DETROIT If you asked the Magic 8-Ball whether Max Scherzer will make his next scheduled start Sunday, you'd probably get an answer like, "All signs point to yes."
Scherzer, who had to leave his last start three days ago after just two innings because of shoulder weakness, is feeling a lot better.
Scherzer played catch out to 75 feet Friday and was very encouraged by how he felt.
"My arm's responding to the medicine," Scherzer said. "A lot of the inflammation in my arm is out. I was able to play catch and felt no pain, felt good, ball was jumping out of my hand."
Scherzer said there's only one thing he needs to do before he feels completely confident.
"The big thing will be (Saturday), I've got to really air it out, be able to let it fly and be able to throw all my pitches to be sure that I can start," Scherzer said. "If I am able to do that, I don't see there's a reason why I wouldn't be able to start on Sunday."
Manager Jim Leyland is holding Drew Smyly just in case Scherzer is not able to go because he doesn't plan to take any chances.
"Max might feel good, but in the back of my mind, am I taking a chance with this guy for his future, for the Tigers future?" Leyland asked. "Its always a tough call. People think you just make a decision, is he going to pitch or not? Its not that easy.
"Because Im not smart enough to know, does this thing lead to something else? Is there some weakness here that causes something else to happen? I dont want any part of that. So Ill have to be totally convinced by our medical team, which is excellent, but that clearance would have to come from them. Im not going to make that call."
Scherzer said he was reassured by the MRI that he took after he left his last start.
"I'm expecting I should be able to make the start," Scherzer said. "This wasn't a structural damage thing, this was just an inflammation thing. After talking to the doctors and realizing there's no structural damage, I don't have any fears or anything about hurting my arm any further. For me, right now, it feels like the inflammation's out so my arm feels good."
Twins manager weighs in on MVP race
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire doesn't have an MVP vote but if he did, he'd vote for Miguel Cabrera.
"If youre going for the Triple Crown and youve got those numbers, you can 'SABER' all you want to," Gardenhire said. "Those numbers blow your brain. I know (Los Angeles Angels Mike) Trout is good, too. It doesnt make much sense to me to be arguing about this."
Gardenhire acknowledges that there is an argument to be made for Trout, but in his mind, Cabrera is the man.
"Im just tipping my hat to Cabrera, hes the best player in this league," Gardenhire said. "Hes going for a Triple Crown, thats an MVP season. His team is in a playoff hunt not solely dependent on him, but hes the reason theyre in it right now."
Leyland was asked about the issue again.
"It's not really worth it for me to talk about it because it's not like the kid, Trout, is not certainly a deserving candidate," Leyland said. "I'm not downplaying what Trout's done. I'm just saying this guy's gone above and beyond ... I mean, the guy's a potential Triple Crown winner. If he wins the Triple Crown and Sabermetrics is going to say that Trout should be the MVP, that would be embarrassing to every writer in baseball if a guy won the Triple Crown and didn't win the MVP, I would think."
As for Cabrera, who has said hearing the MVP chants from the fans is "weird" for him, he's not worried about awards right now.
"If we make the playoffs, everything is going to be taken care of," Cabrera said.
Avila in lineup
Alex Avila was back in the lineup against the Minnesota Twins Friday night.
Avila had not played since he collided with Prince Fielder's elbow Sunday in Cleveland when the two were going after a foul ball.
"It actually works out good," Leyland said. "Alex will play (Friday), get a blow (Saturday) and then play Sunday. Gerald's (Laird) been doing a good job, but it's great to have Alex back in there. He's OK. He's been cleared to play. He was actually cleared (Thursday) if I would have needed him. I could have used him."
Leyland happy with fans
There's a large banner thanking the three million fans that have come to Comerica Park this season.
The manager certainly appreciates the way the fans have supported the Tigers this year and ever since he's been here.
"These people have been unbelievable, the loyalty and the support has been unbelievable," Leyland said. "It'll be the third time since I've been here that they've reached three million. I'm happy to be a part of that. I'm not saying I have anything to do with it, but I'm happy to be a part of it. That's a thrill. That's a big number. That's a big number when you're talking about workmanlike people and the economy not so great, that's a huge number, so they can be proud of themselves. That's loyalty.
"There's no question that St. Louis and Detroit, pure baseball fans, have the best. That's just my opinion, and I know you probably upset some other cities, but it's unbelievable really."