09/20/2002 6:35 pm ET
MLBeat: Short offseason for pair
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
DETROIT -- On Thursday, Andres Torres was in Florida stretching out in preparation for Instructional League play. Craig Monroe was stretched out, too -- on his couch after finally getting home for the end of the season.
On Friday, they were both in the Tigers' starting lineup.
Less than two weeks after the two outfielders were left off the list of September callups from Triple-A Toledo, Monroe and Torres were back after all. Injuries to Bobby Higginson and Hiram Bocachica cleared up what was once an overcrowded outfield for the season's final games, giving the club a chance to check out two more folks for next year.
"They asked me how long I'd been doing anything," said Monroe, who was in the lineup in left field Friday against the Yankees to begin his fifth stint with the Tigers this season. "And I said I'd been hanging out on the couch for a while. But it wasn't long."
Said Monroe on being ready to play: "It's just like riding a bike."
Neither player wanted to dwell on initially being passed over. "I'm ready to play," Torres said.
Torres will likely start all weekend in center, a spot he held briefly in April after Opening Day starter Jose Macias moved to second base in place of injured Damian Easley. He was sent down later in the month after batting .211.
Monroe will get the extended look in left that he didn't receive in his previous four stints, which netted him all of one start and five late-inning appearances. His last callup in late July lasted just one day, fortunately at home. This one, at least, will last nine days.
"It was [tough]," Monroe said, "but it builds character. You begin to understand things from a business perspective. And I realized that the best thing I could do is go down to Toledo and do the best I possibly could to prove myself."
He proved himself as much for his hitting as his patience, finishing fourth in the International League with a .321 average. He drove in 49 runs in 358 at-bats and keyed Toledo's offense in its run to the IL West title.
His playing time in left will come not only at Higginson's expense, but also that of George Lombard. That's not meant to be a demotion for Lombard, Pujols explained. He said he's already seen what Lombard can do.
"We've got nine games left," he said. "You want to see the young guys as much as we can. Anything we can see is better than not seeing anything at all."
Tigers support Royals' response: As a team that had a nasty brawl with the Royals last year -- remember Mike Sweeney tackling Jeff Weaver near the mound -- the Tigers know the beatings those two crazed fans at Comiskey Park took upon attacking Royals first-base coach Tom Gamboa.
"That was crazy," Robert Fick said.
Said Pujols: "I was surprised those two guys are out of there alive, because that whole team came in."
It was also a justified response on the part of the Royals, many Tigers agreed.
"If somebody came out to attack one of our players or coaches, it would be no holds barred," Matt Anderson said. "We would do whatever we had to do to protect our team."
Pujols saw plenty of angry fan reactions managing in the Dominican winter league. But he never saw anything like what he saw Thursday.
"In the Dominican, they don't allow bottles [into the ballpark] anymore, but they have plastic ones. They throw a lot of oranges. They run on the field, but not to attack anyone. They have the police all over."
Players' fears have increased since last year's terrorist attacks. Whenever a fan runs onto the field, that fear resurfaces.
"It's a little scary," Anderson said. "Some things happen that nobody thought could happen. If definitely makes you think a little more. But it's a good thing that I think players are more aware."
Fantasy Edge: Higginson is out "a mininum of five days," according to Pujols. Add that to the two days he might need to get back his timing at the plate, Pujols added, and it could be the season-ending series at Toronto before he's back. If you have him in a non-keeper league, let him go and try to find a final-week sleeper.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.