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 FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS

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PostSubject: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Mon Jun 23, 2008 1:47 pm

Yea or nay? Grading the Tigers' off-season trades

June 23, 2008

The Free Press rated the Tigers’ trades this off-season. All stats entering Friday:

THUMBS DOWN
Tigers get: OF Jacque Jones and cash from Cubs.
For: IF Omar Infante.
The skinny: Jones hit .165 with the Tigers and was released in early May. Infante was traded to the Braves and has hit .267 in his first 32 games.

THUMBS DOWN
Tigers get: P Dontrelle Willis and 3B Miguel Cabrera from Florida.
For: OF Cameron Maybin, C Mike Rabelo and P Andrew Miller, Burke Badenhop, Eulogio De La Cruz and Dallas Trahern.
The skinny: Willis and Cabrera have disappointed. Florida is in second, but Miller and Badenhop have been less than stellar.

THUMBS UP

Tigers get: P Denny Bautista from Colorado.
For: P Jose Capellan.
The skinny: The Rockies cut Capellan. Bautista was sent down Friday when Joel Zumaya was activated, despite a solid 3.32 ERA in 16 games with the Tigers.

THUMBS DOWN
Tigers get: SS Edgar Renteria from Atlanta.
For: P Jair Jurrjens, OF Gorkys Hernandez.
The skinny: Renteria’s average and range have plummeted. Entering Saturday, Jurrjens was 7-3 with a 3.43 ERA and a rookie-of-the-year candidate. Hernandez is hitting .327 in 38 games at Class A Myrtle Beach.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Mon Jun 23, 2008 1:55 pm

Ernie Harwell: Catching up with the Tiger family

BY ERNIE HARWELL • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • June 23, 2008

Baseball notes on a Monday morning:

• Did you see the name Dillard in recent Milwaukee box scores? On May 23, the Brewers recalled Tim Dillard from Triple-A Nashville. He is a 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-handed relief pitcher. He stayed almost a month on the roster but has been optioned back to Nashville. Tim's dad, Steve Dillard, was an infielder with the Tigers in 1978.

• Here's the latest news on ex-Tiger Steve Boros' battle with multiple myeloma. He is now responding well to a new drug, Revlimid. Last October, Steve underwent a stem cell transplant. Boros' disease is the same which attacked Don Baylor and Mel Stottlemyre, who have fought it off with success.

Steve and his wife, Shar, moved a couple of years ago from Lakeland, Fla., to DeLand, Fla., where their daughter, Sasha Schmid, coaches the Stetson University women's tennis team. Sasha was named the Atlantic Sun Conference coach of the year in April -- the second time she has won the award.

Steve's son, Steve Jr., once a Tiger bullpen catcher, is in his eighth year as a scout for the Yankees. He makes his home in Houston.

• Here's another health item. My broadcast partner, Paul Carey, recently underwent surgery to remove blockage in his right carotid artery. He is doing fine.

Howard Stitzel, who engineered for Paul and me (and just about all the other Tiger announcers), will celebrate his 91st birthday July 13 at his home in Southgate. I should warn the celebrants that Howard holds the major league record for most desserts on a team plane at one sitting -- six. Stitzel and his wife, June, have a great-great grandson, 4-year old Jacob Havacan.

• Baseball has seen a lot of hitters aim for the .400 mark since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. Now, it is Chipper Jones, the Braves wonder-man, chasing the elusive goal.

Jones told Jack Curry of the New York Times that his father, Larry, is his batting guru. After pitching years of batting practice to his son, Larry can immediately spot any flaw in Chipper's swing. Once he tells his son about the flaw, Chipper makes an immediate adjustment. It's the family advantage.

• Here's a big welcome to the Tigers' press corps for Steve Kornacki, who has returned to his roots, replacing Danny Knobler as beat writer for Booth Newspapers. A native of Wyandotte, Steve grew up in Trenton. He has worked for the Monroe Evening News, Ann Arbor News, Oakland Press and the Free Press. He also wrote for the Orlando Sentinel and his last job was with the Tampa Tribune.

Contact ERNIE HARWELL at Detroit Free Press, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit 48226. Order his four-CD audio scrapbook and his three Free Press books -- "Stories From My Life in Baseball," "Life After Baseball" and "Breaking 90" -- for $44.95 at www.freep.com/bookstore or by calling 800-245-5082.


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–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Mon Jun 23, 2008 2:04 pm

TIGERS NOTEBOOK

After learning to deal with adversity, Robertson 5-1 in past 6 starts

BY JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • June 23, 2008

With his win Saturday, Nate Robertson improved to 5-1 with a 4.91 ERA in his past six starts, according to STATS LLC.

"I think Nate Robertson is probably his own worst enemy," Manager Jim Leyland said. "When Nate Robertson realizes his stuff is plenty good enough -- with this particular type of team -- to win a lot of games. I think he'll do very well.

"He's worked hard to turn the page on handling adversity. I think he's getting much better."

PROUD PAPA: Wade Lamont, the son of Tigers third-base coach Gene Lamont, is off to a good start for Class A Oneonta.

The Tigers' 29th-round pick last year, Lamont is hitting .357 (5-for-14) in four games.

"I know a hitter when I see one," Leyland said of the former Flagler (Fla.) College standout. "He can hit. I saw him in college. I went up with Gene during spring training a couple years ago to watch him.

"He's got a good swing, power to all fields. I don't know what's going to happen, but he can hit."

Contact JON PAUL MOROSI at 313-223-4097 or jmorosi@ freepress.com


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Mon Jun 23, 2008 2:17 pm

DETROIT 5, SAN DIEGO 3

Tigers just 5 games back after 12-3 mark in last 15

BY JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • June 23, 2008

SAN DIEGO -- Zach Miner, one of four relievers who helped preserve the Tigers' 5-3 victory over the Padres on Sunday, stood in a buoyant clubhouse and pondered a season that is finally going somewhere.

"It's different," he said. "The last couple years, we started off great and struggled down the stretch. Hopefully, we're taking the opposite approach and we'll end up winning the division.

"If you're a good team, you've got to believe that if you start off slow, you're going to pick it up. It's the law of averages. Obviously, it doesn't always work out that way. But we've just got to keep believing."

The Tigers' 36-39 record holds special significance for the growing number of optimists across Michigan.

The hopeful masses have argued that these Tigers are capable of a second-half charge similar to their inspired streak early in 2006. Now, that theory will be put to a very precise test.

The Tigers have the same record after 75 games this season as they did over the final 75 two games years ago.

The hard part? The Tigers must finish 59-28 for 95 wins.

If the postseason remains a realistic goal, Sunday's game provided a template for how to get there. Magglio Ordońez and Pudge Rodriguez hit timely home runs. Justin Verlander struck out 10 -- most for a Tiger all season -- and pitched into the sixth inning. The pen held, beginning with Bobby Seay's effort to strand Verlander's two runners.

The Tigers won before a Petco Park crowd of 28,779 to finish their West Coast trip 4-2. They've won 12 of 15 and four series in a row, and they are closer to .500 than at any time since May 3.

"A grind-out game," manager Jim Leyland said. "We're moving in the right direction. We're not sprinting, but we're crawling.

"We're getting some timely hits. We're getting some timely outs from the pitching staff."

Joel Zumaya pitched in his second game since returning from the disabled list and was the only Detroit reliever to allow a run. He inherited a 4-2 lead to start the bottom of the seventh, the type of situation that helped him become famous in Detroit.

