Tag:Jim Leyland
Posted on: August 15, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Tigers scoop up Twins' Young as stretch run looms

In hindsight, the highlight in outfielder Delmon Young's tenure with the Twins came in the spring of 2010, his first day in camp, when he arrived in noticeably better shape than he had been in '09.

"We re-signed Carl Pavano, so I know I'm going to be running quite a bit [chasing balls in the outfield]," Young quipped upon arrival.

It was a funny line but, alas, the optimism of even an in-shape Young was never fully realized in Minnesota. And when the Twins finally shipped him to Detroit on Monday, it capped months of quiet effort on their part to move him in a market that never materialized.

So Young joins the pennant race in Detroit for spare parts -- minor-league lefty Cole Nelson and a player to be named later -- in an intradivision AL Central trade that is attention-grabbing for two reasons: One, because it's rare to see division rivals swap players, especially this close to the stretch run. And two, because it's a clear signal that the Twins, a team that never gives up, are cashing in their chips on 2011.

It's another smooth move for the Tigers, adding depth to an already potent lineup (fifth in the AL in runs scored) that can use an immediate boost because it is ailing. Carlos Guillen (sore wrist) is back on the disabled list and outfielder Brennan Boesch (sprained right thumb) has not started in any of the Tigers' past four games. Meantime, designated hitter Victor Martinez has been playing with a sprained knee and Magglio Ordonez has been looking tired, driving in just four runs so far this month.

Also, the Tigers traded outfielder Casper Wells to Seattle last month for starting pitcher Doug Fister.

Still, the Tigers remain in the drivers' seat in a nip-and-tuck AL Central, leading Cleveland by just 2 1/2 games and stuck-in-neutral Chicago by four games. Both the Indians and the White Sox are close enough to make a serious move, especially given Detroit's current thinned-out lineup due to injury and the Wells deal.

Young gives manager Jim Leyland a veteran piece with playoff experience, and maybe the new surroundings will help jump-start a man whose brother, Dmitri Young, is a Tigers alum. Young, after working himself into perhaps the best shape of his life in 2010, batted .298 with 21 homers and 112 RBI. However, so far in 2011, he's hitting just .266 with four homers and 32 RBIs.

Young's diminishing returns and increasing salary has had the Twins open to trading him at least as far back as last winter. He's earning $5.375 million this summer and is arbitration-eligible again this winter. Minnesota now can use that money for any number of things, from plugging in holes elsewhere on the roster (they rank 13th in the AL in runs scored, and their 4.65 bullpen ERA is last in the AL) to perhaps taking a run at re-signing Michael Cuddyer, who is a free agent this winter.

Ironically, the Twins open a three-game series in Detroit this evening. So Young does not have to travel too far to join his new team.
Posted on: August 8, 2011 10:41 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2011 12:54 pm
 

"People are understanding how good we are"

LOS ANGELES -- Phillies centerfielder Shane Victorino declined Monday to address his three-game suspension for his role in Friday night's brawl in San Francisco.

But he was happy to discuss the latest test the Phillies passed with phlying colors, winning three of four games over the weekend and beating the Giants at their own game, pitching.

Statement series?

Naw, let's not go there Victorino said. But as the weeks roll by and the Phillies blaze on toward what is shaping up to be another very special season, let's just say that leaving the Giants in ruins over the weekend just reinforced what some folks have been believing for a long time.

"Best team in baseball," one scout says.

"I don't want to use the word 'statement'," Victorino said. "But it shows we can do it. Not that we ever doubted that we can, but they're the champs. To be the champs, you have to beat the champs.

"In October, it's all about 5-7-7 [the round-by-round best-of series']. We tip our caps to the Giants for beating us last year. But I think this was a test for us, and we're good.

"I think people are understanding how good we are. We won in San Francisco because of our pitching. And they didn't even face our No. 1."

Instead, Roy Halladay was slotted to pitch the series opener against the Dodgers here Monday night, and the Phillies are making Jimmy Rollins look conservative. It was Rollins who predicted in February the Phillies would win 100 games.

It made headlines at the time because, well, in February, any sort of bold statement makes headlines.

But all you can say as the Phils maintain a pace to win 103 games is, the season is playing out just as many thought it could for them.

Winners of nine of their past 10 heading into this Dodgers series, they owned the game's best record at 74-40. Last time they had played at least 113 games and suffered only 40 losses, it was 1976.

