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 Leyland: Tigers trying to tread water in race

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PostSubject: Leyland: Tigers trying to tread water in race   Thu Jul 29, 2010 9:41 pm

Leyland: Tigers trying to tread water in race

By Jason Beck /

07/29/10 4:46 PM ET

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jim Leyland had his lineup card on his desk Thursday morning, but very little on it. His new third baseman, Jhonny Peralta, was in the air, flying from Cleveland to Tampa. His former third baseman, Scott Sizemore, was being optioned back to Triple-A Toledo to make room. With lefty David Price on the mound, left-handed hitters Don Kelly and Alex Avila were on his bench.

He had hoped to sit slumping rookie Brennan Boesch, but didn't really have much choice.

All those decisions reflected one common theme: These are trying times for the Tigers as they try to stay in contention in the American League Central.

"We're in emergency mode, really," Leyland said. "That's just the way it is. You can say all you want. When I say that, I'm saying we just have to fight our tails off every day, try to win as many games as we can until we get some pieces straightened out a little bit. That's what we have to do. There's no sense fooling everybody. That's what we have to do, and we're doing it. We're just not quite getting over the hump."

The fact that the Tigers have forced into playing so many youngsters compounds the matters. The upside is that they aren't short on energy, whether it comes from another running catch from Austin Jackson or an extra-base hit from Will Rhymes. The challenge, Leyland said, is maintaining morale.

To that effect, Leyland chooses his words carefully when talking about missed opportunities. He can't ignore the RBI chances they've missed this series, but he conditions it with the fact that there's a particular challenge for young hitters to come up in big run-scoring situations.

"I hope everybody understands this: We're in the process right now of really trying to keep everybody up," Leyland said Wednesday. "I've never been an excuse-maker, and I never will be. But I think in fairness, it was like we got shell-shocked. I mean, [to lose] Inge, Guillen, Ordonez, all within a few days, we just got shell-shocked. All of a sudden, we go from playing three or four rookies to five or six, in a matter of three or four days."

It'll get better shortly, once Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge return from the disabled list within the next couple weeks. But right now, Leyland said, is the big test for the Tigers.

"It's tough sledding right now. That's just the way it is," he said. "You can try to paint a rosy picture and everything like that. I certainly don't want to come off negative, because I'm not. We're playing what we've got. We're going to scratch our tails off to try to win games, and we're going to fight our tails off through it."

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