DETROIT -- Joe Siddall used to spend his afternoons on the mound at Comerica Park, preparing Tigers hitters for their upcoming opponents. On Tuesday, he returned for the first time as the voice of the opponent.
For the former Tigers catcher turned Blue Jays broadcaster, it was a sweet return out of tragic circumstances.
"This is nice. It's almost like a three-day holiday for me," said Siddall, who lives across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario.
For several years, the Tigers served as Siddall's connection to the game. He was a regular pitching batting practice during homestands. He got to know many players and staff, but still had enough free time at home to be a dad and a coach for his children.
He had thought about coaching or broadcasting someday, but wanted to wait until his kids were grown up. The Siddalls' world changed, however, when their 14-year-old son Kevin was diagnosed with cancer last fall.
Kevin passed away in February. Among the letters of condolences he received was an email from Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth. Joe Siddall thanked him for the kind words and ended the note by saying he'd maybe see him in the broadcast booth one day. Howarth replied by offering him a chance now.
The Blue Jays were searching for a broadcaster after Jack Morris returned to Minnesota. Siddall didn't have much experience, but he had knowledge of the game, and he had a need for something to do to take his mind off of tragedy. He auditioned in Spring Training and was hired soon after.
Since then, Siddall has followed every step of the Blue Jays' ride to first place, staying at a hotel in Toronto for home games. This week marks his first return home since April.
"It's like being a player again," he said of the schedule.
The Blue Jays arrived in town in first place, making this the first Blue Jays-Tigers series featured two first-place teams since April 2007. Siddall arrived in a suit, readying to work the series for Blue Jays television. He said he has gotten more than his fair share of ribbing that he brought the Tigers' karma to Toronto with him.
"This is what I see every year, right?" he said with a smile.
Suarez making case to join Tigers at shortstop
TOLEDO -- Eugenio Suarez grew up in Venezuela idolizing Omar Vizquel. He never imagined having a chance to play for Vizquel someday.
The way he has been playing continues to make his case for a summer shot with the Tigers.
"Every day, I'm playing hungry to play in the big leagues," Suarez, the Tigers' No. 6 prospect, said last week from Triple-A Toledo. "I want to play in the big leagues. Every player wants to play in the big leagues. That's my mindset, to play hard every day, play every game, make every routine play."
It's the last part that could well be the key for him.
Suarez made a big impression a week ago. With team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and special assistant Jim Leyland in town last Tuesday night, the 22-year-old Suarez went 3-for-4 with a home run -- hit out of Fifth Third Field and onto Monroe Street beyond left field -- and a double, falling a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. He also made a leaping throw from deep in the hole at shortstop that resembled one of Derek Jeter's highlight plays from his prime.
Just as important, however, he helped turn a pair of double plays and had a clean game defensively at short.
"Not losing the concentration," Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish said.
His hot start since his mid-May promotion from Double-A Erie has cooled a bit, but hasn't fallen off. He entered Tuesday batting .333 (13-for-39) with four doubles, two home runs, six RBIs, six walks and nine strikeouts. He has made two errors in that stretch after making seven errors in 42 games at Erie.
That was the scouting report on Suarez in the past, a shortstop who could make a highlight reel one inning and struggle on a more mundane play later if he has a concentration lapse. It's something Suarez is aware of, which is why he has been doing extra infield work daily and taking the advice of the great Vizquel, his favorite player growing up and currently the Tigers' first-base coach.
"He had me working hard every day on my defense," Suarez said. "He told me keep playing hard, just complete the routine plays, take the outs. That's what he told me. You have good defense, good hands, so keep working hard every day."
His offense has been a pleasant surprise. Suarez held his own at the plate on his way up the organization but hasn't put up big numbers, his OPS usually hovering in the mid to upper .700s. Between Toledo and Erie this season, his OPS sits at .889.
Part of the credit, he says, goes to more upper-body strength.
"That's helped me so much, because I'm hitting hard," he said. "I'm hitting more extra bases, so I think my conditioning right now is very good. I'm working hard every day in the gym."
His defense has always been his strength, potentially a huge strength with an uptick in consistency. If Suarez is evaluated for an audition in Detroit this summer, he'll need to earn the trust that he can make more basic plays with regularity.
The Tigers, who lost starting shortstop Jose Iglesias in Spring Training with stress fractures in his shins, entered Tuesday with a .492 OPS this season from their shortstops, last in the Majors, but have prioritized defense at the position. They've had a recent spate of errors and misplays after stellar play from Andrew Romine and Danny Worth for about a month.
Tigers officials will have a decision to make in the coming weeks on how to handle the position for the home stretch. With the non-waiver Trade Deadline on July 31, they have just under two months to evaluate their internal options. The recent promotion of Suarez to Toledo suggests he'd be an option.
"One step from big leagues," Suarez said. "More responsibility. Keep working hard. It's same baseball. Same game."
Scherzer part of USA Today crossword
DETROIT -- Max Scherzer knew he'd be in headlines on a regular basis this season. He did not count on making the puzzle section. Yet, there was his name in Tuesday's USA Today crossword.
Instead of front-page news, he was a clue to 7-Down: "Max Scherzer's pride."
Scherzer is not a regular crossword solver, but bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer spotted it.
"As soon I got here, he goes, 'You made it,'" Scherzer said.
The three-letter answer was supposed to be "ARM." Scherzer, however, had a little fun with it.
"If they did their homework, the answer should be DIC for eye color," Scherzer tweeted with a picture of the puzzle.
DIC is the abbreviation listed on Scherzer's driver's license for his eyes -- one brown, the other blue.
Jackson slides to seventh in lineup
DETROIT -- Austin Jackson began the season as part of the Tigers' solution in the middle of the order, bumped out of the leadoff spot to take more of a run-production role. With Jackson in the midst of an early-season slump, he's taking on a lower role.
Jackson batted seventh in the Tigers' batting order on Tuesday, his second time there in a week. Both occasions have come with Don Kelly and J.D. Martinez in the lineup.
Jackson returned home from a 2-for-24, nine-strikeout West Coast road trip. He entered Tuesday batting 10-for-70 with 19 strikeouts over his last 19 games.
Like the slump, the move down isn't likely to be long term. He has been batting fifth or sixth nearly every day during the skid, and manager Brad Ausmus has stated his faith in Jackson hitting his way out of it.
"I've said this a number of times: He's actually hit the ball better than his average," Ausmus said. "He struck out a few times in Seattle, but he's hit some balls hard, too. The balls he's hitting hard aren't falling for hits, and the balls that he's hitting soft aren't falling for hits. It usually adds up to a slump.
"He's working hard to get out of it. He's a much better player, a much better hitter than he's shown. If water finds its level, he should hit the ball well."
• Iglesias is scheduled to have a follow-up evaluation in the coming days that should help determine whether he has any chance of returning to game action this season. Iglesias, who was diagnosed with stress fractures in both shins in March, is expected to miss the season, but Tigers officials held out some hope that he might be cleared to work towards a possible return. "We should get an update on him here in the next 24 hours," Ausmus said.
• Major League Baseball has reversed a scoring decision from the Tigers' last homestand, charging Jackson with an error on Mitch Moreland's sixth-inning drive to the warning track in left-center field on May 24. The play had originally been scored a double, which the Tigers appealed. The change means Rick Porcello is charged with seven earned runs in that loss, rather than eight, dropping his ERA on the season from 3.82 to 3.68.