Zumaya eagerly took the mound and commenced throwing fastballs that registered 97, 98 and 99 m.p.h. on the stadium radar gun. Because he was unable to command a breaking pitch, Zumaya was fortunate not to allow the tying run.

Of the five batters he faced, three reached base and one scored. The inning ended when Adrian Gonzalez was thrown out at home as he tried to score on a double by Khalil Greene.

Television replays indicated the call easily could have gone the other way.

"Zumaya was good," Leyland said. "He'll get to where he's feeling more confident every time out. He's got to throw the breaking ball for a strike and throw some high fastballs out of the strike zone. That's when he's at his best."

The bottom of the ninth began with an ominous tone, as leadoff man Jody Gerut slammed a single through the box that pegged Todd Jones in the right knee. Gerut took first on the infield hit as Jones writhed in pain.

The ball came within an inch or two of hitting Jones' kneecap, which could have resulted in a significant injury. Jones said later that his leg went numb, which, under the circumstances, was the best possible outcome.

"It got me perfect," said Jones, who remained in the game and induced a double-play ball on the next pitch. Then he retired the menacing Gonzalez for his 315th career save.

The Tigers will return home for a figurative Opening Day in their attempt to equal that magical start from 2006.

The quest will begin against the St. Louis Cardinals -- the team that dashed their dreams in 2006.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sat Jun 28, 2008 5:06 pm

Leyland has 'no problem' with ex-Tiger Jason Grilli

BY JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • June 28, 2008

Reliever Jason Grilli was in the Tigers' midst Friday for the first time since:

• The Tigers traded him to the Rockies in late April.

• Leyland publicly disagreed in late May with a statement by Grilli in USA Today that Tigers officials had "broken up" the club's chemistry when they let go players such as Sean Casey.

Grilli said he continues to hold Leyland and the Tigers in high regard and that he intended no criticism of anyone.

Leyland said Friday:
"I like Jason Grilli a lot. I always have; I always will. That (the matter involving USA Today) is yesterday's breakfast. I hope I get a chance to say hi to him. He made a statement; I made a statement. I have no problem with Jason Grilli."

Lucky 7? Gary Sheffield's starts in the seventh spot this week mark the lowest he has hit in the order since his rookie year of 1989, according to Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org. Leyland said he put Sheffield seventh to get him "settled back in" as he returned after a four-week stay on the disabled list.

Try third: Jeff Larish, who had played exclusively first base in recent years, played third base for Triple-A Toledo on Thursday night. Toledo manager Larry Parrish made the move to strengthen his batting order. No Tigers official asked that Larish play third, said Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila.

The more positions Larish can play, the more ways the Tigers will one day have to get him in the lineup. When Larish's four-week stay with the Tigers ended this week, Leyland told Larish to take some balls at third base and in the outfield while with Toledo.


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sat Jun 28, 2008 10:17 pm

I have no problem with Jason Grilli either......

now that he's an EX-TIGER!!
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Mon Jul 14, 2008 11:49 am

TIGERS CORNER
Post-break plans unclear for Sheff

BY JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • July 14, 2008

On Sunday morning, before the most recent game in which Gary Sheffield was not the Tigers' designated hitter, manager Jim Leyland was asked about his plans for Sheffield after the All-Star break.


Leyland said Sheffield will be the designated hitter Thursday night when the season resumes in Baltimore. Leyland did not say anything about the 67 games after that.

Sheffield's status will be one of the team's most intriguing story lines for as long as he remains on the active roster.

One big reason for that: He is making $14 million this year and next.

Sheffield is a nine-time All-Star who not long ago was one of the team's most feared hitters. Leyland has been loyal to him, and they have great admiration for each other.

Yet, he is hitting .217 with little extra-base power. Since sustaining a shoulder injury last July, he has hit .198 with seven home runs and 28 RBIs in 97 games, according to STATS LLC.

In what could be a preview of lineups to come, Marcus Thames was Sunday's DH. With Thames at DH, Leyland would have the option of playing Matt Joyce in leftfield.

Joyce has played rightfield while Magglio Ordońez has been out with a pulled oblique, but Ordońez expects to return Thursday.

Joyce, meanwhile, has been one of the team's best hitters lately. The left-handed-hitting rookie hit another home run Sunday, giving him nine in 31 games.

President/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Joyce has looked even better recently than during his first call-up. "He's played very well," Dombrowski said. "He's done a very good job."

Sheffield's right shoulder, which was operated on for a third time last off-season, is a major consideration.

Dombrowski said team trainers believe Sheffield is "probably healthier this year than he was at any time last year." On Saturday, though, Sheffield indicated that the shoulder is still not 100%.


Sheffield was revived by a recent stay on the DL, but he has hit .163 with no homers in his past 13 games, according to STATS LLC.

"You're always hoping somebody snaps out of it at sometime," Dombrowski said. "He has struggled. We've all seen that."

The club would owe Sheffield roughly $20 million if it chose to release him now. Dombrowski declined to comment when asked about that potential course of action.


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:10 am

TIGERS NOTEBOOK
After rough start to season, Tiger 'D' showing improvement

BY JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • July 24, 2008

After Tuesday's win, Tigers left-hander Kenny Rogers pointed to better defense as one reason for the team's improved play. He specifically mentioned third baseman Carlos Guillen and first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who switched positions.

"Our defense, I think, has improved since the first month, month and a half of the season," Rogers said. "Our defense was not where we wanted it to be. Carlos is comfortable at third now and doing tremendous over there. Miggy at first, you can see he's getting more comfortable doing what he's doing.

"Our defense has improved, without a doubt. Is it as good as we'd like? No. But it's going to be why we can play consistent baseball. ... The defense is going to help the pitching."

ONE DAY AT A TIME: Rogers, unsigned after this year, was asked about 2009. "I'm day to day, start to start, month to month," he said. "I ain't even looking past that. Things will work themselves out."


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:22 am

Bring Back Kenny for 2009
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Fri Jul 25, 2008 2:36 am

gs78 wrote:
Bring Back Kenny for 2009

I hope he does come back, he is still one great pitcher!
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sun Aug 03, 2008 9:21 am

TIGERS NOTEBOOK
Rookie leaders Longoria and Galarraga set to face off today

By JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • August 3, 2008

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria leads American League rookies in homers (he hit his 21st home run Saturday). Tigers right-hander Armando Galarraga leads AL rookies in wins (nine). They figure to face each other when Galarraga starts today.

NOTEBOOK:
In the first five years of his career, Kenny Rogers was a teammate in Texas of Nolan Ryan, the all-time strikeout king. Ryan was well acquainted with what Rogers suffered Saturday night: a loss in which he struck out a lot of hitters.

When Ryan was with the Angels, he once struck out 19 Tigers in extra innings. But he lost to Mickey Lolich, 1-0.

Satuday night marked the fourth time in his career that Rogers struck out eight and lost, according to Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.

Ryan had 107 games in which he struck out at least eight and lost, according to Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org. ...

The three-run, game-deciding homer Justin Verlander allowed to Cleveland's Grady Sizemore on Thursday was the first homer Verlander has allowed this season with more than one runner on base. ...

Bobby Seay set a career high with five strikeouts in his two-inning outing in Wednesday night's extra-inning win in Cleveland. His previous strikeout high was three. ...

Entering Saturday, Seay had allowed one earned run in his past 15 2/3 innings. ...

The 16 full counts that the Rays hitters drew Saturday night are the most by one big-league team this season in a game that didn't go extra innings, according to research by the St. Petersburg Times. The Times cites the Elias Sports Bureau as reporting that the other team to have 16 full counts this season was San Diego against Cincinnati on May 25. But that game lasted 18 innings.


