum. A soft flyout later, and the Tigers had no runs to show for having two runners in scoring position with none out.

"It really is baseball. You're hitting balls hard, and we just missed hooking a couple, but they hit some balls hard, too, that we made balls on, too. That's just the way the game is," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Is it frustrating, yeah? When you hit a ball hard, and they catch it. Especially if you're the hitter. But on the other side, you've got to look at it from their side, too, and they made some plays when they had to."

Leonys Martin added a two-run home run in the fifth inning -- his second of the day -- but the Tigers didn't get another runner in scoring position after the fourth-inning double play until John Hicks' two-out, ninth-inning double.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Tigers came within mere feet of getting back on the board in the seventh inning with a pair of balls that nearly went out of the park. After Dixon Machado took a one-out walk, Jose Iglesias crushed a deep drive that hooked foul of the left-field pole. Later in the at-bat, he hit a rocket to deep left field -- 100 mph with a 71 percent hit probability, according to Statcast™ -- but Sean Rodriguez came down with it before crashing into the wall.

Video: DET@PIT: Rodriguez makes tough catch, slams into wall

Martinez came in to pinch-hit and crushed another ball that sliced just foul in front of the right-field pole. His at-bat ended fruitlessly with a foul popout.

"We had chances and got behind a little bit, but we were getting after them pretty in good," Gardenhire said. "We hit some balls, and Victor came up, and he just hooked one foul. Iglesias hooked one just foul the other way. We had a couple of shots at it, and the guys weren't quitting or anything, but finally we just kind of ran out of bullets there."

SOUND SMART
Before Wednesday, the last time Detroit played in a doubleheader in Pittsburgh was on Sept. 25, 1888. That day, the Pittsburgh Alleghenys split a pair of games with the Detroit Wolverines at Recreation Park.

Wednesday's doubleheader was the Tigers' third twin bill of the month -- they were swept by the Pirates on April 1 and split a doubleheader against the Royals last Friday. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Tigers are the first team to play three doubleheaders in April since the White Sox and Orioles did so in 1982.

UP NEXT
The Tigers wrap up their season series against the Pirates on Thursday at 12:35 p.m. ET as Michael Fulmer takes the hill. The 25-year-old, who will oppose righty Ivan Nova, held the Bucs to one run over eight innings in his first start of the season, but he was saddled with a tough-luck loss.

Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

Detroit Tigers, Matthew Boyd, Nicholas Castellanos, Leonys Martin

Martin fouls pitch off groin, then homers

How is your pain threshold? Can you handle pretty much anything that comes your way, or do you jump into bed and hide under the covers after stubbing your toe?

These questions do not apply to Leonys Martin. The Tigers outfielder made it clear to everybody just how tough he is during the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader with the Pirates. He's very tough.

Tigers win slugfest, erupt for 13 runs vs. Bucs

Special to MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- With a doubleheader slated Wednesday, the Tigers were hoping to get some length out of Jordan Zimmermann in the opening game. But although the Pirates chased Detroit's workhorse starter after three innings, an outstanding offensive output, led by Jeimer Candelario, was enough to bail out a taxed pitching staff.

The Tigers powered their way to a 13-10 win at PNC Park -- their first victory over the Pirates in four matchups this season -- thanks to a season-high 20 hits and season-high-tying four home runs.

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PITTSBURGH -- With a doubleheader slated Wednesday, the Tigers were hoping to get some length out of Jordan Zimmermann in the opening game. But although the Pirates chased Detroit's workhorse starter after three innings, an outstanding offensive output, led by Jeimer Candelario, was enough to bail out a taxed pitching staff.

The Tigers powered their way to a 13-10 win at PNC Park -- their first victory over the Pirates in four matchups this season -- thanks to a season-high 20 hits and season-high-tying four home runs.

View Full Game Coverage

"It was not one of those easy games," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had to finagle our way through and use a lot of people, but we kept swinging the bats, and so did they. Both teams got after it pretty good, and fortunately for us, we finally shut them down at the end. The ball was flying all over the place. I know that."

Leonys Martin got the game off to a quick start with a leadoff home run to center field just two pitches after fouling a ball into his groin. James McCann added a leadoff homer in the fourth inning, and Nicholas Castellanos welcomed reliever Kyle Crick to the game with a home run on the first pitch of the reliever's outing to cap off the five-run frame.

Video: DET@PIT: Castellanos launches a two-run home run

Rookie third baseman Candelario was perhaps the biggest contributor, as he came around to score five times in a busy offensive day. He doubled down the line in the first, singled through the right side in the third, homered in the sixth and even reached on a fielder's choice and error. His home run left his bat at 103.1 mph -- one of 13 batted balls the Tigers hit harder than 100 mph.

The Tigers began the season slowly at 4-9, scoring only 3.8 runs per game, but have turned things around since their series against the Orioles last week. Detroit has won six of its last eight games while scoring 7.3 runs per game.

"Our guys were all swinging all the way up and down the lineup," Gardenhire said. "We put some nice swings out there, and they did too. Like I said, both teams did. Our guys felt pretty good when we got out and actually took batting practice on the field today. I think that was a start, and they saw how the ball was jumping around out there, and I think they liked that part of it. They carried it right into the game."

