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 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS

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PostSubject: 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS   Mon Mar 23, 2009 9:26 pm

03/23/09 10:00 AM ET
Leyland hopes to have healthy rotation
Tigers manager discusses his expectations for the '09 season

By Jason Beck / MLB.com


  • Leyland on the 2009 Tigers Watch
  • Inge on playing the field Watch
  • Sheffield on chasing 500th homer Watch
MLB.com recently spoke with Tigers manager Jim Leyland about his outlook for the 2009 season.

MLB.com:
You said early this spring that you'd either have too much pitching or too little. With some of the performances you've gotten lately, are you starting to feel good about the pitching you'll have, however it works out?

Leyland: I'm going to feel good if we're healthy. That means total health. I think we're still in the area where we could have a little too much, or maybe not enough, if certain guys are not really good. When I say good, I'm talking about health-wise. I'm not talking about performance-wise, although that plays into it.

I was talking with [president/general manager] Dave [Dombrowski], and we were talking that it's too early for judgments, but it's not too early to show us what you've got. In other words, guys need to step it up. It's not too early to step it up, but it's too early for judgments. So we've got some time for judgments, but guys really don't have that much time not to step it up, because, like I've said, a long spring is suddenly turning into a short spring. It's not a time to panic about anything like that, but the fact of the matter is, you still want to see guys step it up. That doesn't mean it's going to step up our process, decisions, but it does mean that it helps. Guys should be preparing themselves to win a job.

MLB.com: You talked about the anxiety you face over the final couple weeks of camp. Is it more anxiety than you had the last couple years, or is it a different kind of anxiety?

Leyland:
Well, No. 1, I think we have a real good team, so that's good. But this is going to be tough. The worst day for you is also the best day for you, if you understand what I mean. The worst day is getting down to 25 [players] and telling people they didn't make it. That's the worst part. The best day, on the exact same day, is that you've got your 25 and you're ready to go. It's like when you have a problem, and you avoid it, and you look in the mirror and you know you're avoiding it and you feel terrible. And then all of a sudden you address the problem, and you say, "I feel good." Right, wrong or indifferent, you feel good. That's kind of the way it is.

MLB.com:
On the hitting side, you've been able to give Brandon Inge regular at-bats this spring. Are you seeing him stick with the changes at the plate?

Leyland:
I think he's making a conscious effort to stay with Mac [hitting coach Lloyd McClendon]. I think he is trying to stay consistent with something. I think if you believe in something, you stick with it, you work with it, and hope it pays dividends. I think one of my biggest things, my own personal thing, with Brandon Inge is staying aggressive. I think too many times in the last year or so, he's hit in the [0-2] hole too many times. That's what I really believe.

MLB.com: Gary Sheffield has been healthy enough that you've been able to get him a pretty steady diet of at-bats. How much of a difference do you think that makes for him?

Leyland: I think Sheff's always taken at-bats. I think Sheff took a lot of at-bats last year. He was hurt, but he took them. He's a tough guy. He's a competitor. I've always appreciated that in him. I don't think there's anybody tougher than him with what this guy's gone through. The biggest thing right now is the fact that he's healthy. Doesn't have any injuries. Didn't have any offseason surgery. I think he and Mac have a little something with that new deal with his hands and stuff. So far, it's shown production. I think he probably feels pretty good right now.

It goes unsaid that this guy's been one of the best hitters in baseball for a long time. Has he slowed up a little bit? Yeah, he's 40 years old. That just happens. But is he still a force that can be extremely productive? Absolutely, we think so. I don't think there's any question about it.

There was probably a period of time where there's been quite a few years that he was probably the most feared hitter in baseball. I can remember guys for a long period of years that kept saying the greatest bat in baseball was Gary Sheffield. That's pretty impressive. He's been a guy that's earned his keep wherever he's been because he plays. He goes out there hurt, not hurt, whatever. He goes to the post for you. That's pretty good. And he's still going to the post, and he loves it. He's still got great enthusiasm for the game. He's a very proud guy, wants to do well. I've always been one of his biggest boosters, and I always will be.

MLB.com: Does it impress you what he's still able to do on the basepaths at this point in his career?

