DETROIT -- Jose Valverde contradicted an assertion on an Orioles fan blog that he spit on a spectator at Camden Yards on Thursday, saying he spit in the direction of a fan to chase him away after he and another man had continually yelled derogatory terms at him.
A recollection of the incident, including pictures of a wad of gum on the bullpen floor that was in Valverde's mouth when he spit, showed up on the MLBlog 2131 and Beyond, written by a fan who wrote that he witnessed the event but was not a participant.
The exchange happened in the eighth inning of Thursday's loss, but Valverde said it had been going on for much of the game, involving two fans he had been watching for much of the night.
"This guy's drinking and drinking, and he doesn't know what's going on in the game," Valverde said. "He started doing a lot of stuff, BS. The thing is, you have to sometimes leave it alone, because they pay for that. There's nothing you can do. He paid for the ticket. He can do whatever he wants to. But after a while, he ticked me off ...
"They're shouting, 'You [stink], you piece of ...' And I'm tired of that. Everybody's tired. And I tell them, 'You know what, you want to do something? Come on. Come here.' And he told me, '[Forget] you. [Forget] your mother.' He talks about my mother, and I said, 'OK. God bless you.'"
Valverde said he spit "in their direction," but not on them. He didn't hit them and didn't intend to. Fellow Tigers reliever Daniel Schlereth, who saw the incident, seconded Valverde's statement. He said it would've been physically impossible to spit high enough to hit them.
"They're right on top of you," Schlereth said. "[There's] no chance. You can't spit from the mound up to the fans. There's no way."
At that point, they said, the security officer stationed in the bullpen got up and walked toward them, prompting the fans to scramble.
"The cop was there," Valverde said. "At the same time these two guys see the cop, they're running."
Nothing further happened, Valverde and Schlereth said.
Camden Yards, they said, can be a tough place for visiting pitchers because certain fans have seats close enough to get away with shouting into the bullpen.
"Yesterday was crazy," Valverde said.
Tigers raise flag, celebrate Sparky's life
DETROIT -- The Tigers remembered Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson on a day he would've loved, celebrating his life and career before the team's home opener Friday afternoon at Comerica Park. They also announced that they'll formally retire his number 11 in a pregame ceremony June 26.
Tigers first-base coach Tom Brookens, who played for Anderson for 10 years as an infielder in Detroit through 1988, teamed up to help raise a flag for Sparky, who died on Nov. 4, 2010, up the flagpole in left-center field. It's the same place where the Tigers flew a flag remembering Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell after he passed away last May, and Hall of Famer George Kell after his passing in 2009. The Sparky flag will fly for the rest of the season.
Minutes later, fellow Tigers legends Lance Parrish and Dan Petry remembered Sparky's charitable endeavors by helping Jamal, a child representing C.A.T.C.H., throw out the ceremonial first-pitch. Anderson founded the charity in 1987 to improve the quality of life for sick, injured and at-risk young patients at Henry Ford Hospital and Children's Hospital of Michigan. Jamal fired a strike to Parrish behind home plate.
The Anderson retirement ceremony will take place before a Sunday afternoon Interleague matchup against Arizona at 1:05 p.m. ET. Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell, both Tigers greats who played under Anderson, are the manager and bench coach for the D-backs.
Friday's ceremonies, meanwhile, were a reminder of the rich history with the Tigers on a day when Michigan celebrates the arrival of spring. The first-pitch temperature of 43 degrees made it among the colder home openers in the last few years, but mild compared to some of the frigid, occasionally snowy openers in the first few years of Comerica Park.
It certainly didn't stop the fans who had arrived early Friday morning to tailgate and finally put winter to rest.
"Just walking from the hotel [to the ballpark] and seeing the fans, it's unbelievable," said reliever Robbie Weinhardt, who experienced his first home opener. "The fans are ready to go."
Cabrera fine after tumble over tarp
DETROIT -- It takes a lot to spoil an Opening Day atmosphere in this city. The sight of Miguel Cabrera tumbling off the tarp behind first base might have done it. Fortunately for the Tigers and their fans, he got back up.
Cabrera was chasing down a foul ball headed towards the first-base stands in the top of the sixth, when he ran out of room. But instead of leaning out over the tarp to try to make the catch, he rolled off of it and onto the dirt in foul territory, and struggled to get back up.
He was favoring his right leg when he finally got on his feet, and he limped back to the dugout when the inning ended. But he didn't need the attention of the Tigers' training staff, and he finished out the game. He stepped to the plate in the bottom of the inning and flew out to the base of the fence in left field.
Cabrera received treatment after the game, but said he's fine. He indicated he might've jammed his right wrist a bit bracing himself against the tarp, but that it wasn't a big issue.
Still, the sight of Cabrera on the ground wasn't initially a good feeling for his manager.
"You're a little nervous about it," Jim Leyland said, "but this is baseball. You can't be the grim reaper, looking for things to happen."
Weinhardt takes scenic route to Comerica
DETROIT -- Reliever Robbie Weinhardt worked all spring to try to open the season in Detroit. He just didn't anticipate taking such a roundabout route to get there.
He woke up Thursday morning ready for Opening Day with the Toledo Mud Hens, who were in Louisville, Ky. A call from Hens manager Phil Nevin put him on a detour.
"I woke up and got the call from Nevin saying, 'You've got to be in Baltimore tonight,'" Weinhardt said.
That call came around 10:50 a.m. ET, Weinhardt said. His ticket to Baltimore was on a 12:40 p.m. flight.
"I threw all my stuff in the bag," Weinhardt said.
After a connection in Philadelphia, Weinhardt landed in Baltimore in the middle of the afternoon. With light traffic, he was able to get to Camden Yards in time to shag fly balls during pregame batting practice.
Hours later, Weinhardt was on the team flight to Detroit.
"I was just go-go-go [Thursday]," he said. "I really didn't catch my breath until we landed at home."
After a few hours of sleep, he was making the walk from his downtown Detroit hotel to Comerica Park and getting an idea just how big of a deal Opening Day is around these parts.
"Just walking from the hotel [to the ballpark] and seeing the fans, it's unbelievable," said Weinhardt, who experienced his first home opener. "The fans are ready to go."
So is Weinhardt, who went from one of the last cuts in Spring Training to the first callup. There weren't any stats to change anybody's mind. But based on results in the last week of Triple-A Spring Training games, Weinhardt had made improvement keeping his sinker and slider down in the strike zone.
"I knew I had to do some work," Weinhardt said. "I just knew [Jim Leyland] told me to make some adjustments and get the ball down. That's what I did."
Leyland opts for Boesch over Raburn
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland spent most of Thursday weighing Brennan Boesch against Ryan Raburn in his Opening Day lineup, looking over their numbers against Kyle Davies and their numbers for the season overall. In the end, it was Saturday's probable starter for Kansas City that swayed Leyland towards Boesch.
Left-hander Bruce Chen is scheduled to start for the Royals on Saturday. That makes Leyland's Boesch-Raburn decision much easier that day, which made his decision for Friday a little easier.
"If I don't play Boesch [Friday], then I'm not going to play him [Saturday] either. He'd be out for two days, and he's swinging a hot bat," Leyland said.
In other words, Leyland doesn't want to risk cooling Boesch off. But with Raburn swinging the bat well, too, he has to balance both of them.
Boesch went 0-for-3 with a walk, his second hitless outing in six games this season, before leaving for Don Kelly as a defensive replacement in left. Raburn did not play.