Galarraga primed for a bounce back

Galarraga primed for a bounce back

DETROIT -- Armando Galarraga spent extra work after Tuesday's loss at Minnesota trying to get his delivery in line. He's hoping his start Sunday against the A's falls in line with the success he enjoyed early in the season.

It really wasn't that long ago that Galarraga seemed on his way to even more success than he enjoyed last year. Through four April starts, Detroit's breakout starter from 2008 owned a 3-0 record and 1.85 ERA in '09, having struck out 24 batters over 24 1/3 innings with only five runs allowed and a .218 batting average. He had signs of control issues with 11 walks, including five over six innings April 26 at Kansas City, but nothing unique.

Since then, Galarraga's 0-3 with an 8.64 ERA in three May starts. Part of the damage is a .294 batting average against him in that stretch with half of his 20 hits going for extra bases -- five doubles, five homers. The rest is a control issue that led to nine walks and just 61 percent of his pitches going for strikes, including a much lower percentage of swings and misses.

After Galarraga gave up five runs over 5 2/3 innings to the Twins, manager Jim Leyland again cited a problem in approach.

"Galarraga is pitching defensive a little bit," Leyland said. "And I think Galarraga is in a situation right now where he's giving hitters too much credit."

Galarraga turned more towards comfort and mechanics for a solution. His pitches actually felt better in his last start compared with his prevoius two outings, but he never found a rhythm on the mound.

A little work led him to his feet. At some point, Galarraga said, his front foot started pointing him more towards first base when he threw, rather than straight towards the plate.

"When you say you want to come in line, you want to come in straight," Galarraga explained. "When you're in line, you can miss, but you're going to miss [safely]."

Galarraga was in line during his breakout 2008 season, when his location and movement kept hitters from making much solid contact for so long. He doesn't know how he got out of line, except that it happened during the season rather than during Spring Training, when he missed time to represent his native Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic.

"Sometimes, you pick up stuff in your mechanics," Galarraga said. "You're open too much or working too quick, or you have to stay in line. You just want to try to get your rhythm."

That's a more understandable term, especially with Galarraga. When he's on, there's of a pace to his games that lets him feel comfortable without letting hitters feel the same.

But he also thinks Leyland's evaluation has a point.

"Sometimes, maybe I want to be too perfect," Galarraga said. "Maybe I want to give too much credit to the hitters. But when I'm working on that, I feel good. I don't feel that bad. I'm going on the mound and competing for five, six innings."

Pitching matchup
DET: RHP Armando Galarraga (3-3, 4.61 ERA)
After leading Detroit in wins last season and earning Tigers Pitcher of the Month honors in April, Galarraga is encountering the first struggles of his Detroit tenure. He has lost his past three starts with an 8.64 ERA, allowing 16 runs on 20 hits with nine walks over 16 2/3 innings. From a pitch standpoint, his last outing Tuesday at Minnesota was an improvement, with a sharper slider. Two pitches, however, cost him the game, as they were both hit for two-run homers. While he's held right-handed hitters to a .218 average, left-handed batters have hit .286 off him. He'll have a chance to break his struggles against an Oakland lineup that has yet to find its stride.

OAK: RHP Trevor Cahill (2-2, 3.69 ERA)
Cahill, a 21-year-old rookie, went 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in four April starts, getting through the sixth inning once. In May he's gotten through the sixth in all three starts. In his most recent outing, Tuesday against the visiting Royals, he scattered seven hits and two walks while striking out two and allowing two runs over six innings to improve to 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA for the month. Armed with a heavy sinker with late movement, Cahill left the bases loaded in the first inning and stranded three more runners in the next two innings before working a perfect fourth. Coco Crisp broke up the shutout with a homer to open the fifth, and Mike Jacobs homered for Kansas City in the sixth.

Tidbits
On Sunday, Brandon Inge is expected to get his first game off this season as Jeff Larish gets the start at third. Inge has played every inning of every game so far in 2009. ... Ramon Santiago is expected to start at second base Sunday, giving Placido Polanco a game off. ... Gerald Laird's three hits Saturday broke an 0-for-26 slump. ... The Tigers are 5-0 on Sundays this season. Add in their perfect 6-0 record on Saturday, and they're 11-0 on weekends. ... Sunday's game will be broadcast only on AM 1270 in Detroit to fit in the Red Wings broadcast of Game 1 of the NHL's Western Conference finals on 97.1 FM. It will also be available via the Internet via MLB.com's Gameday Audio.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-D HD

On radio
• WXYT 1270

Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Rangers (Brandon McCarthy, 3-1, 5.92) at Tigers (Dontrelle Willis, 0-0, 7.71), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Rangers (Matt Harrison, 4-2, 4.23) at Tigers (Justin Verlander, 3-2, 4.29), 7:05 p.m. ET

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.