Leyland: Well, he does that more because he's got great instincts. I mean, this is a guy that knows the game. He's smart. He watches pitchers, pays attention to their moves, times them and different things like that. He's got a good feel for the game of baseball. He always has.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS   Mon Mar 23, 2009 10:00 pm

03/23/09 10:00 AM ET
For Tigers, it boils down to pitching
Questions abound about status of Detroit's rotation

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Nate Robertson had just come out of the video room in the clubhouse at Joker Marchant Stadium and was discussing his latest outing last week when he abruptly transitioned to the oddity of his own situation this spring.

"The fact of the matter is, the plane's flying out of here in less than two weeks, and here we are," Robertson said. "There's no answers yet."

Robertson was referring to the race for the fifth spot in the Tigers' rotation. He might as well have been talking about the rotation as a whole.

When Tigers pitchers reported to camp a month and a half ago, questions abounded. Who would man the fifth and final spot was just the start. Justin Verlander's nasty but sometimes wild repertoire was another, as was Jeremy Bonderman's health coming off season-ending surgery last summer to clear up a circulatory condition. So was Armando Galarraga's breakthrough 2008 season and whether he could carry it into 2009 or whether hitters have caught up. Even Edwin Jackson's impressive stuff and his consistency drew some curiosity following what the Tigers hope was his breakout season with the Rays. How the Tigers would arrange their rotation order for four games in Toronto and a home opener after that was another.

"There are a lot of question marks, but I think that's a good thing to have as a team," Verlander said. "Not in a bad sense, but you've got a lot of options. It's not like we don't know who our fourth or fifth guy is going to be. It's [a matter of] which one of these guys is going to win that spot. And I think that's a good problem to have."

As of now, few if any of the questions have any definitive answer. In fact, with Rick Porcello's emergence as a legitimate candidate to break camp in the rotation, the Tigers might actually have more questions than before. The only point on which there seems to be agreement is that Detroit can't win without strong starting pitching. Last year provided that lesson.

Amid all the talk of an offense that could score 1,000 runs and still overcame a slow start to finish in the American League's top five in scoring, Detroit's World Series hopes fell apart because of a rotation that, except for Galarraga, was almost entirely a disappointment.

When the Tigers won the AL in 2006, their 4.00 ERA and 75 wins from starting pitchers led the Majors. Last year, that ERA ballooned to 5.03, helped in so small part by a walk total that ranked second in the AL at 375. Dontrelle Willis' struggles were the most visible, many of which he still seems to be fighting this spring.

Detroit made one major personnel move involving a starter over the offseason, acquiring the talented Jackson from Tampa Bay for young outfielder Matt Joyce. Most of their moves when it came to pitching involved revamping the left side of the infield for better defense behind starters. Aside from Jackson, the Tigers' hopes for improvement come down to better performances from the same pitchers.

Based on talent, they believe they can get it.

"If it plays out the way I think," manager Jim Leyland said last week, "I think I'll be happy with the pitching."

The most publicized part of the rotation has been a fifth-starter battle that includes two veterans trying to bounce back from miserable 2008 seasons, and a 20-year-old super-prospect trying to defy the timetable and make the Majors now. Ideally, they would be able to give Porcello more seasoning in the Minor Leagues while handling the fifth slot in the rotation to Robertson, completing his comeback from a miserable 2008 season.

But no matter who emerges from camp in the back of the rotation, that can't answer all the questions involving the starters. The bulk of the improvement must come from a group that centers on the triumvirate of Robertson, Verlander and Bonderman, all three of whom have different challenges they've worked to overcome in Spring Training.

Verlander went from 35 wins over his first two seasons to an AL-leading 17 losses last year. Many of those came during an early-season slump marked by a dearth of run support, but Verlander faced his own questions, starting with a drop in velocity and continuing with rapidly rising pitch counts.

Verlander struggled with command for his first several starts this spring before settling in over the last couple of outings, thanks in part of a mechanical adjustment. His velocity, meanwhile, has been back around 95 mph to 96 mph, about his 2007 form. More important to him, he doesn't feel as though he's overthrowing to get there.

"Last spring I was working on my control," Verlander said. "I felt like pitching the whole spring at 90 percent started to create some bad habits for myself. Once I realized my velocity was down, then I started trying to throw harder, and that's the wrong way to do it."

