Inside Pitch: Rogers Helping Others on Staff

There were some concerns with the Tigers' signing of Kenny Rogers, in large part because of the 'camera incident' last summer. But Rogers has put that behind him and is pitching effectively for the Tigers. Plus, he's helping out others on the staff as well.

One of the reasons the Tigers signed 41-year-old left-hander Kenny Rogers despite his age was to bring his teaching ability to their relatively young rotation, especially lefties Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson.

Seems to be working so far.

Not only is Rogers off to a good start for Detroit, but so are the younger lefties.

Maroth is a similar pitcher to Rogers in that he must keep his 88-90 mph fastball out of the heart of the plate, work both sides and keep his curveball down and away. Rogers urged Maroth to move from the middle of the pitching rubber to the third base side to increase his effectiveness against right-handed hitters.

Maroth suffered his first loss in four decisions Wednesday and gave up his first runs in 19 1/3 innings.

Robertson has been counseled by both Rogers and manager Jim Leyland to sharpen his concentration and focus, especially when he gets in trouble.

"One of the biggest questions I approached him with was, 'When you're in a situation in a game when there's (a) threat of a big inning, guys in scoring position with less than two outs, what are you trying to do?'" Robertson said.

"When a pitcher gets in trouble, facing a situation that could get ugly, you hear about guys trying to do too much. It's, 'How do you get to the point of staying within yourself? How do you take that to the mound?' He's helped me understand how to do that."

--LHP Mike Maroth saw his success streaks snapped in his Wednesday start at Anaheim but still credits a tip from teammate LHP Kenny Rogers for his improvement this season. Maroth tried moving from the middle to the third base side of the pitching rubber last spring but gave up on it after middling results. Rogers urged him to try it again this spring, saying it would make him more effective against right-handed hitters.

So far that has rung true.

"I didn't give it enough time (in 2005)," Maroth said. "I didn't have confidence in it. I didn't trust it. "Talking with Kenny gave me that confidence, that mindset that I needed to have to give it a chance."

--SS Carlos Guillen is one of two Detroit players to start every game this season.

Some of that has to do with the fact that Guillen wants to counter suggestions he might have a durability problem in view of his injury history.

Guillen took a sharp foul ball off his shin in the second inning Wednesday but remained in the game despite a short period of limited mobility. He made a couple of quality defensive plays, including a throwout of a runner at the plate on a grounder going away from the infield.

"He's a real gamer, and I'm one of his biggest fans," said manager Jim Leyland, who has allowed himself to be talked out of giving Guillen a day off thus far in the season.

--2B Placido Polanco is one of the few Detroit players who is consistently successful on two-strike pitches, a fact manager Jim Leyland frequently points out to Polanco's teammates.

Polanco's RBI grounder to third Tuesday night on an 0-2 pitch was something Leyland showcased.

"It's something we don't do well as a club at this point," Leyland said. "We have to make adjustments with two strikes -- unless you're willing just to let it fly and maybe hit one out of the ballpark now and then.

"In the long run, though, that won't get it done. There are too many situations where you need to put the ball in play -- whether it's a groundball with the infield back or a sacrifice fly.

"That's one area where this team needs vast improvement."

--DH Dmitri Young can come off the disabled list this weekend.

Young was sidelined April 15 with a strained right quad. He stayed in Detroit when the Tigers hit the road for a three-city West Coast trip but rejoined the team at the last stop, Anaheim, to work out and visit his parents.

Manager Jim Leyland has a policy of not discussing when injured players are going to return, but he did note that Young was missed.

--RHP Matt Mantei has decided to give baseball one more shot and has joined the Toledo Mud Hens after rounding back into shape at Detroit's spring training base in Lakeland, Fla.

Mantei pulled an oblique muscle in his side and was unable to complete even one exhibition-game inning in early March.

He asked for and was given his release but went home to see if he could recuperate and give it another shot. Mantei, who has pitched for Detroit manager Jim Leyland before, said he would not sign with another club but would rejoin the Tigers' organization if he felt it was worth another shot.

Mantei was throwing hard at the time he got hurt. Control is more of a problem for Mantei than velocity.

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