DETROIT -- For the ninth consecutive year, the state of Michigan recognized Willie Horton Day, honoring the former Tigers great and Detroit high school legend on his birthday for his work both in the game and the community.
Horton, now a special assistant in the Tigers' front office, turned 70 years old on Thursday. His birthday was declared Willie Horton Day in the state in 2004 by a Michigan House bill signed by then-governor Jennifer Granholm.
Horton was born in Virginia, but his family moved to Detroit when he was nine. He became a baseball star in the city as a teenager and signed with the Tigers immediately out of Northwestern High School.
What followed was an 18-year Major League career that included 14 years with his hometown team, collecting 1,993 hits, 325 home runs and 1,163 RBIs in the big leagues.
Horton's No. 23 is retired and hangs on the brick wall beyond left field at Comerica Park.
In the community, Horton remains a major figure, working with Don Bosco Hall to host the Batting for Kids event at Comerica Park for kids to display their throwing, batting and baserunning skills on the field. Horton also sponsors a $5,000 scholarship for a deserving graduate each year from Northwestern High.
Bullpen at full strength following rainout
DETROIT -- Thanks to Wednesday's rainout, the Tigers entered Game 4 of the American League Championship Series with their full bullpen available. Thanks to all that happened before that, they began the day with their same closer by committee.
That includes Phil Coke, who would not have been available on Wednesday after throwing in each of the first three games of the ALCS.
"He's in a good groove right now," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I would like to really, preferably, stay away from him one more day, if I could, but he is able to be used today. So, you know, I might do that if the situation dictates it."
With five left-handed hitters in the Yankees' starting lineup, and at least one switch-hitter who hits for less power against lefties, it's fairly easy to see that situation coming up, especially in the ninth inning.
Coke already has two saves in this series. One more and he'd become the first Tiger to save three wins in a single postseason series.
As for Jose Valverde, still the closer in name waiting for a chance to get back into a save situation, he's still waiting. Leyland wouldn't rule Valverde in or out for getting his opportunity on Thursday.
"He is in a good frame of mind," Leyland said. "I have been checking in with him every day. He is in good spirits. He wants to win, you know, so it's just a situation that we will see how it plays out. But he's a terrific teammate. He is in great spirits and a great frame of mind right now."
When asked whether the Game 1 debacle might linger with Valverde, Leyland delivered a one-liner.
"I can't answer that. I don't go home and have dinner with him," Leyland deadpanned.
Young delivering biggest hits for Tigers
DETROIT -- Don't ask Delmon Young how he comes up with so many big postseason hits, but it has put him into record territory.
In each of the first three games of this American League Championship Series, Young drove in the run that put the Tigers ahead for good. No player in Major League history had done that in three consecutive games during a single postseason, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"It's been key," Austin Jackson said. "He's been getting some clutch hits as well as some clutch home runs to kind of get us going. It seems like when he's doing that, when he's getting runs in or he's getting base hits, the team kind of feeds off that."
To manager Jim Leyland, Young has a knack of staying focused in key situations, and focusing on a pitch to hit without chasing.
"Delmon has a pretty good idea, and when he stays in the strike zone, he's very, very dangerous," Leyland said. "You know, most people that get Delmon out when he is not swinging good, is when he is swinging at stuff out of the strike zone, which happens to most players."
Part of that knack could come from his older brother, former Tiger Dmitri Young. He said Thursday he hopes to come to Detroit to watch his younger brother should Detroit advance to the World Series.
Players feel fans' frustration with rainout
DETROIT -- Tigers players had a message for fans frustrated by Wednesday's rainout -- called before it actually rained. They didn't feel too good about it either, but it was what they were told to do.
"It wasn't up to us," catcher Alex Avila said. "I can understand the fans' frustrations, but it's the same as ours. I mean, we want to play. We're sitting in here bored out of our minds all day. That's just the way it is. Can't really control it."
Reliever Phil Coke echoed what MLB's concern was, that they need to get nine innings in rather than just hope to get through the fifth.
"I want to play the full nine," Coke said. "If you're gonna play a game, you want to play a game. You don't want it to be possibly turned into a five-and-dive because Mother Nature said so. Nobody does. That's not why we play the game. We play the game to play the game, all of it."