Detroit fell into an early hole when Zimmermann was knocked around for six runs (three earned) across his three frames, and Gardenhire opted to pinch hit for Zimmermann in the top of the fourth. But the Tigers' bullpen was able to hold the Pirates to four runs over the final six frames, surviving a scare in the eighth when Joe Jimenez gave up three runs.

Using six relievers in the first half of a doubleheader was certainly not the plan for Gardenhire, but the Tigers have plenty of length left in their bullpen with Daniel Norris unused and 26th man Artie Lewicki available in the second game. Still, the Tigers would certainly appreciate the second game's starter Matthew Boyd to pitch at least six innings for the fourth straight start this season.

"Obviously I needed to go six or seven tonight," Zimmermann said. "We have three games in 24 hours or whatever it is. It puts us in a hole, the outing I had tonight, so we need Boyd to go deep in the second game here."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Martin flashed his leather with an outstanding five-star grab in the sixth inning to rob Starling Marte of a hit. Martin had to cover 39 feet in 3.0 seconds for a 11 percent catch probability. That was the first catch for Martin in seven five-star opportunities -- 0-25 percent catch probability -- but the center fielder was 10-for-10 coming into Wednesday's game on balls with a greater than 50 percent catch probability.

Video: DET@PIT: Martin slides for a five-star catch

HE SAID IT
"You don't want to know about that conversation. That was not a very fun conversation for me or anybody else out there. I didn't think his voice could get any higher, but it did. He wasn't feeling very good, but he wasn't coming out of the game, too. He expressed that to me right from the start. 'Don't take me out. Don't even think about it. Just let me gather myself.' That's what he did. And then he yelled at me again in the clubhouse after the game, 'Don't take me out of the second game either. I'm playing.'" -- Gardenhire on talking to Martin in the first inning

Video: DET@PIT: Martin fouls pitch off groin, then goes yard

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
Detroit was a little too casual trying to turn a double play in the third inning, and it came back to bite them in a big way. With a runner on first and one out, Josh Bell grounded a ball to shortstop Jose Iglesias, who made a clean turn to second baseman Niko Goodrum. However, Goodrum didn't maintain contact with the bag, and the Pirates successfully got the safe call overturned. Two batters later, Francisco Cervelli launched a three-run, two-out home run to capitalize on the mistake.

Video: DET@PIT: Bell safe at second on overturned call

Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

Detroit Tigers, Jeimer Candelario, Nicholas Castellanos, Leonys Martin, James McCann

Lewicki serves as 26th man against Pirates

Reliever works 9th inning in Game 2 loss as Tigers split DH
Special to MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- After recalling outfielder Mike Gerber on Monday to give the team an extra bat for their series against the Pirates, the Tigers added their 26th man to the bullpen for Wednesday's doubleheader.

Right-hander Artie Lewicki joined the team from Triple-A Toledo and appeared in the nightcap -- allowing two runs on four hits in the eighth inning of the Tigers' 8-3 loss.

View Full Game Coverage

PITTSBURGH -- After recalling outfielder Mike Gerber on Monday to give the team an extra bat for their series against the Pirates, the Tigers added their 26th man to the bullpen for Wednesday's doubleheader.

Right-hander Artie Lewicki joined the team from Triple-A Toledo and appeared in the nightcap -- allowing two runs on four hits in the eighth inning of the Tigers' 8-3 loss.

View Full Game Coverage

Lewicki appeared in four games for Detroit last season and has made three starts with Toledo this season with a 5.79 ERA. In his most recent Triple-A start, he spun six scoreless innings with three hits, three walks and seven strikeouts.

"He's got all the pitches, it's just making sure he gets them in the right spots," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's about location. He's been doing fine. He's one of those guys that will always be talked about when the moment arises."

The Mud Hens have been playing in Pawtucket, and Lewicki got the news after Tuesday's game. He was picked up in a car at 5 a.m., drove to Boston, flew into Pittsburgh, and got to PNC Park by noon.

"I had coffee this morning, and I'll be on adrenaline out there later," Lewicki said. "That's for sure."

Lewicki got to play with former college teammate John Hicks, who was behind the plate in the nightcap. As a freshman at Virginia, Lewicki played with Hicks, then a juniorl.

Low-key birthday for Norris
Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris turned 25 on Wednesday, but he's not big into celebrating. His parents made the seven-hour drive up from Tennessee, and they got dinner after Tuesday's rainout, but Norris said that pitching on his birthday always just feels like another day.

"I kind of hate birthdays," said Norris, who gave up a run in two innings of relief in the nightcap. "They're kind of weird. It's just a year's passed, and it's just another day to get out there and play the game I love. I don't think there's any significance, it's just another year around the sun."

Norris had great success the previous two times he pitched on his birthday in pro ball. In 2015, he spun seven one-run innings against the Rays with seven strikeouts, and he threw six innings of one-run ball in 2016 for Toledo.

Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

Detroit Tigers, Artie Lewicki, Daniel Norris

Gerber shirks family reunion for trip to bigs

Special to MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Outfielder Mike Gerber got a brief taste of the Major Leagues as the Tigers' 26th man in last Friday's doubleheader, but he returned to Triple-A Toledo knowing he'd soon see familiar faces. The Mud Hens were headed to play a four-game series in Pawtucket, and most of his family lives in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Gerber's family had just traveled to Detroit to see his first Major League action, but another contingent would be waiting for him at McCoy Stadium. Both his mom and aunt work for the school district of Pawtucket, and they planned to bring their entire office to cheer him on.

