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 Sunday's rainout changes Tigers' plans

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PostSubject: Sunday's rainout changes Tigers' plans   Mon Mar 22, 2010 12:03 am

Sunday's rainout changes Tigers' plans
Detroit was hoping to insert Zumaya into contest vs. Yanks

By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com

03/21/10 2:03 PM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- Prior to Sunday's scheduled game against the Yankees, Tigers manager Jim Leyland joked that Austin Jackson was a late scratch from the travel roster because "he wanted to go to the beach."

He picked the wrong day.

With heavy rain sweeping over the Tampa area, the Tigers and Yankees canceled Sunday's game prior to the scheduled 1:05 p.m. ET first pitch. Within minutes of the announcement, the Tigers piled back on the bus to Lakeland, Fla., where Sunday's scheduled starter, Justin Verlander, was to throw a bullpen session.

The rest of the rotation will remain the same, with Nate Robertson scheduled to start Monday's game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin, Fla. It is more important for the Tigers to see Robertson, who is fighting for a spot in the rotation, in a game than Verlander, the team's established ace.

It is also important for the Tigers to see reliever Joel Zumaya in game action, though that will have to wait. Zumaya was scheduled to throw in Sunday's game, but there was no word after the postponement whether he would throw a bullpen session in Lakeland or instead pitch on Monday.

Zumaya last threw three innings on Thursday in a simulated game in Lakeland. The Tigers want Zumaya, who had surgery last year to remove a bone fragment from his right shoulder, to pitch in back-to-back games before the start of the season.

"That will happen, but it won't happen right now," Leyland said prior to the rainout. "You always hold your breath, but I don't think right now; health is an issue with Zumaya. I think it's a matter of getting his stuff going better, not tipping his breaking ball and getting a little better action on his fastball. If we can get that taken care of, we'll be OK."

Zumaya hasn't pitched in a big league game since July of last year.

As for Jackson, who was on the original travel roster, Leyland had a change of heart on Sunday and decided to give the rookie center fielder a rest. Jackson, who -- barring injury -- is assured of a starting spot on the club, had played deep into three straight games for the Tigers. He had also gone on all but two of the team's first eight road trips.

"He's played a lot of innings," Leyland said. "I just don't want to get him all fatigued out. I've seen what I needed to see, so now we're just going to try to keep him sharp."

On Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Jackson went 0-for-3 against CC Sabathia, one of the top left-handers in the game. The following day in Lakeland, he went hitless against perennial Cy Young candidate Roy Halladay.

"Three days ago, we were talking about how great he looked," Leyland said. "Then he has one bad game, and now we're talking about how he's getting taken to school by Roy Halladay and Sabathia. I'm not going to put much stock in that."

Jackson's absence made Johnny Damon and Phil Coke the only former Yankees to make the trip to Tampa. Coke already had his homecoming here, striking out Alex Rodriguez in Friday's 6-2 loss.

But Damon was scheduled to sit in the visitors' dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field for the first time since his days with the Red Sox. Though the Yankees did visit Lakeland earlier this offseason, they did not bring many of their regulars with them. And so as soon as the team bus arrived in Tampa, Damon began bouncing around the bowels of the stadium, greeting many of his old friends and former teammates.

Damon rejected a two-year deal to return to the Yankees early in the offseason, before signing a one-year pact with the Tigers last month.

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


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