DETROIT -- Yes, those were 90-mph sliders coming from Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque on Saturday night, including on consecutive pitches to strike out the Red Sox's Shane Victorino and escape an eighth-inning jam.
Yes, the Tigers are taking that as a good sign.
"Yes, he's healthy," pitching coach Jeff Jones said.
It has to be more than health. Alburquerque has averaged about 86 mph on his slider for his career, according to various sources, and slightly higher than that this year. A 90-mph slider, however, is well beyond that, and more in line with something from 100-mph fastballer Bruce Rondon.
Alburquerque said after Saturday's game that the adrenaline of a tight situation might have played a part. He retired the top third of the Red Sox order after a walk and a single put two runners on in the eighth inning.
For game purposes, it didn't mean much in a 9-2 game. For Alburquerque's purposes of winning back his manager's trust, it was big.
"The slider last night was OK, but a little bit different looking slider at times," Jim Leyland said. "At times, it was real good. Plus, it's just a matter of consistency. I think he'll be fine."
Anibal making strides in recovery from shoulder strain
DETROIT -- Anibal Sanchez is showing hope that he could be ready to pitch when he's eligible to come off the disabled list on July 1. At this point, though, the Tigers are remaining cautiously optimistic about their injured right-hander, who is working his way back from a shoulder strain.
Sanchez felt fine after a long-toss session on Saturday, finding what he was missing in the start before he went on the DL. The Tigers are hoping he can do the same when he throws off the bullpen mound on Tuesday.
How he feels coming out of that could play a big role in his timetable. The club would like to get Sanchez some action against live hitting, possibly in a simulated format, before sending him back into the rotation.
Jose Alvarez is scheduled to make one more start in Sanchez's place on Wednesday against the Angels at Comerica Park. His spot comes back around in the rotation on July 1 in a Canada Day matinee at Toronto.
V-Mart showing signs of midseason rebound
DETROIT -- Victor Martinez usually doesn't make too much about hitting into luck, good or bad. After his grand slam landed in the first row of seats in right field Saturday night, however, even he couldn't help but believe his karma had taken a turn for the better.
"I'm not gonna lie, I hit some good balls that didn't get caught," Martinez said.
There are advanced metrics that back up his argument on that. ESPN Stats and Information cites a data provider that categorizes balls put in play by how hard they're hit. While the average Major League hitter has a batting average well above their rate of "hard-hit" balls, Martinez's .231 batting average has actually been well below his hard-hit rate. At the same time, Martinez's line-drive rate of 19 percent, according to baseball-reference.com, would suggest a much better average.
Moreover, Martinez's batting average on balls put in play is just .237, 74 points below his career rate and 59 points below the American League's average.
"We see it every day," teammate Max Scherzer said. "Vic keeps hitting the ball hard at people, all the time. Guys just keep robbing him. For him to step up and hit that first-inning grand slam, that just changed the game. Kudos to him."
His manager is hoping it changes his season.
"If he hits like that, we'll be real good," Jim Leyland said. "He's shown signs of coming forth a little bit, he's hit a lot of balls hard, but he hasn't got hits on them, so he's hit in some tough luck. He's had some days where he hasn't really swung that good. It doesn't have to be of that magnitude [Saturday] night, but if we can get him going really good, it's a pretty impressive lineup."
Tigers likely to see Weaver pitch Thursday in Detroit
DETROIT -- Two years after Jered Weaver's memorable, contentious matchup with the Tigers that ended with an ejection for throwing at Alex Avila and words exchanged from the dugout, the Angels ace appears to be on track for a return to Comerica Park.
Though the Angels made two trips to Detroit last summer, Weaver did not pitch in either series because of the rotation order. He missed a four-game series in July by a day. This time, he's on turn to pitch in Thursday afternoon's series finale.
With a hot, sunny day in the forecast, it could feel a lot like the atmosphere on July 31, 2011, when Weaver and Justin Verlander matched up in a much-publicized duel. While Verlander took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, Magglio Ordonez broke up Weaver's scoreless bid with a home run down the left-field line in the third.
Weaver took exception to Ordonez watching the home run, but settled in to retire 12 in a row before Carlos Guillen homered off of him and stared him down. Weaver's next pitch sailed over Avila's head, prompting an ejection.
Doug Fister, whom the Tigers acquired the day before that outing, is scheduled to oppose Weaver on Thursday.
• Leyland confirmed that Verlander is scheduled to close out the Tigers' first-half schedule with a start against Texas on Sunday, July 14, two days before the All-Star Game. By rule, if he pitches that game, it would rule him out from pitching in the Midsummer Classic two days later. He could still be named to the All-Star team and take part in the festivities, but he can't play. By contrast, Leyland confirmed that Max Scherzer could pitch an inning in the All-Star Game if he starts on Saturday, July 13, as scheduled.
• The Tigers had a scout at this weekend's Marlins-Giants series at San Francisco. Detroit has been rumored to have interest in Miami relievers who could hit the trade market next month, such as closer Steve Cishek and setup man Ryan Webb.