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Scherzer's ankle injury could alter Tigers' postseason plans

The SportsXchange

Manager Jim Leyland and his coaches celebrated the Detroit Tigers clinching the AL Central title Monday night, then came in early to work Tuesday morning.

They talked, then each coach submitted a list of players he felt should be on the Tigers' roster for the first round of the playoffs.

The talk and speculation over who makes it and who doesn't may continue right down to the deadline for submitting rosters, which is when the lineup card is handed to the umpire prior to the start of the first game.

A couple of hints were dropped by Leyland prior to Tuesday night's game.

Justin Verlander will open the AL Division Series -- which means he'll also be available to close it should the first round go the full five games. The rotation, not in order, will also include Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez, but not Rick Porcello.

Scherzer says he's recovered from his right deltoid problem -- but he suffered an ankle sprain on the field during the division-title-clinching celebration.

"A lot depends on the Scherzer scenario," Leyland said. "It's pretty obvious that (Drew) Smyly or Porcello step into a role if Scherzer can't pitch."

Rookie Avisail Garcia will also be on the postseason roster, which is why Detroit brought him Aug. 31 instead of Sept. 1, and he will be in the starting lineup against left-handed starters.

"I told him, 'It's a little bit different than Erie, isn't it?'" Leyland said, referring to the Tigers' Double-A affiliate. "Here's a kid that, if we see a lefty in the first game, he's going to be starting in right field. ...

"It's a neat story. Who knows? Here we are, the Central Division champions, and Avisail Garcia could possibly play right field in the first game of the playoffs. You talk about a strange year. It's been a little different."

Detroit will have one fewer pitcher, 11 instead of 12, and will carry 14 position players, Leyland said.

Built-in days off mean four starters instead of five are used. The tricky part as far as the bullpen is concerned will be whether the passed-over starter goes to the bullpen or is left off the roster entirely.

A hint on Leyland's feelings in that matter came last year when he kept Brad Penny, omitted from the playoff rotation, and used him in relief. That bodes well for Porcello.

Detroit will play its last game of the regular season much as it did in Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals, with an eye on getting ready for the playoffs, especially in the pitching department.

With Scherzer not able to start Wednesday, Leyland said he'll make the contest a bullpen game.

Luis Marte will start, and he'll be followed by some combination of Luke Putkonen, Darin Downs, Brayan Villarreal, Smyly and possibly Phil Coke.

Miguel Cabrera will play -- if he wants to -- in his bid to clinch baseball's first Triple Crown since 1967.

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