View Full Game Coverage

PITTSBURGH -- Outfielder Mike Gerber got a brief taste of the Major Leagues as the Tigers' 26th man in last Friday's doubleheader, but he returned to Triple-A Toledo knowing he'd soon see familiar faces. The Mud Hens were headed to play a four-game series in Pawtucket, and most of his family lives in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Gerber's family had just traveled to Detroit to see his first Major League action, but another contingent would be waiting for him at McCoy Stadium. Both his mom and aunt work for the school district of Pawtucket, and they planned to bring their entire office to cheer him on.

View Full Game Coverage

But another reunion would not be in the cards for Gerber, as the Tigers called him back up to the big leagues on Monday before the 25-year-old had a chance to see any of his family in Pawtucket.

"I said, 'Mom, I can't get you tickets,'" Gerber recalled from their talk on the phone. "She said, 'Why not?' I said, 'Well I'm going to Pittsburgh. I'm not going to be here anymore.

"I was supposed to get 15 or 16 tickets. I apologized to all of them that I couldn't get them tickets, but they understood and were happy for me."

Gerber's plans to meet people at the field and get dinner afterwards were dashed, but he's not complaining. Plus he won't be alone in Pittsburgh: his wife, Caroline, flew in to potentially see his first Major League at-bat.

Gardy ready for NL strategy

Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has managed his entire career in the American League, but he's very comfortable playing with National League rules. His .521 career winning percentage in NL parks -- compared to a .506 mark overall -- is a testament to that.

In anticipation of the series, the Tigers recalled Gerber to give them a fifth bench bat, and Gardenhire mentioned in particular that he will save the team's regular designated hitter, Victor Martinez, for a key pinch-hit appearance late in the game.

Video: BAL@DET: Martinez skies a two-run homer to left

"You can do a little creative stuff with the double-switches and all of those things, but most of it is pretty laid out for you," Gardenhire said. "Some guys get out there pretty far, and that's entertaining to watch."

Tigers hope to retain VerHagen

Although Detroit designated right-handed reliever Drew VerHagen for assignment on Tuesday, the club still has high hopes for him and hopes he will clear waivers and stay in the organization.

VerHagen impressed out of Spring Training, but struggled in the regular season with a 6.30 ERA and 7 walks in 10 innings. Should he clear waivers, VerHagen will have an extra hurdle to clear to rejoin the Major League club, as he'll need to be re-added to the 40-man roster.

"He's going to have to go down and we're going to have to see results," Gardenhire said. "Not just one or two days, we're going to have to see some time here where he comes out consistently and he's in the zone."

Ben Weinrib is a contributor to MLB.com.

Detroit Tigers, Mike Gerber

Behind the scenes as Tigers prep for Draft

MLB.com @beckjason

The Tigers began their season three weeks ago, but for some, the most important moment of 2018 will come on June 4, when Detroit picks first in the MLB Draft. The team is giving fans a chance to go behind the scenes and follow the process as it prepares to make its pick.

It's not a scouting hire or a sweepstakes, but an online documentary showing the meetings and the decisions involved in making the first overall selection. The video, which went online Monday, introduces the decision-makers from general manager Al Avila to assistant GM David Chadd, amateur scouting director Scott Pleis and senior director of baseball analytics Jay Sartori. It includes a look inside the scouting meetings that took place at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla.

The Tigers began their season three weeks ago, but for some, the most important moment of 2018 will come on June 4, when Detroit picks first in the MLB Draft. The team is giving fans a chance to go behind the scenes and follow the process as it prepares to make its pick.

It's not a scouting hire or a sweepstakes, but an online documentary showing the meetings and the decisions involved in making the first overall selection. The video, which went online Monday, introduces the decision-makers from general manager Al Avila to assistant GM David Chadd, amateur scouting director Scott Pleis and senior director of baseball analytics Jay Sartori. It includes a look inside the scouting meetings that took place at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla.

While Detroit is picking first overall for the first time since 1997, the club is no strangers to the process. Avila was the Marlins' scouting director and Chadd a Marlins scout when the team selected Adrian Gonzalez with the top overall pick in 2000 after selecting Josh Beckett with the second overall pick a year earlier.

Video: Mayo on if Kelenic would be a reach for the Tigers

They explain the decisions and factors that went into the Gonzalez pick -- projecting the high school first baseman getting stronger despite his relatively thin frame as a teenager -- while Chadd reflects on his experience as the Red Sox's scouting director when Boston used a second-round pick in 2004 on an undersized infielder and future American League MVP Award winner named Dustin Pedroia.

"Adrian was a high-risk kind of player because he was a high school first baseman," Avila said. "If you look at the history of the Draft, very few high school first basemen have made it to the big leagues, much less made a big impact. Back then, the question was: Is he going to have enough power to play first base in the big leagues?

"He was a very slim guy. If you look at his history and his family, they were big, strong guys, and you could see him developing into a much bigger, stronger player."

Gonzalez has hit 313 career home runs to go with a .288 batting average and an .846 OPS over a 15-year Major League career with the Rangers, Padres, Red Sox, Dodgers and now the Mets. The Marlins traded him as a prospect to Texas to acquire closer Ugueth Urbina during their 2003 run to the World Series.