Charlie Manuel's club is an equal opportunity outfit, shredding left-handed starters (against whom they're 21-9) and right-handers (53-31) alike.

Though they're only seventh in the NL in runs scored, their pitching is so dominant that their run differential (+127) is third-best in the game, trailing only the Yankees (+167) and Boston (+144).

Phillies starters lead all major-league rotations in wins (55), ERA (2.96), strikesouts (640), complete games (14, six from Halladay), quality starts (76) and fewest runs allowed (261).

Are the Phillies reaching their potential that, as far back as spring training, was set in the stratosphere?

"It's hard for us to say because we're striving to get to the World Series and win it," starter Cole Hamels said. "It's definitely a good question for when we're in the World Series.

"We definitely like our chances. We're confident. Guys are at their peaks. In '08 when we ended up winning, we were trying to find it and we ended up finding it."

As for the San Francisco series, Hamels said, "We're playing the right type of baseball. That's what you have to do in August. It's very tough for teams. It's 100 degrees, you've been pitching for 22, 24 starts [Hamels is 13-6 with a 2.53 ERA in 24 starts], your body's fighting it, and you have to keep pushing.

"It's the countdown."

He meant for stretch-run baseball in September, and playoff ball in October.

But for the Phillies, there's a lot of counting going on right now.

And the numbers are adding up impressively.

Likes: GM Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland extended in Detroit. They've earned their keep by keeping the Tigers relevant. ... A few days off in early August right after the trade deadline, summer sun still warm, the days long and free. ... Sandy Point in Ferndale, Wash., quarterback Jake Locker's land, right down there on Puget Sound. Beautiful. ... The oh-so-fresh halibut and salmon at Barlean's fishery down the road. Few things finer on the grill with the sun dropping behind the ocean water. ... The burritos at Chihuahua's in town. ... Jimmy Buffett's Encores disc. ... The new disc from John Hiatt, Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns. Not as good as Slow Turning or Perfectly Good Guitar, but that's setting the bar awfully high. Check out I Love That Girl, Detroit Made and Adios to California.

Dislikes: All the best to Colorado right-hander Juan Nicasio. One minute, you're pitching in the majors. The next, you've got a broken bone in your neck after being hit by a line drive, and you don't know if you'll ever pitch again. Tough summer for the Rockies. Hope we see Nicasio back soon.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Wrote a note, said 'Be back in a minute'
"Bought a boat and I sailed off in it
"Don't think anybody's gonna miss me anyway
"Mind on a permanent vacation
"The ocean is my only medication
"Wishin' my condition ain't ever gonna go away
"Now I'm knee deep in the water somewhere
"Got the blue sky breeze blowin' wind thru my hair
"Only worry in the world
"Is the tide gonna reach my chair
"Sunrise, there's a fire in the sky
"Never been so happy
"Never felt so high
"And I think I might have found me my own kind of paradise"

-- Zac Brown Band, Knee Deep

Posted on: June 21, 2011 11:39 pm
 

Rotation against Verlander in All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES -- Detroit's rotation could keep Justin Verlander from pitching in next month's All-Star Game, but an early look at the top pitchers in each league shows few other conflicts right now.

Unless weather fouls things up, both Boston's Josh Beckett (last projected first-half start: Friday, July 8) and the Angels' Jered Weaver (Thursday, July 7) should be available options for American League manager Ron Washington to start the July 12 game in Phoenix.

And in the NL, Atlanta's Jair Jurrjens and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay (both would start Wednesday, July 6) would be available to manager Bruce Bochy, as would the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (Thursday, July 7) and, possibly, Philadelphia's Cole Hamels.

Hamels currently is projected to start on Tuesday, July 5, and the Phillies have an off day on July 6. If manager Charlie Manuel stays on rotation, Hamels would not pitch again until, possibly, the All-Star Game. If Manuel decides to skip a starter on an off day Thursday (unlikely), then Hamels could wind up starting on Sunday the 10th.

The problem for Verlander, who has one no-hitter and a couple of near-misses this year, is that, barring rainouts, he'll start the Tigers' final game of the first half on Sunday, July 10.

Looking both to keep pitchers healthy and to give All-Star managers real options, baseball last year instituted a rule prohibiting anybody pitching Sunday from working in the All-Star Game. Those pitchers named to the team are still All-Stars and can be in uniform in the dugout, they're just not eligible to play.

