MIAMI -- Rick Porcello's scratch from Friday's start against the Marlins was his introduction to the bullpen for the postseason. Like Jhonny Peralta in left field, the Tigers will use the weekend to get Porcello used to entering games in relief.
He has done it before, from a couple relief appearances last postseason to a game finished in Oakland this past April. This time, however, they want to prep him.
"I'd like to give him a couple days during this series to come in out of the bullpen, just to get him acclimated to it, depending on how it goes," manager Jim Leyland said. "He has done it before, a little, and that's really not the reason [we moved him]. He's just the guy that we all agreed on would go to the bullpen. He's well aware of it. He's all for it. He's very supportive of it, which I appreciate."
The big change Porcello cited is being in top form from the first pitch.
"As a starter, you can kind of feel it out in the first inning," Porcello said, "but when you come out of the 'pen you have to come out throwing strikes and quality strikes."
He does believe the past experience will help him.
"I am somewhat familiar with how I have to get myself ready and loosened up for a game," he said.
Porcello's scratch likely will cost him a chance at a third 14-win season. It also halts the momentum of what has been a stellar stretch for him over his last three starts: 21 2/3 innings, 18 hits, four earned runs, three walks, 24 strikeouts. He pitched a complete-game seven-hitter in Chicago on Sept. 10, struck out 10 Mariners over six innings of one-run ball Sept. 16, then took a no-decision against the White Sox last Saturday for 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball with nine strikeouts.
On many pitching staffs, it's the kind of run that would send a starter into a postseason rotation with momentum. The Tigers, however, have a talented enough rotation that somebody had to be the odd man out.
The Tigers do not have a rotation order yet for next week's Division Series, and Leyland warned he probably won't have that anytime soon. With four days off between Sunday's regular-season finale and Friday's playoff opener, it could come down to the final day or two. All that's known about the order is that Porcello won't be a part of it.
"In this situation, I can come in and help the team out of the bullpen, and I'm excited about that," he said.
Tigers receive mixed news on Coke, Rondon
MIAMI -- The news was mixed for the Tigers on their two injured relievers and their chances to be ready for the postseason. While Phil Coke will miss this weekend's series against the Marlins after being diagnosed with more inflammation in the flexor area of his forearm, the Tigers are taking a wait-and-see approach with Bruce Rondon.
"I'm going to wait and see how he's doing, and then we'll go from there," manager Jim Leyland said Friday afternoon.
Coke returned to Detroit for an MRI exam and a visit with Dr. Stephen Lemos, who found inflammation. Rondon, who felt a second bout of tenderness in his elbow Wednesday after a dominant return Tuesday in Minnesota, was in the Tigers clubhouse without special treatment Friday.
How both come out of the weekend will have a huge impact on Detroit's bullpen for the AL Division Series. Coke was expected to be the second left-hander in the bullpen alongside Drew Smyly. If he can't go, Leyland and team officials have to decide whether it's worth carrying Jose Alvarez or Darin Downs as a second lefty, or whether they'd prefer another righty.
Rondon has the potential to be an X-factor for the Tigers, capable of notching a strikeout in clutch situations, like Al Alburquerque two years ago. If Rondon is sidelined, Alburquerque's role likely would increase tremendously.
Cabrera to play two of three in hometown
MIAMI -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland decided to strike a balance between resting Miguel Cabrera and maintaining his timing at the plate. After a discussion with Cabrera, Leyland decided that Sunday's regular-season finale will be the one game he doesn't play.
Leyland originally thought about resting Cabrera in Friday's series opener. Cabrera, playing in Miami for the first time since his trade to Detroit six years ago, wanted to play.
"He wants to play," Leyland said, "and I'm not going to not play him if he wants to play."
As much as Cabrera has been hobbled the past couple months, the risk of being rusty at the plate was too much for him.
"I had a day off yesterday. If we counted these three games off, it would've been four, plus four more," he said. "It's going to be eight days. That's too many days off. I prefer to play today and tomorrow and try to have five days off and be ready for the playoffs."
Cabrera said the combination of an off-day at his offseason home in Miami and a day of treatment on his injured groin made a difference.
Cabrera, playing in the park his success in Florida arguably helped build, went 2-for-3 with two singles, one of them off the right-field fence. He left for a pinch-runner in the sixth inning. He received a huge ovation from his old home fans every time he stepped to the plate, and again when he left.