June 2006

Tough time for ex-Tigers

It’s difficult enough for Jeff Weaver that he’s designated for assignment. It’s worse than he’s out to make room for his little brother. Ouch. You get the sense you’re repeating yourself by saying the elder Weaver’s career is at a crossroads. As for repeating myself, no, I don’t see the Tigers showing any interest in him.

Meanwhile, Rondell White is headed for the minors, but under different circumstances. By placing him on the DL, the Twins could send him to Triple-A Rochester for a rehab assignment without having to designate his contract. His left shoulder keeps on bothering him, and it’s slowing down his bat.

And for those who didn’t see, Nate Cornejo "retired" Wednesday after hurting his arm during an outing last Saturday for the White Sox Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte. He’s expected to spend the rest of the year rehabbing and give it another try next year.

Where Dmitri fits in

It’s a really good question without a good answer. He’s back trying to work his way into baseball shape again, which though Dave Dombrowski said he never doubted, a lot of people on the outside couldn’t see one way or the other. But once he gets in shape, goes to Toledo and plays, what then?

If Dmitri Young had been healthy all season, Marcus Thames probably would’ve never had the opportunity to do what he’s doing now. Yet here he is, still putting the ball over the fence at an alarming rate, hitting .300 for almost an entire month until now, and being one of the most difficult Tigers to pitch to. The bases-loaded walk he had Wednesday said plenty, because he took a 3-2 pitch. And he’s hitting well over .300 against right-handed pitching.

If Young is to become a regular again, he has to perform that way unless someone is injured and creates a void to fill. If he’s going to get back on the roster, again barring injury, he at least has to outperform someone on the bench, probably Alexis Gomez. Considering Gomez can play several different outfield positions and has become a versatile tool off the bench for specialty situations and pinch-running, that’s not a given.

For Dmitri to come back, you get the feeling it’s not going to be enough just to get back into playing shape and get up to the plate a few times like he did earlier this year in Erie. He has to show he can hit good pitches again, run the bases with some sort of mobility, and play a position at least occasionally, whether it’s first base or the outfield. This isn’t going to be rushed, and I don’t think it’s a guarantee he gets back up if he doesn’t show he can help this team. I believe it’s still in him to show that, but it’s going to take some work.

I’m not going to take on what he allegedly did in April. That’s a whole other issue. However you feel about what has happened this year and what he was accused of doing before pleading no contest, this would be a dramatic way to watch your career fall apart — go from the one star player on a 119-loss team to a bad headline once that team finally becomes a contender. We’ll see if he can rewrite the script.

Logan to Erie

The Tigers made room for Dustan Mohr on the Triple-A Toledo roster by demoting Nook Logan to Double-A Erie. He was batting .185 in 19 games this season, .180 in 18 games since coming back from a fractured finger suffered on opening day, and was in a 5-for-43 slump.

Dmitri to rehab

He’s heading to Lakeland to begin rehabbing at the spring training complex. While he has supposedly been conditioning, the rehab is intended to get him into baseball shape. Once he’s done with that, hopefully within a week to 10 days, he’ll start a rehab stint at Triple-A Toledo, and it won’t be a quick stop. He will not be called up, according to GM Dave Dombrowski, until his swing is back and he’s ready to play. At this point, they’re anticipating he’s at least 3-4 weeks away from that. There was no comment from the team on his legal issues or on where he has been for the last month. His personal issues, Dombrowski said, are something he’ll have to deal with.

As for whether Dmitri’s return would affect the Tigers’ search for a left-handed hitter, Dombrowski indicated it would not. If he’s at least a month away from getting back here, that would give them little to no team to evaluate how much he can contribute and react from there before the July 31 trade deadline.

Leyland on Abreu

"We are not getting Bobby Abreu," Leyland said. "Nor arewe pursuing. End of the conversation."

OK, then.

No, really, no more trade talk

Looks like you could scratch the Smoltz end of that trade rumor, too. He left his start tonight in the second inning with a strained right groin.

Please, no more trade talk

I’ve been peppered with emails ever since John Kruk speculated that the Tigers should deal Joel Zumaya for John Smoltz. As Jim Leyland put it today: "We’re not trading Joel Zumaya. Period."

Wednesday wrapup

As far as injuries go, Nate Robertson said he twisted his knee slightly on a big swing in the top of the seventh inning. He’s expected to be fine. While head athletic trainer Kevin Rand attended to him, Craig Monroe was dealing with tightness in his left quad suffered when he was legging out his third double of the afternoon. Between three doubles and playing center field, it’s not a surprise that he felt something running around that much after basically sitting for a week. He, too, says he’s fine.

Sunday's scene

For someone who had picked up 190 of his 200 wins somewhere else, the Tigers players really made a big presentation out of Kenny Rogers’ milestone win. This franchise hasn’t had a big individual milestone like that in a long time, unless you count Mike Maroth’s 20th loss, and it says a lot about how well Rogers has fit in with this club. This is a signing that has gone right far better than anyone has imagined. But then, considering Vance Wilson starts third in the order, reaches base three times and homers, this is a year when so many things are going right for the Tigers, and this weekend was a microcosm of it.

It’s incredible how well this team is at beating up on bad teams, and believe it or not, I mean that in a good way. They got up early every day on the Cubs, they didn’t let up, and they never let out a feeling they were going to blow one. I know what’s been made of the Tigers winning against losing teams and struggling against good ones, and I think it’s a good point. If they’re going to be a great team, they’ll have to beat the winning clubs. You can build a heck of a foundation, though, by beating up on the bad ones when the opportunities are there.This team does that like nobody else in the Majors right now, maybe in the last few years. They not only beat those teams they’re supposed to beat, but — Devil Rays aside — they pound them.

Tiger Nation invades Wrigleyville

I wrote plenty about it in my game story, but I can’t emphasize enough how odd it was to see this many Tigers fans here. It was noticeable when I was waiting for the train to the ballpark and saw how many people at the station were wearing Tigers stuff, and we’re talking about a 9:30 am CT train. It seemed like there was a huge section of Detroit fans in the upper deck along the LF line, but I think there were more of them scattered all over.

Justin Verlander theorized that maybe they had temporarily converted some Cubs fans who know that Tigers wins are bad news for the White Sox. He might have a point on some of them, but there were too many cheering all afternoon for Sox hatred to be such a big factor. Between a summer weekend, students out of school, a historic ballpark and a short drive, there’s a Detroit migration this weekend, and it’s nothing like I’ve seen in five years covering this team. Really, I haven’t experienced anything like this since the days when Indians fans would flock to Detroit because they couldn’t get tickets to Jacobs Field. It’s a fascinating change, and the players really fed off it.