Really, it's a no-brainer that for a manager not to juggle his rotation to accommodate the All-Star Game, and that's essentially what Tigers skipper Jim Leyland said this week. His first responsibility is to win games for the Tigers, period.

"Our schedule is what it is," he said. "Our rotation falls the way it does."

Though his Dodgers are buried in fourth place in the NL West -- unlike the Tigers, who are battling for the AL Central title -- Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly says he will handle Kershaw the same way Leyland is handling Verlander.

"I think if his spot comes up Sunday, he pitches Sunday," Mattingly said. "I don't think we can start shifting things around because of the All-Star Game.

"It's an honor to be chosen. If a guy is chosen and he's not able to pitch, you have enough slots [to replace him] and it's still an honor."

Posted on: May 20, 2011 2:21 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2011 2:26 pm
 

Love Letters: The Killebrew (and more) Edition

A few tears (farewell, Harmon Killebrew) and a few laughs (hello again, Bronx Zoo), it's good for the soul. ...

FROM: Ed K.
Re: Killebrew was no 'Killer', except when it came to slugging

Dear Scott,

Your tribute to Harmon is terrific. My 10-year-son is starting to learn baseball history, and I will share your story with him. I once met Killebrew in Vegas. He was selling autographs, with ALL proceeds going to a children-based charity.

Cool thing is, you could read his autograph. One of my favorite things is how the Twins' Michael Cuddyer and the Angels' Torii Hunter tell stories that, when they were young, they both scribbled autographs until corrected by Mr. Killebrew. "If you're going to take the time to write your name, write it so people know who you are," Killebrew schooled them. Pure class.

FROM: Brian

"Listed at 6-feet, 190 pounds, until cancer slipped a final fastball by him Tuesday." Really? A man loses his life to cancer and you're making baseball metaphors? I typically enjoy your columns but this line is unprofessional, disrespectful and a literary stretch I'd more likely expect to find in a high school publication.

For a man who devoted his life to baseball ... you really think it's a stretch to use a baseball metaphor in tribute to him? What should be used, good metaphors?

FROM: Chris H.

Scott,

I am a 48-year-old Twins fanatic, and Harmon was and always will be my hero. You did a wonderful job capturing the essence of my hero. Thank you so much for this article. Simply put, you did Harmon justice and being who Harmon was, that is quite a feat!

Thanks, Chris. I think it's our job to educate some of the younger fans who maybe don't know much about Killebrew as to just what a humble and class act he was.

FROM: Mike F.

This story may be apocryphal, but I once heard that the scout Bluege sent to look at Harmon Killebrew as a 17-year-old reported back to Clark Griffith as follows: "He has absolutely no weaknesses as a hitter. In my opinion, he is the best first base prospect since Lou Gehrig."

I just learned that Killebrew was passed over several time in the Hall of Fame voting. How is that possible? I know there are a few HOF voters who will not vote for anyone, but how could any sane person who knows baseball not see this guy as a first ballot Hall of Fame selection?

Especially because, as he was being passed over three times before being voted into Cooperstown, he ranked second all-time among right-handed home run hitters behind Hank Aaron. When he retired in 1975, he ranked second to Babe Ruth all-time among American League home run hitters. Utter nonsense he wasn't a first-ballot HOFer.

FROM: Bob D.

Thanks Scott. You understand.

Sniff.

FROM: Kevin M.

Mr. Miller,

Thank you so much for this article about Harmon Killebrew. He was such an inspiration to me while I was a boy. I loved listening to the radio and watching him play.

We've always gotta remember our inspirations, don't we?

FROM: Norman
Re: History tells us Yankees do not grow old gracefully

Great piece, Scott. A classic. History ... gracefully.

One thing you learn when writing a piece like that: How many Yankees fans lack a sense of humor.

FROM: Lee

Your column that the Yankees do not grow old gracefully is pretty interesting. Are the quotes accurate from these past managers and owners?

Uh, no. The tipoff was in the fact that I said the old Yankees diaries were grabbed by Navy SEALS at the YES Network fortress. Almost all of the historical information in the column is factual: The Yanks dumping Ruth, management leaning on Joe McCarthy to remove Lou Gehrig from the lineup sooner than he did because Gehrig's production was down, Steinbrenner forcing Reggie Jackson to take a physical ... all true. I had some fun with the "quotes" and what they were "thinking" at the time.

FROM: Eric S.

