Tigers News & Notes: 7/9

Bonderman led the Tigers over the Yankees

Want to hear the inside scoop on one of the Tigers players? Want to read some quotes coming out of the Tiger clubhouse over the past few days? Want to know which wounded Tigers are close to making their return to the big league club? Want a good statistic about the Tigers? Find out all this and more inside!

INSIDE PITCH
RHP Jeremy Bonderman was 15 years old the last time Detroit took a series from the Yankees in New York.

Bonderman picked up the victory Wednesday when Detroit outslugged New York, 10-8, to win its first series from the Yankees since 1997.

The 21-year-old (he'll be 22 after the season) squared his record at 6-6 with another of his learning curve performances. He allowed just four hits in six innings but faltered in the seventh and left after 6 2/3 having given up six runs and seven hits.

Bonderman has had problems this year choking off big innings by the opposition but otherwise he's been stifling.

Another season or two of similar improvement and he could be a staff leader.

Taking the last two games of their series with New York is typical of how Detroit has played lately. The Tigers have had a five-game losing streak, followed by a six-game winning streak and then another five-game losing spell.

Next stop, Minnesota, another city like New York where Detroit has had problems in recent years.

NOTES, QUOTES
--C Ivan Rodriguez returned to the starting lineup Wednesday - for one inning. It wasn't the residual effects of getting hit on the left elbow Tuesday night that forced Rodriguez from the game - it was home plate umpire Angel Hernandez, who ejected him in the first inning for something the catcher must have said after having been called out on strikes. "I didn't do anything," Rodriguez said. "I was just smiling in the dugout. Anybody can smile. The only thing I told him was the pitch was low. I said to him two times or maybe three that pitch is low, it is not a strike. Then I go back to the dugout, and he throws me out."

--CF Alex Sanchez left the game Wednesday in the fourth inning after re-injuring his right hamstring trying to beat out a bunt in the second. Sanchez bunted home a run but fell over first trying to beat it out (he was out) and re-injured his right leg. He stayed in the game two innings but came out in the fourth. He's unlikely to play the entire Detroit series in Minnesota due to the injury and the Twins' artificial surface but is not expected to miss all three games.

--SS Carlos Guillen confirmed to New York manager Joe Torre, who picked him for his American League All-Star squad, that he made an intelligent decision. Guillen cracked his career-best 12th home run, with two teammates on, Wednesday as part of the attack that gave Detroit a 10-8 victory over New York. He also had two other hits and is coming back strong after a day off in the first game of the series.

--RHP Franklyn German will be headed back to the minors if he has many more repeats of Wednesday's outing (which was a repeat of an outing he had last week). German came in to protect a 10-5 lead with a runner on first and two out. He walked a batter on four pitches, then served up a three-run home run to Alex Rodriguez and walked the next batter he faced before being removed. German has had problems throwing his fastball for strikes and also has been erratic with his split-finger.

--C Mike DiFelice came in for ejected C Ivan Rodriguez in the bottom of the first Wednesday and had two hits, including a triple, plus a walk while doing a good job of steering RHP Jeremy Bonderman to a victory. It was the sort of job in a pinch Detroit envisioned for DiFelice when it signed him as a free agent last winter. But that was scuttled when the Tigers landed C Ivan Rodriguez. Whether Detroit keeps DiFelice when UT Brandon Inge gets activated will probably be decided during the All-Star break.

--UT Brandon Inge is eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday but Detroit is expected to wait until after the All-Star break to activate him. Inge broke a bone in his right index finger. He could still hit but was placed on the disabled list because he could not make an accurate throw. "What has to happen before he plays," manager Alan Trammell said, "he's going to have to get some X-rays. And then if he goes to Minnesota and takes X-rays, another doctor looks at them. A few extra days are not going to hurt him." Inge said things are going as predicted, that he doesn't feel any pain when he takes his splint off and tests his finger. "That's a good sign," Trammell said. "That's why we DL'ed him, because he would've always been testing it."

--Pitching coach Bob Cluck is challenging his bullpen. Maybe threatening is a better word. "I stick up for guys to the bitter end," Cluck said, "but at some point you run out of ammunition. "They've got (five) more days to pitch better or the club is going to demand some changes. "I've actually been OK with the rotation. There's more experience in the bullpen and you expect more from that experience. That's what you're paying them for." Making changes in the bullpen will involve either eating some contracts or looking for trades, hoping another team will buy success in the past over current inconsistency. Most Detroit relievers don't have options. "As far as eating a contract and just letting someone go, I hardly ever suggest that," Cluck said. "It's so easy in baseball to spend someone else's money. That's a last resort for me. "But then you're left without a lot of options. If you want to bring in some new faces, sometimes you have to demote someone who doesn't deserve it and that's not really fair."

