Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cozy July schedule gives Tigers chance to make their presence felt in AL Central

    Contenders or pretenders? The coming month will tell.
    If the Tigers are going to make any noise in the American League Central this season, now is the time.
    The Tigers are 25-11 at Comerica Park (compared to 16-25 on the road). Sixteen of their next 20 games will be at home. Do the math.
    When the Tigers left town and I left the country on a brief vacation nine days ago, they were in second place, a game and a half behind the Twins.
    They flew home from Minnesota Wednesday night, still a game and a half back -- despite dropping six out of nine in New York, Atlanta and the Twin Cities.
    What could have been a disastrous road trip ended up not being all that bad.
    When the month began, Minnesota enjoyed a 4 1/2-game lead on the Tigers, their biggest advantage of the season. But the Twins went 12-15  in June while the Tigers were 15-12, thanks in no small part to an 11-7 record in inter-league play.
    Rookie Andy Oliver, filling in for Rick Porcello who is at Toledo trying to regain his first-year form, was roughed up by the Twins on Wednesday in his second big league appearance. Although Oliver's record is 0-2, the 22-year-old left hander remains, perhaps, the  Tigers' most promising young pitching prospect.
    Had Oliver,  the Tigers' second pick in last summer's draft, signed immediately instead of holding out before eventually signing for a $1.495 million bonus hours before the Aug. 18 deadline, he might have been in the big leagues before this.
    The Tigers think that much of him.
    However, like Jacob Turner, the Tigers' No. 1 draft pick in 2009, Oliver is represented by high-pressure, high-profile agent Scott Boras who believes taking contract negotiations down to the wire in an effort to garner every penny possible from his clients' potential employers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Boesch, Jackson lead Tigers' rookie parade as wave of young talent sweeps baseball

    Magglio Ordonez and Johnny Damon are 36. Carlos Guillen is 34. Brandon Inge turned 33 last month. This is supposed to be a veteran Tigers team.
    But it is the kids who are threatening to steal the show. There is a wave of new, young talent sweeping baseball these days, and the Tigers, thanks to some good good scouting and solid player development, have not been left behind.
    Brennan Boesch's name wasn't on anyone's mind in Florida this spring. The Tigers were committed to Austin Jackson, but there was some doubt as to whether he could hit big league pitching well enough to bat leadoff. The back-up catcher's job was up for grabs between Alex Avila and Robinzon Diaz. Don Kelly was on the bubble in the battle for the last spot on the bench, And, from day one, Danny Worth was ticketed for Toledo.
    Now they are all integral parts of the team.
    "We've probably got too many kids, to be honest with you," Jim Leyland admits. "But that's OK. I've got no problem with that.
    "I'd rather have some young guys up here playing than some journeymen making $3, $4, $5 million. I'm all for giving young guys a chance to play. They've got to play sometime."
    Of course, it helps that this batch of  young Tigers have the ability to play up here.
    Boesch has been getting most of the attention, but he's not the only  rookie who is elevating his status in the eyes of the Tigers organization this season.
    As expected, Jackson has come back down to earth after batting .364 in April. But he is far superior to Curtis Granderson defensively in center field. It's not even close.
    "He makes plays that are very difficult look very easy," said Tigers' assistant GM Al Avila, who's own son, Alex, is, at the moment, the team's catcher of the future _ assuming he continues to hit.
    Worth has replaced Adam Everett at shortstop and demonstrated earlier this season that he can play second base, too. "I don't know if anybody has noticed, but he has a helluva arm," says Leyland, one who has noticed. Worth's glove and arm will keep him in the big leagues. The only question is: Can he hit enough to play everyday?
    Second baseman Scott Sizemore, who is batting .328 at Toledo since he was sent down to regain his confidence, will be back.
    And, although he his not a rookie, young Kelly is earning a place for himself as an ultilty man, playing left field, center and right as well as third base and first.
    "He's made some outstanding defensive players and he's not gotten any credit at all," says Leyland. "For what he's supposed to be doing, he's doing it exactly perfect."
    The kids certainly can't complain that they're not getting a chance to prove themselves.
    And they have been warmly received by their veteran teammates.
    "It's important to make these guys feel like they belong," says Brandon Inge, who was himself unexpectedly shoved onto the big league stage in 2001. "They (the veterans) would tell you how hard the game is. While it is, in all reality, it's still baseball.
    "These guys have been good all their lives. Let's try and give 'em some confidence and let 'em roll."
    So far, they are.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The costs were staggering -- $14 million per win -- but Willis welcomed back anyway

