Inside Pitch: Tata in Limbo

We're now over a month into the season, and Jordan Tata has been in Detroit longer than anyone expected, and playing even less of a role than anyone expected. Will Tata be moved out soon? Plus, might Placido Polanco be headed to the disabled list?

Right-hander Jordan Tata could be a roster victim of the recent success of Detroit starters.

With Tigers' starters routinely going six innings or more, there hadn't been much call for Tata in the long relief role, a job shared by veteran right-hander Jason Grilli, until he was called upon to work the last three innings Sunday at Minnesota in the Twins' 4-2 victory.

Tata worked four scoreless innings against Cleveland on April 15, but until Sunday had worked just 2 1/3 innings in three weeks. That's not enough for a pitcher Detroit feels is going to be joining its rotation either later this season or next.

The question is whether the experience of pitching sparingly in the majors outweighs regular work in the minors.

Right-hander Matt Mantei had been pitching well for Triple-A Toledo in his return to action from an oblique muscle injury in spring training. He was a candidate to come to Detroit's bullpen until being placed on the disabled list with a sore shoulder last week.

Toledo has other candidates for promotion. Right-hander Roman Colon, who failed to win a rotation spot in spring training, has pitched well for the Mud Hens after coming back from early arm trouble.

Another option is right-hander Zach Miner, obtained from Atlanta with Colon in the July 2005 deal for right-hander Kyle Farnsworth. Miner, 24, has added a sinker with the help of Toledo pitching coach Jeff Jones and sports a 4-0 record and a 1.85 ERA.

Right-hander Chris Spurling, who scuffled early and was sent down when closer Todd Jones was activated last month, also has pitched well at Toledo and could be brought back.

On the other hand, manager Jim Leyland says he's keeping the 12 best pitchers. And Tata keeps showing he's in that category.

REPLAY: Johan Santana no-hit Detroit through six innings Sunday, and the Twins jumped on Detroit's Mike Maroth for four runs in the first five innings to take a 4-2 victory from the Tigers.

Santana (3-3) retired the first 13 batters he faced, eight via strikeout, before giving up a walk.

Ivan Rodriguez broke the no-hit spell with a single through the left side in the seventh. Magglio Ordonez followed with his ninth home run of the season, to straighaway center field.

A one-out single by Chris Shelton plus a double by Vance Wilson put Detroit in a position to tie, but Santana wriggled out of the jam with a shallow flyout and a strikeout. Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan closed out Detroit in the final two innings.

Maroth (4-2) gave up a two-run double to Michael Cuddyer in the first inning, an RBI single to Justin Morneau in the third and a Luis Castillo home run leading off the fifth.

--LHP Mike Maroth was cuffed around Sunday by Minnesota in losing his second game of the season.

Maroth (4-2) was unable to hit his spots, and the Twins were patient at the plate, bringing him back into the strike zone where they could hit him.

--CF Curtis Granderson wasn't in the lineup Sunday as manager Jim Leyland loaded his lineup with right-handed batters against Minnesota LHP Johan Santana.

Granderson did pinch-hit in the game. He will be back in the starting lineup when Detroit resumes play Tuesday in Baltimore.

--2B Placido Polanco missed his third straight game, the entire Minnesota series, with back pain Sunday. He will see a specialist Monday after Detroit gets to Baltimore.

Polanco wants to make sure his pain is nothing more serious than muscle soreness or a strain.

--C Ivan Rodriguez wasn't behind the plate Sunday in Minnesota, but he was in the lineup as Detroit's designated hitter.

Manager Jim Leyland was inclined to give Rodriguez an entire game off, with Detroit having an off day Monday, but he changed his mind when he saw his catcher's hitting statistics against Twins LHP Johan Santana. The Tigers had three of their regulars out of the lineup already.

--RHP Jordan Tata worked three hitless innings of relief Sunday.

Tata, sparsely used since April 15 because of the effectiveness of Detroit's starters, saw just one runner reach base against him -- on a third-strike passed ball.

His cut fastball was working very well considering his recent lack of use.

--RF Magglio Ordonez is still a hot hitter for Detroit.

Ordonez hit his ninth home run of the season and third of the series Sunday to account for both Detroit runs in a 4-2 loss at Minnesota.

Ordonez just missed an extra-base hit his first time up, robbed by CF Torji Hunter on a spectacular diving catch.

BY THE NUMBERS: 250 -- Hits the Tigers had as a team in April, most in Detroit history.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The last day, after the final game. That's the only time I'd be interested in that." -- Detroit manager Jim Leyland on what being in first place would mean for the Tigers now.

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