DETROIT -- The Tigers have had the reliever with the hardest fastball in the Majors for the past few years with Joel Zumaya. Not surprisingly, they also have the pitcher regarded by his peers as having the best fastball in the game.
That would be Justin Verlander, whose ability to throw upper-90s fastballs deep into games has been amazing opposing hitters for the past couple years.
The latest Sports Illustrated player poll asked 339 players which pitcher has the best fastball. Verlander drew 30 percent of the vote, nearly three times as many as any other player. Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton was the next highest at 11 percent. Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado's 15-game winner, received seven percent of the vote. Zumaya was in the same neighborhood as Felix Hernandez with six percent.
Verlander doesn't get to lead the Majors in pitches over 100 mph, but he's usually right up there for starters, and his average fastball velocity is usually in the top two or three. He's second this year at 95.8 mph, according to fangraphs.com, trailing only Jimenez at 96.3. Jimenez was the only pitcher higher than Verlander last year, too.
-- Jason Beck
Galarraga's aggressiveness better in loss
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland has repeatedly said the key for starting pitcher Armando Galarraga is his ability to throw strikes early in the count and get ahead of hitters. Apparently, the Rangers heard about that, too.
The right-hander's problems have always been with his tendency to dabble in the strike zone and not attack hitters. On Tuesday, he attacked, all right. But the Texas bats were up to the challenge and sent several fly balls deep to the warning track that would have been home runs in many ballparks across the league. He recorded 12 flyouts compared to just four groundouts, and seven of the nine hits he allowed in the Tigers' 8-0 loss were in the air.
The Rangers' bats were all over Galarraga early in counts and early in the game. On the first pitch of the game, Elvis Andrus lined a ball to center field, setting the tone for the aggressive plate appearances Galarraga was up against all night.
"The first inning, I started feeling [good]," Galarraga said. "But like I said before, these guys go crazy. First pitch is a base hit. Then I struck out [Michael] Young and he was swinging, swinging. Then I throw to [Ian] Kinsler a slider [for a ] strike and a slider knowing this guy is swinging like it's the sixth inning in a tie game. They were swinging big. Right away, I was like, 'OK, you have to make a pitch because you aren't going to last too long in this game.' It's something where the team needed you to be long in this game because we had a long game last night."
Galarraga gave up two runs in the first inning and one more in the second on a solo shot to David Murphy. The right-hander settled down and didn't allow another run until the sixth inning en route to throwing 7 1/3 innings with four earned runs and a season-high six strikeouts.
Galarraga said he would have been pleased with his outing if not for the two runs he surrendered in the first inning. He was able to locate his offspeed pitches from the start of the game, and he settled in nicely. But the damage was already done, especially with the Tigers' bats falling silent.
One positive, though, was Galarraga's ability to go deep in the game. Detroit's bullpen had thrown 20 2/3 innings in the past five games and desperately needed a light workload Tuesday. Luckily, Galarraga gave his longest outing in his past four starts.
"I thought he did a good job of keeping us in the game," Leyland said. "His command was pretty good and he battled. He tried to make good pitches and he did make a lot of good pitches. He made a couple bad pitches on the ones that got hit. He pitched well enough for us to win the game and have a good chance to win the game. We just didn't get it done and we didn't muster any offense."
-- Alex DiFilippo
Leyland weighing options at third base
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday he doesn't know yet how he'll handle third base for the next few weeks with Brandon Inge out. Still, while Carlos Guillen was ruled out of that equation, Scott Sizemore might have a chance to be ruled back in.
Leyland wasn't really up for discussing his options with reporters Tuesday, the day after Inge fractured a bone in his left hand, but he confirmed that Guillen would not be one of them.
"He's our second baseman," Leyland said of Guillen. "You can rule that out."
That was a vote of confidence for Guillen, who opened the year as an outfielder/DH until he shifted to second to replace the demoted Sizemore.
Sizemore had been handling second base since being sent to Triple-A Toledo in May, but he was in the starting lineup at third base for the Mud Hens on Tuesday night at Pawtucket. Sizemore had a solo homer and two runs scored while playing an errorless third base in the Mud Hens' win. The Tigers could decide to recall him as soon as Wednesday.
"I don't know what I'm going to do," Leyland said before the Tigers fell, 8-0, to the Rangers. "I don't have any idea. I'll have to wait and see. That's kind of on hold."
No move on third base is coming until after the Tigers can straighten out their taxed bullpen, which got a temporary boost Tuesday with the arrival of Casey Fien from Toledo. Fien took Inge's roster spot for the time being. Leyland said he had "no idea" if Detroit would go with an eight-man bullpen, though the Tigers don't have another off-day coming for another 13 days.
