DETROIT -- Rick Porcello didn't last nearly long enough to earn the win in the Tigers' comeback victory Thursday night, but he pitched long enough with damage control to keep the Tigers in the game. To do so, he had to change his game for the last few innings.
When manager Jim Leyland said Minnesota's left-handed hitters were taking what Porcello was giving them by hitting opposite-field singles, it said something about Porcello's game. The curveball, a useful pitch for Porcello against left-handed hitters, was a little off, and lefties weren't fooled.
"They hit some first-pitch breaking balls, which generally you don't see happen very often," Porcello said. "They hit a couple curveballs that I threw, which has been a good pitch for me this year."
Porcello didn't want to use the weather as an excuse, but the 44-degree temperature at first pitch likely didn't help. After an encouraging spring honing his curveball, Porcello struggled with it early in the year in the cold.
With that piece of his arsenal out of whack, and Twins hitters adjusting to hit his fastball, Porcello survived in large part with his changeup. It has comprised about 18 percent of his pitches this year, according to STATS, but he threw 28 of them out of his 102 pitches Thursday, according to data from MLB.com's Gameday app.
Seventeen of those changeups came in the fourth and fifth innings, when he recovered from Josh Willingham's three-run homer to hold down the Twins.
"Honestly, the last two innings, I felt like I barely threw any fastballs, just because they were doing such a good job of hitting my fastball," Porcello said. "Obviously I had to make an adjustment there."
Porcello's fourth inning was pretty much an even split of fastballs and changeups. He had more of a mix in the fifth, but still, 13 of his 24 pitches that inning were changeups.
Leyland ponders late-game decisions for top of lineup
DETROIT -- For opposing managers, the choice against the Tigers with scoring chances in the late innings is whether to risk getting beaten by Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder.
For Tigers manager Jim Leyland, the choice sometimes is similar. He faced it in the eighth inning Thursday night: Is it better to bring Cabrera up with the go-ahead run on first base, or have Prince Fielder up with the runner on second and Cabrera on first?
He debated the merits of it immediately after Thursday's win, and he got back into it again Friday. It's a complex enough question, he said, that he has debated it himself.
"The reason I would never have a problem with fans discussing something like that," Leyland said, "is because us as managers [discuss that]. I've discussed that with several managers. I asked that question exactly to Tony La Russa, if he knew he was going to lose Pujols to his fourth hitter, Berkman or somebody. And he said he would bunt the guy to second base."
That's what Leyland did with Torii Hunter Thursday after Omar Infante led off the inning with a single.
"I mean, your fourth and fifth hitters are RBI guys," Leyland said. "But who knows if Torii Hunter would've hit into a double play. Torii might have hit a home run. He might've hit a double. I'm not smart enough to know that. But I do know that if he hits into a double play, it takes the starch out of you."
Essentially, he's playing the percentages, which currently favor Fielder. Over the last four games, Fielder is 5-for-5, all RBI hits, following a Cabrera walk, intentional or otherwise. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Fielder is 8-for-16 with 11 RBIs when following a Cabrera intentional walk over the last two seasons.
That, of course, is a big part of the reason the Tigers signed Fielder.
Cabrera has been intentionally walked 22 times over the last two seasons, equal to his intentional walk total in 2011 and 10 less than his club-record total in '10. All but two of them have come with a runner in scoring position and first base open. One came last season with runners at the corners; another this season came with runners at first and second.
Jackson progressing, cleared for physical activity
DETROIT -- Austin Jackson said Thursday night he has been cleared for physical activity, which he just began as he tries to rehab his way back from a pulled left groin.
It was limited activity -- nothing baseball related -- but he got through it without any pain. He'll repeat that step this weekend before he hopes to progress to some limited baseball activity.
Jackson would like to do some low-intensity baseball work earlier, such as throwing. However, he doesn't have a timetable yet for a return to the active roster.
The Tigers have been getting by at Jackson's leadoff spot just fine in his absence thanks to a combination of Andy Dirks and Omar Infante. Dirks was 13-for-41 with two doubles and two home runs from the top spot before his first-inning single Friday night. Infante's three-hit game Thursday improved him to 6-for-14 in three games from the leadoff spot.
Tigers to honor '68 World Series champions Saturday
DETROIT -- The Tigers are encouraging fans attending Saturday's game against the Twins to find their seats early so that everyone can watch a pregame ceremony honoring the 45th anniversary of the 1968 World Series championship team.
More than a dozen players and coaches from that squad are scheduled to take part, including Hall of Fame Al Kaline, Denny McLain, Mickey Lolich, Gates Brown, Jim Price, Mickey Stanley, John Hiller, Jon Warden, Don Wert, Daryl Patterson, Wayne Comer, Tom Matchick and Hal Naragon. Radio broadcaster Ray Lane is also slated to take part.
Jose Feliciano, famous for his performance of the National Anthem before Game 5 of the 1968 World Series, will perform the anthem again prior to Saturday's game.
The ceremony includes a special tribute video on the Comerica Park scoreboard created specifically for the occasion.
Miggy playing through jammed right pinky
DETROIT -- There was a very good reason Miguel Cabrera was shaking his hand at times during his at-bats Thursday evening. His right pinky, which he jammed on a ground ball earlier in the week, was bothering him in the cold weather.
Still, Cabrera doesn't expect it to be a major issue moving forward. He has played through it so far and fared fine.
As impressive as Cabrera's hitting has been this season, his durability deserves some credit, especially at third base.