Tiger News & Notes: 7/26

Want to hear the inside scoop on one of the Tigers players? Want to read some quotes coming out of the Tiger clubhouse over the past few days? Want to know which wounded Tigers are close to making their return to the big league club? Want a good statistic about the Tigers? Find out all this and more inside!

INSIDE PITCH
The likelihood of the Tigers making a stunning move by the end of the month is nil.

The chance of them doing anything at all is only slightly higher.

Detroit has precious little resources in the minors to squander on a big-name acquisition -- were there any big names out there to acquire, which there are not.

And with the Tigers slowly imploding last week, what would be the point? Unless it was a move with major ramifications for 2005 and beyond.

Thus it comes down to, 'Which Tigers are most likely to be on another team's "Get" list before July 31?'

"We are not going to make a lot of trades to get rid of players on this team," President/General Manager Dave Dombrowski of Detroit said late last week.

The players with the most value would be C Ivan Rodriguez and SS Carlos Guillen. But both are considered major parts of the Tigers' future, so they aren't going anywhere.

Detroit wouldn't mind getting rid of RF Bobby Higginson, whose performance and contract don't match up, but that's not a thing that's likely to happen because he's got another season to go on his contract.

There's been talk and print stories that RHP Ugueth Urbina is a candidate to be dealt. It could happen -- but only if somebody bowls Dombrowski over with a near-ready prospects in return.

One would almost have to be a young closer because Detroit's latest two young prospects haven't panned out. RHP Franklyn German has had trouble bringing his Triple-A success to the majors and RHP Fernando Rodney won't pitch until next year because of elbow ligament transplant surgery.

Every time Urbina fails to close a game, it's a reminder of what things would be like without him, as well as a flashback to last year. The Tigers simply can't afford to squander their rebuilt credibility at this point.

LHP Mike Maroth could be dealt because he would give a contender depth in the rotation.

Detroit has no replacement on staff right now but next year LHP Wilfredo Ledezma would have a chance to join the rotation (although at this point he still looks to be another year away). There are other candidates on the horizon for next year, as well, including Erie RHPs Preston Larrison and Kenny Baugh. If the organization feels one of them could benefit from starting for the Tigers the rest of this year, then Maroth could be traded -- for the right price.

RHP Al Levine has perked up lately and could help somebody else's bullpen down the stretch.

The other top candidate to be traded would appear to be LF Rondell White, who already has a number of stickers on his luggage. He could give offensive help to some contender, but he's also a nice fit in Detroit as part of a lineup that's significantly stronger than last year's.

Detroit could plug in OF Craig Monroe on a regular basis if it traded White, though, as well as give extended playing time to OF Marcus Thames.

Other, more distant, candidates include CF Alex Sanchez and Detroit's corner infielders, 3B Eric Munson and 1B Carlos Pena. But their drawbacks mean they probably wouldn't bring much in return.

But doing nothing, or making just a minor roster subtraction, appears the more intelligent option at this point.

Detroit is drawing paying customers and will post its first fan increase since the opening of Comerica Park at the turn of the century.

Dumping somebody like Urbina and putting the team into a major tailspin could be an enormously costly move, both financially and in destroying the newly returned enthusiasm of the public generated by the team's moves last winter.

"We have to be smart from the baseball side as to what's best for the future," Manager Alan Trammell said earlier in the month. "The best course for us might be to let some young players play and develop, which could lead to some losses this year, but more victories next season and the season after that."

NOTES, QUOTES
--RHP Nate Cornejo underwent surgery July 22 to repair a frayed labrum in his right shoulder, putting him out of action for at least six months. He was expected to be able to return 6-9 months following the surgery so he probably won't be a contender for a starting job next spring.

--OF Jeff Frazier, Detroit's third pick in the June draft, was hit by a pitch last week and suffered a broken bone in his left forearm. To replace him on the roster at short-season Oneonta, the Tigers moved up OF Matt Parrish from their rookie league team in the Gulf Coast League. Parrish, a non-drafted free agent who is the son of Detroit bullpen coach Lance Parrish, was hitting .264 with two home runs and 14 RBI in 25 GCL games. Frazier was expected to miss about two weeks before being able to return to action. He is right-handed.