Don Kelly, who replaced Inge on Monday night soon after the hit-by-pitch that caused his injury, started in Inge's place Tuesday and made two great defensive plays, including a diving stop and throw across the infield that looked a lot like Inge. Asked before the game if Kelly had an opportunity to get some regular playing time with Inge out four to six weeks, Leyland was noncommittal.
"I don't know about that," Leyland said. "He is going to play some. We'll see how things unfold here. He's going to get a chance to play some."
-- Jason Beck
Bonderman's struggles not injury-related
DETROIT -- Jeremy Bonderman's sixth-inning exit in the Tigers' 8-6 loss to the Rangers on Monday marked his third struggling start in his past four outings, not just statistically but in his pitches. But manager Jim Leyland seemed to alleviate any injury concerns Tuesday.
"Yesterday was kind of a strange situation," Leyland said. "He started out the bullpen session coming into the game, [and he] was tremendous. The first inning was pretty good, then all of a sudden it wasn't coming out [well]. But the good news was that he began to pitch then and he also had absolutely no pain. That's what I was worried about. But he said he felt great. That's good news."
That was the first time in quite a while that any sort of injury was a topic of discussion with Bonderman. Given his injury struggles the past two seasons, though, it was a natural topic to come up once his struggles began in late June.
Bonderman has talked about struggling with consistency, and his slider hasn't had the same bite at times. That has seemed to be more of a command or mechanical issue.
-- Jason Beck
Fien relishes latest opportunity with Tigers
DETROIT -- This season has been a long journey for relief pitcher Casey Fien. His latest stop, however, is exactly where he wants to be.
Fien was called up to Detroit from Triple-A Toledo on Monday due to a fractured bone in the left hand of third baseman Brandon Inge that landed him on the 15-day disabled list. Fien was with the Jays and Red Sox in Spring Training before being re-acquired by the Tigers.
Questions arose on who Detroit would call up after Inge's injury. Many thought the front office may decide to call up Jeff Larish or Scott Sizemore to fill the infield void left by Inge. But the club opted for a relief pitcher to add support to a taxed bullpen that had thrown 20 2/3 innings over five games in four days.
"I know there's been wear and tear on their arms," said Fien, who was in Pawtucket, R.I., for the Mud Hens' game Monday before making his way to Detroit. "I'm here, and now hopefully, I can give some help."
Fien did get in Tuesday's 8-0 loss to the Rangers, allowing three runs in two-thirds of an inning in Texas' four-run ninth. It was just his second appearance for Detroit this season.
On June 30, Fien threw two shutout innings against the Twins after being called up due to the season-ending injury to reliever Joel Zumaya.
Fien owns a 1-1 record with a 2.33 ERA in 31 appearances for Toledo this season. The 26-year-old hadn't pitched since Saturday, when he tossed two shutout innings.
-- Alex DiFilippo
Reliever Weinhardt living up to reputation
DETROIT -- Robbie Weinhardt is doing his job as a ground-ball specialist. What happens after hitters put the ball on the ground is out of his control. As long as he keeps it there, he'll take his chances.
Weinhardt had solidified his reputation as a sinkerballer in Spring Training with the Tigers and then at Triple-A Toledo, where his groundball-to-flyball ratio topped the 2-to-1 threshold. Through six outings with Detroit, his ratio is at 3-to-1 -- 18 grounders, six fly balls. Nearly half of those ground balls came in Monday night's 8-6 loss to Texas, when eight of the nine Weinhardt pitches Rangers hitters put in play stayed on the ground.
Thing is, that ratio includes hits as well as outs. And all four hits Weinhardt allowed over his 2 2/3 innings were grounders, including three consecutive singles from the middle of the Rangers' order to plate a run in the seventh.
"The [seventh] inning, [I tried] to come in there and get three ground balls and it ends up getting a little bit out of hand," Weinhardt said. "Got the first guy out, but then, not meant to be."
Still, he held Texas from there, which allowed Detroit to even the game in the eighth. He also got two huge outs when he entered the game in the sixth inning, including a called third strike on Elvis Andrus and a flyout from Michael Young to strand runners on second and third.
It was a little bit of redemption after taking the loss Saturday night at Cleveland on a bloop single, walk and a slow roller through the left side of the infield for the game-ending run.
Eight of the nine hits Weinhardt has allowed have come in three outings since the All-Star break, but none of them went for extra bases. He hasn't allowed one of those since a triple in his Major League debut July 7 against Baltimore.
"It's almost easier when there's more pressure, when there's a tie game than when we're down or we're up big," Weinhardt said. "Close situations, I like to be in that spotlight. I know I have to make good pitches every time. You need to do that when you're not in close situations, but it's more like you're trying to get guys to get a groundout, keep the ball in the infield, keep the runner at third."
-- Jason Beck
Jason Beck is a reporter and Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.