Bonderman's road back from his circulatory ailment was going smoothly until just before games began, when shoulder soreness prompted a visit with team doctors. His first Spring Training start came last Thursday. Barring injuries, that should be just enough time to be ready for the season.

"It's been a long fight for me to get back," Bonderman said. "If I'm ready, maybe I can help the club and help our staff."

If he can stay healthy during the season, he'll face the challenge of not only regaining the velocity that his health cost him last year but working in a third pitch to add to his fastball-slider combination and taking the next step in a career that now spans six seasons.

For Robertson, the challenge isn't the next step, but getting back to his old steps. He and the Tigers changed his offseason routine and added Pilates, with the idea that better flexibility would put some bite back into his workhorse slider. It has been an on-and-off battle, but his last two starts have given hope that he has turned the corner.

The defense and the run support appear to be there for the Tigers, and some of the pitching questions will be answered once the team heads north. Solid starting pitching would answer plenty of other questions, from a less-taxed bullpen to the potential for more low-scoring victories. They need right answers to a lot of questions, but if they can get them, those high expectations from 2008 could turn into the surprise of 2009.

"We're going to have to put it all together at the end," Leyland said, "but I like our team a lot. If Bonderman or [Joel] Zumaya or some other guys aren't healthy, I won't like it as much."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS   Mon Mar 23, 2009 11:02 pm

03/23/09 4:40 PM ET
Zumaya throws from mound, eyes return
Tigers hoping to avoid setback with reliever's right shoulder

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The road back to the Tigers' bullpen for Joel Zumaya resumed Monday, when the hard-throwing reliever threw a light side session off the mound.

It marked the first time Zumaya threw off a mound since March 2, when he had an impressive outing in Detroit's exhibition against Florida Southern. Zumaya had a sore right shoulder the next day, costing him more than a week and resulting in a visit to Dr. James Andrews. He then lost more time to a cramp that developed in his trapezial muscle between his neck and right shoulder.

Monday's throwing session lasted about five minutes, according to Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. Assuming he feels fine on Tuesday, Zumaya's next step will be a more extensive side session, throwing harder and for a longer stretch.

With two weeks left before the Tigers open their 2009 season in Toronto, it might be enough of a track to get Zumaya back in a game by the time Spring Training ends, but getting him onto the active roster might take a while longer.

Manager Jim Leyland has yet to rule him out, but reiterated his previous doubts that Zumaya can be ready in time for Opening Day.

"It's starting to become a real short Spring Training," Leyland said.

And at some point, Leyland would prefer to know that he can use Zumaya on successive days without concern for his shoulder. Stretching him out to that level would tack more time onto Zumaya's comeback timetable.

"In the big leagues, unless you use guys for long relief, you can't use guys who can't pitch back-to-back [days]," Leyland said.

If the Tigers don't have Zumaya for Opening Day, they'll have to figure out how to use the back end of their bullpen without him. Leyland hasn't yet named a closer between Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney. The two relievers combined to give up a combined seven runs over their two innings Monday against the Red Sox. If one somehow isn't the standard closer and the other the regular setup man, they could conceivably alternate. Detroit would also need an additional reliever to pick up some eighth-inning work.

If Zumaya avoids additional setbacks, however, the time lost should not be long. What the Tigers are trying to avoid is a more severe setback that takes his absence deeper into the season and forces Detroit to go with longer-term plans, to say nothing of more arm concerns for Zumaya.

In other injury news, Clete Thomas just completed his throwing program as part of his rehab from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery last summer. He threw to bases on Monday.

The throwing program is the last obstacle before Thomas can start playing in the outfield again. He has been limited to designated-hitter duties so far this spring.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS   Tue Mar 24, 2009 11:16 am

TIGERS CORNER
With hitters to deal, talks hot

BY JON PAUL MOROSI and JOHN LOWE • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITERS • March 24, 2009

FT. MYERS, Fla. -- Dave Dombrowski has been a general manager for two decades. He has an idea of what to expect as the baseball calendar churns from one week to the next. And over the past several days, intuition told him that his trade discussions with other clubs were about to intensify.

He was right.

"Almost like clockwork," the Tigers president/GM said before Monday's 7-6 loss to the Boston Red Sox. "When you get to about two weeks to go in spring training, you start to pick up significantly.