    The $29 million contract that the Tigers so benevolently bestowed on Dontrelle Willis may stand forever as the biggest waste of money of franchise history.
    Given the mountain of money he was making, Dontrelle's days as a Tigers were, in a word, disastrous. Never before has a Tiger done so little for so much.
    The numbers are staggering, and, frankly a bit nauseating.
    Each of Dontrelle Willis' two wins in a Tigers uniform cost the team more than $14 million -- $14,366,167, to be precise.
    Each of of his 22 starts here over the past three seasons, cost the Tigers $1,306,015.
    Each of Willis' 101 innings cost the Tigers $284,479. Each of his 68 strikeouts cost them $422,534. Each of his 92 infuriating walks, $312,308.
    Nevertheless, when  Willis  returned to the Comerica Park mound on Friday night as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks, nobody booed. Frankly, I was surprised.
    And when Dontrelle, animated as always, stopped by the Tigers' clubhouse before batting practice the next day to say hello to his former teammates, he was greeted warmly.
    If there is any lingering resentment about Willis' -- and a couple of players privately expressed such sentiments to me when Dontrelle was dumped -- they concealed it well.
    The effervescent Willis is a hard guy to hate.
    "It just didn't work," said Jim Leyland, who spoke at length with Willis on the field over the weekend and harbors no hard feelings.
    "As I said when we let him go, I felt bad for him. He did everything under the sun to try to get right. And I hope he will. He went through a lot of stuff here -- and we went through a lot of stuff.
    "He felt bad that didn't do more for us. And we felt bad that, maybe, we didn't do more for him."
    Now Willis is Arizona's worry.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Father's Day: Leyland's son follows in his dad's footsteps -- 46 years later

    It's unlikely -- after all, Jim Leyland turns 66 in December -- but the Tigers' skipper could someday find himself managing his own son. That has happened before in baseball -- but not every often.
    Eighteen-year-old Patrick Leyland, the Tigers' eighth-round draft pick, has decided to pass up a scholarship at the University of Maryland and turn pro. The younger Leyland, who, like his father, is a catcher, kissed his girl friend, sister and mother good-bye and  flew to Lakeland on Thursday for his physical. Once he passes that, he will fax his contract back to Detroit for his dad's approval, then join the Tigers' entry-level team in the Gulf Coast League, which is based in Lakeland.
    Jim Leyland played for six years in the Tigers' farm system, never rising higher than Double-A. He hopes his son won't meet a similar fate.
    But that will be up to Patrick.
    "This is his bag, this is all about Patrick, this isn't about me,"  Leyland said. "I can't help him. He's on his own.
    "We gave him his options," the elder Leyland continued. "This is what the kid wants to do. I'm certainly not going to take his dream away from him."
    But for Patrick, who just graduated from high school and had grown accustomed to the luxuries of big league life, hanging around the ballpark with his dad, the low minors will mean a big adjustment.
    They play their games in the afternoon in the Gulf Coast League. For young Leyland, that will mean catching each day in 100-degree heat. He will share a room at the Tigers' minor league complex with Bo McClendon, the son of Tigers' hitting coach Lloyd McClendon, who was also drafted this month.
    "He's going to see stuff he's never seen before," the elder Leyland predicted. "He's going to see guys throwing 95 mph. He's got some talent but he's never seen stuff like that.
    "This is just a break-in, to get his feet wet," Leyland continued. "I'm not going to get too excited if he does well. And I'm not going to get too excited if he doesn't.
    "Hopefully, he'll play for a few years, and then we'll see."
    Nevertheless, it is an exciting time for Jim Leyland, who embarked on a similar adventure of his own, traveling to Florida with his catcher's mitt and his dreams, 46 years ago.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

