LAKELAND, Fla. -- If there was a lasting image to the Tigers' second-half fade from contention other than the injuries to Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen last year, it might've been Jose Valverde's 60-pitch marathon to finish off a July 30 win at Boston. He needed every one of those pitches to turn what had been a 6-1 lead into a 6-5 win, and he didn't seem to be the same after that.
That kind of outing won't happen again in 2011.
"I'm going to watch it, and I'm going to have a little deal with him this year: If his pitch count gets to a certain point, I'm going to take him out," manager Jim Leyland said Saturday morning.
Doesn't matter the situation or the state of the bullpen after that. Leyland wouldn't say what the pitch count would be, but he indicated it would be a firm limit.
"I certainly wouldn't want him throwing 50 pitches again," Leyland said.
Valverde had two 38-pitch outings on top of the infamous 60-pitch affair, though one of them was an extra-inning battle at Minnesota on Sept. 2 in which he lasted three innings. Generally speaking, if he entered a game in the eighth inning to close it out, he was open for trouble.
Leyland didn't want to do it, but Joel Zumaya's season-ending injury and other problems, including Phil Coke's workload, left him without many late-inning arms he could count on. With Joaquin Benoit now on board to go with Ryan Perry and Joel Zumaya, depth shouldn't be a problem if everybody's healthy.
"He'll be protected," Leyland said of Valverde. "All our pitchers are."
Leyland does not think the pitch counts contributed to any struggles from Valverde down the stretch.
"He was pretty much healthy for all of the year, so I don't think it really contributed to anything," Leyland said. "He had a couple little setbacks like everybody does. Every pitcher in baseball has that from time to time, when it just doesn't feel right for a day or so."
Valverde missed his third consecutive day of work Saturday with flu-like symptoms. Leyland said he hopes to have the righty back Sunday.
Guillen has 'basically a full workout' on first day
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Carlos Guillen was expected to be limited, at best, when workouts began for position players. He did a little more than expected Saturday, from taking live batting practice to fielding ground balls during infield work.
"Carlos did basically a full workout," manager Jim Leyland said, "with the exception of a couple things. He did swing the bat, and swung it very well."
One of those things was running. Though Guillen said he did some light running on the side for 30 yards for the first time and felt fine, he hasn't been cleared yet to go all out. He's hoping that'll happen in the coming days, but he also gets the idea that he can't afford a setback if he's going to be ready for Opening Day.
"I feel good," Guillen said, "but you have to take it step by step."
The fact that Guillen gets that makes his trek back to action a whole lot easier for Leyland, who has talked more and more about what Guillen could bring to the lineup, while being more cautious about re-injury.
"That's being monitored by the trainers," Leyland reiterated. "So whatever he can do comfortably, we want him to do. ... But I'm laying really low on that one, because I don't want him to think the message coming out of here is that you have to get yourself ready tomorrow. I want him to go along with the trainers' program, the rehab program."
Strieby swinging free so far in camp
LAKELAND, Fla. -- In the first bizarre fact out of the Tigers media guide, Ryan Strieby actually got cheated on his height. He's actually 6-foot-6, not 6-5 as listed, but he's been listed that way for a while.
"They shorted me," Strieby joked.
If he can slug his way into the big leagues, he'll undoubtedly loom larger. The way he looks this spring, early as it may be, suggests he's at least healthy enough to have a chance.
The first day of live batting practice at Tigertown showed no signs of the wrist issues that have plagued Strieby for the past two years. He turned on pitches and centered others and felt pain-free.
"So far, so good," he said with cautious optimism. "I feel like I swing a little bit harder."
Strieby avoided wrist surgery last fall after gathering opinions from doctors that he could heal without it, but he made adjustments to try to prevent another recurrence. He continues to undergo laser treatment and joint mobilization movements, and he has choked up on the bat slightly to take off some the pressure.
Strieby likely won't make the Tigers out of camp. Still, if he can stay healthy and in the lineup, it'll be hard not to notice him.
Catchers dine out on Martinez's dime
LAKELAND, Fla. -- In a sign of solidarity for the catching fraternity, Tigers catchers in camp dined on Brazilian-style steak at Texas de Brazil Orlando on new Tiger Victor Martinez's bill. It was Martinez's idea as a reward for the non-roster catchers, who report to camp early and put in a lot of work without a lot of glory while the club's pitchers get in their early work.
Alex Avila said the crowd got to about eight, the number of catchers in camp. Others, he said, joined in.
When asked about the gesture for the Tigers' young catchers, manager Jim Leyland had his comeback ready.
"I'm a little disappointed he didn't take the old catchers out to dinner," said Leyland, a catcher in Detroit's system during his playing days.