BOSTON -- One reason behind the Red Sox's revival last season and their win over the Tigers in the American League Championship Series was an emphasis on baserunning. The Tigers returned to Fenway Park on Friday leading the AL in stolen bases and vastly improved in overall baserunning metrics behind new manager Brad Ausmus.
Ausmus, coincidentally, interviewed for the Red Sox job after the 2012 season before Boston hired its former pitching coach, John Farrell. The Red Sox probably would've had some of the same philosophies under Ausmus, who noted that his emphasis on baserunning isn't team-specific.
Asked if he knew right away when he was hired that he'd emphasize baserunning, Ausmus said, "It wouldn't have mattered what job I got. Running the bases would've been important."
Nor did the roster makeup matter. Without Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler, the Tigers would be down to less than half the stolen bases, but they'd still be trying to take the extra base. It's a similar philosophy Jim Leyland talked about last year.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, have seen an uptick in outs made on the basepaths this season.
Putkonen to visit Dr. Andrews for elbow exam
BOSTON -- Luke Putkonen's rehab assignment has been halted, but he isn't rejoining the Tigers. The reliever's next destination is the office of Dr. James Andrews to have his right elbow reexamined.
The exam, the Tigers announced, is scheduled for Wednesday, a month to the day after Putkonen's initial examination by team doctors. Whether Putkonen joins the long list of Major League pitchers to undergo Tommy John surgery to rebuild the ulnar colateral ligament in his right elbow should be clear immediately after that, though Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said that hasn't been discussed yet.
"Not at this point, no," Rand said.
Putkonen underwent an MRI exam on April 21 in Detroit. The results supposedly showed no structural damage, just inflammation. He spent the next couple of weeks taking anti-inflammatories and rehabbing, then began his rehab assignment 10 days ago at Class A West Michigan before making two appearances for Triple-A Toledo.
Putkonen's last rehab appearance Wednesday against Syracuse is what had people concerned. He pitched two innings, giving up three singles and a grand slam, and Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish voiced some concern afterward.
"I didn't think he had the pop on his fastball, the movement," Parrish told The Blade's John Wagner.
That's much the same description that Tigers personnel gave Friday.
"I spoke to him [Thursday], and he said there's like a clunkiness in his elbow," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's tough to get anything out of Luke, so to say he's hurting is even tougher. It's certainly concerning when Luke tells you something doesn't feel right, because he's usually pretty stoic."
Said Rand: "He doesn't really describe discomfort. It's a feeling that he can't quite get extended the way he wants and he can't seem to finish his pitches the way he wants."
Putkonen's velocity has been down in his limited work this season, from an average fastball of 95-plus mph last year to just under 93 before he went on the disabled list. One observer said his fastball registered at 90-92 mph on the radar gun at Fifth Third Field in Toledo on Wednesday.
"Velocity-wise, he really hasn't been where he had been a year ago," Ausmus said. "He hasn't been there all year this year."
Putkonen said last month he had been dealing with discomfort for a while, but he had hoped his limited work would've alleviated that.
"We did an MRI when he was hurt, which showed everything to be structurally OK," Rand said. "But obviously if you're feeling something, then you want to look at it a little deeper and see if there's something more going on that you're missing."
If Putkonen has Tommy John surgery, it would be his second. The first came 10 years ago while he was at the University of North Carolina, forcing him to redshirt as a freshman in 2005. Dr. Andrews performed that procedure, which was one reason why he's taking another look.
"Might as well have the same guy look at him," Ausmus said.
Torii returns to scene of flip into Fenway's bullpen
BOSTON -- Torii Hunter returned Friday to the scene of his famous flip over the bullpen wall trying to chase down David Ortiz's grand slam during Game 2 of last October's American League Championship Series. He has no desire to relive those memories, nor any desire to repeat it attempt anytime soon, at least not in the regular season.
"It's the past. You don't dwell on the past," Hunter said. "When I go out there, I won't even think about that."
He won't think about doing that again, either. It was an all-out play he made to try to realize his goal of playing in the World Series. It's not a play he's going to make in the regular season, especially with more than 120 games left on the schedule.
"In the postseason, you know when the fence is there," he said. "That step, like somebody's walking behind you, I knew the wall was there. I said, 'Forget it, I'm taking that extra step.' Here, in the season, if you hit it like that, you can have it.
"You're trying to get to World Series. I haven't been there. My window's closing. I'll do whatever it takes. That's the mentality. It's different. It's so close, you dive for it."
Hunter said he does not hold any grudge against Steve Horgan, the famous bullpen security guard who raised his arms and cheered for the home run as Hunter laid on the ground in the bullpen. Though Hunter had some remarks the next day that sounded critical, Hunter said he talked with Horgan.
"He seems like a good guy," Hunter said. "It was his moment. He got a chance to shine. He got to sign autographs. It's a great thing. Good things happen to good people."
Kinsler, Vizquel try to one-up each other in practice
BOSTON -- The Tigers did not have a chance to do any infield work at Fenway Park on Friday due to the weather. Judging by the forecast, they might not be able to until Sunday. By then, Omar Vizquel might be getting antsy.
Every so often, Vizquel takes ground balls in the infield with Tigers players, including second baseman Ian Kinsler. When they do, Kinsler and Vizquel tend to have fun with it, trying acrobatic flips and catches an in effort to one-up each other.
For Vizquel, it's a way to stay connected with the infielders he coaches. For Kinsler, it's a way to live out a childhood memory.
"I remember him doing that with Robbie Alomar," Kinsler said, referring to the days Vizquel and Alomar were teammates in Cleveland. "That's the one thing I think about every time I do that with him."
They were two of the best defensive players in the game at the time, and they were in their primes. Now, Vizquel is 47.
"To be honest with you, I never think about the age," Kinsler said. "I just think about what he can do."
Hanrahan long-tossing to build arm strength
BOSTON -- Joel Hanrahan has been slowed down a bit in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. The recently signed reliever has resumed long-tossing in Lakeland, Fla., to strengthen his arm after he was shut down early from a bullpen session.
"He did it one day and then we shut him down," Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Friday. "The second session, he was having issues as well."
Rand did not characterize the move as a setback. It's not any sort of injury or soreness, he said, but a lack of strength.
"We're taking the approach that we need to build up arm strength on him, and he's been doing a lot better," Rand said.
Hanrahan will be evaluated again in a week, so he won't face hitters again until next weekend at the earliest. What that means for his timetable to join Detroit remains to be seen. Neither Hanrahan nor the Tigers put a firm date on that, but the hope has been that he could be ready at some point in June.