Fister, Nova thrust into Game 1 pitchers
Doug Fister came to Detroit in a midseason trade with a 3-12 record. Ivan Nova was sent to the minors in July as the odd man out in the Yankees' rotation.
Both had pitched well enough to earn a start in Game 2 of their AL division series.
Now, rain has thrust them into the Game 1 spotlight.
With the opener of the Tigers-New York series suspended because of rain, the unlikely Game 2 starters will take over for aces Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia on Saturday night when the teams are slated to resume play in the bottom of the second inning at 8:37 p.m. EDT.
"It's not like they're going to throw me out there. I have time to warm up and do all the stuff I usually do. I don't see the difference,'' Nova said Friday night. "You just got to put it in your mind that it's a 0-0 game.''
Fister also was nonplussed about taking over with the Yankees batting in the bottom of the second inning and the score tied 1-all.
"Tomorrow, same day, same time,'' he said. "It is a different inning, and I don't have (Derek) Jeter leading off, but it's the same job.''
It's a job Fister couldn't imagine having when the season started and he was in Seattle.
"It's been a whirlwind of emotions,'' Fister said. "At the same time, it's been something that I'm very grateful for. It's something that's taught me how to just kind of take things one step at a time. That's the mindset I'm taking right now. Just kind of keep moving forward one step at a time. Things will take care of themselves.''
Fister arrived from Seattle with a deceptive record. He made 21 starts for the underperforming Mariners, had the lowest run support among AL pitchers at 1.97 runs per game and a 3.33 ERA when he was dealt on July 30.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland had no idea what he was getting when Detroit acquired the 6-foot-8 right-hander and reliever David Pauley for outfielder Casper Wells, infielder Francisco Martinez and left-hander Charlie Furbush.
Leyland learned quickly. Fister won his first start and went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA for Detroit.
"Certainly when we got him I didn't know he would end up starting the second game of the playoffs,'' Leyland said. "But as it turned out, I felt like he and Justin (Verlander) were our hottest pitchers. That's the way we decided to go.''
Nova was plucked away from the Yankees by San Diego in the 2008 winter meeting draft, then returned the following March. He was pitching well in the difficult AL East, going 8-4 with a 4.12 ERA, when he was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on July 3 to make room for Phil Hughes, who was coming off the disabled list.
When the right-hander returned, he was determined to stay. Nova finished with a 16-4 record, the most wins among major league rookies this year.
"I think I was more aggressive. I was getting ahead on everybody every time I can,'' Nova said. "I came here with another mindset: I don't want to go back to the minor leagues. I was making sure to do everything possible to not go back to the minors again.''
SHORT REST FOR CARP: Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is starting ace Chris Carpenter on three days' rest in Game 2 against the Phillies on Sunday night.
Carpenter has never pitched on short rest before, but he's willing to try it. The 36-year-old righty threw 109 pitches while shutting out Houston in the final game of the regular season Wednesday.
"I feel good, I feel strong,'' Carpenter said. "I'm just excited about the situation we're in and getting an opportunity to pitch here on Sunday. It's going to be a lot of fun. If I didn't think I could do it and wouldn't recover in time, I would say no. That would not put our team in a position that I want to put them in. But I feel like I'll be fine to go.''
Carpenter is 5-2 with a 2.93 ERA in the postseason. He led the NL in innings (237 1-3) this season, but finished strong. He was 10-2 with a 2.73 ERA in his last 19 starts.
"He actually feels better now than he did in the first half of the year,'' La Russa said. "And that's one good fact.''
RYAN'S RECORD PREDICTION: Nolan Ryan underestimated his Texas Rangers this time.
A season ago, the Hall of Fame pitcher who is the team's president and CEO predicted 92 wins. Fans kept track of the Ryan prediction on homemade signs in the stands. The Rangers fell a bit short in the regular season with 90 wins - though they did win eight more games in the postseason and reached their first World Series.
When asked about a prediction before this season, instead of giving a specific number, Ryan said "90-95.'' Texas exceeded that by setting a team record with 96.
"I couldn't be any prouder of our ballclub for the season that they have had,'' Ryan said before Game 1 of the AL division series against Tampa Bay.
In the final days of the regular season, Ryan said he had a lot of confidence in the Rangers as they prepared for their second consecutive postseason after more than a decade out of the playoffs.
"The experience they've gotten, their attitude and the way they've gone about their business this year, and you could feel it in the clubhouse and spring training. I think they came in with the attitude that they had unfinished business and that's how they played all year,'' Ryan said. "I can honestly say I'm going into the postseason very optimistic. ... I think this thing is gaining momentum and I'm quite excited about it.''
PENNY PLAYS: Tigers manager Jim Leyland surprised a few people when he put right-hander Brad Penny on his division series roster.
Penny was 11-11 with a 5.30 ERA in 31 starts for Detroit. He had the highest ERA among the 94 qualifying pitchers in the majors (162 or more innings).
No matter, Leyland was proud of his decision.
"I really think in the end, I think this is what we stand for,'' Leyland said. "Brad Penny took the ball every five days. He pitched 180 innings. You can say what you want about his statistics, whatever. He pitched 180 innings for the Detroit Tigers this year in the No. 5 spot - 180 innings and won 11 games. That's pretty good for a fifth starter. I think you have to do things right, and I think he deserved to be on this roster.''
With Rick Porcello getting the Game 4 start, if necessary, the 32-year-old Penny will work out of the bullpen in his third trip to the postseason.
ROSTER SHUFFLE: The Phillies have no surprises for their 25-man roster, while the Cardinals are waiting until Saturday to announce theirs.
Philadelphia is carrying 11 pitchers instead of the usual 12 during the regular season. St. Louis is hoping shortstop Rafael Furcal (hamstring) and left fielder Matt Holliday (hand) can play. Reliever Kyle McClellan isn't expected to make it because of a tired arm.
The only tough decision for the Phillies was choosing Joe Blanton over David Herndon for the final spot in the bullpen. Blanton missed most of the season with an injured right elbow, but he pitched well in five relief appearances in September. Blanton is a starter, but he's been used in the bullpen in the postseason before. Herndon was 1-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 45 games this season.
"I've had zero problems getting loose so far,'' Blanton said.
TICKET TIMING: Milwaukee Brewers fans will pay the price for seeing their team make the playoffs.
A day before the Brewers were to host Game 1 of the NL division series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team announced a round of ticket price increases for 2012.
The team says the average ticket price will increase 8.6 percent, but noted next year's average price of $24.01 will remain below the 2011 average of major league teams, $26.91 according to the Team Marketing Report.
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio emphasized that the team is trying to strike a balance between remaining fan-friendly and staying competitive with clubs with higher media revenue.
"That is our key revenue component and everybody is enjoying being in the playoffs,'' Attanasio said. "But it does cost money. So we're trying to strike a balance. We're trying to raise prices more close to the field than far away from the field so we don't price (families out). You want to be able to have a family of four come out to the ballpark and enjoy the game.''
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