"The important thing is to do everything you can to know the player on the field, off the field, how he competes, how he handles adversity and get as many looks as you can so you can make the best decision you can at that moment in time on June 4," Pleis said.

The video also examines the role analytics will play, from grading the current field to looking back on top picks throughout history to finding common tendencies of success.

"You have a chance to maybe take a player that's going to have an impact in your organization for many years to come," Chadd said.

Tigers radio broadcaster Dan Dickerson narrates the mini-doc. For hardcore baseball fans, it's an insightful look at the scouting considerations and careful projections that make the MLB Draft different than its counterparts in other sports. For casual fans, it's an introduction of sorts to the Draft and its role in the player development pipeline that is expected to fuel Detroit's return to chasing a title.

"It's just like a batter coming up to bat with the bases loaded," Avila said. "You have that adrenaline going, you get some butterflies, but it's more that type of excitement than pressure."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers

Stewart, Faedo among prospect performers

A's No. 2 impresses in Double-A debut
MLB.com @GoldenSombrero

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday.

Jesus Luzardo allowed two runs on two hits in the first inning of his Double-A debut but was nearly untouchable the rest of the way, completing five strong innings of three-hit ball as Midland edged Corpus Christi, 3-2.

Here's MLB Pipeline's roundup of the top prospect performances in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday.

Jesus Luzardo allowed two runs on two hits in the first inning of his Double-A debut but was nearly untouchable the rest of the way, completing five strong innings of three-hit ball as Midland edged Corpus Christi, 3-2.

Luzardo, Oakland's No. 2 prospect (No. 60 overall), struck out the side in the second inning before finishing with five strikeouts and one walk. He also induced a handful of ground-ball outs in the performance, throwing 45 of his 78 pitches for strikes.

Luzardo's promotion to the Texas League in the first month of the season was the latest in what has been a series of quick promotions for the 20-year-old left-hander.

Luzardo fans fifth batter of day

A third-round pick by the Nationals in 2016 despite having undergone Tommy John surgery a few months prior, Luzardo received a well-above-slot bonus to forgo his Miami commitment. He made his highly anticipated pro debut nearly a year later and dazzled in a trio of Rookie-level Gulf Coast League starts before joining the A's at the July Trade Deadline in the deal that netted Washington Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson. Luzardo continued to impress following the trade, too, pitching to a 1.82 ERA with 33 strikeouts and a .194 BAA in 29 2/3 innings (nine starts) between the Rookie-level Arizona and the Class A Short Season New York-Penn Leagues.

Luzardo's performance convinced the A's that the precocious sophomore was ready for a greater challenge, as he made just three starts in the hitter-friendly Class A Advanced California League -- posting a 1.23 ERA, a .120 opponents' average and a 25-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14 2/3 innings -- before a bump up to Double-A.

With his latest debut behind him, Luzardo now boasts a 1.71 ERA and a 0.87 WHIP across his first 63 innings as a professional. He's racked up 78 strikeouts against 11 walks in that span, while limiting opposing hitters to a .193 average and zero home runs.

The rest of the best performances from top prospects Tuesday

No. 8 overall prospect Fernando Tatis Jr. (Padres' No. 1) hit solo home runs in the sixth and ninth innings to account for both runs in Double-A San Antonio's 5-2 loss against Frisco. It marked the second career multi-homer game for the 19-year-old shortstop, who now has gone deep three times in 18 games for the Missions. He's batting an even .200 on the season.

Tatis Jr. slams solo homer

No. 13 overall prospect Bo Bichette (Blue Jays' No. 2) went home-to-third twice for Double-A New Hampshire in his first career two-triple game. He also scored a pair of runs in the contest before finishing 2-for-5. The 20-year-old shortstop is batting .296/.375/.428 on the season, with hits in 13 of 16 games for the Fisher Cats. Jonathan Davis (No. 28) led off the game with a home run, his first of the season, and drove in three in the 9-4 victory over Binghamton.

Bichette smacks second triple

Angels No. 9 prospect Matt Thaiss tallied three extra-base hits but ultimately fell a home run short of the cycle, going 4-for-5 with two doubles and a triple in Double-A Mobile's win over Mississippi. Thaiss matched his career high with the four hits and improved his batting average by 40 points, from .250 to .290, in the process. The 2016 first-rounder has 12 runs, 14 RBIs and seven extra-base hits in 17 games this season.

Thaiss hits game's second double

Tigers No. 10 prospect Christin Stewart blasted his third home run in his first multi-hit game of the year to help lead Triple-A Toledo past Pawtucket. He also doubled and hit a pair of singles to finish 4-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs. The 24-year-old outfielder is slashing .250/.370/.450 through 17 games after hitting .256/.335/.501 with 28 homers last season over 136 Double-A contests.

Stewart slugs home run

No. 79 overall prospect Stephen Gonsalves (Twins' No. 3) tossed five innings of one-run ball en route to his third win in four starts for Double-A Chattanooga. The 23-year-old recorded a season-high nine of his 15 outs via the strikeout while scattering four hits with two walks and throwing 60 of his 91 pitches for strikes. Gonsalves has pitched to a 1.77 ERA, with 25 strikeouts and 10 walks, while limiting batters to seven hits in 20 1/3 innings.