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Tue Aug 05, 2008 7:37 pm

Leyland tweaks Tigers lineup for White Sox

By JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • August 5, 2008

Two days after Tigers manager Jim Leyland hinted that he could change his rotation and starting lineup, Detroit’s batting order for tonight’s game had a similar look to it – with a little twist.


Ryan Raburn was scheduled to start in leftfield, rather than Matt Joyce or Marcus Thames, who had been playing there regularly in recent weeks.

Here’s the full lineup:



Curtis Granderson, CF

Placido Polanco, 2B

Carlos Guillen, 3B

Magglio Ordońez, RF

Miguel Cabrera, 1B

Gary Sheffield, DH

Ryan Raburn, LF

Brandon Inge, C

Edgar Renteria, SS



Nate Robertson, P


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Wed Aug 06, 2008 5:33 pm

TIGERS NOTEBOOK
Despite hints of change, Tiger lineup about the same

By JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • August 6, 2008

Two days after Jim Leyland hinted that he could change his rotation or lineup, his batting order had a similar look to it Tuesday night. The only notable change was that Ryan Raburn started in leftfield rather than Matt Joyce or Marcus Thames, who have played there regularly in recent weeks.


Leyland did not discuss the lineup in detail, but pointed out Raburn's success against Chicago starter Gavin Floyd. Entering the game, Raburn had a .417 average vs. Floyd (5-for-12).

"He's hit this guy good," Leyland said. "He knows him from the minor leagues. He needs to get a game. Pick a spot and play him."

Leyland’s instinct was right: Raburn tied a career high with four hits.

HOME COOKING: Thanks to Gary Sheffield, Raburn and Joyce were able to spend an extra day in their native Tampa area after the Tigers' weekend series in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Rather than fly on the team charter, Sheffield invited Raburn and Joyce to travel with him and his family on a private plane from Tampa to Chicago.

Contact JON PAUL MOROSI at 313-223-4097 or jmorosi@freepress.com


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sun Aug 17, 2008 8:45 pm

TIGERS CORNER
Placido Polanco changes way he grips bat
Choking up over; hands are at end

BY JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • August 17, 2008

Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco is no longer choking up about 1-1 1/2 inches on the bat. He now grips the bat on the end.


Polanco said he made the change in Tampa Bay a few weeks ago because he wasn't following through in his swing as well as he liked.

In that series, Polanco had several hits. In the next game, in Chicago, he had two homers and a triple. He homered again Friday night against Baltimore. That gave him three of his seven homers since he quit choking up. And his average hasn't gone down.


"I feel good," Polanco said of having his hands at the end of the bat. "I feel comfortable."

The change by Polanco -- reported on FSN by Rod Allen -- comes at what would seem a peak in his career. He had 200 hits last season, and he's hitting over .300 again this season.

"It's a game of adjustments," Polanco said. "If something is not working, you try something different."

He's using the same 33-inch, 31-ounce bat.

Polanco said Albert Pujols, his friend and former Cardinals teammate, had been telling him for a long time to lower his hands on the bat.

Turnaround:
Baltimore manager Dave Tremblay was a manager in the Pirates' farm system when Jim Leyland was manager of the Pirates.

"I was managing in Double-A in Harrisburg in 1987," Tremblay said Saturday. "At the end of May, we lost 11 in a row, all on the road. It wasn't a whole lot of fun.

"I was in a room at the Red Roof Inn in Albany, N.Y., and Leyland called me. He managed many years in the minor leagues.

"He said, 'Are they playing hard?'

"I said, 'Yeah.'

"He said, 'Are the fundamentals being done right?'

"I said, 'Yeah.'

"He said, 'Don't worry about it. You'll be OK.'

"From that point on, we went 52-28 and we won the whole thing. We didn't go 52-28 because Jim Leyland called me. But he was a big league manager, and he took the time to recognize and understand what it was like for someone who was down in the trenches, because he had been there.

"He's a tremendous baseball guy -- probably the guy who I've tried to emulate more than anybody."

Problem Hand: Orioles rookie outfielder Lou Montanez wasn't available to start Saturday. He couldn't swing a bat because he got hit on the hand by Polanco's throw on an attempted double play Friday night. Polanco was ejected during the argument in which the Tigers protested that Montanez had tried to interfere with Polanco's throw.

Out of control: Information from Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org: Control has been perhaps Todd Jones' greatest strength the past few seasons. Since he rejoined the Tigers at the start of the 2006 season, Jones hasn't walked anyone in 75% of his outings. When Jones walked three (one intentional) in his return from the disabled list Friday night, that marked his most walks in a game in his current three-year tenure with the Tigers.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Mon Aug 18, 2008 11:57 am

Ernie Harwell: Colored bats a no-no, but there's gray area

BY ERNIE HARWELL • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • August 18, 2008

Everybody is talking and writing about maple bats. Forget maple. What about red bats?

I was under the impression that colored bats were illegal. But Tigers shortstop Edgar Renteria and others have been using them this season.

So, I checked with the official rule book.

Rule 1:10 says: "No colored bat may be used in a professional game unless approved by the Rules Committee."

To find out what colors had been approved, I contacted Russ Carlton, media coordinator of the Tigers, and Rick Vaughn, vice president of communications of the Tampa Bay Rays.

John McHale Jr., executive vice president of administration of the commissioner's office and former Tigers president, forwarded this explanation to Vaughn:

"Page two of bulletin C-3, issued by the commissioner to the umpires, describes approved bat colors as natural finish, brown wood stain, black and half-stain (Walker finish). Red is not an approved color and any bat that appears reddish probably started out to be stained brown. Any umpire has the authority to exclude a bat of unauthorized color from any game."

Carlton confirmed that a red bat was not permitted and agreed that any bat that seemed red likely had begun with a brown finish. Carlton added that umpires test a bat by checking its grain. If the grain shows through, the bat can be used.

The term "Walker finish" in the McHale explanation might have baffled you. It describes the two-tone bat that became popular in the early 1950s

While visiting the Louisville Slugger factory, Harry Walker, one-time National League batting champion, saw a bat whose barrel had been in a vat of black varnish. He liked the two-toned aspect of the natural wood handle and the barrel darkened by the varnish.

Walker began to hit well with that bat and other hitters copied him. It became a popular model, still used by many players.

Next, my quest took me to American League umpire Rick Reed.

"What action do you take if a batter comes to the plate with a red bat or some other color not authorized," I asked.

"I'd make him get another bat," Reed said. "There's no penalty in the rules. If, because of the umpire's or the opposing team's oversight, he hits a home run with the illegal bat, the play still stands and cannot be protested."


If the rule is that lenient, why do the rule makers even bother about a red bat or a bat of any color?

Contact ERNIE HARWELL at Detroit Free Press, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit 48226. Order his four-CD audio scrapbook and his three Free Press books -- "Stories From My Life in Baseball," "Life After Baseball" and "Breaking 90" -- for $44.95 at www.freep.com/bookstore or by calling 800-245-5082.


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Wed Aug 20, 2008 8:23 pm

TIGERS CORNER
Jeremy Bonderman returns -- but only for a long run

BY JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • August 20, 2008

ARLINGTON, Texas -- For now, about all right-hander Jeremy Bonderman can do on a baseball field is what he was doing Tuesday afternoon at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Run.

But the long run looks excellent for him. "I'm feeling good," he said.

Although he hasn't thrown a ball since his surgery several weeks ago, Bonderman said he has every reason to believe he'll be at full strength for spring training next season.

