04/14/2002 01:55 am ET
Tigers' Pujols waits for right time to cut loose
By Todd Lorenz / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Detroit Tigers clubhouse had a much different feel after Saturday's 7-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome.
A night earlier, the Tigers looked more like a team that had won nine straight. The clubhouse atmosphere was loose and relaxed with the entire team laughing and joking behind the antics of perennial prankster Jose Lima.
Win or lose, it might have been last time the Tigers' players put on that kind of display.
"We played a good game last night, but still we lost," Tigers manager Luis Pujols said prior to Saturday's loss. "A lot of those guys don't know what kind of manager I am or what kind of person I am. I like to just come in, win or lose, and have a few minutes to relax and think about the game. I just want ten or 20 minutes when it's quiet. If you want to go out afterwards and celebrate you can do whatever you want"
Not that Pujols is a stick in the mud. He understands that it's a game and he's not against his players having fun.
"I like to keep it really loose," he said. "Ask the guys who played for me last year. I'm loose the whole time. At the same time I believe that we've got to respect each other."
The Tigers players' average just three seasons of Major League experience and have four rookies on their current 25-man roster. Pujols understands that commanding one of baseball's most inexperienced teams takes patience and understanding.
"I don't mind because they got to know how I like to do things," he said. "I like to have fun, but it has to be the right time."
Unfortunately for the Tiger faithful that time has yet to come as the Twins kept the Tigers winless ten games into the season.
While disheartening, the Tigers can still take some positives out of the loss.
They got a solid outing from number one starter Jeff Weaver, who allowed just two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings, but was saddled with his second loss.
"I felt good the whole game," Weaver said. "I was throwing pitches I needed to and getting some ground balls. I've always had a tough time with (Doug) Mientkiewicz. He hit three different pitches off me tonight."
Mientkiewicz went 3-for-3 against the lanky righty, and delivered a crucial blow with his RBI double in the sixth to tie the game 3-3. Two batters later, he scored the go-ahead run on Torii Hunter's sacrifice fly.
After allowing a single and plunking a batter, Weaver was out of the game.
"He was over 90 pitches and I felt that he wasn't throwing to the last couple hitters the way I wanted to see," Pujols said. "I did the best I could to give him a chance to hold them. Maybe we come back and score some runs, and he has a chance to win the game."
And while his manager looks for positives in his team, Weaver is having a more difficult time finding the silver linings.
"I think 0-10 wears on anyone," He said. "It's like you could throw a team out there from wherever and pick up a win in ten games. It's really unbelievable. Period. There's no way to explain 0-10. It's a situation where the last three or four games we've played just good enough to lose. The games are close but we end up on the losing end."
Weaver is no stranger to tough-luck losses. Last season he tossed eight or more innings seven times --- with the Tigers winning just one of those games. Considering the Tigers start this season it doesn't look like things are going to get better for him anytime soon.
"Right now we're in a situation were we have to play perfect ball to win games," Weaver said. "And until we do that, we're not going to have success. It's got to come from all aspects. Not just hitting, pitching or defense. Everything's got to come together. We don't have an intimidation from any direction. We got to play perfect baseball to compete and right now were not doing that."
Flu bug: One day after Tigers third baseman Craig Paquette was a late scratch with of what Pujols called a "bad stomach", the Tigers were forced to pull shortstop Shane Halter out after three innings with similar symptoms.
Todd Lorenz is the editorial producer for twinsbaseball.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.