Tigers Inside Pitch: 8/15

All the excitement about the Tigers having their complete lineup together has passed by as the Tigers will yet again be without multiple key members of the group. Plus, which Tiger starter would be much better off if he could just skip to the second inning of each start?

It never gets easier.

The Tigers bumbled their way out of contention for a wild card spot after reaching .500 two weeks ago.

Manager Alan Trammell thought he had his wished-for lineup ready to go, only to watch the usual dings and strains nick away at player availability. The latest have been SS Carlos Guillen sidelined again with creaky knees that were scheduled to be examined Monday when the team returned to Detroit and LF Rondell White, who separated his left shoulder attempting a diving catch Sunday.

Having 1B Chris Shelton in his first slump doesn't help and now there's more uncertainly about who's going to play the outfield. RF Magglio Ordonez benefited from two rainouts because he was wearing down and OF Craig Monroe keeps driving in runs even though he never knows from day to day which of the three outfield positions he's playing.

Detroit swept a doubleheader Sunday at Kansas City, but Saturday the losing spell and C Ivan Rodriguez returning a day late from an excused absence while serving his four-game suspension prompted Trammell to call a closed-door clubhouse meeting.

The Tigers begin a nine-game homestand Monday, played out over 10 days, that features Boston, Toronto and Oakland, that last two being major contributors to the Tigers' recent slide.

Consecutive rained out games in Kansas City during the weekend induced Trammell to use both starters, RHP Jason Johnson and LHP Mike Maroth, in Sunday's doubleheader. That meant one would probably go on short rest Thursday against Toronto.

RHP Sean Douglass was slated to face Boston on Monday night, with LHP Nate Robertson and RHP Jeremy Bonderman to follow.

--C Ivan Rodriguez, given permission to leave the team while serving a four-game suspension earlier this week, was late rejoining the team Friday night and not in Detroit's starting lineup for a game at Kansas City that was rained out.

"I'm disappointed, as we all are," manager Alan Trammell said. "I was going to have him in the lineup. But he's not here, so other than that, 'til we see him, I don't really know. But I'm not going to put him in the lineup. I'm not going to change it. I'm not going to do that."

Rodriguez was serving a four-game suspension for touching home plate umpire Ted Barrett with his mask during a game in which he was ejected. He also tossed equipment from the dugout.

The Tigers gave him permission to attend to personal business in Miami but Trammell said he was told that Rodriguez's flight had been delayed and that the catcher had been conducting personal business in Colombia.

His first game back was the second game of a doubleheader Sunday at Kansas City.

--If RHP Jeremy Bonderman wants to be Detroit's stopper, he's going to have to stop giving up first inning runs.

Bonderman gave up a walk and a two-run home run in the first inning Thursday and the Tigers lost, 2-1, to the Toronto Blue Jays. It was their third straight loss and eighth in 11games.

Bonderman has lost three in a row for the first time since last year and is now 13-9. The right-hander has allowed 23 first-inning runs in 24 starts this season.

"I don't want to talk about first innings," said Bonderman, who pitched shutout ball after the first and went the distance. "I want to talk about the game. I made one bad pitch and I got beat."

--RHP Craig Dingman's credentials as a setup man took a big hit Wednesday -- a game-deciding home run.

Dingman was just named Tuesday as Detroit's eighth-inning pitcher by Manager Alan Trammell.

He entered a tie game Wednesday in the bottom of the ninth inning, got the first out, then served up a solo walk-off home run that gave Toronto a 4-3 victory over fading Detroit.

Two nights before, Dingman had protected the Tigers' 9-8, 12-inning win over the Blue Jays. One mitigating factor for Dingman: He had pitched in five straight games before getting Tuesday off.

--LF Rondell White returned to the outfield Thursday for the first time since July 14. He had just one fielding chance and handled it without mishap, a double down the line in the seventh inning.

In his second game, however, he suffered a left shoulder separation when he dove for a ball. He is out indefinitely.

--SS Carlos Guillen, both his knees sore, got a game off Thursday. Guillen was still suffering tenderness in his left knee, which he fouled a ball off on Monday, and his surgically repaired right. Manager Alan Trammell used IF Omar Infante and gave Guillen a break from playing on Toronto's artificial turf.

--RF Magglio Ordonez got a day off from playing right field Thursday but was still in the lineup as Detroit's designated hitter.

Ordonez was not supposed to play Tuesday but wound up pinch-hitting and getting into the game anyway.

His right knee is fine, but manager Alan Trammell feels he's in need of a break since he's played virtually full-time since returning from hernia surgery in late June.

--DH Dmitri Young found LF Rondell White's return to the outfield to be just in time Thursday.

"Dmitri, I don't think he would be able to play (if he had to play the outfield)," manager Alan Trammell said.

Trammell wrote Young in as his first baseman. He can be expected to return to the outfield on occasion but will primarily serve as Detroit's designated hitter unless White's right shoulder begins bothering him again.

Young also assumed Shelton's third spot in the batting order and is likely to remain there until the first baseman gets back on track again.

--1B Chris Shelton was benched for a game again Thursday, his slump still lingering.

"The way things are now, he and maybe someone else will get moved in and out," manager Alan Trammell said. "But I still love Chris Shelton as a player."

Shelton entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, drawing a two-out walk to put the potential tying run in scoring position. He had three hits in Sunday's doubleheader.

--LHP Nate Robertson is having trouble making the key pitch at the key time this season, like many of his peers on the Tigers.

Robertson was handed a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning Wednesday night but gave up a solo home run and an RBI double in the bottom half of the inning. He's pitched well at times this season but has lacked the consistency he showed during the first half of last season.

--RHP Franklyn German got his fourth save of the season in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader. He's been a bright spot in the bullpen overall for Detroit, with rare lapses. His control occasionally escapes him, but for the most part German's fastball and split-finger have made him an effective relief pitcher and advanced his career.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8.63 -- RHP Jeremy Bonderman's ERA in the first inning of games this season, heading into his start this week. His ERA thereafter is 3.16.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Very productive. Get things out and talk about it is always the best way. We had things other than Pudge to talk about." -- Pitching coach Bob Cluck on Detroit's closed-door meeting Saturday, called in the wake of the team's 3-8 slide and C Ivan Rodriguez coming back from a four-game suspension one day later than he was supposed to.

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