Clinch tonight may tempt Tigers to skip Price

Starting Sunday would preclude lefty from opening ALDS on regular rest

Clinch tonight may tempt Tigers to skip Price

DETROIT -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has a legal pad in his messenger bag that he has been carrying with him for at least a month. On one page, he has a list of his rotation order that he made out for the stretch run long ago.

Ausmus has a lot of names scribbled out and reordered, but he's had David Price listed for Game 162 for a while. But the skipper sounds ready and willing to make one more change if the Tigers wrap up a fourth consecutive American League Central title on Saturday night. Detroit entered Saturday night's game with a magic number of two, leading the Royals by one game. A Tigers win and a Royals loss on Saturday would seal the division crown.

"As of right now," Ausmus said on Saturday afternoon, "he's a go."

Price said on Saturday afternoon that he wasn't sure about the plans, but that he has been operating for a week with the expectation that he'll start.

"I already got all my work done," Price said on Saturday, "so I'm ready to pitch tomorrow. The thought process doesn't change. I'll be ready."

There's a clear advantage to sitting Price on Sunday if the game doesn't matter, and it goes beyond simply resting him after he threw 114 pitches on Tuesday night. If Price pitches Sunday, he'd have to pitch on short rest to start Game 1 of the AL Division Series on Thursday.

A division title would mean the Tigers would face the Orioles in the AL Division Series, starting on Thursday at Camden Yards. Price is 7-3 with a 2.82 ERA in 17 career starts against his old AL East foes, including 4-0 with a 3.24 ERA in eight starts at Camden Yards. His numbers against the O's have been worse the last couple of years, but the familiarity remains.

Whoever starts Game 1 would be in line to start Game 5, both games in Baltimore. It's the only scenario in which a pitcher would make two starts in the best-of-five series.

For what it's worth, Tigers co-ace Max Scherzer is 3-1 with a 3.92 ERA in his career against Baltimore. He's 1-0 with a 4.95 ERA in three starts at Camden Yards, having surrendered four home runs over 20 innings. That said, he hasn't pitched there since last year, when he threw eight quality innings with 10 strikeouts for the win.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.