For Tigers fans, Washington wunderkind Strasburg's autograph will have to suffice

    Unfortunately, we will never know how big a night it might have been. Think Mark "The Bird" Fidrych in the frenzied summer of '76, Fernando-mania in '81, or Dwight Gooden in '84. That big.
    Sadly, we'll not see Nationals' wunderkind Stephen Strasburg and his 100 mph fastball on the Comerica Park mound this week. Strasburg, who pitched Sunday for Washington, is scheduled to start again on Friday at home against Chicago.
    But I wouldn't even venture a guess on the number of people who show up at the corner of Witherell and Montcalm on a mission to get the rookie phenom's autograph -- which is already selling on eBay for $300 and up.
    Strasburg has made two big league starts. He was won twice. He has struck out 22. And he has captured the attention of the entire country, including David Letterman.
    Red Nationals' T-shirts bearing Strasburg's name and number sell out as fast as they can be piled on store shelves. Restaurants are naming burgers in his honor -- Strasburgers. His Washington teammates call him "Jezzus."
    And he's only 21.
    With apologies to Denny McLain, Strasburg is most famous pitcher to toil in our nation's capital since Walter Johnson. The Nationals' regional TV network reported an audience of 165,000 households for Strasburg's debut -- 10 times the network's nightly average.
    Cooperstown-bound Pudge Rodriguez, who has caught Nolan Ryan, Josh Beckett and Justin Verlander in his 19-year career, says, "This kid is unbelievable."
    Nevertheless, Washington has wisely arranged his schedule so that Strasburg will face the Pirates, Indians, and White Sox-- hardly offensive juggernauts -- in his first three starts. His first two games were televised nationally, and Strasburg's third start will be, too.
    But while the Washington Nationals are at Comerica Park this week, Strasburg will merely watch from the bench.
    Strasburg struck out 15 Pirates in his ballyhooed big league debut, which attracted a standing-room-only throng of 40,315 -- more then double the Nationals' normal Tuesday night crowd. It was the biggest celebration  Washington D.C. has seen since President Obama's inauguration.
    The Nationals' plan is to limit Strasburgh to about 100 innings this season. If, as expected, Strasburg makes eight starts at home, he will generate an additional $5.8 million in ticket revenue for the needy Nats.
    On Sunday, in Cleveland, 32,876 showed up to watch Strasburg hold the Indians to one run on two hits over 5 1/3 innings. It was the second-largest gathering of the season at Progressive Field, more than double the Indians' average. And it occurred no thanks to the Tribe.
    One of those in attendance, although, of course, he didn't pay, was 91-year-old Indians Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who himself fanned 15 batters in his first major league start as a 17-year-old phenom in 1936.
    Strasburg's 22 Ks in his first two start are the second-most in major league history. Only star-crossed Karl Spooner of the old Brooklyn Dodgers ever did better, striking out 27 in his first two big league starts, both complete game victories, by the way, in 1954.
    Tragically, the following spring, Spooner -- who, like Strasburg, was blessed with a blazing fastball --  was ushered into an exhibition game before he had sufficiently warmed up, injured his precious left arm, and won only eight games in 1955, which signaled the end of his promising big league career.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Leyland doubles as both proud parent and agent as son ponders pro career