Really liked the concept, Scott. Was completely thrown off when I saw you were going make-believe, and not funny at that. The real dagger was the Gehrig stuff, though. That is just tasteless. I am hard to offend and think I have a well-developed sense of inappropriate humor, but there are some things that will never be funny. With all that Yankee material in your hands, trying to instead get laughs out of a debilitating disease is kind of pathetic. You could have done what it seemed like you set out to do -- tell the actual stories, not a corny, LOL nimrod version and had a great column. You can do far better.

Oh come on now. You can't tell me you didn't at least chuckle at the Joe Pepitone line.

FROM: Steve

You're an idiot. I want the 30 seconds of my life back that I wasted reading this drivel.

We just completed an old-fashioned baseball trade: I dealt your 30 seconds for the 30 it took to read your drivel.

FROM: Lee P.

Scott,
 
I actually know Babe Dahlgren’s grandson.  John wears Babe’s 1939 World Championship ring in honor of his grandfather. He will get a kick out of your column! I grew up in NY and finally moved to sunny, beautiful Southern California in 1995 and still love the Yankees. Yankees management and the media are always up to something. Keep up the good work!

Ah, 1939: A four-game Yanks sweep of the Cincinnati Reds, and Dahlgren contributed a homer and two RBI.

FROM: Edward
Re.: Compared to Yanks, 'immature' Rays whip-smart

You may be the worst baseball columnist on all of the major sports sites on the internet. Your bias shines through in every article you write, and is hardly EVER backed by any facts. Consider a new career. Maybe put a cool rag on your forehead, sit in a dark room, and re-evaluate your life.

Funny, I do that about twice a year. Usually with pizza, Mountain Dew and National Lampoon's Animal House playing.

FROM: Bob

Cheesy? Cheesy? America's game should not wear Red, White and Blue on the most important days of the country? While Jackie Robinson's efforts were tremendous -- big Dodger fan here -- it was only in this country could that have happened in the western world. The only country to elect an African-American and did not have colonies in Africa. But it would seem history is not your forte, Ass!

If 100 percent of the profits from the red, white and blue caps went to the troops, I'd be fully in favor of it.

FROM: Chris

Wow ... banging on the Yankees with Tampa as the new flavor of the week. What guts, Scott. But I guess who would read what you write if it didn't include knocking the Yankees? I know I wouldn't. And congrats on one thing: You didn't even mention New York's bloated payroll. Oh but I forgot, you're a pro. You will save that one for next week when the Bombers have turned it around again.

Sorry, I stopped reading when you said you wouldn't read what I write if it didn't include knocking the Yankees. Was there anything pertinent after that?

Likes: Jim Leyland on interleague play. He's right. ... Very cool story, Cleveland's Orlando Cabrera missing a game the other day to become a U.S. citizen. ... Mets pitcher Dillon Gee. ... Sean Burroughs back in the majors (with Arizona) for the first time since 2007. Great story. ... Stephen Colbert the other night: "Starbucks is being sued for firing a dwarf. Or, as Starbucks calls him, a 'tall.'" ... Bridesmaids is pretty funny for a chick flick. Not great. But entertaining. Probably about as good as we're going to get in another crappy summer movie season. ... Bob Seger in Detroit for three shows this week. Wish I could be there for one of those -- and preferably for this past Tuesday's show when The Rockets opened. What a great, underrated Detroit group they were from the late 1970s-early 1980s. Turn up the radio, indeed.

Dislikes: Farewell to Harmon Killebrew, one of the great human beings the game has ever seen.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When the Senators stopped playin’ ball
"The Twin Cities got the call
"Minnesota joined the American League
"With Mele at the reins
"The Twins made instant gains
"In ’65 they had the flag and an MVP
"I’m talkin’ baseball
"Allison and Perry
"Twins baseball
"Kitty Kaat and Jerry
"Don Mincher and Mudcat comin’ through
"Jimmie Hall and Davey Boswell, too
"Just like Tony ... the Killer and Carew

-- Terry Cashman, Talkin' Baseball (Twins version)

Posted on: February 18, 2011 10:25 am
Edited on: February 18, 2011 10:30 am
 

Leyland: Cabrera 'in the best shape of his life'

LAKELAND, Fla. -- As an uncertain Tigers club waited Friday morning to see what turn the Miguel Cabrera case will take next, manager Jim Leyland fiercely proclaimed that saga will have no bearing on his team and that Cabrera, "in the best shape of his life", remains primed for a great season.

