Tigers News & Notes: 2/1

After signing Troy Percival right out of the gates, the Tigers were extremely optimistic about their chances with their other free agent targets. Unfortunately, the Tigers struck out with all of them, still leaving them with just Percival to show for an offseason that had so much optimism. But just because the team didn't land as many big name stars as it wanted, doesn't mean they're going to throw in the towel already.

Fiscal responsibility isn't the guiding principle of the Tigers this winter. The team is simply trying to be responsible.

Detroit has drawn some criticism for its inability to sign other free agents after the quick addition of closer RHP Troy Percival early in the process.

But what the Tigers have done is drawn up an offseason guide for improvement -- and stuck to it.

Percival was one of the players Detroit targeted. And whether or not he's a huge upgrade, a bullpen that blew a lot of late-inning leads ought to grade out better for 2005.

The Tigers' next targets were RHP Carl Pavano, 3B Troy Glaus and CF Steve Finley. They went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. It is believed Detroit made "get-it-done" offers to all three.

The club also pursued RHP Derek Lowe and 3B Corey Koskie. But in both those cases Detroit laid down parameters beyond which it would not go. Two more strikeouts.

"Human nature says, especially after we got Troy Percival right out of the get-go, that these things just happen," manager Alan Trammell said. "And it hasn't happened -- but not from lack of effort.

"The front office put together a good game plan and put together some real good offers, to be honest with you. And to come up a bridesmaid in the free-agent market, there's no consolation for second place. You move on."

Detroit wanted to add a top veteran starter to its rotation but felt that after Pavano and Lowe, some of its current pitchers have the potential to be better than the alternatives. It now becomes a case of "grow up -- and do it quickly."

UTIL Brandon Inge was always the fallback for either third base or center field. The Tigers wanted a defensive upgrade from CF Alex Sanchez but now will try to make do with the incumbent, who gives their offense some definite pluses.

Adding just to add, to appease the public, wasn't in the offseason improvement guide. Upgrading was.

"We're not where we quite want to be," Trammell said, "but just because people say we need to get this person or that, that's not necessarily the case.

"We've had a lot of talks about players. And I'm not saying we don't like players, but I think it tells you what we think about some of our guys that with a little bit more seasoning, a little more experience, that we think they can be upper echelon-type players. ... We'll just have to show you."

--Detroit was making a serious, but cautious, pitch to sign free agent OF Magglio Ordonez.

The Tigers and Ordonez's agent, Scott Boras, exchanged offers late last week following an early week meeting between the injured outfielder and Detroit brass, including owner Mike Ilitch.

Detroit followed the meeting with an offer Jan. 26, and Boros countered the following day.

"That's all I can tell you," Boras said. "Magglio has instructed me to send an offer that would make him a Tiger."

"We've expressed that we have an interest in the player, and I don't want to say anything more than that," president/CEO/general manager Dave Dombrowski of the Tigers said.

The parties met for dinner in Miami on Jan. 24, with Ilitch reportedly telling Ordonez he would do what was necessary to make him the Tigers' right fielder.

Ordonez averaged .312, 30 home runs and 118 RBI for the Chicago White Sox from 1999-2003 but last year batted just 202 times, hitting .292 with nine home runs and 37 RBI, because of a bad left knee. He had surgery but also went to Austria for treatment of bone marrow edema in the knee, a condition of concern to major league teams.

Ordonez has not worked out for teams but has disclosed his medical reports. He reportedly was cleared to resume baseball activities earlier this month.

"I've learned to take it one step at a time," manager Alan Trammell said. "There is interest, but where that takes us remains to be seen. This was only the first step. Magglio Ordonez is an All-Star; he would make us ... better."

--Former Detroit SS Cesar Gutierrez, who went 7-for-7 in a 1970 game to tie a major league record, died of a heart attack Jan. 22 in Maracaibo, Venezuela. He was four days shy of his 62nd birthday.

Gutierrez went 7-for-7 in a 12-inning Detroit victory against Cleveland on June 21, 1970, making him the second major league player to achieve the feat. Baltimore's Wilbert Robinson did it in 1892 in a nine-inning game.

Gutierrez began his career with the Caracas Lions in 1960 and moved up to play with the San Francisco Giants in 1967, when he became the 11th Venezuelan to play in the majors. He played for the Tigers in 1969-71, his final seasons in the majors.

He played 223 games in his four major league seasons, 135 of them in 1970, his only full season. Largely a singles hitter, Gutierrez his .243 for Detroit in 1970 and .235 for his career.