"That has happened."


Dombrowski would not say Monday whether he thought a deal was close. He didn't mention any trade candidates by name. But the Tigers have an apparent surplus of right-handed hitters, and they could part with one or more after team officials determine the 13 position players they want on the Opening Day roster.

The Tigers already might have made outfielder Marcus Thames available on the trade market. It's also possible that they will consider moving infielder Mike Hessman, outfielder/infielder Ryan Raburn or outfielder Brent Clevlen before the end of spring training.

A trade involving one of those players probably would indicate that prospect Jeff Larish, a left-handed power hitter, will make the team.

Thames, at $2.275 million, has the highest salary of any player in the group -- by a wide margin. The Tigers have more financial incentive to trade him, which could be a factor. While there is no evidence to suggest that owner Mike Ilitch wants to reduce the payroll dramatically, the team's season ticket base has declined from about 27,000 last year to roughly 15,000 now. Barring a big uptick in sales, revenues will decline.

Thames, 32, recently missed seven games because of a strained abdominal muscle. He started in rightfield Monday and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. He's hitting .207 this spring but has trade value because of his power. He has averaged one home run per 13.5 at-bats over the past three seasons.

The Cincinnati Reds are among the teams that would like to add a right-handed hitter, and Reds GM Walt Jocketty is familiar with the Tigers. He employed Tigers manager Jim Leyland as a scout during his tenure as Cardinals GM and completed a trade with Dombrowski as recently as 2007.

BACK FROM WBC:
Tigers right-hander Armando Galarraga said two weeks ago, during the World Baseball Classic, his pitching shoulder felt weak.

"I worked to make it stronger," he said Monday. "My shoulder is stronger now. I feel good now. My shoulder is OK now."

Any shoulder trouble for Galarraga didn't come from overuse in the WBC. His two appearances for Venezuela came 10 days apart.

Galarraga, who returned to camp Monday, said he needs about 10 more innings to get ready for the opening of the regular season in two weeks.

Galarraga is due to pitch today in an intrasquad game that also will feature Jeremy Bonderman and Dontrelle Willis. Leyland said Galarraga will throw about 65 pitches today, down from the 79 he threw Wednesday in his last WBC appearance.

"We think that was a little too fast, to get him to 79," Leyland said. "We're going to back it off a little bit and take it up next time."

Galarraga was the first of the Tigers' WBC participants to return. Others were expected shortly: Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordońez, Carlos Guillen and Curtis Granderson. "I had a really good experience, and now I feel good to come back home," Galarraga said.

TREANOR EXAMINED:
The Tigers are awaiting word on the status of backup catcher Matt Treanor, following a medical examination in New York. Treanor has played through pain this spring while recovering from off-season sports hernia surgery. Kevin Rand, the head athletic trainer, said Treanor experienced some tightness in his right groin Sunday.

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: 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS   Tue Mar 24, 2009 11:27 am

JON PAUL MOROSI'S BLOG
Tigers engaged in trade talks, but not like in 2008

By JON PAUL MOROSI • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • March 24, 2009

FT. MYERS, Fla. – The Tigers are currently engaged in trade talks. President/GM Dave Dombrowski acknowledged as much in an interview on Monday.

But their motivation to make a deal is different than it was last spring, when the Tigers had an obvious need for relief pitching. They didn’t add a setup man and suffered the consequences. Their bullpen was short for most of the year – Denny Bautista? Francisco Cruceta? Francis Beltran? – and they finished in last place.

The Tigers don’t have the same sort of need right now. The everyday lineup is set, they have a number of suitable bench players, and they are still preoccupied with sorting through the pitching they already have.

(They have 12 good pitchers, somewhere, for the Opening Day roster. I think.)

“Most of our spots are pretty well filled,” Dombrowski said. “Assuming we’re reasonably healthy, I would assume that most – if not all – of our players are here (already).”


They could trade for a second left-handed reliever to join Bobby Seay. But their interest in that market could be affected by what happens with Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis in the coming days.

It’s possible that both of them, one of them, or neither of them will be in the bullpen. So, until the Tigers arrive at some resolution there, it will be hard for them to add another arm.