No. 59 overall prospect Alex Faedo's fourth career start was his longest. The Tigers' No. 3 prospect completed 6 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run on four hits with six strikeouts for Class A Advanced Lakeland in a no-decision against Dunedin. Faedo, the No. 18 overall pick in last year's Draft, has worked at least five innings in all four starts, posting a 2.74 ERA with 21 strikeouts and one walk over 23 innings in that span.

Video: Top Prospects: Alex Faedo, RHP, Tigers

Blue Jays No. 19 prospect Kevin Smith went 2-for-5 with a home run, a double and five RBIs, leading Class A Lansing past Dayton, 7-0. The homer, a three-run shot in the third inning, was Smith's second of the season and snapped a seven-game extra-base hit drought. The 2017 fourth-rounder is batting .286 overall with 17 RBIs, 10 runs and five steals through 15 games.

Braves No. 16 prospect Dustin Peterson's first home run of the season was a grand slam that proved the difference in Triple-A Gwinnett's 5-2 win against Rochester. He finished the contest with three hits and four RBIs, both season highs for the 23-year-old outfielder.

Cubs No. 28 prospect Cory Abbott was sharp for Class A South Bend in Game 1 of a doubleheader, tossing seven strong innings during which he allowed two hits -- including a solo home run -- and struck out six. The 22-year-old righty, Chicago's second-round pick in 2017, has given up three hits in his past two starts and owns a 2.12 ERA in 17 innings (three starts) on the season.

Marlins No. 11 prospect Brian Miller enjoyed a six-hit day as Class A Advanced Jupiter split a doubleheader with Palm Beach. The 22-year-old center fielder collected four hits in the opener for the second time in four games, going 4-for-4 with two runs and two stolen bases, and then added two more knocks, as well as two RBIs, in the nightcap. Overall, Miller improved his average from .313 to .360 with the 6-for-8 performance.

Angels No. 29 prospect Joe Gatto, a 22-year-old right-hander, allowed one hit over six innings in his second straight scoreless start for Class A Advanced Inland Empire. Throwing 47 of his 78 pitches for strikes, Gatto posted five strikeouts against two walks and induced 10 ground-ball outs. He's now kept his opponent out of the run column in three of four starts in the California League. Overall, Gatto has pitched to a 2.37 ERA with 25 strikeouts and eight walks in 19 innings.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.

Tigers DFA VerHagen; prospect Gerber recalled

MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said at the end of Spring Training that he and his staff would be testing relievers in different situations early in the season to see where each fits best. The club's first major decision appears to be on Drew VerHagen, who was designated for assignment on Monday.

The move opens a roster spot for outfielder Mike Gerber, who was recalled from Triple-A Toledo. Gerber will serve as an extra left-handed bat and outfielder off the bench for the Tigers' upcoming Interleague series at Pittsburgh, where the lack of a designated hitter will put pinch-hitters and double-switches at a premium. MLB Pipeline ranks Gerber as the No. 11 prospect in Detroit's farm system.

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said at the end of Spring Training that he and his staff would be testing relievers in different situations early in the season to see where each fits best. The club's first major decision appears to be on Drew VerHagen, who was designated for assignment on Monday.

The move opens a roster spot for outfielder Mike Gerber, who was recalled from Triple-A Toledo. Gerber will serve as an extra left-handed bat and outfielder off the bench for the Tigers' upcoming Interleague series at Pittsburgh, where the lack of a designated hitter will put pinch-hitters and double-switches at a premium. MLB Pipeline ranks Gerber as the No. 11 prospect in Detroit's farm system.

The Tigers have several relievers with Minor League options who could have been sent down to make room. They chose VerHagen, who's out of options. When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

VerHagen, Detroit's fourth-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2012, owns a 3-5 record and a 5.04 ERA in 73 Major League appearances over five seasons. The 27-year-old right-hander entered the season with a chance to claim a middle-relief role as a situational righty, using his hard sinker and mid-90s fastball to induce ground balls.

Though VerHagen, a former starter, struck out 11 batters over 10 innings this season, he also allowed seven runs on six hits and seven walks. He took the loss in Sunday's 8-5 defeat to the Royals, walking two of the three batters he faced to begin the seventh inning and throwing just five of his 15 pitches for strikes.

"He almost hit two guys in the head, and that's scary," Gardenhire said after the loss. "We needed him to get a couple of outs, and it didn't work out."

VerHagen's struggles in a close game mirrored his performance on Opening Day, when he allowed a walk and a hit in trying to protect a two-run lead over the Pirates in the eighth. While he has been dominant in low- and medium-leverage situations, holding opponents to a .138 average with four walks and nine strikeouts, VerHagen retired just two of seven batters he faced in high-leverage scenarios.

Video: WSH@DET: Gerber slugs a solo homer to right-center

Gerber rejoins the Tigers after making his Major League debut as the 26th man in Friday's doubleheader split against the Royals, pinch-running for Miguel Cabrera in the ninth inning of the nightcap. Though he was optioned back to Toledo after the game, the 26th man rules allow him to be recalled without the normal 10-day wait.

Gerber's return gives Gardenhire a five-man bench for the upcoming series, including DH Victor Martinez and switch-hitters Niko Goodrum and Victor Reyes.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Mike Gerber, Drew VerHagen

Liriano cruises until 6th as 'pen falters in loss

Gardenhire forced to mix and match as some relievers were unavailable
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter for Ron Gardenhire seven years ago on 123 pitches. That was in his sixth start of the 2011 season for the Twins, and he shut down the White Sox despite six walks.