    Beginning in 2006, when Jim Leyland was hired to manage the Tigers, his son Patrick, then 14, began hanging around the clubhouse, sometimes kibitzing and playing catch with the players, sometimes taking batting practice with his dad on the mound.
    It was a dream come true for the kid.
    Last year, father and son were both excited when the University of Maryland offered Patrick, then a high school senior, a scholarship to go to school and play baseball for the Terps.
    Last week, the Tigers made 18-year-old Pat Leyland their eighth-round draft pick.
    Now the kid is facing the biggest decision of his young life: College or the minor leagues.
    That was an option Jim Leyland didn't have when he turned pro and signed for a pittance with the Tigers in 1963. Pat, who has grown to 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, is bigger than his dad (6-0, 180), and faces a more promising future. The Tigers believe the younger Leyland, who like his father is a catcher, is bona fide big league prospect.
    "Patrick has just got to make a decision," the elder Leyland said. "I know he wants to try it (professional baseball) some time."
    As an eighth-round pick, young Leyland won't have a lot of bargaining power when he sits down to talk contract with the Tigers. They will make him an offer, based upon what eighth-round picks usually get, and Leyland can take it or leave it.
    I asked Jim if his son has hired an agent yet.
    "Me," the elder Leyland replied, raising up from under the quilt as he relaxed on his Comerica Park office couch.
    Patrick Leyland, now 18, worked out at Comerica Park under the watchful eye of his dad Saturday afternoon -- as he as done so many times in seasons past.
    But this time it was different. There's a lot more on the line now.
    On Sunday morning, the young Leyland was up at the crack of dawn and on his way back home to Pittsburgh to play in an All-Star Game.
    Like any good parent, Jim got up early, too, to make sure his son found his way over to I-75 from Leyland's Royal Oak condo. Then the Tigers manager headed for the ballpark -- hence the morning nap on his couch.
    "The only advice I gave Patrick was, 'If you're sure you want to play, go play,' " the Tigers' manager explained. " 'And if you want to go to school, go to school.'
    "I told him, 'The money is going to be what it is. Don't worry about the money.'
    "He's going to play somewhere, either in college or in the minor leagues."
    I think Patrick will sign with the Tigers.
    "He's in for a rude awakening," Jim predicted, with a grin. "When he starts eating that tuna fish sandwich and orange (in the minors) instead of the fancy big league spread he's used to at the ballpark here, he's going to be shocked."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Porcello, suddenly the weak link in the Tigers' rotation, will skip his next start

    Last season, Rick Porcello lost only nine times all year. So far this season he has already lost six. Last year, his ERA was a commendable 3.96. So far this year, it is an unacceptable 6.09, and steadily getting worse.
    Right now, Porcello is the weak link in the Tigers' starting rotation.
    They cannot afford to let that trend continue. They need Porcello pitching the way he did last season, and they need to stop this skid before it gets any worse. That's why Jim Leyland announced Friday that Porcello will skip his next start.
    Porcello, who was ripped for eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings on Wednesday -- his shortest outing and worst shellacking of the year -- won't pitch again until next Saturday night against Arizona.
    Instead, the young right hander, who began the year as the Tigers'  No. 2 starter, threw in the bullpen on Friday and will do so again on Sunday and on Tuesday.
    "When you need somebody to iron a situation out, you can't just let him sit," Leyland said.
    "The No. 1 thing we want to accomplish is trying to get his sinker back," Leyland explained.  "He is throwing way too many balls from the belt up as opposed to last year when he threw the ball down."
    The Tigers also want Porcello to slow down on the mound. "He's kind of rushing at the hitters," Leyland said. "Particularly when he has men on base. He wants to see the results before he throws the pitch."
    That is the same thing Leyland said about Justin Verlander two years ago.
    "But you have to go one step at a time," Leyland said. "And I think getting his sinker back is the first step.
    "We want to fix one thing at a time. We don't want to clutter up his mind with a lot of thoughts. It is the opinion of some people that if he gets his sinker back, everything else will fall into place,
    "That should be very fixable," Leyland added. "But so far we haven't had much success. I guess it sounds easier to fix than it is."
    I guess we'll have to wait until next Saturday to find out.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

