Tigers take more caution with signs in Cleveland

Tigers take more caution with signs in Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- Justin Verlander and Jarrod Saltalamacchia looked like a pitcher and catcher struggling to find the same page on the game plan in the early innings Saturday, resetting signs while Verlander stepped off and on the pitching rubber. And to a degree, that was the case; Saltalamacchia hadn't caught a Verlander start since June 26, when the Indians rocked him for four home runs at Comerica Park. 

Still, there was a little more to it than that. As former Tigers pitcher C.J. Nitkowski noted on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, the Tigers looked wary of anyone spotting their signs, whether or not a runner was on second base. 

"We're careful about signs here," manager Brad Ausmus said after Verlander delivered seven scoreless innings in Saturday's 1-0 loss. "There's no accusation or anything. We're just careful with the signs here." 

Ausmus chose his words carefully, not wanting to sound like he was pointing a finger so much as being better off safe than sorry. Verlander, for his part, said it was just rebuilding chemistry between him and Saltalamacchia. 

"We haven't thrown to each other in a while," Verlander said, "so I think a lot of that was just getting on the same page again, and it got better and better. Salty did a great job. As the game went on, we started to click and just kind of went from there." 

Verlander stepped off the pitching rubber or reset at least seven times Saturday, including twice against Mike Napoli to lead off the second inning. Napoli drew a walk in an at-bat that featured all fastballs. It happened four times in the opening inning. From the fifth inning on, though, there was no such delay. 

The Indians are batting .292 at home with an .839 OPS, compared with a .237 average and .690 OPS away from Progressive Field. It's one of the biggest splits in the leagues, though not unprecedented. It's also a lineup that's tailored to its ballpark. 

"They hit a lot better at home," Verlander said," but a lot of teams do, so you just kind of want to eliminate [the other team knowing the signs as a possibility]."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.