Notes: No relief for Duchscherer
Reliever's MRI shows no injury, but sore neck still an issue
DETROIT -- The good news regarding A's setup man Justin Duchscherer on Friday was that the MRI exam of his sore neck didn't reveal anything major.
"The MRI said there's nothing wrong with his neck," Oakland manager Ken Macha said before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park.
The bad news? Duchscherer was still having problems lifting his arm.
"The trainers weren't real optimistic," Macha said.
Duchscherer, who retired 12 of the 13 batters he faced over four innings of one-hit work in two appearances in the AL Division Series, started feeling spasms during Game 2 of the ALCS in Oakland on Wednesday, and Macha wasn't told he'd be unavailable until after the game started.
Still, Macha pointed out during his private session with A's beat writers, the manager was heckled while doing a postgame TV interview on the field after the Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"The guy was calling me every name in the book," Macha said with a wry smile. "[He] said I was an idiot for not using Duchscherer."
The Tigers, too, were expected to be without their top setup man for the second consecutive game. Righty flamethrower Joel Zumaya is questionable for the rest of the series with a sore wrist.
Macha, however, didn't see the losses as offsetting each other.
"I don't think so," he explained. "They have tremendous depth in their bullpen. Every guy they bring out is throwing 96, 97 [mph]. ... We have a good bullpen, too, but they have a lot of power arms down there, and in Duke, we're talking about a guy we can do a lot of different things with. ... I think they're a little better equipped to make up for [Zumaya's absence]."
Swisher's slump: A's first baseman Nick Swisher went 3-for-7 with a walk in the first two games of the ALDS, but through Game 2 of the ALCS, he was hitless with three walks over 12 plate appearances in Oakland's past three games.
As he's often done throughout the year, Macha suggested Swisher is swinging for the fences rather than focusing on putting together quality at-bats.
"Maybe he's trying to do too much," said the skipper. "The other thing is that their pitchers are pretty good. You can't totally put your finger on one thing. [But] I was going out to eat last night and he was standing on the corner on a cell phone, and I said, 'Nick, singles are OK, Nick. Singles.'"
Swisher didn't deny that he's taken some big hacks but defended his general approach at the plate.
"Three games is only a slump in the playoffs," he said during batting practice. "But it only takes one game to get out of it no matter when it happens. I'll be fine."
All eyes on Kennedy: With Duchscherer out, Joe Kennedy's role upgrades from key to critical. The lone lefty in the A's bullpen, Kennedy didn't pitch in the ALDS but appeared in Games 1 and 2 of the ALCS, stranding all three baserunners he inherited over two shutout innings of one-hit work.
"Looking at the series [before it started], I thought that Kennedy would play a major role," Macha said. "I might have understated that in retrospect."
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Most of the Tigers' top threats -- including A's killer Placido Polanco, Magglio Ordonez and Pudge Rodriguez -- bat from the right side, and Kennedy held righties to a .220 (20-for-91) batting average during the regular season.
"I think my left-right splits are deceiving this year because 10 of the 14 hits [by left-handers] were singles, and a couple of the extra-base hits were calls that outfielders dove for and it got past them," Kennedy said earlier this week. "My career splits, I'm actually better against lefties. But [the Tigers being right-side heavy] works in my favor now."
Dribblers: The temperature was 39 degrees while the A's took batting practice, prompting third baseman Eric Chavez to say, "It's really not that bad." Of course, he was standing in a relatively warm tunnel that connects the clubhouse and dugout when he said it. ... Backup catcher Adam Melhuse said a lot of players were wearing special tights under their uniforms to keep their body heat in as much as possible. Said Melhuse, "You don't want to wear too much, though, or you'll feel all ..." Struggling to come up with the right word, he struck a pose that recalled the giant Sta-Puft marshmallow man from "Ghostbusters." ... Center fielder Mark Kotsay said his eyes are sensitive to wind, so he planned to wear a pair of Oakley glasses fitted with clear lenses during the game. ... To illustrate his awareness of how cold it can get in this area of the country, Macha told a story about playing Minor League ball in Toledo one April. "We had a 55-gallon drum that they had cut open, and put a bunch of vents in them, and they stuck firewood in there. We had that burning in the dugout." ... No fires in the A's dugout, but made available to the players were giant, thick black parkas emblazoned with the MLB logo. Swisher, to the shock of nobody, was the first to model one.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.