Another situation worth watching involves backup catcher Matt Treanor. He was in New York on Monday, undergoing an examination after experiencing tightness in his right groin on Sunday. With less than two weeks to go before the first pitch of the regular season, that’s some cause for concern given his off-season sports hernia surgery.

The Tigers should know more about Treanor’s availability soon. If he needs to miss a significant period of time, then the club will sort through internal (Dane Sardinha, Max St. Pierre) and external options to find a temporary backup.

And what if they decide to trim their roster by trade but don’t have an imperative, immediate big-league need? They’ll ask for young pitching, of course. You can never have too much of that.

ALSO: Dombrowski continues to be confident that starter Jeremy Bonderman, who is set to throw in an intrasquad game this morning, will be on the Opening Day roster. Bonderman averaged 88 to 89 miles per hour with his fastball over two innings Thursday against the Braves, a noticeable decrease from his average velocity in years past.

Of Bonderman’s readiness, Dombrowski said, “I’m not concerned about that at all, as long as he continues to be healthy. He threw the ball well the other day. … His arm strength is already good enough for the season to begin.”


“It takes pitching, hitting and defense. Any two can win. All three make you unbeatable.”    
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PostSubject: Re: 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS   Tue Mar 24, 2009 11:45 am

New York writer: Tigers face 'potential for financial nightmare in 2009'

POSTED BY SCOTT BELL • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • March 24, 2009

The New York Post's Joel Sherman recently looked at the Detroit Tigers in his "Hardball" column. He examined a number of contractual and performance issues with the team and concluded that "No club in the majors faces the potential for a financial nightmare in 2009 more than the Tigers."


He looked at a number of financial issues the Tigers may face given their large payroll - only the Yankees have more players receiving eight-figure salaries, according to the column.

Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski told Sherman that Tigers owner Mike Illitch might give the team a little leeway despite the rough economic times.

"I will say that the owner is understanding of the situation," Dombrowski said in the column. "And he has always been aggressive about putting a good club on the field."

Aside from contractual issues, Sherman looks at various members of the team on a performance and physical level and quotes different scouts and personnel men.

Included in the column:

Sherman reports that a scout said Dontrelle Willis "might be done," and that AL player personnel chief said, "He has no idea where the ball is going. He has to let up on his fastball just to try to throw it for a strike."

• Sherman reports a scout said Miguel Cabrera "is 25 and already is as big as a house, and that scares me."

Sherman reports that one scout said that Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson have fallen so far that they do not belong in a major league rotation.

VIEW THE WHOLE COLUMN BELOW.


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PostSubject: Re: 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS   Tue Mar 24, 2009 12:02 pm

TIGERS LOOKING AT DIFFICULT (& EXPENSIVE) SEASON





Posted: 3:24 am
March 22, 2009

A YEAR ago, the Tigers were a chic pick to win the World Series. This year, they are being voted most likely to sell off assets for pennies on the dollar.

The positive perception was wrong last season, and Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski proclaims that the dire forecast for 2009 will be incorrect, as well.

"So many things didn't work for us last year," Dombrowski said. "We expect far better [this season]."

If not, the Tigers are in for a painful season. Detroit, even more than most cities, has been devastated by the economic downturn. Dombrowski said ticket sales are down, but that "we have the foundation to draw well."

Nevertheless, it will be difficult for the populace to find the cash to go to Comerica Park this year, and fans would be more likely to abandon the Tigers, should the team play poorly.

And scouts who have been in to see the Tigers this spring just do not see the pitching to sustain a contender. One scout went as far as to say that Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson have fallen so far that they do not belong in a major league rotation. They have fallen so far even Dombrowski concedes 20-year-old Rick Porcello, who has never pitched above Single-A, might make the rotation.

But Willis and Robertson are representative of a roster that is bloated at the top with expense and, generally, expense that will be unattractive to other teams.

The Tigers project to a payroll of $131 million, which is fifth highest in the majors, and actually $5 million more than Boston currently is budgeting. But here is the Motown lowdown:The Tigers have six players who are due eight-figure salaries this season. Only the Yankees (nine) have more. The White Sox are the only other AL team that even has five.