Bonderman, who has been part of the rotation for the past six seasons, had the surgery to deal with a circulation problem in his upper body. The problem surfaced in early June when Bonderman developed a blood clot in an axillary vein, which runs from the shoulder toward the rib cage.

Bonderman has been away from the club since he had the surgery in Dallas, a short drive from where the Tigers are playing the Rangers this week.

He said he's with the team in Texas "to see the (Tigers) trainers, and the surgeon is going to come in today and check me out one more time. ... I look at this (as) they want me to get another checkup. ... The medical stuff is going great."

He added: "It's fun to be back around the guys. It's been awhile."


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Thu Aug 21, 2008 11:08 am

TEXAS 9, DETROIT 1
Struggling Nate Robertson serves up five homers in loss
Tigers fall season-high 11 1/2 games out of first

BY JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • August 21, 2008

ARLINGTON, Texas -- There's an old saying in baseball that things usually get worse before they get better.

Nate Robertson experienced as much Wednesday night.


In the latest and worst in his long series of ineffective starts, Robertson tied a Tigers record by allowing five homers. He twice gave up back-to-back smashes.

He allowed eight runs and left in the fourth inning, and the Tigers lost, 9-1, falling a season-high 11 1/2 games out of first place. Texas right-hander Kevin Millwood threw a complete-game six-hitter.

The only other Tigers pitchers to allow five homers in a game were Don Mossi at Cleveland in 1961 and Jeff Weaver at home against Boston in 1999. All five allowed by Mossi were solos, and he won the game. But Weaver, like Robertson, lost by giving up all five of his homers from the second through fourth innings.

Robertson has won once in his last 11 starts. In his outing Wednesday, there were no singles and no strikeouts. All eight hits he yielded went for extra bases; the others were two triples and a double.

Manager Jim Leyland said he would investigate anew whether Robertson has a physical problem.

"His hip has been a little sore from time to time, and his knee has been a little sore," Leyland said. "Kevin (Rand, the head athletic trainer) stays on top of that and makes sure he's OK.

"I'll find out if something is going on. I don't think there is -- I talked to the trainers about it today. He had some bad location, and his stuff wasn't real crisp. When you have a combination of those two things, you get a little leery."

Leyland, as is his postgame policy, wouldn't discuss whether a pitcher who'd just had a tough start could be removed from the rotation.

As the game began, the Tigers could see on the out-of-town scoreboard that the White Sox and Twins had won their afternoon games. So if the Tigers were going to start a miraculous reduction of the large lead those teams have over them, this wouldn't be the day.

Robertson left trailing, 8-1. The Tigers have now exceeded their largest previous deficit in the standings: 11 games, which is how far out they stood on the night in early June when Dontrelle Willis lost his most recent big-league appearance.

Like Robertson, Willis began the season with a spot in the rotation. Both have mysteriously turned ineffective.

On Wednesday night, Willis made his second start since his promotion from Class-A Lakeland to Triple-A Toledo. In a five-inning outing at Norfolk, Willis allowed three earned runs, fanned four and -- perhaps most notable -- walked five. So that was a walk per inning, a sign that Willis hasn't conquered his control trouble.

But, in poignant contrast to Robertson, Willis didn't allow a homer.

NOTEBOOK: According to baseball-reference.com and retrosheet.org, Robertson became only the fourth pitcher in the last 53 years to give up at least eight hits in a game and have all be for extra bases. ... In Robertson's 3 2/3 innings, he gave up 28 total bases on hits. He became only the third pitcher in 53 years to give up that many in an outing of four innings or fewer. ... The first two runs off Robertson -- on Travis Metcalf's homer -- were unearned because of an error. But the two outs before the homer came on line outs. ... The last big-leaguer to allow five homers in a game was Minnesota's Carlos Silva in Baltimore, two years ago this Friday.


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sun Aug 24, 2008 10:45 pm

Five questions with Tigers analyst Rod Allen

August 24, 2008

Tigers FSN analyst Rod Allen chats with Free Press special writer Anthony Fenech about the Tigers:

Who will round out the final two spots in the rotation next year? "Right now, I think the three candidates for the final two spots in the rotation next year will be Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson and Zach Miner. With that being said, there are three frontline starters that are going to hit the free-agent market this year: CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets and A.J. Burnett. These guys all have the ability to give you 200-plus innings and strike out 200 batters. ... I don't know if the Tigers' payroll would allow them to go after one of those three guys, but if they are able to get one, then maybe you have a need for only a fifth starter. Even though Robertson has been sent to the bullpen, I still believe he has a chance to open next season in the rotation."

How good can rookie starter Armando Galarraga be? "Armando Galarraga has looked exceptional this year. And as a matter of fact, he has not pitched like a rookie, he has pitched like a veteran. He has 12 wins, and he's been the most consistent starter on the team. He has the ability to throw strikes with a couple of different pitches, and he also locates very well. ... He's going to have to make some adjustments, but if he continues to make those adjustments, Galarraga can slot right into the middle of their rotation and win you 10 to 12 games again next year."

Compare Galarraga and Justin Verlander as rookies:
"To be perfectly honest, there really is no comparison when you start talking about talent. Verlander's a guy who throws 95-96 miles an hour, throwing 100 miles an hour his rookie year with a great curveball and a very good change-up. So as far as stuff is concerned, there is absolutely no comparison between those two. Why Verlander has struggled so much this year is the million-dollar question around baseball. Galarraga does have a nice and calm mound presence about him, and you never really see this guy get rattled out there. Galarraga's a good pitcher, but I still believe Justin Verlander has a Cy Young in his future."

Is Matt Joyce the front-runner for the leftfield position heading into the off-season? "It is starting to look more and more like he will be. Joyce has done a very nice job, combining for 25 home runs between Triple-A and the major leagues. He hits the ball the opposite way, and the Tigers desperately need a left-handed bat. I don't think it's anything that Marcus Thames has not done, because with 21 home runs and 46 RBIs in only 247 at-bats, you'd think that would also validate him getting an opportunity to play every day. But they're looking for a left-handed bat, Joyce has been consistent, and Jim Leyland absolutely loves the way he plays the game."

Can Ramon Santiago be an everyday shortstop?
"Yes, he could be an everyday shortstop. He has tremendous hands, he has a very good throwing arm, and he has good range at the shortstop position. He could be an everyday big league player. However, on this Tigers team, if they're thinking about winning a championship next year, I think Santiago's role is better suited to give you more versatility on the bench as he can play three infield positions."
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sun Aug 24, 2008 10:49 pm

Tigers hot topics

August 24, 2008

Joyce is a hit

After hitting two home runs in Texas on Tuesday, Matt Joyce had hit 12 home runs in his first 60 games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only three other Tigers have accomplished that feat: Rudy York (16, 1934-37), Jason Thompson (12, 1976) and Gabe Kapler (12, 1998-99).

Where's the loyalty?

Forbes.com listed "America's Least Loyal Baseball Fans." The Angels won top honors. The Tigers were right behind at No. 2. The article measured how attendance related to winning percentage since 1991. However, Detroit has had only four winning seasons since then.

Galarraga in '09

Armando Galarraga has been the surprise staff ace for the Tigers. As for his chances in 2009, Jim Leyland told Yahoo.com: "Unless we go out and get Bob Feller, Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, I think you'd have to say that as of right now, he's earned a spot in the rotation."
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Wed Sep 03, 2008 10:00 am

TIGERS CORNER
Leyland to Verlander: Admit mistakes

BY JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • September 3, 2008

The Tigers are not going to the playoffs. They may not even finish with a winning record. But manager Jim Leyland has resolved to achieve some objectives before the season is over.

