9/5 pregame happenings: Zimmer, Rodney, Kelly

ST. PETERSBURG — Tigers manager Jim Leyland has spent the last couple of days visiting Rays senior advisor and old friend Don Zimmer in the hospital, as he recovers from four-hour back surgery he had on Wednesday. Leyland said Zimmer is doing better. How does he know this? “He’s still grumpy,” joked Leyland, who shared an assortment of Zimmer stories before Saturday’s game. 

* Leyland confirmed he’ll give Fernando Rodney a day off after throwing 35 pitches on Friday night. The 32-year-old right-hander has pitched in four of the last six days. Either righty Brandon Lyon or lefty Bobby Seay will likely get the ball if Saturday presents a save situation. Leyland is kicking around probably giving Rodney Sunday off, too. That would give him at least three days without entering a game, with Monday being an off-day.
* Leyland on Rodney chucking the ball into the press box after his latest save: “It doesn’t bother me at all because … obviously, there was no intent to do anything wrong. I’ve seen 30 balls thrown in the stands during batting practice every night, I’ve seen third-base coaches throw them into the stands, over the dugout. I don’t pay any attention to that kind of stuff.”
* The rotation after this series: Rick Porcello on Tuesday, Justin Verlander on Wednesday, Jarrod Washburn on Thursday and Edwin Jackson (Sunday’s starter) on Friday. Porcello would be on normal rest for Sunday, possibly leaving Saturday open for either Armando Galarraga or Nate Robertson. Leyland said Robertson is “on hold.”
* Utility man Don Kelly, recalled from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday, was in the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field. He’ll be a welcome addition after the Tigers used all four of their lefty hitters on Friday. The Tigers were originally planning on bringing him up on Tuesday, but after what happened Friday, they hurried him along.  
* The Tigers likely won’t be calling up any more players this month, but Toledo Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish will join the club at some point.
* Dontrelle Willis will make one more start for Triple-A Toledo tonight, as their season comes to an end on Monday. 
— Alden Gonzalez


There has been a lot of talk all year about how the Tigers don’t look like, or play like, a first place team. This week (month), they have looked and played very much like a first place team. Everybody is getting it done, big things and small things. They’ve chosen a good time to play their best ball of the season.
Leyland managed a good game. Granted most of those moves didn’t require a genius, but he didn’t mess any of them up. He played the matchups, they worked, and we got a win. He could have gone Perry in the 8th, it’s true.
Galarraga appears to me to be done. He’s not pitched well most of the season and there’s not much point in running him out there in September when we’ve got other pitchers. We have Washburn, Robertson, and if Bonderman took Miner’s role in the pen, we have Miner. All can start. JL said after the game he wants to discuss the situation with his staff regarding Armando. This hasn’t been working out too well, whether because of injury or whatever.
Two projections for after the season: 1) Re-sign Polanco. Whatever offer he gets from other clubs, match it. He’s nowhere near through, and it would be foolish to let him go. 2) If it comes down to a choice between Rodney and Lyon, keep Lyon. Brandon is far and away the best relief pitcher we have. If not for my belief that your best pitcher should be the setup guy, I’d have had him closing long ago. Some club will offer Rodney a huge contract and he should take it. I wouldn’t spend a lot of money to keep him, as I don’t think he can do this next year.
I’ll have to miss tomorrow’s game, so here’s hoping the guys can figure out the AAA call up and get an unexpected sweep in TB.

My question is…how long is Leyland going to continue to use Laird over Avila??? I can’t believe they can’t use the bat, and defensively I’m thinking he’s not as big a liability as Leyland thinks

Laird defense and game calling is worth 50 or more points on his batting average. Avila has improve behind the plate from when I saw him in AA, but he has only been catching for a little over three years and has a ways to go. If you played him everyday at this point, it is unlikely his offense would hold up. He has a good arm, but he it is not as accurate as Lairds. Laird also knows the hitters in the league and Avila is learning.

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