As Liriano took the mound at Comerica Park for the sixth inning at 79 pitches with the Royals lineup coming around for a third time, Gardenhire had that familiar feeling.

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DETROIT -- Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter for Ron Gardenhire seven years ago on 123 pitches. That was in his sixth start of the 2011 season for the Twins, and he shut down the White Sox despite six walks.

As Liriano took the mound at Comerica Park for the sixth inning at 79 pitches with the Royals lineup coming around for a third time, Gardenhire had that familiar feeling.

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"I've had that before," the Tigers manager said. "It's never any fun."

It was no fun for him Sunday, either, but for different reasons. As he surveyed the damage from the 8-5 loss to the Royals, his veteran starter was the least of his concerns.

Video: KC@DET: Cabrera, Liriano combine for terrific play

Royals, Tigers trade nifty flips against each other

Veteran setup man Alex Wilson has been struggling, essentially since Spring Training, and has given up three go-ahead home runs in nine appearances.

"I'm just kind of behind the eight ball now as far as needing to have good outings, making it happen every time out," Wilson said. "When something like this happens, it obviously gets magnified."

Gardenhire has alternatives. But while Drew VerHagen has looked fantastic in lower-leverage situations, his numbers in close games have been vastly different, including Sunday's entry in what was a 5-5 game.

"He almost hit two guys in the head, and that's scary," Gardenhire said. "We needed him to get a couple outs, and it didn't work out."

Video: KC@DET: Gardenhire on bullpen struggles in 8-5 loss

Considering the series split finished a 5-3 homestand, Detroit's first winning record for a home stretch of eight games or more since last June into July, the Tigers won't complain too loudly. Yet as Gardenhire tries to figure out who he can trust as he sorts out bullpen roles, Sunday's performances have to provide pause.

"Bullpen's doing a good job," Gardenhire said. "We were mixing and matching as best we could. Some pitchers weren't available. Other guys are going to have to come in and get outs."

• Tigers see versatile Saupold filling key role

Though Liriano held the Royals hitless for five innings, he walked three batters in that span. Even if he had carried Detroit's 2-0 lead into the seventh, Gardenhire said, he would not have gone far past 100 pitches.

 Video: KC@DET: Machado hustles into second for a double

Inefficient innings and high pitch counts are part of Liriano's game. Though he talked in Spring Training about retiring batters in three pitches or less, he has pitched long enough that the Tigers know what to expect. At some point, no-hitter or not, Detroit's bullpen was getting into that game.

Daniel Stumpf was on rest after pitching four of the previous five days, including four outs Saturday. Warwick Saupold and Daniel Norris were off as well. Wilson showed signs of hope with two hitless innings Friday.

Whit Merrifield ended any no-hit hopes by turning on an 0-2 pitch -- a high, inside fastball -- for a home run leading off the sixth. Cheslor Cuthbert's ensuing double and Jorge Soler's one-out walk brought on Wilson.

Video: KC@DET: Miggy plates Martin to hand Tigers early lead

Though Abraham Almonte's grand slam was the crushing blow, Wilson's preceding walk to Paulo Orlando was his real downfall. He lost Orlando after an 0-2 count with four consecutive balls, three well off the outside corner, loading the bases and forcing him to challenge Almonte after a first-pitch ball.

"Tried to throw a two-seamer down and away, and I yanked it," Wilson said.

Said Gardenhire: "The ball's coming out of his hand fine. He's just missing."

A three-run Tigers rally in the bottom of the inning evened the game for the seventh for VerHagen (0-1), who walked two of the three batters he faced. Mike Moustakas' three-run homer off Buck Farmer put the Royals up for good.

Video: KC@DET: Castellanos hits second RBI single of the day

SOUND SMART
Opposing batters are 4-for-29 with four walks and nine strikeouts against VerHagen in low- and middle-leverage situations, according to Baseball-Reference.com. They're 2-for-3 with three walks in high-leverage situations after Sunday's outing.

HE SAID IT
"Really, walks are what killed us." -- catcher James McCann

UP NEXT
The Tigers are off Monday before heading to Pittsburgh for a three-game Interleague rematch with the Pirates, who swept them in Detroit to open the season. Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 7.71 ERA) gets the start in Tuesday's opener at 7:05 p.m. ET from PNC Park. Chad Kuhl (2-1, 4.57 ERA) starts for the Pirates.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Francisco Liriano, Drew VerHagen, Alex Wilson

Royals, Tigers trade nifty flips vs. each other

The Tigers were clinging to a 2-0 lead early on Sunday afternoon against the Royals when they turned to some slick glovework to get out of the third inning. Drew Butera was on second base and Cheslor Cuthbert was the tying run at the plate, but Francisco Liriano managed to get Cuthbert to bounce one to the right side.

Miguel Cabrera hustled over from first base to field the grounder, and made a glove-flip to Liriano, who caught the ball barehanded for the out.

These are the Top 30 international prospects

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

Long before Louis Eljaua rose to special assistant to the president and general manager of the Cubs, he was the young and energetic top international scout for the Marlins. Back then, his boss was Al Avila, now the general manager for the Tigers.

Eljaua vividly recalls a conversation with Avila in 1998 like it happened yesterday. Each time he tells the story of that famous call, he puts his right thumb to his ear and talks into his right pinkie like it's the old hotel phone he used.