And those contracts do not even include the $7 million owed this year to Robertson (who also is owed $10 million next season) or the two years at $12.9 million due Brandon Inge. If the Tigers could trade either of those players now and remove their whole contract, they almost certainly would accept little to nothing in return.

Willis, owed $22 million over the next two seasons, "might be done," in the opinion of one scout. An AL player personnel chief said, "He has no idea where the ball is going. He has to let up on his fastball just to try to throw it for a strike."

Jeremy Bonderman (two years at $25 million left) is coming off shoulder surgery and is having trouble staying healthy enough to pitch this spring. Gary Sheffield is due $14 million coming off shoulder surgery, and though Dombrowski says the slugger's bat speed has mostly returned and that he expects a big season, scouts who have watched Sheffield in March are more dubious.

Three key offensive players Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez have been away most of the spring with Team Venezuela (Curtis Granderson has been with Team USA).

It was the acquisition of Cabrera and Willis in a trade from Florida that raised Detroit's profile as a contender last year. Cabrera is among the best hitters in the majors. But he played so poorly at third that he had to be moved to first and "is 25 and already is as big as a house, and that scares me," a scout said. Well, that is frightening and so is the seven years at $141 million left on his contract.

Because Cabrera has to move to first, Guillen had to take his fragile body to left field along with the three years at $36 million left on his contract. Ordonez is 35 and has been durable the past three years after experimental knee surgery. His contract could be as little as $18 million for this season or with vesting options as much as three years at $51 million, or way more than any team, especially in this economic climate, would be willing to assume.

And this is the Tigers nightmare. If they need to start shedding payroll, they probably would have to eat big chunks of contracts and get very little in return to restock a shabby farm system. Look at it this way, Kei Igawa (three years at $12 million left) would be far more attractive to teams than Willis or Robertson.

Dombrowski said he would not reveal private conversations with Mike Ilitch when asked if the team's owner had established any kind of win-early-or-cut-payroll mandate.

"I will say that the owner is understanding of the situation," Dombrowski said. "And he has always been aggressive about putting a good club on the field."

How are the Tigers good this year?

They have concentrated on upgrading a terrible defense with Inge permanently at third, Adam Everett added at short, Gerald Laird catching and Cabrera theoretically growing into an able first baseman. They think Brandon Lyon will help stabilize the pen, and even scouts agree they should score a lot. But there is age, fragility and uncertainty.

Maybe Justin Verlander will return to being an ace after a poor season and Porcello will be mercurial (the scouts certainly love him). For now, though, no club in the majors faces the potential for a financial nightmare in 2009 more than the Tigers.

joel.sherman@nypost.com


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PostSubject: Re: 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS   Tue Mar 24, 2009 12:11 pm

Joel has some good point, but then again, I think he is an idiot in some of his ideas. I really don't think he knows our farm system, WE HAVE PLAYERS WHO ARE STUCK IN THE FARM SYSTEM, THAT ARE READY TO PLAY IN THE MAJORS NOW!...

Quote :
to restock a shabby farm system.

As to Cabrera at first base, he seens to be doing better, and this year, he is in better shape, so where the scout comes up with the following is beyond me...

Quote :
But he played so poorly at third that he had to be moved to first and "is 25 and already is as big as a house, and that scares me," a scout said. Well, that is frightening and so is the seven years at $141 million left on his contract.

And as for Nate, he has had two quality games in a row now...

Quote :
Nate Robertson have fallen so far that they do not belong in a major league rotation.

And if I remember correctly, the Yankees really had a great run in last years World series... NOT!


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PostSubject: Re: 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS   Wed Mar 25, 2009 12:14 am



03/24/09 9:10 PM ET
Willis pitches with sense of urgency
Left-hander doing what he can to leave camp with Tigers

By Jason Beck / MLB.com

LAKELAND, Fla. -- If Tuesday was Dontrelle Willis' last chance to impress Tigers officials, at least he can say he gave it what he had, whatever happens.

With a week and a half until the Tigers leave town, Willis had a quiet Joker Marchant Stadium for what was probably the biggest camp game of his career. And as he aimed for the corners and fired to the plate, he pitched with what seemed like a sense of urgency on Tuesday, with a need to show progress from the struggles that have set the course of his Spring Training.

