Mike Maroth would be content to have the entire 2003 season be erased from the record books. He became the first pitcher to lose 20 games or more in over 20 years, and wore down as the season went on. However, a new year is upon us, and Maroth appears to be a different pitcher.
Despite allowing 10 hits over his 7 1/3 innings, he was able to work his way out of a pair of jams, his only earned run coming via Al Levine. Maroth also struck out 7 while walking one. Levine pitched the final 1 2/3 innings, only allowing the inherited runner to score.
Offensively, the Tigers got a very balanced attack. C Ivan Rodriguez and LF Rondell White each went 2-for-5, while 3B Eric Munson had a pair of singles until he was taken out as a pre-caution after a slight leg injury. SS Omar Infante went 1-for-4, but more notably, made an excellent defensive play to help Maroth out, taking a throw from Maroth to get a force at Second before throwing home to nail would-be tying run Ronnie Belliard.
Righty reliever Fernando Rodney threw off a mound for the first time since spring training, making it likely that another outing without incident could mean a rehab appearance is on the horizon. Rodney would definitely be a welcome addition for the Tigers, as their bullpen has seen heavy use the first couple weeks of the season.
The Tigers also got another addition recently, as C Mike DiFelice elected to re-consider Detroit's offer and reported to AAA Toledo. DiFelice, who signed in the offseason with the expectation of being the backup to Brandon Inge, became the odd man out after the Tigers added Rodriguez. After going on the market, DiFelice found no jobs available, and rather than sit and get rusty, he elected to return and play in AAA. DiFelice will provide the Tigers added insurance should either Inge or Rodriguez get hurt.
The status of OF Andres Torres is still up in the air. The Tigers have given him the offer of returning to AAA Toledo, but there's no guarantee he'll expect, especially with the fact that he doesn't figure into the Tigers long term plans and even a call-up will mean only spot duty at best.
IF Greg Norton is used to slow starts, but his start has been especially bad this season. Through Saturday's game, Norton is hitting 1-for-20 with 7 strikeouts. With Dmitri Young still 3 or 4 weeks away from returning, Norton is safe for now. But when Young is ready, the Tigers will probably be forced to choose between Norton and Rule V hitter Chris Shelton, as it appears the Tigers are going to need to carry 7 relievers to spread out the work among the group.
Alex Sanchez has proven that he can hit the ball, but still needs to work on getting on base more often, especially if he expects to stay the Tigers' leadoff hitter. Through 11 games, he has yet to take a walk, making his .300 average leveled out by his matching .300 on-base percentage. Sanchez has the speed that the Tigers want at the top of the lineup (as evidenced by today - when Sanchez manufactured a run via a stolen base and taking another base on an error by Catcher Tim Laker, then scoring on a grounder by Rodriguez), but he needs to be able to get on base more often to provide more scoring opportunities for the heart of the order. If he can't, don't be surprised if he moves to 9th in the order while the up-the-middle combo of Fernando Vina and Carlos Guillen fill the top 2 spots in the order.