This time Galarraga gets what he deserved; Blown call a testament to baseball's integrity

    All eyes were on Armando Galarraga again Tuesday night as he set out to try to prove that last week's asterisked perfect performance was no fluke.
    The Tigers, however, were looking for something more basic. They wanted to see signs that Galarraga can continue to be a viable member of their starting rotation -- and not just a one-night wonder.
    What they saw on Tuesday -- two runs on seven hits over five innings -- was a pitcher who wasn't as effective or impressive as, say, Justin Verlander usually is. But they also saw a starter who wasn't as worrisome as, say, Dontrelle Willis had usually been.
    Galarraga didn't get the win. In fact, the five innings represented his second-shortest stint since he was summoned from Toledo. And it fell well short of the seven innings Jim Leyland likes to get from his starting pitchers. Some might say Armando reverted to form.
    But at least Galarraga kept the score close. At least he kept his team in the game and gave the Tigers the chance to eventually win it. 
    Considering how far Galarraga's stock had fallen until last Wednesday's purloined perfecto, that is all the Tigers can ask.
    Leyland's original plan was to have Galarraga skip Tuesday's start in order to keep the rest of the rotation on a five-day schedule. That shows you where Galarraga stood in the Tigers' pitching pecking order.
    But after Armando etched his name in the history books last week, the Tigers' manager didn't dare scratch America's new poster boy for sportsmanship.
    One final thought on the Galarraga Affair:
    As wrong as first base umpire Jim Joyce's infamous "safe" call last Wednesday night was, it was a testament to the integrity of the game.
    The easiest thing in the world for Joyce would have been to call Cleveland's Jason Donald out.
    The Comerica Park crowd would have gone crazy, the Tigers were have been ecstatic, and -- as close as that play was, and as dominant as Galarraga had been all night -- the Cleveland Indians would have said nary a word.
    And the next morning, the national media would have been singing the Tigers pitcher's praises -- for all the right reasons.
    However, in that instant, in Joyce's eyes, the runner was safe and the umpire ruled accordingly -- without concern for the consequences.
    The fact that Joyce's call was so utterly and obviously incorrect was unfortunate. Some might even call it tragic.
    But it was an honest mistake. For that reason, the sometimes-suspect integrity of baseball has never been more undisputable.

Monday, June 7, 2010

First Willis, now Everett get the ax as Tigers' shake-up continues

First Dontrelle Willis, now Adam Everett. Who's next?
Sensing their season slipping away, the Tigers gave Everett, their slick-fielding, faint-hitting shortstop the pink slip Sunday night and summoned rookie Danny Worth from the the minor leagues.
The move came one day after Jim Leyland decreed that, in an effort to jump-start the bottom third of the Tigers' batting order, we will see more of Alex Avila, and hence less of Gerald Laird, behind the plate in coming games.
The Tigers have dropped 10 of their last 15 games. In seven of those 10 losses, despite the sizable contributions of Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, they have scored three runs or fewer.
Losing two out of three to the Kansas City Royals is unacceptable for a team that fancies itself as a title contender. Over the weekend, the Tigers were outscored by the Royals, 16-9, and outhit, 34-24.
As a result, the shortstop job is now Worth's for the taking -- provided he can hit enough. If he doesn't, the rookie, who batted .333 during his earlier eight-game call-up, will share the position with extra infielder Ramon Santiago. Last month, Worth also demonstrated his ability to play second base. He could fill in there for Carlos Guillen -- at least until another rookie, Scott Sizemore who is hitting .380 at Toledo, is deemed ready to return.
Everett, who hit .238 with 44 RBI last season, was batting an anemic .158 with no home runs and four RBI when the Tigers designated him for assignment -- which means they now have 10 days to trade him or release him.
This isn't the first time in his career that Everett has gotten off to a slow start. And, in the past, he has always bounced back. Everett and I talked about that at length in the clubhouse during the Tigers' recent homestead. At times, it sounded as if Everett was trying to convince himself that it was going to happen again.
Unlike Willis, giving Everett the boot won't cost the Tigers a ton of money. The Tigers are only on the hook to the 33-year-old shortstop for the balance of his $1.55 million salary -- about a million bucks -- unless, of course, Everett catches on with another big league club. That team would then be responsible for a pro-rated portion of the $400,000 major league minimum.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tigers' handling of Avila and Willis demonstrates their sense of urgency