"I think Miguel Cabrera is probably going to have the biggest year of his life," Leyland said Friday morning before the Tigers' pitchers and catchers worked out.

Cabrera, arrested for suspicion of drunken driving in Florida on Wednesday night, still is not in camp and it is not known when he will arrive. The Tigers do not hold their first full-squad workout until Saturday.

"It's not going to affect the team at all," Leyland said. "All of these people getting dramatic about this s---, all this negativity, it's not going to affect this team one bit. Trust me. That's all reading material. Everybody is going to get all upset, get real dramatic ... do you think Magglio Ordonez and those guys are going to go about their business any different?

"Nobody's going to do anything different. They're going to bust their ass. I know for a fact, without getting into this situation [in detail], I know for a fact that Miguel Cabrera is in the best shape of his life. He's stronger than he's ever been and he's quicker than he's ever been. It has no effect.

"It might make some dramatic reading material. Everybody's projecting all this crap, it's not going to do s--- along those lines. Believe me. Nothing."

Leyland had started his morning session with reporters by saying that he would not address the Cabrera situation, that general manager Dave Dombrowski would be the club spokesman on it. But he relented some when asked specifically about how Cabrera's troubles will affect the team.

As for the rest, Leyland said, "I'm not going to talk about that. Dave will speak for that. I'm the field manager. I manage the players on the field. Our clubhouse will be great, and our team has a hell of a chance to be an outstanding team, and that's going to have no bearing on that one way or another. Trust me when I tell you that.

"He's going to be welcomed with open arms by his teammates and they're going to want to see him hit that son of a bitch over the right-center field fence. I'm just telling you. So don't get all excited about 'Aw, I wonder what it's going to do in the clubhouse, to the chemistry, and all of that bulls----.'"

Posted on: August 24, 2010 11:14 pm
 

Olde English D suits Damon well

SAN FRANCISCO -- Just when you think they're all mercenaries who only care about the next whopping contract, along comes Johnny Damon thumbing his nose at Boston.

We already knew Damon to be an exciting, if aging, ballplayer. We already knew him to be one of the game's extraordinarily nice guys.

Now we know he's not a phony.

Nothing against the Red Sox, who are doing a marvelous job of hanging in there despite losing players to the disabled list so frequently this summer that Terry Francona has been reduced to playing guys who are unrecognizable even to their own mothers.

But Damon has been there, done that, and it did not end pleasantly.

Looking for work this spring, he and his agent, Scott Boras, suddenly did more for Detroit's image than the Renaissance Center ever did. Damon professed his love for the Red Wings and all things Detroit. Boras rhapsodized about how much Damon always has loved Detroit.

It would have been sickening -- if it weren't true.

How do I know? Well, I couldn't resist. I sat down with Damon in Lakeland, Fla., this spring and administered a quiz covering all things Detroit and Michigan. Not only did he good-naturedly play along, he did quite well.

Anyway, seven months later, Damon told the Tigers he wouldn't accept a deal to Boston because Detroit is where he wants to be. He individually talked to all of his teammates first to make sure they still wanted him around. He said he hopes to play again in Detroit in 2011, and he said he knows that if manager Jim Leyland reduces his playing time down the stretch, it could cost him money on the free agent market this winter.

Didn't matter. Damon didn't want to change his stripes. (And his chances of stepping into a pennant race in Boston wasn't exactly guaranteed, either).

Next time you become disenchanted with the modern athlete for whatever reason, remember Damon. Maybe you hated him when he was with Boston, maybe you hated him when he was with the Yankees. Perhaps you never liked him with long hair, or maybe you were angry when he chopped his locks.

Whatever. Bottom line is, Damon showed this week he is a man of principle.

Likes: Ah, San Francisco. Gorgeous summer day today. Hot. It actually reached 100. And that brought the crazies out (even more than usual). Walking between the Rasputin music store and Border's books, I passed a raggedy-looking man on the street grinning and holding up a homemade sign fashioned from a cardboard box reading, "Ass watching is a sport." When I walked back 30 minutes later, he was still at his post proudly displaying his sign. Meantime, John Fay, Reds beat man for the Cincinnati Enquirer, saw two older men walking down the street completely naked protesting, as Fay said, something. ... If the White Sox do get Manny Ramirez on waivers, he and Ozzie Guillen will be quite a combo. And Guillen always thought Frank Thomas was a handful. ... Great run along the Embarcadero on Tuesday morning down to AT&T Park. Love the atmosphere around empty ballparks early in the day before they come to life at night.

