Changes are on the way for the Detroit bullpen.
The tipoff came from pitching coach Bob Cluck when Detroit was in New York.
"I stick up for guys to the bitter end," Cluck said, "but at some point you run out of ammunition. I've actually been OK with the rotation. There's more experience in the bullpen and you expect more from that experience. That's what you're paying them for."
RHP Franklyn German, who has struggled with his control, is almost certain to be optioned Toledo. But many of the Tigers' other relievers are veterans, without options but with better track records than they're pitching.
So for them, being traded or released are the probabilities.
"As far as eating a contract and just letting someone go," Cluck said, "I hardly ever suggest that. It's so easy in baseball to spend someone else's money. That's a last resort for me.
"But then you're left without a lot of options. If you want to bring in some new faces, sometimes you have to demote someone who doesn't deserve it -- and that's not really fair."
One near-certainty is the addition of RHP Nate Cornejo, who began the season as a starter, to the bullpen. He was possibly making his last rehab start Sunday for Toledo. He could be activated when play resumes.
Something else that has already happened is bringing up LHP Wilfredo Ledezma from Double-A Erie to use in long relief the rest of the year, with the idea of giving him a shot as a starter next spring.
Ledezma, who spent last year with Detroit as a Rule 5 pick from Boston, tore up the Eastern League (leader in wins, ERA and strikeouts) but is 5-6 good starts away from reaching the 150-inning limit the Tigers wanted to hold him to this season.
Ledezma pitched 84 innings for Detroit last season after throwing about 40 (summer and winter combined) the year before that. He's been relatively injury free for the Tigers after three seasons of back and shoulder problems with the Red Sox organization.
Coming to Detroit and pitching in relief, which he did a good deal of last season, will limit his innings the rest of the year while probably helping the Tigers' bullpen.
As for the veteran relievers, Dombrowski will be answering his phone between now and July 31.
--UTL Brandon Inge was not activated from the disabled list July 11, when eligible, because he still could not throw with any authority or accuracy because of lingering tenderness in his broken right index finger. Inge could hit OK but wouldn't be able to play in the field. The Tigers were hoping to activate him Thursday when play resumes after the All-Star break.
--The All-Star break came at a good time for Detroit's wounded outfielder/DH corps. OF Craig Monroe, who had been playing center in the absence of Alex Sanchez, strained his hamstring at midweek and was unable to play at Minnesota. Sanchez missed the series to be with his wife, due to give birth to twin boys at home in Florida, but probably wouldn't have been able to play anyway after aggravating his right hamstring injury at midweek.
"We're not going to make a move if we don't have to," manager Alan Trammell said. "We're shorthanded. I'm still very limited in the options I have.
"I look at my bench, and I've got Alex Sanchez on my (lineup) card, and he's not even here."
--INF Omar Infante has joined UTL Brandon Inge as a natural-looking center fielder despite never having played the position before this season.
Infante was forced from second base, where he was more than adequate as a sub for 2B Fernando Vina, into making his first regular season start in center July 9 because of injuries to CF Alex Sanchez and his alternate, OF Craig Monroe. Inge was already out with a broken finger.
Infante made an emergency shift to center July 8 after Monroe strained his hamstring and had to come out of the game. He'd also played briefly in center in a lop-side game early in the season. He made five putouts Friday without incident.
--1B/C/DH Chris Shelton was activated from the disabled list July 10 with LHP Steve Colyer sent to Triple-A Toledo to make room for him on the roster.
Shelton finished a rehab assignment at Triple-A last week after sitting out a couple of weeks because of plantar fasciitis.
The Rule 5 pick hit safely in 15 of his 18 games for Toledo, hitting .339 with two doubles and six RBI. Shelton will return to the bottom of the pecking order for playing time but was working his way up at the time of his injury in late May. His chances of being offered back to the Pittsburgh organization are extremely remote.
--LHP Steve Colyer was returned to Triple-A Toledo with the activation of 1B/C/DH Chris Shelton. Colyer was brought back to Detroit for a second tour of duty less than two weeks ago but gave up three runs in four innings.
"He's not pitching with any confidence," manager Alan Trammell said. "He's got a major league arm, but right now he's guiding the ball. The results have not been good. He needs to go down and pitch. His command has not been where it needs to be."
Adding a player and subtracting a pitcher meant Detroit played July 10 and 11 with only 11 pitchers. A reverse move will be made by next weekend, after play resumes following the All-Star break.
--RHP Nate Cornejo was to make his scheduled rehab start Sunday at Toledo, possibly his final tuneup before rejoining Detroit as a bullpen member.
Cornejo complained of shoulder stiffness following his previous start but after another day off felt better and threw on the side with no ill effects after that.
Detroit has said Cornejo, who had not pitched well as a starter, would not bump anybody from the rotation upon his return. The Tigers have not been satisfied with their bullpen, however, and are looking to make changes there.
--SS Brent Dlugach of the University of Memphis, Detroit's sixth-round choice in the draft, has signed a contract with the Tigers. Detroit has signed 30 of its 50 drafted players but neither of its top two.