Perhaps more than anything else, it appears that Leyland wants to eliminate the rationalizations and excuses that have followed some losses this year.

The latest indication of that came Tuesday, when Leyland was not shy in providing a very public recommendation to star pitcher Justin Verlander.

Verlander allowed five earned runs to the Yankees on Monday in the shortest outing of his career (1 2/3 innings). Afterward, Verlander talked about the "tight zone" of home plate umpire Chuck Meriwether, among other factors in the game.

At another point during his Monday news conference, Verlander said, "There's been a lot of misfortune that's gone my way this year."

Leyland said he is "not looking to start anything with Verlander" and is "not being critical." But he made clear that he was not happy with Verlander's postgame remarks.

"You need to have the ability every once in a while to say, 'I stunk' -- not that the strike zone was tight," Leyland said. "You have to say, 'You know what? I was horse (manure).' It's OK, because we're all horse (manure) from time to time. It's good to admit that you're horse (manure) sometimes.

"You turn the page and try to move on. Diversionary tactics are not good."

Leyland, by the way, did not use the term "manure."

Verlander is 10-15 with a 4.74 ERA, easily the worst of his three full seasons in the majors. He has not beaten a winning team since the All-Star break.

Leyland said Verlander's problem "for the majority of the time" this season has been inconsistent fastball command.

Leyland said Verlander's delivery was "out of whack" on Monday. The reason for that, Leyland believed, was that "Justin got a little hyped up with the Yankees."

"Hopefully this will be a great learning experience for him, because he's never failed, probably, at anything," Leyland said. "The point is that you have to get yourself programmed in a routine when you're concentrating to get things fixed.

"You start by not looking for other reasons that you didn't do good. You start by saying, 'You know what? I'm going to do better next time. I'm going to work this stuff out.' "

Leyland spoke about a similar theme on Sunday, when asked about Miguel Cabrera's early-season offensive production. Leyland said the Tigers need to "get away" from talking about the impact that cold weather has on hitters.

"I think we have fallen into the trap where we've had too many cop-outs this year, instead of taking care of our own business," he said Sunday. "That's not good."

Leyland made almost identical comments on Tuesday.

"For any player, you've got to be careful," he said. " 'We weren't hitting early because of the cold weather.' You fall into those traps. You're kidding yourself.

"I don't think you pick at people about it, but you can normally tell if somebody's camouflaging something. ... Chuck Meriwether had not one thing to do with Justin Verlander's horse (manure) outing. Period.

"If Justin thinks different, or believes different, that's up to him."

ARMS TEST: Comerica Park was nearly empty on Tuesday afternoon when two former All-Stars pitched against each other.

Freddy Garcia and Dontrelle Willis faced a rotation of five Tigers hitters in a four-inning simulated game, as Leyland and a group of team officials observed.

"I was very satisfied with both of them, particularly as Dontrelle went on," Leyland said.

Leyland said Garcia and Willis will pitch in another simulated game Monday, after the team returns from a weekend trip to Minnesota.

Leyland said Willis' delivery -- which still included a high leg kick -- was "much more controlled" than it had been previously. Leyland said Willis' fastball reached as high as 94 m.p.h.

"I was very happy," Leyland said. "He popped the ball pretty good. He had good life on his fastball."

Willis seemed encouraged by the outing. "I'm enjoying all of it," he said. "I'm having a great time. Today was fun."

Garcia is about one year removed from labrum and rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder. He said he'd be "really happy" to pitch in a big-league game this season.

"He's ahead of schedule for what he's had done to him," Leyland said. "That's major surgery."

NOTEBOOK:
One Tigers affiliate has reached the postseason: the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps, who open a best-of-three series tonight in South Bend, Ind. ... Leyland said it's unlikely third baseman Carlos Guillen (pinched nerve) will play again before Monday. Guillen is confident he will return this year.

Contact JON PAUL MOROSI at 313-223-4097 or jmorosi@freepress.com. Check out his Tigers blog at www.freep.com/sports


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Fri Sep 05, 2008 11:44 am

TIGERS CORNER
New Tiger's batting progress came fast

BY JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • September 5, 2008

The Tigers were trailing by six runs with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday when a noticeable round of applause swelled in the stands behind home plate at Comerica Park.

The fans apparently had noticed three words on the leftfield scoreboard, along with Dusty Ryan's name, number and photograph: MAJOR LEAGUE DEBUT.

"I wasn't that nervous when I went in to catch," said Ryan, who entered as a defensive replacement in the top of the inning. "It was the hitting. I got more nervous the longer I was out there in the batter's box."

Ryan struck out on four pitches to end the game.

His first at-bat aside, Ryan already has made an impression on the Tigers with his offense: During batting practice Tuesday -- the day he was called from the minors -- Ryan hit a ball off the statue of Charlie Gehringer, well beyond the left-centerfield wall.

Who else hits the ball that far?

"Nobody I know of," manager Jim Leyland said.


First-base coach Andy Van Slyke, the pitcher for that batting practice session, brushed Ryan back with the next pitch.

"Just messing around," Ryan said, smiling.

Ryan, who turned 24 on Tuesday, has become one of the organization's most intriguing prospects. He always has shown a strong arm -- "A cannon," Leyland said -- but batted only .225 over his first four minor league seasons.

Last year, he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and struggled offensively in Hawaii Winter Baseball. At one point this spring, he and minor league officials discussed whether he should convert to pitching.

"It started out as a joke in spring, about me pitching," Ryan said. "I told them, 'No, I need to wait a couple more years and see where catching takes me.' "

At about the same time, Ryan made a subtle change to his hitting approach, incorporating a toe-tap timing mechanism at the suggestion of teammate Brent Dlugach. Van Slyke helped him reposition his hands, which improved his swing.

The results were remarkable: Ryan batted .266 with 17 home runs and 63 RBIs between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this season.

Ryan said his arm has "always been the strongest point of my game." He has hit two pitchers with his throws to second base; one was Tigers prospect Casey Fien.

"That left a pretty good mark on him," Ryan said.


Ryan did not have friends or family in attendance Thursday, but they should have another chance to see him on the field soon. Leyland intends for Ryan to catch Sunday when Chris Lambert, a fellow September call-up, starts against the Minnesota Twins.

With the debut out of the way, Ryan's next milestone is his first hit.

"Hopefully next time I'll be more relaxed," he said.

DEFENSE RESTING: The Tigers have committed 103 errors, second-most in the American League. Leyland said Thursday that he intends to emphasize improved defensive play in spring training next year.

"We will be better at it," he said. "We will be relentless in spring training about defense and defensive concentration."

The Tigers have allowed 67 unearned runs -- a total Leyland said is too high.

"We have not played well defensively overall," he said. "I take full responsibility. ... When you haven't pitched that well and haven't caught the ball that well, that usually spells disaster. We're capable of better."

NOTEBOOK: If right-hander Freddy Garcia pitches well in a simulated game Monday, it's possible that he would be activated in time to appear against his former team, the Chicago White Sox, next weekend. ... Left-hander Nate Robertson pitched three innings of relief Thursday and allowed one earned run -- Torii Hunter's 435-foot solo homer to centerfield. Leyland said he noticed improvement in Robertson's slider. ... Third baseman Carlos Guillen (pinched nerve) will not travel with the team to Minnesota this weekend, although he will continue baseball activities in Detroit. Guillen has not played since Aug. 25, and it's far from certain that he will play Monday, as the team has hoped. ... Gary Sheffield (sore shoulder) had the day off.


