Notes: Struggles have Monroe sitting
Outfielder is in a 1-for-25 slump during current homestand
DETROIT -- Craig Monroe has been through slumps before. He's such a notorious second-half hitter that he has survived plenty of first-half struggles over his career. But while that gives him confidence that he can hit his way out of this one, it's not helping him get out of it right now.
"Sometimes you can't figure it out," he said of his current slump. "You don't know exactly what it is. Right now, I'm at that point where I couldn't explain this if I tried."
Monroe's 0-for-9 streak is part of a 1-for-25 homestand and a larger 9-for-70 slump over his last 19 games. His batting average is down to .219 for the season, fourth-lowest among American League hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for a batting title.
On Wednesday, it had him out of the starting lineup.
"You get in a funk and sometimes you let it get in your head a little bit," manager Jim Leyland said. "But right now he looks like he's really fighting it."
Leyland was hoping to play Monroe through the week, giving him regular at-bats after sitting him for much of Interleague Play. Instead, Leyland said he'll play it by ear for this week.
Marcus Thames started in left field Wednesday and will start again Thursday afternoon. The Tigers will face lefty C.C. Sabathia, which could give Leyland an interesting lineup dilemma whether to play Thames in left or at first base.
Monroe has been a streaky player for much of his five-year Major League career, but not to this level. This, he thinks, is the toughest slump he has faced. Statistically, it's the lowest average he's had at this point in any season. In 2003, his first full big-league campaign, he began July batting .217 but raised his average to .230 by the Fourth of July.
So far, that kind of tear isn't to be found this summer despite a lot of work on his swing and his approach. Monroe feels like he has the same approach he did last year, when he hit 28 homers and drove in 92 runs. Yet he doesn't seem to be tracking pitches as well.
"I've worked on [my approach] every day," he said. "In BP, it's great. In the cage, it's great. And thus far, it hasn't transferred over to the game yet. Why, I can't explain to you. Maybe I'm trying to get 15 hits in one at-bat. I'm sure it's more mental than physical, because I know my physical condition is phenomenal, but I guess my mental state is not where it needs to be."
Whatever the reason, the slump has stumped Monroe. Wednesday's lineup decision was less of a surprise for him when he saw the lineup card in the clubhouse.
"It's on the wall. Average-wise, I haven't been consistent," Monroe said. "Have I driven in some bigger runs? Have I gotten some RBIs? Yeah, but I haven't been consistent like Craig Monroe likes to be consistent."
No clock work: What could've developed into a subplot between the Tigers and Indians over Rafael Betancourt's time on the mound Tuesday became a non-issue. After Indians manager Eric Wedge wondered aloud Tuesday night if somebody tipped off the umpires to enforce a rarely-used time rule on Betancourt for delivering a pitch, Wedge told Leyland Wednesday that he wasn't insinuating the Tigers had anything to do with it.
Leyland, for his part, said he could've cared less about Betancourt's slow pace.
"Evidently the umpires have been monitoring this for some time," Leyland said, "but nobody over here mentioned anything about it. And I want to make it perfectly clear that I don't play amateur high school [tricks]. I'm a professional manager. I don't give a care if Betancourt takes two hours to throw the ball."
For whatever reason, the umpires made a point on Betancourt's times. Twice, second-base umpire Doug Eddings called a ball on Betancourt for taking too long. The rule, instituted this season, says a pitcher must deliver the ball within 12 seconds once he's on the mound and the batter is in the box and alert to the pitcher. The telecast showed Eddings with a stopwatch.
"I'm assuming that the situation last night, somebody had alerted the umpires -- not just this crew, but probably several crews -- to the situation," Leyland said. "I doubt that they would've called it if not. All I was making a point [about] was it was nobody here. I mean, the pace of the game is the pace of the game. It doesn't have a clock. To me, that's one of the great things about it."
Or as Leyland later put it, "I play the game like I go to a good movie. If it's a good movie, you stay. If it's a [bad] movie, you leave. I don't care how long it takes."
The only thing the Tigers said about it was something Guillen said to his friend Betancourt half-jokingly before the game. Guillen, ironically, was at the plate when Betancourt was penalized the first time.
"I told him, 'You'd better hurry up to throw the ball,'" Guillen said, "'or I'm going to call time out every five seconds.'"
One more night: The Tigers will be on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball one more time this season. The July 29 game at the Angels has been moved to an 8:05 p.m. ET start to accommodate the national telecast. It falls in the middle of a three-city road trip, but it'll be a late afternoon start locally before the Tigers fly up the coast to Oakland for a three-game series starting the next night.
It'll be the Tigers' fifth time on Sunday Night baseball, the most any one team under the network contract.
Coming up: Justin Verlander (9-3, 3.18 ERA) faces his second big matchup in a week when he takes the mound opposite AL wins leader C.C. Sabathia (12-2, 3.20 ERA) in Thursday afternoon's series finale. Game time is 1:05 p.m. ET.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.