After the outing, he talked like someone who realizes there's a decision looming -- for the Tigers, and potentially for him. But he also looked and sounded like someone who wanted his potential last stand to be his way of pitching, rather than fighting himself and his mechanics.

"Even though I've taken my licks, I've stood up here like a gentleman, like a professional and I've taken everything in," Willis said. "So I have nothing to be ashamed of. I'm playing my tail off and working my tail off. And in the end, I'm OK with that. I'm content with that. Hopefully they start to see that I'm a guy that can get people out in the big leagues, have fun and be a help. I feel like I can, I really do."

Tigers officials have to decide that. If the question is whether Willis is one of the 12 best pitchers in camp, his struggles this spring work against him. If it's whether he can be one of the 12 best pitchers they have, then this was time for progress.

In terms of working the strike zone, Tuesday was a step forward.

"He had a lot better command, that's for sure," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.

The hitters were different than the Braves he faced last Wednesday, but the strike zone didn't change to the level of competition. Tuesday's camp game saw Willis, big leg kick and all, aiming for specific parts of the strike zone. The lack of damage over his 4 2/3 scoreless innings made for solid numbers, albeit relative. Most important, he threw 36 of his 53 pitches for strikes.

Willis had stretches when he controlled the zone. He worked fastballs in and out while spotting breaking balls on the corner to strike out the side in his opening inning, and he spotted repeated fastballs inside to get out from behind in the count against right-handed hitters.

Both hits he allowed were infield singles, but more solidly struck pitches came in his final two innings, taking outfielders back before making catches.

What couldn't be measured in stats were relatively consistent mechanics.

"Once you feel comfortable and you feel confident in your mechanics, then you can start to think about pitching," Willis said. "Up until this point in the spring, I was just worried about just throwing the ball over the plate and executing that, instead of going out there and trying to execute pitches.

"I'm trying to get better at this, getting into the flow. The more confidence I get with my mechanics, the more I'll start to get out there and just compete."
Willis was pitching opposite Jeremy Bonderman, who also tossed scoreless ball over his two-plus innings but was unhappy with his velocity as he struggled through the early part of his outing. Bonderman left the bases loaded on two errors and a walk in the second when he reached his pitch count for the inning. However, he also tried to mix in breaking balls and changeups.

Willis said after the game that he believes in Bonderman's changeup. Bonderman, in turn, showed some belief in Willis' outing.

"That's the old Dontrelle," Bonderman said. "That's the guy who came into Detroit in '04 and stuck it to us."

That was June 13, 2004, when Willis pitched a complete-game, eight-strikeout victory. Regaining that younger form isn't as relevant for Tigers officials as whether what Willis has now is enough to go on.

While Leyland said after the game that Bonderman will pitch again on Sunday against the Braves, he said he wasn't sure about Willis' next appearance. Leyland would like to have Willis pitch in a regular Spring Training game. Whether that means some slotting or decisions have to be made remains to be seen.

With Armando Galarraga back from the World Baseball Classic and pitching again Monday after his work in the camp game, plus Nate Robertson and Rick Porcello making starts for the fifth rotation spot, another Spring Training start for Willis seems unlikely soon. Short of the rotation, the next question would be whether the lefty is worth trying in the bullpen, a role he hasn't held for any long stretch.

Again, Willis knows the urgency.

"I know what time it is [in camp]," Willis said. "I just want to be on that plane. I just want to be on the team. Whatever case they feel like I can help this ballclub, I just want to be on the team. That's all I ask. And I know I can be of help to this ballclub, whether it be starting or getting a lefty out, whatever the case may be."

Asked whether he would accept another trip to the Minor Leagues, something that would require his permission, Willis said it would be a better question for Tigers officials. But he also didn't rule it out.

"I don't care what they want to do, but I want to be on this team, first and foremost," Willis said. "Do not get it twisted. I want to be on this team. Hopefully I've still got two weeks. If they feel like that right now, hopefully I've got two more weeks to improve that and get on the boat."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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PostSubject: Re: 2009 TIGER PLAYER NEWS   Wed Mar 25, 2009 12:15 am

Quote :
4 2/3 scoreless innings made for solid numbers, albeit relative. Most important, he threw 36 of his 53 pitches for strikes.

That does sound more like the old D-Train! Keep that leg kick going, and mow em down!


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