Long before Louis Eljaua rose to special assistant to the president and general manager of the Cubs, he was the young and energetic top international scout for the Marlins. Back then, his boss was Al Avila, now the general manager for the Tigers.

Eljaua vividly recalls a conversation with Avila in 1998 like it happened yesterday. Each time he tells the story of that famous call, he puts his right thumb to his ear and talks into his right pinkie like it's the old hotel phone he used.

Top 30 International Prospects list

"I found the guy, Al! I found the guy our owner was looking for. He's 15. Come to Venezuela," Eljaua shrieked through the phone.

Avila, who was in Miami at the time, was not pleased to hear the news. The Marlins had never spent more than $30,000 on an international teen.

Top International Prospects

"Are you crazy, Louis? [Owner] John Henry gives us money and you are going to spend it all on your first trip and the first kid you see? Are you trying to get us all fired? What is wrong with you?"

"I know, I know," Eljaua answered. "Just come see the kid. He's good. You won't be sorry."

That kid was Miguel Cabrera. And less than a year later, the teenager signed with the Marlins for $1.8 million to launch his future Hall of Fame career and forever set the standard for international teenage prospects.

The hunt for the next Cabrera continues, and each year an increasing number of prospects sign when the international signing period begins on July 2; hundreds more will join Major League organizations later this summer.

Led by catcher Diego Cartaya -- who like Cabrera is from Maracay, Venezuela -- the players on MLB Pipeline's 2018 Top 30 International Prospects list represent the greatest young talent from across the globe eligible to sign on July 2.

The ultimate goal is nabbing a baseball unicorn like Cabrera. But signing a horse like Cartaya, a hard-hitting catcher with advanced skills, or other emerging international prospects also offer teams options.

Video: Top International Prospects: Diego Cartaya, C

Remember, the Cubs traded top teen Gleyber Torres of Venezuela to the Yankees as part of a deal for Aroldis Chapman in 2016, and the rest is World Series history. Last year, they traded the Dominican Republic's Eloy Jimenez to the White Sox in a deal for Jose Quintana. Both are the top prospects in their organizations. Back in '16, the Red Sox traded Yoan Moncada in a package to the White Sox for pitcher Chris Sale. The A's acquired Franklin Barreto from the Blue Jays in a deal for third baseman Josh Donaldson in '14.

"If you are not investing time and money and effort to sign international players, you are missing out on making your organization one of the best in the game," Eljaua said. "Why would you ignore a market and just focus on one or two ways to acquire talent when these guys are going to play in your system, hopefully in the big leagues, or be a part of a package that helps you fill a missing piece? And it's not all about the money and paying the most money. It's about scouting and working and finding out about makeup and helping your entire system."

Who is signing whom
More than 950 prospects have signed during the international signing period that started July 2, 2017, and that number could increase during the 2018-19 period, because there are thousands who have registered to become eligible.

In addition to prospects from traditional baseball hot spots like the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and the Bahamas, there are also prospects from places like Europe, the Caribbean islands and Asia who have also registered.

Video: Top International Prospects: Marco Luciano, OF

As far as the list is concerned, the Dodgers are the favorites to sign Cartaya. Marco Luciano, a power-hitting outfielder from the Dominican Republic, a close second behind Cartaya in the rankings, is linked to the Giants. Outfielder Misael Urbina of Venezuela, who is ranked No. 3, is an advanced hitter expected to have an above-average hit tool and plus speed. He is linked to the Twins. Rounding out the top five is Venezuelan right-handed pitcher Richard Gallardo, linked to the Cubs, and Orelvis Martinez, a power-hitting shortstop from the D.R. sometimes compared to a young Adrian Beltre. The Blue Jays are the favorite to sign Martinez.

Video: Richard Gallardo named top int'l pitching prospect

Breakdown
This year's Top 30 International Prospects list includes 10 players from Venezuela, 16 from the Dominican Republic, three from Cuba and one from Colombia. The positions break down like this: 11 outfielders, eight infielders, seven pitchers and four catchers.

The best athletes at premium positions are the most appealing to international scouts. Three of the top 13 are catchers and three of the top 10 are pitchers. Shortstops and center fielders are also highly coveted in this year's class.

International signing rules, spending
There are specific guidelines for signing prospects like Cartaya: An international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between July 2 through June 15 of the next year if he is 17 or will turn 17 by the end of the first season of his contract.

Video: Cartaya tops MLB's international prospects list

The rules for signing international prospects are these: Clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round B of the Rule 4 Draft receive a pool of $6,025,400, while clubs that receive a Competitive Balance Pick in Round A of the Rule 4 Draft receive $5,504,500. All other clubs receive $4,983,500.

International amateur free agency & bonus pool money explained

Teams are allowed to trade as much of their international pool money as they would like, but can only acquire 75 percent of a team's initial pool amount. Additionally, signing bonuses of $10,000 or less do not count toward a club's bonus pool, and foreign professional players who are at least 25 years of age and have played in a foreign league for at least six seasons are also exempt.

In terms of spending, the Blue Jays, Brewers, D-backs, Mariners, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox, Rockies, Tigers, Twins and Yankees are expected to be aggressive in the upcoming signing period. The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and Royals -- teams that will no longer be in the penalty for exceeding their past international bonus pool spending -- are also expected to be very active.

The A's, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, Nationals, Padres, Reds and White Sox are in the maximum penalty, so they cannot sign players for more than $300,000 during the upcoming period.