    In yet another sign of the sense of urgency that the Tigers are feeling this season, Alex Aliva was behind home plate again on Sunday, 14 hours after catching Saturday night's game in the Kansas City hear..
    And Jim Leyland indicated he is going to catch the rookie Avila, who is supposed to be the Tigers' back-up, more and more in coming games
    Why? Because Avila is current hitting .202. He has collected six hits in his last 12 at-bats.
    Meanwhile, Gerald Laird, who is supposed to be the Tigers' No. 1 catcher, is batting .154. He is five-for-his-last-43 trips to the plate.
    Leyland feels he can't wait any longer for Laird to wake up at the plate.
    Laird's sudden inability to hit is one of this season's biggest mysteries.
    Laird batted .296 in 2006 and .276 in 2008, playing partime for the Texas Rangers.
    The Tigers see Avila, who is only two years out of college, as their catcher of the future. They had better hope they are right. Because they don't have any promising catching candidates in their farm system.
    Leyland keeps hoping Laird will snap out of his season-long slump. If he doesn't, and if Avila isn't the answer, the Tigers have a problem.
    Speaking of urgency, the Tigers understandably grew so weary of Dontrelle Willis' nagging inconsistency that they literally gave him to the Arizona Diamondbacks, agreeing to pay most of his remaining salary and accepting an unpromising minor league pitcher in return.
    Willis won his first start with the Diamondbacks over the weekend.
    To recap -- and probably not for the last time -- the Tigers paid Willis slightly more than $28.7 million for which he won two games over the past three years.
    The Diamondbacks will pay Willis approximately $266,667 to pitch for them for the rest of this year. And he has already given them one win.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Despite purloined perfecto, Galarraga bears no ill will toward umpire Joyce