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–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:35 pm

Tigers' hot topics

September 7, 2008

Down trend

Don't expect Gary Sheffield to find his swing in the last month of the season. Sheffield hit .229 in September and October over the past three seasons, according to ESPN.com. The Tigers' DH has hit .291 in at-bats between April and August during the 2005-07 seasons, but his production declines in the fall.

A generous Maggs

Even though the Tigers' hopes of playing in the World Series are over, there's still a chance Magglio Ordońez could attend one of the games. He is the Tigers' nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. He has donated $100,000 from his check each year to a charity that supports education and youth baseball initiatives in the Detroit area.

Granderson is great

While the pitching continues to fall apart, Curtis Granderson is showing promise. Jim Leyland said last week that Granderson has matured enough to where he can drive in runs and hit lower in the lineup. Granderson and Miguel Cabrera in the middle of the lineup for years to come is a positive in an otherwise disappointing season.


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:36 pm

Tigers by the numbers

September 7, 2008

103 - Errors committed by the Tigers entering Friday's game.

0.29 - Percentage points added to Nate Robertson's ERA Aug. 30 after allowing six runs.

7.29 - Justin Verlander's ERA over his prior eight starts.


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:43 pm

Five questions with Tigers analyst Rod Allen

September 7, 2008

Tigers FSN analyst Rod Allen chats with Free Press special writer Anthony Fenech about the Tigers:

Are you surprised by the Minnesota Twins making a run at the division?

Absolutely. Anytime you're forced to trade away a guy like Johan Santana -- who has won two Cy Youngs -- and you also have to allow the face of your organization, Torii Hunter, to walk away via free agency because basically you couldn't afford him -- it is one of the best stories in baseball. Granted, they still have a former MVP in Justin Morneau, a former batting champion in Joe Mauer and one of the best closers in the game with Joe Nathan. But when the season began, nobody -- and I mean nobody -- expected them to be where they are right now because of the pieces they lost and the number of rookies in place.

Who will prevail in the Central?

I'm going to go with the White Sox. They have a veteran team with guys that have done it before. They've got talent all across the board: power, speed, pitching, you name it.

If and when will Dontrelle Willis regain his past success?

Hopefully we see it next spring. There's no reason why Dontrelle can't regain the promise that he had winning a rookie of the year and finishing runner-up for the Cy Young. He still has outstanding stuff. His fastball is still around 93-94 m.p.h., and he's got the secondary pitches to complement that. The Tigers have done a very nice job trying to quiet his windup down, which has allowed him to be much more efficient in throwing strikes.

How much longer will Jim Leyland manage the Tigers?

I hope Jim is managing as long as he wants to manage. He has said that besides being a player in the major leagues, managing the Detroit Tigers is his dream job. We all know the story: He grew up in the Tigers organization as a player and served as a minor league manager for several years before he had an opportunity in the big leagues. A couple of years back, he finally came back to the job he had wanted all along. ... It's been a very stressful year for a lot of people associated with the ballclub, and I believe Jim wants to come back and finish this thing off, winning a championship for the Ilitch family and Tigers fans.

Who was the toughest pitcher you've ever faced?

Without question, Fernando Valenzuela. This was in winter ball, in Mexico, in 1980, one year before he became the star that he would become in Los Angeles. ... He was a left-handed pitcher and I was a right-handed hitter, and usually lefties didn't give me problems, but Fernando was the toughest pitcher that I've ever faced. Granted, it was in winter ball in Mexico, but winter ball was really good back in those days.


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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sun Sep 07, 2008 7:48 pm

TIGERS CORNER
Tiger coach: When team struggled, Justin Verlander tried too hard

BY JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • September 7, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS -- Tigers pitching coach Chuck Hernandez advanced a theory Saturday for why right-hander Justin Verlander has struggled this year (15 losses) after he had thrived in his previous two seasons (15 losses combined in those two years).


"He's been trying to do too much," Hernandez said. "As the season unfolded, we had our struggles as a team, and I think he might have put a little undue pressure on himself to be the one who stopped every bad streak.

"This was the first time in his pro career he had any big doses of adversity. He's a very proud kid, and he wants to do really well for his team. Sometimes the harder you try, the worse things can become."

Hernandez and Verlander had done a lot of work on pitching fundamentals since Verlander's early knockout Monday against the Yankees. Early trouble loomed again Saturday, but with none out in the first and the bases loaded, Verlander got Justin Morneau to ground into a double play.

Verlander allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings Saturday and got a no-decision. "I took steps forward," he said.

Ordońez short a single: Magglio Ordońez came within a single of the cycle. After grounding out sharply in his first at-bat, he doubled, tripled (on a sinking liner past the rightfielder) and hit the game-winning homer on his remaining at-bats. Ordońez hasn't hit for the cycle, but this was his second game with the double-triple-homer combo. The first came in 2000 for the White Sox -- against the Tigers.

Rodney's high-wire act: Fernando Rodney converted his eighth straight save opportunity, but like a few others in that streak, it was exciting. Alexi Casilla's perfect bunt single with one out in the ninth loaded the bases. Rodney, leading 6-4, had to face the Twins' best hitters, Joe Mauer and Morneau.

He struck out Mauer on a 2-2 fastball. Morneau (6-for-10 off Rodney with five extra-base hits) lined to second baseman Placido Polanco for the final out.

Eighth wonders: For the fourth time this season, the Tigers came from behind in the eighth inning to beat the Twins. The Twins' ninth-inning closer, Joe Nathan, has never blown a save opportunity against the Tigers. So with the eighth-inning rallies, the Tigers in effect have four wins over the Twins on their final at-bat. Remember those games if the Twins lose the division by a game or two to White Sox.

Rotation news: Leyland said again that Nate Robertson likely will start Tuesday night against Oakland in place of Kenny Rogers, whose next start won't be until Saturday. "There is nothing wrong with Kenny Rogers' arm," Leyland said. "His hip was sore, and (he had) some other nagging (things)." In an interview Saturday, Rogers refused to acknowledge he has a hip problem, perhaps not to make it seem he's using health issues as an excuse.

Notebook: Before his game-winning homer, Curtis Granderson was having an up-and-down game.

In the Twins first, with a runner on first and none out in the Twins first, Granderson just missed a diving, charging catch on a blooper. He had time to throw to second for a force, but threw wide. With the help of that play, the Twins got a run in the inning.

Granderson walked and scored in the fourth, and he doubled in the sixth as he represented the potential tying run.

But he got doubled off second to end the inning on Placido Polanco’s line drive to right.

“I had to remind myself that I had another at-bat, and not to try to do too much,” he said.

As it turned out, he couldn’t have done more with that remaining at-bat.

Twins right-hander Scott Baker (7 1/3 innings, four hits) had just left to a huge ovation when Granderson unloaded his game-tying homer. Baker had made the mistake of exiting with a walk to No. 9 hitter Ramon Santiago, which brought up Granderson as the tying run.

It was Santiago’s 15th walk this season, compared to 12 strikeouts. He’s the only Tigers hitter with more walks than strikeouts.

Santiago also threw out a runner at the plate on a sixth-inning relay on Carlos Gomez’s bases-loaded double. He helped shut down what could have been a huge, pullaway inning for Minnesota. The Tigers came out of that inning trailing, 4-1.

Walks hurt: According to Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org, Armando Galarraga on Friday night became the fourth starting pitcher in the majors this season to allow three hits or fewer and six runs or more. Dontrelle Willis also had one of those games, in his final appearance before being sent to the minors.