Detroit acquired SS Ed Brinkman from Washington after the 1970 season, and Gutierrez appeared in just 38 games in 1971, hitting only .189.

--OF Craig Monroe appears in line for more playing time in Detroit's outfield this season.

It's likely Monroe will play mostly right field for the Tigers but also could see action in center and left. He played all three positions for manager Alan Trammell last season.

Monroe hit .293 with 18 home runs and 72 RBI in 128 games for Detroit last season and began playing more or less regularly after the All-Star break.

"His playing time will probably be more significant," Trammell said. "We'll see as we go in (to spring training). He's going to work at different positions out there, but all he wants to do is play. We'll see where it leads, but at this point, probably, his playing time will be a little more."

Monroe was arrested and charged with shoplifting a $29.95 belt in a Port Charlotte, Fla., department store but has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

"What I can say is that everyone involved in this matter has been extremely helpful and very cooperative as far as the whole process," Monroe said. "It's been easy for me to just let it go because I know that it's being taken care of. I've actually just forgot about it, and I know now that I have to focus on one thing, and that's doing the best job I can do as far as playing the game, because that's what's important to me.

"Unfortunately, I can't go into details into how this all spinned out, but I think in due time it'll be OK.

"I'm looking forward to getting out on the field. I heard some positive things from (Trammell), and the team has been over-supportive. So I'm very confident going into spring training and the season that I'm going to be fine."

--Venezuelan police reported Jan. 25 the kidnappers of the mother of Tigers RHP Ugueth Urbina have demanded a $3 million ransom but have not contacted the family in several weeks.

Ten police detectives in an anti-kidnapping unit are on the case and believe Maura Villarreal, 54, is still being held hostage. Police said the strategy of making no contact is a common ploy used by kidnappers in the South American country.

U.S. officials, Urbina and the Tigers have kept quiet in hopes that would help lead to a resolution in the case.

BY THE NUMBERS: .259 -- Batting average for 135 career at-bats in Comerica Park by free agent RF Magglio Ordonez, whom Detroit was hoping to sign to give its outfield some additional punch.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Whether or not we have (Magglio Ordonez) or not ... we still have certain things we have to do here. And that's execute and play more efficiently in all phases of the game if we're going to go to another level. Whether we pick up anyone else or not, if we really want to walk the walk and win more games and win a championship, we have to get after it a little bit more and not make as many mistakes as have." -- Detroit manager Alan Trammell on how his team needs to improve.

Detroit has added three players, two of them backups, in its drive to improve for 2005. INF Ramon Martinez was signed to complement INF Jason Smith as reserves and backup C Vance Wilson was obtained in a deal with the New York Mets. Closer RHP Troy Percival was the Tigers' marquee free agent signee. Adding Wilson allows Brandon Inge to remain on third base full-time while giving manager Alan Trammell a competent catcher to rest C Ivan Rodriguez 1-2 days per week. The Tigers would still like to make a significant outfield upgrade.

ARRIVALS: C Vance Wilson (trade with New York Mets), INF Ramon Martinez (free agent, signed from Chicago Cubs), RHP Troy Percival (free agent, signed from Anaheim), RHP Colby Lewis (waiver claim, from Texas), OF Byron Gettis (waiver claim, from Kansas City), OF DeWayne Wise (waiver claim, from Atlanta).

DEPARTURES: CF Alexis Gomez (outrighted to Triple-A Toledo and invited to major league spring training, waiver claim from Kansas City), RHP Esteban Yan (elected free agency, club declined arbitration, signed two-year $3 million deal with Anaheim).

BIGGEST NEEDS: Run-producing outfielder, upper-tier starting pitcher, second southpaw reliever.

MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Colby Lewis (rotator cuff surgery in mid-April) hopes to be ready to pitch in the spring. SS Carlos Guillen (right knee ACL surgery Sept. 28) will be prepped in the spring with Opening Day in mind. CF Alex Sanchez (right quadriceps) will be ready for spring training. 2B Fernando Vina (right hamstring, 2/3-torn left patella tendon) declined surgery, which was iffy as far as a recovery, and is facing the end of his career. Won't be ready for spring training or Opening Day. RHP Nate Cornejo (right shoulder labrum surgery) will be brought slowly in the spring. RHP Fernando Rodney (right elbow ligament transplant) is throwing again and hopes to be ready in spring training. RHP Chris Spurling (right elbow ligament transplant) is throwing again and hopes to compete for a job in the spring.

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