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 1/2 -- Weeks between hitless starts for C Ivan Rodriguez, who went 0-for-6 on July 2 in Colorado.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've been a roller coaster -- and maybe that's what we are. You wish the team could just take that giant step and get to the next level. But you have to go through the growing pains first, as we are, and learn from your mistakes before you get where we want to be." -- Manager Alan Trammell on his team's following a five-game losing streak with a six-game winning streak.

ROSTER REPORT
DH Chris Shelton will be brought back when his 20-day rehabilitation assignment is up later this month (he's been hitting well at Triple-A Toledo). 3B/1B Greg Norton (knee) is about ready to go on a rehab assignment. RHP Danny Patterson was placed on the 15-day disabled list with LHP Steve Colyer being brought back up to replace him. RHP Nate Cornejo went on a rehab assignment to Toledo but probably will be kept down as long as possible while he builds himself back up. OF Marcus Thames would be the obvious candidate to return to the minors when Shelton, Norton or UTL Brandon Inge return.

PITCHING TRENDS: RHP Jason Johnson and LHP Mike Maroth are struggling to win games but starters overall keep giving Detroit chances to win. An erratic bullpen underwent minor shakeup during the week, but continues to be erratic. RHP Esteban Yan has stepped up and is pitching well late in games.

PITCHERS TO WATCH:
--RHP Nate Cornejo, who could be joining the bullpen after the All-Star break, will make another brief rehab start Sunday for Toledo at Syracuse before the front office decides what he'll do next. Cornejo started Tuesday at Pawtucket and gave up a solo homer plus two other hits in two innings. He was scheduled to throw 40-50 pitches. Cornejo struck out two and walked one.

--RHP Esteban Yan is back to throwing his fastball in the mid-90s and it's setting up his other pitches very well. He's pitched well in late-game situations recently after struggling in that role for a time. Will be the primary setup man in the absence of RHP Danny Patterson.

LINEUP LOWDOWN: Playing a weekend series in Coors Park gives misleading read on offense. Prior to that, however, power had returned, especially in the outfield. Revival by 1B Carlos Pena and 3B Eric Munson gives the team a boost -- but they're still very inconsistent. Bench productivity is down with UTL Brandon Inge on DL.

POSITION PLAYERS TO WATCH:
--OF Craig Monroe might be getting his power stroke back. Monroe belted his first home run in more than a month (only his third of the season) Wednesday to help Detroit defeat the New York Yankees, 10-8. Monroe hit with power and for average the last two months of last season but so far this year, in a reversal of form, has pounded right-handers but not with an abundance of long hits. He's been hitting for a decent overall average this year but with no power and few RBI.

--3B Eric Munson is perking up at the plate, which he needed to do in the absence of UTL Brandon Inge. He faces a critical week because Inge is expected back after the All-Star break.

--2B Omar Infante responded well to batting leadoff when CF Alex Sanchez was out with a sore hamstring. He's drawn his manager's praise for his play in place of injured 2B Fernando Vina.

MEDICAL WATCH: RHP Danny Patterson (15-day DL June 28, right shoulder bursitis) won't throw for at least a week. UTL Brandon Inge (15-day DL, broken right index finger) expected to return right after the All-Star break. 3B/1B Greg Norton (15-day DL, inflamed left knee) about ready for rehab stint and should return after the All-Star break. UTL Chris Shelton (15-day DL, plantar fasciitis) went on a 20-day rehab assignment to Toledo on June 19 and will return at the end of his stint. 2B Fernando Vina (60-day DL, right hamstring) continues to make slow progress and mid-July might be optimistic for his return. RHP Nate Cornejo (shifted to 60-day DL, right shoulder inflammation) has begun rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo but won't be back right away. RHP Fernando Rodney (right elbow ligament transplant surgery, 60-day DL) won't pitch again until 2005. RHP Lino Urdaneta (right elbow inflammation, 60-day DL) recalled after one rehab appearance when he complained of lingering elbow pain; still no date for a return. RHP Chris Spurling (right elbow ligament transplant surgery, 60-day DL) is out until 2005.

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