Thames starts:
Manager Jim Leyland originally planned to play lefty swinging Matt Joyce in left. He switched to Thames because Thames hit two homers Friday night and because he had three career homers off Baker. Thames had the distance for a tying leadoff homer in the fifth, but his drive to left went foul. Thames also figures to be in the lineup today against left-hander Glen Perkins.

More walks: Justin Verlander, trailing by a run, set up Gomez’s bases-loaded double in the sixth by walking two of the first three hitters in the inning. The Tigers have walked more hitters than any A.L. team except Baltimore.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sun Sep 07, 2008 8:01 pm

JOHN LOWE | INSIDE THE TIGERS
Pounding strike zone leads to victories

September 7, 2008

MINNEAPOLIS -- There are two phrases I've heard more than ever this season from managers, pitching coaches and pitchers.

Pound the strike zone.

Make the first pitch of the at-bat a strike.


Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee has practiced those words all season. He has averaged one walk per start.

Lee won his 20th game Monday night, then told Tribe broadcasters Tom Hamilton and Mike Hegan on their postgame show, "If I give up a run, I want it to be one run -- I don't want a big inning. The key to that is throwing strikes, locating, working ahead in the count and mixing in off-speed pitches. And try not to walk anybody -- that (issuing walks) makes things tough on you."

In that same Cleveland ballpark where Lee won his 20th, rookie Armando Galarraga won his Tigers debut in April. After that game, when asked what impressed him about Galarraga, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, "He pounded the strike zone."

In most of Galarraga's best games this season, his control has been tremendous. He has been the Tigers' best starting pitcher, and he's one of the best rookie pitchers in the majors.

When the Yankees' Mike Mussina faced Tampa Bay on Tuesday night, he gave up 10 hits. But he walked only one. He allowed two runs, and he got his 17th win.

As of that same evening, the American League's top-three winners were Lee, Mussina and Roy Halladay. They were also the three AL starting pitchers who had walked the fewest hitters per nine innings this season.

This reliance on strikes only works for a pitcher whose stuff is good enough to get out major league hitters. But for those whose stuff is good enough -- can pitching really be this basic? Get ahead in the count and keep throwing strikes?

Look at the reverse evidence. Nothing lights a fuse in an inning like a leadoff walk.

It's how the Tigers' Fernando Rodney lost to the Angels on Tuesday night.

It's how Minnesota's Joe Nathan began to let a one-run lead get away Wednesday night in Toronto when the Twins had a chance to stay tied for first.

Nathan walked the leadoff batter in the ninth with a one-run lead. That's like putting a runner on first, then starting the inning.

A leadoff walk leaves little margin for error. That's because a team averages about one hit per inning over a season. Sure enough, Toronto got one hit in the inning off Nathan, a two-out single. When the Twins misplayed the ball, the tying run scored. Toronto won in extra innings.

I'm not sure why throwing strikes has been talked about so much this year. Maybe it's because everyone saw how the Red Sox succeeded in last year's postseason with their virtual team-wide ability to take pitches and draw walks. Thus the Red Sox often drove out opposing starters early with high pitch counts. In half of the Red Sox's postseason games last season, the opposing starter lasted between four and five innings; in those shortened outings, the starters averaged 93 pitches against Boston.

There are many theories about pitching, but maybe all those theories should start in one place. Strike one.

Good moves: I see what CC Sabathia and Dustin Pedroia are doing, and it reminds me of the two most vital contributors to the Tigers' 1987 AL East title.

Sabathia joined the Brewers at midseason and opened 9-0 with them. That's like Doyle Alexander, who joined the Tigers in August 1987 and went 9-0 the rest of the way.

Pedroia has been a superb top-of-the-order hitter for the Red Sox. But in his recent forays at cleanup, he's fully emerged as an MVP candidate.

In '87, when Lance Parrish's free-agent exit left the Tigers without a cleanup hitter, manager Sparky Anderson moved Alan Trammell from the second spot to the fourth spot. Trammell responded with a year that should have won him the MVP. Toronto's George Bell got the MVP, even though his bat went silent in the final days as the Tigers overtook Toronto for the AL East title.

Contact JOHN LOWE at 313-223-4053 or jlowe@freepress.com. Check out his Tigers blog at www.freep.com/sports
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Tue Sep 09, 2008 10:19 am

TIGERS CORNER
Nate Robertson attempting to regain tenacity of '06

BY JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • September 9, 2008

Nate Robertson's biggest triumph as a Tiger came against the Oakland A's.

The assignment -- on the road, against Oakland ace Barry Zito, in Game 1 of the 2006 American League Championship Series -- tested Robertson's mettle. He responded with five shutout innings.

His most memorable escape came in the fourth, when he allowed a walk and double with none out and the Tigers leading, 5-0. He struck out the next three hitters: Eric Chavez, Nick Swisher and Marco Scutaro.

Steve Lyons, in his analysis for Fox television, described Robertson's slider as "filthy" and "unhittable." His fastball reached 94 and 95 m.p.h., according to the telecast. The inning ended with Robertson shouting in celebration, fists clenched, on his way to the dugout.

Robertson's victory that night surely contributed to the team's decision to award him a three-year, $21.25-million contract extension in January. But his performance since then has been disappointing: a 7-10 record and 6.30 ERA.

Last month, Robertson was dropped from the rotation. Tonight, against a different Oakland lineup, he will start again.

"The biggest thing is just going out, taking what I've been working on, trusting it, and not thinking about everything else," Robertson said. "What's done is done."

Robertson had the finest season of his career in 2006. He won 13 games, pitched more than 200 innings and started the opener of two postseason series.

When asked Monday to describe the mentality that made him successful that season, Robertson replied: "It was me versus whoever was in the box, and I didn't care."

And this season?

"My biggest competitor, for the most part, has been myself," he said. "If I've ever gotten in trouble, it's typically a conflict of the mind. My ability's still there."

Robertson said he has worked on "a couple mechanical things" in recent bullpen sessions, but he wants to regain the tenacity he showed that night in Oakland two years ago.

"Sometimes, the littlest adjustment has the biggest result," Robertson said. "And a lot of that starts in your mind. It's going out there, enjoying what I'm doing, and not thinking too much.

“I’m not a guy that’s going to blow you away. I’m not a guy that’s going to finesse you to death, either. More than anything, I’ll come at you with what I’ve got. That’s what I’ve been known for – and need to get back to.”

Manager Jim Leyland has not committed to Robertson remaining in the rotation after tonight. Leyland said Monday that the Tigers’ rotation for this weekend’s series in Chicago will include Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers and Zach Miner.

It’s not clear when Chris Lambert, who earned his first big-league victory on Sunday, will start again. According to the current schedule, Lambert will not pitch when his turn comes up this week.

Freddy Garcia and Dontrelle Willis, two more candidates to start this month, pitched against one another in a simulated game Monday. Leyland said both threw better than in their previous simulated game.

FIRST IMPRESSION:
Rookie catcher Dusty Ryan said he received 20 text messages and eight voicemails in the 24 hours after Sunday's victory, during which he homered for his first career hit. He sent messages back and forth with Colorado Rockies reliever Brian Fuentes, a fellow native of Merced, Calif. (Ryan catches Fuentes' bullpen sessions during the off-season.)

Ryan said Fuentes had told him that he was sure to get a first-pitch fastball when he made his debut last Thursday. He didn't. But he saw one Sunday from Minnesota left-hander Glen Perkins -- and hit it out to rightfield. Afterward, Ryan sent Fuentes a message that said: "There was the first-pitch fastball."


