Inside Pitch: Jones the Closer

Certainly, no one was excited when Todd Jones lost the lead this past Saturday against the Twins, and in turn blowing his first save of the season. But just because he blew one save, it doesn't mean Fernando Rodney will be taking over the closer's role anytime soon.

INSIDE PITCH
So the save-master blows his first save in seven tries and the whispers start in some quarters he could be replaced soon as the Detroit Tigers' closer.

Given manager Jim Leyland's track record: not likely.

So expect to see Todd Jones out in the ninth inning Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or whenever the next save opportunity arises for Detroit.

The Tigers' entire bullpen had not coughed up a lead of any kind all season until Jones came in Saturday night in Minnesota and whiffed on a 6-5 Detroit lead when the Twins rallied for two in the ninth for a 7-6 victory.

So it's a real stretch to think Leyland is going to chuck Jones after he'd saved six in a row for Detroit coming off a 40-save season with Florida.

Sure, Leyland likes to play everybody on his roster, but he doesn't bench his regulars after they go 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He expects production, but not 100 percent of the time.

Fernando Rodney, who throws harder than Jones, lacks the number of pitches Jones has along with the veteran's mountain of experience. And Joel Zumaya, who throws harder than Rodney or anybody else on the Detroit staff, is still going to bed at night thankful that he's a rookie in the major leagues.

So don't look for Leyland to jump off Jones until the veteran has shown on a prolonged basis that his four pitches don't work any more.

NOTES, QUOTES
--1B Chris Shelton won't be in the starting lineup Tuesday night when Detroit resumes play at Baltimore.

That, combined with Monday's break in the schedule, will give Shelton two days of rest as Manager Jim Leyland tries to get him back to hitting the way he was early in the season.

Shelton hit nine home runs and batted .471 in the season's first 13 games, but has just one home run and a batting average of .156 in the ensuing 19 games. Tuesday would mark the first game he has not started this season, some of which is due to lack of a suitable alternative to give him a break.

"He's doing absolutely fine," Leyland said. "He's just in one of those grooves where he's taking strikes and swinging at balls a little bit, and he's over-swinging. And that's the end of that."

Saturday marked the first time all season his batting average dropped below .300.

--C Ivan Rodriguez might be a surprise choice to make his first major league appearance other than catcher, as the one-day replacement for slumping 1B Chris Shelton.

"I have a pretty good idea," manager Jim Leyland said, "but I'm not going to talk about that right now."

Leyland talked about using Rodriguez at first earlier this season, but SS Carlos Guillen was the choice the only time someone other than Shelton has played first for Detroit this season.

Shelton came out for a pinch-runner and Guillen was placed at first for an inning.

DH Dmitri Young was also an alternative, but letting Rodriguez play there would get hot-hitting backup C Vance Wilson in the lineup and allow Guillen and Young to play also.

--2B Placido Polanco was scheduled to see a back specialist Monday when Detroit arrived in Baltimore to start a three-game series.

Polanco missed all three of Detroit's weekend games at Minnesota due to a sore back. If he doesn't improve, he could be headed for the disabled list.

"I don't think it's too good," manager Jim Leyland said. "It's been four days, so we're going to get it checked out. You can't keep going and going, letting it get to eight, 10 or 11 days. If it's going to be a situation like that, you're better off putting him on the disabled list. But we're not near that point yet."

INF Omar Infante would be the probable replacement Tuesday night if Polanco can't play.

--DH Dmitri Young is expected back in Detroit's lineup Tuesday at Baltimore after missing a game with a sore leg.

Young, who just came off the disabled list, said he felt a little tenderness in the same quad that kept him out of action for more than two weeks. So manager Jim Leyland held him out of action Sunday at Minnesota, although he was in the on-deck circle ready to hit when the game ended.

Young could find himself in the lineup at first base as the replacement for 1B Chris Shelton, who is getting a day off, but playing as the DH would be better to protect his sore leg.

--SS Carlos Guillen did not start Sunday in Minnesota but is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday when Detroit resumes play in Baltimore.

"Carlos also wanted to play," manager Jim Leyland said, "but he's moving around a little slow. I have to take care of these guys, which I will."

Guillen pinch-hit and made the last out of Sunday's 4-2 loss at Minnesota.


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