October 1st, 2010

Laird leaves game with bruised left shoulder

A Jake Fox backswing knocked Tigers catcher Gerald Laird out of Friday night’s game against the Orioles with a bruised left shoulder after three innings. His status for this weekend’s games wasn’t immediately known, meaning he might have played his final game as a Tiger.

Laird is a free agent at season’s end. The Tigers have committed to Alex Avila as their catcher next year — a platoon situation at the very least, and perhaps an everyday role. Laird has said he’ll move on to another club if he can find a situation with more playing time.
Laird was behind the plate for Tigers Rick Porcello in Friday’s doubleheader nightcap when Adam Jones tried to steal second. Fox swung and missed at Porcello’s pitch, but his backswing caught Laird on his left side as he stood up to try to throw out Jones. Home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi sent Jones back to first by calling interference. Laird stayed in the game for a couple more innings, but his shoulder apparently swelled up on him. Alex Avila replaced him behind the plate for the fourth.

Leyland: My job is on the line next year

Tigers manager Jim Leyland now has his support staff in place for next season after Thursday’s announcement that all six coaches will return. He also clearly has their mandate for 2011.

“We’re all aware that our [tail] is on the line next year,” Leyland said Friday, “and that’s fine. I’ll put my [tail] on the line with those guys.”

Leyland was asked about the coaching staff, but his answer was about the entire group, himself included. All of them are under contract only through next year.

If it sounds familiar, it should. Leyland went into the 2009 season with only one year left on his contract. He was not offered an extension before that season in the aftermath of Detroit’s last-place finish in 2008. Once the Tigers got off to a good start in 2009, Leyland eventually received a two-year extension that June, which carried him through 2011.

The situation is slightly different this time around, in that 2010 hasn’t been quite the same disappointment. The Tigers need to win two games in Baltimore this weekend to finish with their fourth winning record in five seasons under Leyland, but injuries took a giant chunk out of their chances to contend.

Still, the message from Leyland indicated the pressure is on to win next year.

“I would think so,” Leyland said. “Otherwise, we’d be extended already.”

Part of that could also coincide with team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski’s contract. When the Tigers went to the World Series in 2006, Dombrowski signed an extension that carried him through the 2011 season.

Leyland said his contract situation won’t change the way he and his coaches operate.

“Obviously, we’re going into the last year of our contract next year,” Leyland said. “We’ve got a one-year contract, all of us. We know what that means, but that doesn’t bother me one bit. That’s the way it is. I’ve said that all along. I’ll believe that until the day I die: If you’ve got somebody better, get him. That’s what you should do.

“That’s not going to affect how I do anything, because I’m not going to work any harder next year than I did this year, or work any less hard. I work the same every year. I give them whatever I’ve got, and that’s the way it is.”