Dislikes: Still haven't caught up to the final three Friday Night Lights episodes from this summer. Looking forward to carving out some time to see them. ... School starting again. I know lots of parents eagerly anticipate the kids going back. Not me. I like having mine around.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"When that last guitar's been packed away
"You know that I still want to play
"So just make sure you got it all set to go
"Before you come for my piano
"But the band's on the bus
"And they're waiting to go
"We've got to drive all night and do a show in Chicago
"or Detroit, I don't know
"We do so many shows in a row
"And these towns all look the same
"We just pass the time in our hotel rooms
"And wander 'round backstage
"Till those lights come up and we hear that crowd
"And we remember why we came"

-- Jackson Brown, The Load Out

Posted on: June 3, 2010 8:26 pm
 

A few final thoughts on the travesty in Detroit

Let's start with this: If you have not heard umpire Jim Joyce's agony in the aftermath of his blown call to rob Detroit's Armando Galarraga of a perfect game Wednesday night, you owe it to yourself to listen. Especially if you're hopping mad, looking for somebody to slug and your blood pressure is through the roof:

Listen to Jim Joyce here.

And if some of your hardness doesn't begin to melt just a little after listening, then I imagine you've never made a mistake in your life. It's darn tough not to feel for the man.

Meantime, with the wreckage still smoldering in Detroit, the important thing now is to figure out what lessons can be learned.

Me, I see several (besides baseball needing to look seriously at implementing more replay and better umpires).

I see Galarraga offering an incredible example of class and sportsmanship. "Nobody's perfect," he said Wednesday night. Imagine! This from a 28-year-old man immediately after he <em>was</em> perfect. From a man who is fighting for a permanent spot on Detroit's roster -- he was recently recalled from Triple-A Toledo.

I see Joyce, heartsick and temporarily broken, offering a gut-wrenching apology and exemplifying courage at its finest. Awful day at the office, yes. We all have those. But not all of us are strong enough to shoulder a colossal mistake. Not only did he seek Galarraga out to apologize after he viewed the replay on Wednesday night, he worked the plate for Thursday's series finale, shrugging off baseball's offer to take a sabbatical. And Cleveland manager Manny Acta afterward said Joyce had a great game.

I see class from the Tigers and manager Jim Leyland, who said before the game, "This is not a day to boo a bad call. This is a day to cheer integrity." And: "This is a day for Detroit to shine."

I saw Detroit shine when some of the 28,169 fans in Comerica Park applauded the umpires when they took the field, causing Joyce, a jangle of raw emotions, to cry.

It's terrible the way this all went down. But I'll tell you this: If not for the class of Galarraga, Joyce, Leyland and others, this could have been a whole lot uglier. In a bad situation, they all took the high road and, maybe, made us all think a little bit and re-examine a little bit of ourselves.

For that, baseball owes all of them a debt of gratitude.

Likes: June and San Diego, Texas, Cincinnati and Atlanta are in first place with Oakland lurking nearby. Can never get enough Cinderella stories. ... The Braves are making Bobby Cox proud. ... Glad to hear Ken Griffey Jr. is going to be working for the Mariners sometime soon. The only thing worse than when a superstar's career ends is when he disappears completely. Good for the game when they stay around and remain visible. ... Radical changes to Friday Night Lights as the fourth season is underway (for those of us who don't have DirecTV), and the show continues to crackle with great writing and superb acting.

Dislikes: Too bad Ken Griffey Jr.'s retirement was overshadowed by the non-perfect game fallout. I mean, the Commissioner's Office wound up releasing a statement on the Detroit brouhaha Thursday before it issued a statement congratulating Griffey for a great career. ... Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow lobbying Thursday for baseball to reverse umpire Jim Joyce's blown call and award Armando Galarraga the perfect game he lost. How about you two politicians concentrate on Michigan's future and lowering that unemployment rate?

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Yesterday's over my shoulder
"So I can't look back for too long
"There's just too much to see waiting in front of me
"And I know that I just can't go wrong"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

 

Posted on: February 27, 2010 6:59 pm
Edited on: February 27, 2010 7:04 pm
 

Tigers' rotation dominates Leyland's thoughts

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Detroit Tigers expect to start two rookies with a combined zero games in the majors (center fielder Austin Jackson and second baseman Scott Sizemore), a third baseman who had surgery on both knees over the winter (Brandon Inge) and a shortstop duo (Adam Everett and Ramon Santiago) whom manager Jim Leyland will be thrilled with if it can produced 80 RBIs between them again.