"We are all looking for the next Miguel Cabrera, but I think it's unfair to compare anybody to him because he was just on another level," Eljaua said. "But the reality is, my old team already paid me for that sign. I'm getting paid to find another one. That's what the job is."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.

Tigers see versatile Saupold filling key role

Righty impresses Gardenhire after picking up save
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- Warwick Saupold has the ball from his first Major League save Saturday. Maybe more importantly, he has a place in the Tigers' bullpen for the near future, and an opportunity to stay off the Detroit-Toledo shuttle.

When the Tigers decided to keep Daniel Norris in the bullpen two weeks ago, the move came at Saupold's expense. The Aussie right-hander went back to Triple-A Toledo for the first time since the Tigers called him up last May. It wasn't a matter of fixing anything with his game as much as a roster-management game.

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DETROIT -- Warwick Saupold has the ball from his first Major League save Saturday. Maybe more importantly, he has a place in the Tigers' bullpen for the near future, and an opportunity to stay off the Detroit-Toledo shuttle.

When the Tigers decided to keep Daniel Norris in the bullpen two weeks ago, the move came at Saupold's expense. The Aussie right-hander went back to Triple-A Toledo for the first time since the Tigers called him up last May. It wasn't a matter of fixing anything with his game as much as a roster-management game.

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Chad Bell's long-relief outing on Thursday and the need for a fresh arm for Friday's day-night doubleheader created an opportunity for Saupold to come back. He didn't pitch Friday, but when the Royals showed signs of one more rally in the seventh inning Saturday, bringing the potential tying run on deck in a 7-4 game, manager Ron Gardenhire turned to Saupold to put out the rally.

Saupold needed one pitch to retire Cheslor Cuthbert to end the seventh, then stayed in. Gardenhire had Joe Jimenez in waiting if he needed a closer, hoping to give Shane Greene a day off, but the combination of Tigers' add-on runs and Saupold's stingy pitching left Gardenhire sticking with Saupold the rest of the way.

"I just loved the way he attacked. He forced them to swing," Gardenhire said. "He was throwing strikes. I liked that part of it. Don't screw around and walk people, just go at them. That was really nice, really refreshing to see him come in there and just attack."

Said Saupold: "I just threw strikes, pounded the zone. I was just trying to get the boys back in the dugout, let them go to work."

Saupold now has 5 2/3 scoreless innings on three hits with a walk and a strikeout.

As the Tigers get ready for a weeklong road trip that includes three Interleague games at Pittsburgh, putting bullpen matchups at a premium without the DH slot, Gardenhire sees a role for Saupold. It's not necessarily just long relief. With Daniel Stumpf the one lefty specialist in the bullpen along with long reliever Norris, Saupold could find himself facing some left-handed hitters, tasked with using his sinker to get a ground ball.

"We like him because he does have that power sinker, and he will throw it over the plate, and he does attack the strike zone," Gardenhire said. "He's got a nice breaking ball that goes down, too. And he's stretched out, which is a bonus.

"We liked him out of Spring Training, and I still like him. I think he's competitive. I don't see why we can't keep him right here. We're going to try."

Happy anniversary
Sean Manaea's no-hitter in Oakland on Saturday night put some spotlight on the last pitcher to no-hit the Red Sox. That was then-Mariners hurler Chris Bosio, now the Tigers pitching coach, and it happened exactly 25 years ago.

Bosio declined to talk about it with reporters on Sunday, but his pitchers took notice.

"I saw that stat," said Stumpf, who was Manaea's roommate at Class A Advanced ball with the Wilmington Blue Rocks in 2014. He planned to say something to Bosio at some point, but also texted congratulations to Manaea.

Bosio was in his first season with the Mariners in 1993, having signed a long-term deal the previous winter as a free agent. He was making his fourth start with the M's, a Thursday night game at the Kingdome, when he faced a Red Sox team that was off to an 11-4 start.

Bosio walked the first two batters he faced, Ernie Riles and Carlos Quintana, then retired Boston's final 27 batters in order. He needed just 97 pitches for the effort.

Gardenhire apparently mentioned it as well, and found Bosio focused on his current job.

"You can ask him about it," Gardenhire said about the no-hitter. "Good luck with that."

Happy Earth Day
The Tigers celebrated Earth Day on Sunday by supporting The Greening of Detroit, a nonprofit environmental group that works to enhance the quality of life for Detroiters by planting trees and repurposing the land to create beautiful and productive green spaces, helping communities rebuild their neighborhoods one lot at a time.

The Tigers offered an Earth Day Ticket Package that included a game ticket, a Tigers Earth Day T-shirt and a donation to The Greening of Detroit.

Quick hits
• Don't expect many double-switches from the Tigers when they go to National League rules starting Tuesday in Pittsburgh, Gardenhire said.

"We're going to be very limited on being able to do all that," said Gardenhire, who noted Victor Martinez will be available on the bench as a pinch-hitter. "If I had one more position player, it might make it work out a little easier, but really there's not many options for that."

Miguel Cabrera said his aggressive tag-up on a Martinez sacrifice fly Saturday was a reflection of the baserunning philosophy the Tigers have taken under Gardenhire.

"I felt lucky," he joked. "We got good coaches here. We've got a good approach."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

Detroit Tigers, Warwick Saupold