--CF Alex Sanchez flew to his Miami home on July 8 to be with his wife, expecting the birth of twin boys. Sanchez was a doubtful performer anyway because he'd aggravated his sore right hamstring the day before leaving for home. He was not placed on the disabled list because the Tigers were hoping he'd be able to return to the field following the All-Star break.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Victory needed by Detroit when play resumes following the All-Star break to equal last season's win total of 43.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're shorthanded. I'm still very limited in the options I have. I look at my bench and I've got Alex Sanchez on my (lineup) card -- and he's not even here." Manager Alan Trammell pondering his injury depleted team heading into the All-Star break. OFs Rondell White (foot), Craig Monroe (hamstring), Sanchez (hamstring, but at home awaiting birth of twin boys) and DH Dmitri Young (foot). His only healthy players were UT/DH Chris Shelton and C Mike DiFelice.
1B/C/DH Chris Shelton was activated July 10, with LHP Steve Colyer returned to Triple-A Toledo. The move left the Tigers with 11 pitchers but a 12th, probably RHP Nate Cornejo, was to be added after the All-Star break. One of the club's wounded outfielders could be disabled upon the return of Cornejo, who will work out of the bullpen for the time being.
Starters aren't imposing but they're adequate for a .500 team; if Detroit added a bona fide No. 1 they would be very good. The bullpen has been erratic or worse but changes are on the way, with former starter RHP Nate Cornejo set to join after the break. If a deal can't be made, look for a reliever to be released.
PITCHERS TO WATCH:
--RHP Ugueth Urbina is getting by on a fastball/changeup formula but hitters are increasingly sitting on the slow one and sometimes he gets ripped.
--LHP Mike Maroth hasn't won since June 10, in part because he isn't commanding both sides of the plate with his fastball. He retired 14 straight Twins to open his last start but bad fielding and a couple of poor pitches betrayed him after that. If there's one starter who could be dealt, he's it.
--RHP Jason Johnson has made two strong starts, allowing one run in 17 innings including his first career shutout, and might be the second starter coming out of the All-Star break. Johnson's is pin-pointing his pitches and getting all of his pitches over for strikes, especially the first one.
--LHP Nate Robertson (8-4) has quietly become the best and most consistent winner on the staff. He ranks among the league leaders in whiffs per nine innings and low opponent batting average.
--RHP Gary Knotts (5-3) won his first game since June 11 in his last pre-All-Star game start. Twice he has been allowed to top 120 pitches recently. Is maturing as a pitcher, showing far greater consistency in keeping his team in the game than he did last year. Has good stuff and is learning how to mix it up.
The All-Star break comes at the right time for the Tigers, who have nearly every regular outfielder suffering from nagging leg and foot injuries. The Tigers don't want to put any of them on the disabled list unless it becomes necessary after the break but in the short term that means manager Alan Trammell is dealing from a 48-card deck. Offensive production has been barely diminished by the nicks and bruises, however, but if it does look for UT/DH Chris Shelton to get a shot at some playing time.
POSITION PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--OF Marcus Thames went 6-for-15 at Minnesota during the weekend to possibly earn a reprieve from what seemed like a certain trip back to the minors. He had three doubles plus a home run and has hit two home runs in a week since rejoining the Tigers. If he produces, that would make it easier for Detroit to disabled one of its four outfielders suffering from hamstring or foot problems.
--UTL Brandon Inge could be reinstated from the disabled list Thursday -- but first he'll have to demonstrate he can throw a ball where it's supposed to go, and with some authority. When he does return, he'll return to bouncing around the field.
--LF Rondell White has been limited to DH or bench duty by a sore foot so the All-Star break comes at a good time for him.
--DH Dmitri Young is suffering from a sore right ankle, suffered sliding into second late last week. He was the DH on Saturday after being scratched from the lineup (left field) the night before. He was at first base July 11 and should continue to play after the break.
--C Ivan Rodriguez has been playing through a hip pointer but says it's nothing that will keep him from the starting AL catcher in Tuesday's All-Star game. He isn't hitting at a .500 clip so far in July as he was in June but he's still producing timely hits for Detroit.
--INF Jason Smith hit two home runs Saturday night and continues to show good offense in a role as a spare. His defense hasn't been up to snuff, though. He's likely to remain on the roster until 2B Fernando Vina returns.
MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Danny Patterson (15-day DL June 28, right shoulder bursitis) may try to begin throwing during the All-Star break. 3B/1B Greg Norton (15-day DL, inflamed left knee) is on a rehab stint and could return at some point after the All-Star break. UT Brandon Inge (15-day DL, broken bone in right index finger) could be activated Thursday if he can make any kind of a throw from third to first. 2B Fernando Vina (60-day DL, right hamstring) continues to make slow progress and late-July looks optimistic for his return. RHP Nate Cornejo (shifted to 60-day DL, right shoulder inflammation) was scheduled a possibly final rehab start at Triple-A Toledo on Sunday and could rejoin the Tigers as a reliever after the All-Star break. RHP Fernando Rodney (right elbow ligament transplant surgery, 60-day DL) won't pitch again until 2005. RHP Lino Urdaneta (right elbow inflammation, 60-day DL) recalled after one rehab appearance when he complained of lingering elbow pain; still no date for a return. RHP Chris Spurling (right elbow ligament transplant surgery, 60-day DL) is out until 2005.