    On the day after The Blown Call That Rocked The Baseball World, the unlikely man of the hour, Armando Galarraga, awoke after only two hours of sleep with a smile on his unshaven face -- and an absence of malice in his heart toward Michigan's new Public Enemy Number One, umpire Jim Joyce.
    "Inside my heart, I don't have any problem," Galarraga said. "He told me, 'I'm sorry,' like 20 times. I don't blame the guy."
    After Wednesday night's purloined perfecto, Galarraga watched replays of The Play, both at Comerica Park and again after he got home more times than he could count.
    "At first, I don't know, I think maybe he was safe," the Tigers' pitcher admitted. "Then when I went in the clubhouse and see the replay on TV, I say, 'Oh my God! He was out! It's not even close. He was totally out.
    "Then, every time I see it, 'Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!' "
    When Galarraga finally got home, well after midnight Wednesday night, his phone wouldn't stop ringing.  "A lot of reporters call from Venezuela to talk to me," he said.
    Galarraga also called his parents.
    "They put the game on TV in Venezuela from the seventh to the ninth innings," he explained. "It was on the news, 'Galarraga is pitching a perfect game.'
    "My dad, Jose, said to me, 'Son, I'm proud of you. I know you threw a perfect game.' That made me feel good."
    Despite Wednesday night's emotional ordeal, Galarraga was one of the first Tigers to arrive at the ballpark Thursday morning. By then, the Tigers public relations department had been inundated with requests for interviews from all over the state and the country.
    Twenty-four hours earlier, Galarraga had been the least-celebrated member of the Tigers' starting rotation. Suddenly, everyone wanted to talk to him.
    "Now, every time they mention, 'perfect game,' they're going to mention my game," he said.
    "In my mind, in my heart, everybody see I throw a perfect game."
    "That game is going to be talked about forever," predicted manager Jim Leyland. "It's something people will remember for the rest of the history of baseball. And what's wrong with that?"
    Wednesday evening, as Galarraga methodically set the Cleveland Indians down in order, inning after inning, he would return to the Tigers' dugout and sit in the same spot, near the far end, while his teammates batted.
    "I put my glove and my hat in the same place beside me, I drank from the same cup of water, I'd kick the dirt off my spikes -- everything the same," he said.
    In keeping with baseball tradition, none of his teammates mentioned the fact that he had a n-hitter going.
    "Nobody said a word," said Jim Leyland. "But everyone knew what was going on.
    "My heart was really pumping. Between innings, I kept going into the bathroom behind the dugout and throwing water on my face."
    If smoking was still allowed at Comerica Park, the skipper would have been lighting up Marlboros two at a time.
    Like Galarraga, Leyland harbors no grudges against Joyce.
    "I got text messages from people, saying, "It's a disgrace,' " Leyland said Thursday. "That made me sick. I don't feel that way. This is one of the most forgiving countries in the world.
    "Jim Joyce is one of the class acts. And he has been for a long time. I just don't believe in beating people up like that, especially when they come right out and admit their mistake.
    "If he had been defiant or arrogant about it, that would have been different. But the guy was mess after the game, a freakin' mess. And it was sincere."
    Long after the game, after Joyce had apologized to Galarraga and the Tigers, Leyland went to the umpires' dressing room to try to console Joyce.
    "I said, 'Come on, let's sit down and have a beer,' " Leyland said.
    "After two sips, I said, 'Bleep, what am I doing? I don't even drink beer."
    Joyce is from Toledo and when the veteran umpire finally composed himself, he drove to his mother's house to spend the night.
    "I was going to call him this morning to see if his mom let him in the house," Leyland joked.
    Another day. Another game. Time to move on. That's baseball.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Circle the dates June 18-19-20; Dontrelle could come back to haunt the Tigers

    I can see it now: It is June 18th, or the 19th, or the 20th. The Tigers are hosting Arizona at Comerica Park and the Diamondbacks' starting pitcher is none other than Dontrelle Willis.
    Imagine the reaction, among the fans -- the same fans who right now are so giddy to see Willis go --  if Dontrelle shuts his old playmates out, or at least shuts them down.
    Don't laugh. It could happen. How embarrassing would that be?   
    If you thought the Tigers' decision to give Willis a three-year, $29 million deal before he threw a single pitch on their behalf was nuts, consider this: They are now paying the Diamondbacks about $8.1 million to take Dontelle off their hands -- even though he could come back to haunt them later this month.
    But look at this week's trade from Arizona's point of view:
    The Diamondbacks, who have by far the worst pitching staff in baseball,  get rid of a pitcher, Billy Buckner, who served up 17 runs in 13 innings in three starts for Arizona earlier this season, and pick up a former two-time All-Star and 22-game winner -- and all it costs them is about $267,000.
    Meanwhile, Willis, who recently bought a house in Arizona, is looking forward to starting anew. He is scheduled to make his first start for the Diamondbacks on Saturday.
    Things can't possibly get any worse for the 28-year-old lefty.
    No knock on the Tigers, but I, for one, wouldn't be shocked to see him a few games and revive his career in Arizona, just as Nate Robertson has done with the Florida Marlins.
    The 26-year-old Buckner, by the way, is not related to famous -- or should I say, infamous -- former first baseman Bill Buckner.
    But I bet you never thought you'd see the names of Bill Buckner and Dontrelle Willis mentioned in the same blog.