CLEVELAND -- For the first time since going on the 15-day disabled list in April, Octavio Dotel is going to pitch in an actual regulation game. And depending on how the coming weeks go, he could yet find a way to pitch his way into the Tigers' bullpen mix for October.
On the day Omar Infante began a rehab assignment for Triple-A Toledo, the Tigers announced that Dotel will finally begin a Minor League rehab stint, this one for the Tigers' Gulf Coast League team, beginning on Wednesday night in Lakeland, Fla.
Dotel pitched in some extended spring training games in preparation for a rehab assignment, only to be shut down when he experienced a flareup of the elbow inflammation that has cost him most of the season.
By rule, Dotel can rehab in the Minors for up to 30 days, which would make sense considering how much time he has missed. If the Tigers take full advantage of that, they can wait until rosters expand on Sept. 1 to activate him and not have to send down anybody to make room. Dotel would still be eligible for the postseason roster, because he was on the 25-man roster in April.
Pitching his way into the postseason is going to be the tougher maneuver. Dotel showed signs of trouble during the World Baseball Classic, struggled through Spring Training and never recovered, allowing seven runs on 10 hits over 4 2/3 innings in April before going on the DL. His fastball, which averaged better than 92 mph last year according to Fangraphs, fell under 90 mph.
Encouraging signs for Infante after rehab outing
CLEVELAND -- Omar Infante went 1-for-5 as the designated hitter for Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday night to begin his latest rehab assignment.
Infante had two popouts and a groundout in his first three at-bats against Triple-A Columbus starter and Indians prospect Trevor Bauer before getting to him for an infield single in the seventh inning. The fact that Infante could leg out the infield single is likely good news for his ankle, which he has said hurts mainly when he runs and turns the bases.
He struck out in the ninth inning on a foul tip.
The next step is for him to play about seven innings at second base on Wednesday.
What happens on Thursday will depend, in large part, on how Infante feels. When he was on his previous rehab assignment a couple of weeks ago, before aggravating his ankle, he wanted to get in three or four games to get his timing back at the plate. This time he isn't committing to that many games.
The Tigers have been in a wait-and-see mode on Infante for about a month while his sprained left ankle, an injury sustained on Colby Rasmus' takeout slide at second base on July 3 in Toronto, slowly recovers.
Leyland addresses decision not to discuss Peralta
CLEVELAND -- On Tuesday, one day after cutting off his pregame media session at 77 seconds because he didn't want to discuss the suspended Jhonny Peralta, manager Jim Leyland talked for more than 20 minutes. He talked more about why he didn't talk on Monday than he actually talked on Monday.
Leyland complimented his players for "maintaining their focus" on what he called "an uncomfortable day for you, me and everybody else." But he also defended his decision not to discuss Peralta.
"We tried to have one spokesman, and we tried to eliminate the bombardment of the players as much as we could," Leyland said. "That's why [general manager] Dave [Dombrowski] was the spokesman, and that's why we weren't going to entertain any discussion about that in here. It wasn't being disrespectful of anybody.
"In my opinion, Dave is the head of the organization, and that's a situation where he should speak, which he did. And it's also a no-win situation to start talking about that. I've seen some managers choose to comment about it. I choose not to, because I don't think that's my place."
Ironically, Leyland's brief pregame sessions actually left more time for reporters to talk with players.
Leyland made one comment about the impact Peralta's suspension will have on the field, and it wasn't much of one.
"My simple statement is, we will miss Jhonny Peralta," he said, "and that's the end of it. I'm not going to discuss it any further."
Leyland working on post-Peralta lineups
CLEVELAND -- Before manager Jim Leyland moved Jhonny Peralta into the sixth spot in the batting order on a regular basis in mid-May, he was batting his left fielder sixth, whether it was Andy Dirks, Matt Tuiasosopo or Don Kelly. So far the post-Peralta lineups have gone back to that trend.
On Tuesday, one night after Dirks batted sixth behind Victor Martinez, Kelly did the same. Kelly got the start over Dirks on Tuesday based on his history against Cleveland starter Justin Masterson (8-for-21 with a home run entering Tuesday).
Leyland isn't promising he'll be holding to that, though.
One factor that could affect that is Omar Infante's expected return later this week. Infante hasn't batted sixth all year, but he has hit sixth occasionally in his career.