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Wed Sep 10, 2008 1:54 pm

TIGERS NOTEBOOK
Robertson: Rookie catcher Dusty Ryan 'does a heck of a job'

By JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • September 10, 2008

Rookie Dusty Ryan made his second start at catcher for the Tigers, two days after he homered in his first big-league start. He had two hits, including a double.

Nate Robertson, Tuesday night’s starting pitcher, praised Ryan’s work behind the plate.

“Dusty called a great game,” Robertson said. “As far as calling a ballgame and setting up back there, he does a heck of a job. He’s very intelligent. He looks like he’s been here for a while, the way he’s swinging the bat, and the way he’s calling a ballgame, and his demeanor.

“He doesn’t look like he gets too rattled too easily. He’s got a quiet confidence about him.”

Double triple


Oakland’s Rajai Davis pulled a Curtis Granderson: a two-triple game. Granderson has had four of them. But nobody had gotten two triples in a game for Oakland since Ray Durham in 2002, also at Comerica Park. Yes, the Tigers’ home field is a triples park (although half of Granderson’s 36 triples since the start of last season have come on the road).

More for Seay

Bobby Seay’s part in Tuesday night’s Tigers downfall -- a leadoff walk in the eighth -- came in his first appearance since one of his best outings of the year. On Sunday in Minnesota, he went two innings to help preserve rookie Chris Lambert’s first big-league win.

These last two outings indicate anew that Seay does some of his best work in multi-inning outings.

Seay allowed one run in his two innings Sunday. It was the only run Seay has allowed this season in his seven outings of at least two innings.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:07 am

TIGERS CORNER
OF Clete Thomas to have Tommy John surgery

BY JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • September 11, 2008

Clete Thomas was fresh off the disabled list when Tigers manager Jim Leyland wrote him into the lineup -- batting seventh, playing leftfield -- on June 21 in San Diego.


Thomas was excited. It would be his first start in more than two weeks. But before batting practice, he felt a pop in his right arm while playing catch with teammate Curtis Granderson.

There was no way to know for certain at the time, but Thomas had torn a ligament in his throwing elbow.

This morning in Birmingham, Ala. -- roughly two and a half months after the injury occurred -- Dr. James Andrews will perform Tommy John surgery on Thomas' elbow. Thomas said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the recovery period is expected to be six to eight months.

Immediately after the injury, Thomas had two choices: He could have told team trainers precisely what happened. Or he could have said his elbow was a little sore, received treatment and continued playing.

He opted for the latter.

"I didn't want to say anything," said Thomas, who hadn't spent time on the disabled list before this season. "I didn't want to go on the DL and miss the rest of the year. I wanted to keep playing."

For more than two months, the 24-year-old slipped on a neoprene sleeve and took the field. He was able to swing pain-free but said he grinded his teeth with every throw.

Thomas hoped the pain would remain at manageable level, but it worsened. He returned to Triple-A Toledo after the All-Star break, batted .202 for the Mud Hens in August and was not among the players recalled to Detroit when the roster limit expanded Sept. 1.

"After a while, the pain was always there," he said. "I couldn't take it anymore."

With a few games left in Toledo's season, Thomas spoke up. The team initially described the injury as a sprained elbow. Subsequent magnetic resonance imaging exams revealed otherwise.

Even if Thomas recovers according to the best-case scenario, he will not be a full participant when the Tigers begin full-squad workouts in February. If he needs exactly eight months, he will not be game-ready until the second Sunday in May.

Either way, Thomas' injury is likely to impact the team's outfield plans for 2009. For that reason, he acknowledged that he might have benefited from informing the team earlier.

If he had undergone the surgery soon after he sustained the injury, Thomas said, "I'd for sure be ready for the start of next year. I guess this is part of the learning process."

A relevant comparison for Thomas could be Cleveland Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. He underwent the surgery on Sept. 25 and made his season debut May 31.

Thomas made Detroit's Opening Day roster this year and batted .284 with one home run and nine RBIs in 40 big-league games. He was scheduled to play in the Arizona Fall League but will be replaced by outfielder Casper Wells.

Minor news: Rookie catcher Dusty Ryan will participate in the Venezuelan Winter League beginning in November. "It's going to be different," he said. "I've never been anywhere where I didn't speak the language." The Tigers named left-hander Jon Kibler and first baseman Ryan Strieby as their minor league pitcher and player of the year, respectively. Kibler, a 30th-round draft pick from Michigan State in 2007, went 14-5 with a league-best 1.75 ERA for Class A West Michigan.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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PostSubject: Re: FREE PRESS TIGER'S NEWS   Sat Sep 13, 2008 10:58 am

TIGERS CORNER
Joel Zumaya diagnosed with another arm injury
Reliever will be re-evaluated after resting right shoulder for 6-8 weeks

BY JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • September 13, 2008

CHICAGO -- In light of right-hander Joel Zumaya's latest injury -- a stress fracture in his pitching shoulder -- the biggest question might be how Zumaya can summon the resiliency to deal with another health malfunction.

The Tigers announced Friday that Zumaya was diagnosed with the fracture Thursday and was told to halt all baseball activity for six to eight weeks. Zumaya, who has been on the disabled list for a month, had worked his way up to some light throwing recently.

The injury has made his status for the start of spring training unclear.

Since the start of last season, Zumaya has spent more time on the DL than on the active roster. He had finger surgery early last season, then major shoulder surgery this past off-season.

Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand was asked what can be done to make sure Zumaya doesn't get too down about all the things that have gone wrong for him the past few years.

"We work on that all the time," Rand said Friday. "When I talked to Joel last night, he was very frustrated with what's going on. It's been a very, very difficult year for him.

"He's worked very, very hard to get himself back. He's done a real good job in that vein. But it's been a tough year. He's got to continue to keep his chin up, keep working and do the right things and believe it's ultimately going to work in the end for him.

"But he's worked hard, and I give him all the credit in the world for what he's done up to this point," Rand said. "Like I told him, 'It (the new injury) is a bump in the road. It tells us there are certain things you can't do with your shoulder that you weren't able to do before. We've got to use it and get you strong and get you going again.' "

Zumaya pitched for fewer than two months this season. He returned in mid-June from the shoulder surgery, then in mid-August went on the DL with a sore shoulder. He has been doing well on a program to regain his strength and range of motion, Rand said. He'd also done the light throwing.

"Everything had felt good until he woke up Thursday morning with discomfort in the right shoulder," Rand said.

Rand sent him to be examined by Dr. Stephen Lemos, the team orthopedist. Dr. Lemos discovered the fracture.

Ever since Zumaya went back on the DL a month ago, the club's goal has been to have him ready for the start of spring training. Does the newest injury reduce the chances that Zumaya will be at full strength at the start of camp?

"It's too early to make that determination," Rand said. "Right now, he's got six to eight weeks of no baseball activity. We've got to let it heal. Once we let it heal, we've got to reevaluate him and see what we've got to do to get him ready for next year."

BACK ON MOUND:
Kenny Rogers is scheduled to make his first start today since he got knocked out in the third inning nine days ago. After that game, he talked in broad terms about how he would consider retirement after this season if he doesn't resume pitching effectively.

Rogers, 43, has made two quality starts in his past eight starts. In each of his past three starts, he has allowed six earned runs.

Manager Jim Leyland said he gave Rogers extra time before today's start to heal his body, especially a sore hip. Leyland emphasized there's nothing wrong with Rogers' arm.

Nor would it be wise to assume that Rogers is too old to pitch effectively. Left-hander Jamie Moyer, two years older than Rogers, raised his record to 14-7 on Thursday night with another clutch win for the playoff-contending Phillies.


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
–Joe Garagiola
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