--RHP Danny Patterson, activated off the disabled list July 22, was concerned about his lack of velocity following his first appearance back on the roster. Patterson gave up two home runs in his return and his pitches had very little bite or authority following a sharp final rehab tuneup. "I'm surprised that it's still 84-85 (mph)," Patterson said. "I threw harder than that in high school. I'm trying to throw as hard as I can. I'm trying to make my arm fall off, just to get something out of it." "The reason for velocity not being something that's talked about with Danny is that his ball has movement and that's really what he needs," Manager Alan Trammell said. "If he throws 90 and it's straight, that doesn't do him any good. I think it's just a matter of his command being erratic. Maybe he's just a little tentative and rusty right now."

--C Ivan Rodriguez collected his 2,000th major league hit July 23 in the third inning and it happened so fast he almost didn't get the commemorative baseball. After Rodriguez singled, RHP Esteban Loaiza walked DH Dmitri Young on four pitches before the Tigers' dugout finally asked for the ball to give to Rodriguez. "That's a lot of hits," Rodriguez said. "The only way I could have been happier is if I did it in Detroit." Rodriguez is threatening to become the first catcher to win a batting title in the American League and lately has been turning down days off or opportunities to give his body a semi-break by serving as a designated hitter. "I like to be behind the plate," he said. "It keeps me more in the game. I can stay loose. DH is a tough thing. All you do is just hit and sit down waiting for the next time you come up. Me, I prefer to be in the field. When I'm hitting, I like to be loose and know what's going on in the game. Once in a while, you need to DH. But as long as I feel strong, I want to be behind the plate." Detroit's weather has aided Rodriguez, as insiders felt it would when he signed with the Tigers last winter. There have been very few high-humidity hot days when the Tigers have been at home. "The weather's helping me a lot," he said. "I played 11 years in Texas in the heat and last year in Florida. It takes a lot from a catcher because of the weather. Here, this is nice weather." Rodriguez, on the bench at the start of Sunday's game, had started 78 games behind the plate. Only SS Carlos Guillen had started more games at one position for the Tigers (94 at shortstop).

--LF Rondell White is one of a small handful of Detroit players who could possibly be traded this week. However the well-traveled veteran says he has not particular desire to go anywhere. "I've been moved around so much," he said, "it doesn't matter. I'm hoping I stay here. It's a good organization. I love my teammates. It's a business, but hopefully I'll stay here."

--RHP Craig Dingman was the unlucky pitcher sent to the minors when Detroit activated RHP Danny Patterson. "Our starters have been doing such a good job," Manager Alan Trammell said, "we haven't needed a long man. He has a great attitude. It tells you something about Craig Dingman." Dingman had been sparsely used recently and looked at the demotion as an opportunity to pitch and get back to the Tigers.

--OF Craig Monroe was placed on the disabled list July 21 because of a strained left hamstring. Detroit recalled CF Nook Logan to replace him. Monroe had a .278 batting average with 16 doubles, four home runs and 34 RBI in 77 games for the Tigers. Logan was batting .267 with 13 doubles, six triples, two home runs and 26 RBI in 97 games for Toledo and was leading the International League with 37 stolen bases. Logan, destined to go back to Toledo when CF Alex Sanchez returns, bunted for a single in his first major league at-bat and had three hits in his second game.

--1B/C/DH Chris Shelton had just one at-bat since being activated off the disabled list July 10 by Detroit. "Guys are playing better," Manager Alan Trammell said. "Before he got hurt, there was a situation where we weren't and guys weren't doing the job. "But that hasn't been the case as much. Again, there are no guarantees. That's the way it is. I told him to continue to prepare, do the best you can, because you never know in this game. It's a cliche, but it's the truth. This way, though, it doesn't shake out real well for Chris." Shelton struck out in a late-inning appearance in a blowout Detroit loss. He now has 33 at-bats (entering Sunday) but won't get cut, either, because Detroit likes him for the future. "I do watch the way he goes about his business," Trammell said. "He does it great. He's certainly frustrated, disappointed, but I told him in spring training, this year will be like no other year for him. Just sitting and observing is tough. It's a tough situation, but we still like him."

BY THE NUMBERS: 23 -- Home runs hit this season by Detroit players in the No. 8 spot in the batting order, most in the major leagues entering play Sunday.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are not going to make a lot of trades to get rid of players on this team." -- Detroit president/general manager Dave Dombrowski on the Tigers' plans as the trade deadline approaches.