Yet what's dominating the skipper's mind right about now?

The Tigers' rotation.

"The No. 1 thing I'm thinking about right now," Leyland said, adding, "It's not Austin Jackson or Scott Sizemore.

"The No. 1 thing is how the rotation will play out. That's a huge key."

Though Leyland shies away from discussing specifics out of respect for the pitchers and the process (plus, who knows whether they all stay healthy), the Tigers appear to have three rotatoin spots spoken for -- including by the newly acquired Max Scherzer (from Arizona) -- with the remaining two wide open.

The rotation starts, of course, with ace Justin Verlander, proud owner of a new five-year, $80 million deal.

Rick Porcello, the 21-year-old fireballer who won 14 games last summer, is in there.

Scherzer, 25, who was 9-11 with a 4.12 ERA in 30 starts for the Diamondbacks, should be starter No. 3.

After that?

"There are four guys for sure that have got credibility, if you want to throw [Eddie] Bonine in that mix."

That means Leyland and pitching coach Rick Knapp this spring will be looking hard at Jeremy Bonderman, 27, who so far is looking strong after missing nearly two seasons following circulatory surgery; Nate Robertson, 32, who spent most of last season in the bullpen and underwent elbow surgery in June; Armando Galarraga, 28, who won 13 games in 2008 but crash-landed back here on earth in '09 (6-10, and his ERA shot up nearly two runs, to 5.64 from 3.73); Dontrelle Willis, 28, whom Leyland says looks much better in these early days of spring; and Bonine, 29, who has started nine games over the past two seasons.

"At some point we have to make decisions," Leyland says. "But we're not even close to that point yet. ... I'm kind of anxious to see how it's going to play out."

********

The weather continues to frown on spring training. Here in Lakeland, it rained all morning and the thermometer stubbornly remained stuck on 49 degrees. Brrrr.

The Tigers did most of their work indoors.

"We actually got some things accomplished," Leyland said. "We went over signs, signs with the catcher and signs with all the players. You try to improvise a little bit to make sure you get something accomplished, so we did that.

"There's nothing else you can do about Mother Nature. The weather that I got for the next week doesn't look very warm, but it doesn't show rain. So if it's 55, 60 and not raining, we're fine." ...

"It's a little aggravating, to be honest with you, but there's nothing you can do about it."

Sunblock Day? Absolutely, positively not. In fact, Saturday was the worst of all down here. Steady rain all morning and a high of 49 degrees in Lakeland. I know you're probably buried in snow somewhere and rain and 49 looks good to you, but it's still ridiculous. Worst waste of money I've made so far this spring, in fact, has been popping for a bottle of sunblock. You can add Florida to your overrated list (at least, speaking in the present tense).

Likes: Get well soon, Bob Gebhard. Arizona's assistant general manager had a mild heart attack the other day and, fortunately, is recovering well. ... Great Jimmy Buffett show in Orlando on Thursday. Excellent diversion from spring training. Any time he digs into his past to play Door No. 3, as well as My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink and I Don't Love Jesus and Last Mango in Paris, and anytime he plays the very underrated Window to the World (from the terrific disc License to Chill) and Bob Marley's One Love, it's a great show. ... Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren are outstanding in The Last Station. Really good. ... Good crawfish etouffee at Harry's in Lakeland the other day. And if you're wondering about crawfish, don't even ask about colleague Danny Knobler. Last I talked to him, he had eaten goat in an East African restaurant in Phoenix. ... Nice lunch the other day with Larry Stone, the very underrated national baseball man from the Seattle Times -- not to mention proprietor of one of the coolest blog names around. You can check out the Hot Stone League here.

Dislikes:
Smokers who think they can throw their butts out the car window. You see this a staggering amount of the time, and I saw it the other day on a freeway here in Florida. Who do these smokers think they are? Literally, they view the world as their ashtray. How selfish.

Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:

"Boat drinks
"Boys in the band ordered boat drinks
"Visitors scored on the home rink
"Everything seems to be wrong
"Lately, the newspaper mentioned cheap air fare"
"I gotta fly to Saint Somewhere
"I'm close to bodily harm
"Twenty degrees and the hockey game's on
"Nobody cares they are way too far gone
"Screamin' boat drinks, something to keep 'em all warm"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Boat Drinks

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com