ROSTER REPORT
The Tigers are not expected to be a buyer this week with the arrival of the July 31 trade deadline and they would probably be a seller only on their terms. CF Alex Sanchez won't return to the active roster until mid-week (following a short rehab stint) and when he does the Tigers will send CF Nook Logan back to Triple-A. Logan was brought up when OF Craig Monroe was disabled with a bad hamstring. RHP Danny Patterson was activated off the disabled list at the expense of RHP Craig Dingman but was only throwing in the mid-80s in his first appearance back. Detroit continues with 11 pitchers.

PITCHING TRENDS: The bullpen and starters haven't been up to the strain of late-inning meltdowns by Detroit's offense. Starters continue to provide solid outings through six and seven innings. Relievers continue to be a source of concern.

PITCHERS TO WATCH:

--RHP Jeremy Bonderman is already past 20 home runs allowed and recently that's about the only hit he is giving up. Once he learns to avoid throwing too-good fastballs in home run counts he could turn into a dominating pitcher.

--RHP Ugueth Urbina isn't on the trading block -- but could be dealt if someone makes the Tigers an offer they can't refuse.

--LHP Mike Maroth is the only starter Detroit potentially could trade, with LHP Wilfredo Ledezma a potential replacement for 2005, but it would only happen if someone made an irresistible offer. It's more likely to happen between seasons.

--RHP Esteban Yan has been very inconsistent for Detroit most of the year. He's sparkled in long relief but has been spotty when the Tigers are forced to use him in the final three innings.

--LHP Jamie Walker says RHP Ugueth Urbina can have the role as closer but he might be who Detroit turns to for a finisher if Urbina gets dealt this week.

--LHP Wilfredo Ledezma might make a spot start at some point but won't be moved into the rotation because Detroit wants to limit him to about 150 innings and he's about 30 innings shy of that total now.

LINEUP LOWDOWN: Late-week slump was fueled by offensive meltdown in the final three innings of most games. Detroit scored just three runs and hit less than .200 after the fifth inning last week. Manager Alan Trammell observed after one loss that his hitters were all trying to put the ball over the fence instead of just trying to do their jobs. More and more it appears UT Brandon Inge is going to make a run at being the regular third baseman.

POSITION PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--UT Brandon Inge is hitting more than .300 on the road and under .250 at home. He's been starting at third over 3B Eric Munson in recent games, even against RHPs.

--CF Alex Sanchez's wife finally gave birth to their twins but will need a couple of minor league tuneup games before he's returned to Detroit's active roster at mid-week or later.

--SS Carlos Guillen became one of the few Detroit players to hit a home run from each side of the plate in one game on Saturday. Despite signing his three-year deal, Guillen is intent on disproving the 'fragile' label he acquired in Seattle and July 23 talked his way into the lineup after coming out the day before with a sore back.

--C Ivan Rodriguez is shunning days off, too, and continues to hit anyway. With proper rest, he could become the first AL catcher to lead the league in hitting.

--CF Nook Logan showed Detroit some potential with his play in the absence of CF Alex Sanchez. He'll be returned to Toledo when Sanchez is activated but continued improvement could make him a factor in the spring.

--1B Carlos Pena hasn't been playing against LHPs and that could be a negative sign in terms of his long-term future in Detroit.

--2B Omar Infante has played so well that nobody asks about the return of 2B Fernando Vina any more.

MEDICAL WATCH:
OF Craig Monroe (15-day DL, left hamstring) is likely to be activated next week when eligible. CF Alex Sanchez (DL July 8, right hamstring) is scheduled for a short rehab assignment but should be activated before week's end. 3B/1B Greg Norton (15-day DL, inflamed left knee) is scheduled to see his rehab stint end but is not likely to return to the active roster. 2B Fernando Vina (60-day DL, right hamstring, left knee tendonitis) continues to make slow progress and his return is now uncertain. RHP Nate Cornejo (60-day DL, right shoulder surgery, frayed labrum), not expected to be ready to pitch until late next spring. RHP Lino Urdaneta (right elbow inflammation, 60-day DL) has a minor league camp outing on the horizon, after which he would try another rehab assignment. RHP Fernando Rodney (right elbow ligament transplant surgery, 60-day DL) won't pitch again until 2005. RHP Chris Spurling (right elbow ligament transplant surgery, 60-day DL) is out until 2005.


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