04/14/07 7:28 PM ET
Notes: Pudge joins in Robinson tribute
Catcher among many to wear jersey No. 42 Sunday
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
Rodriguez joined the list of Tigers players who will wear the number in honor of the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's first Major League game. Gary Sheffield, Craig Monroe, Curtis Granderson, Marcus Thames and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon had already agreed to take part.
"It's a very special day," Rodriguez said. "When it's a special day, you want to be part of it. And that's the reason that I want to be part of tomorrow's special day in baseball and honor Jackie Robinson."
Rodriguez knew about Robinson when he was growing up in Puerto Rico. But Rodriguez has come to know more about Robinson's life story since the catcher joined the professional ranks. The more information Rodriguez has gathered, the more he appreciates Robinson.
"It's one of the special moments [in baseball's history]," Rodriguez said. "He did a lot of things for baseball. What he did back in the day, it was very special for black players, for Latin players, for everybody, because it opened a lot of doors for other players to come and play baseball."
What was originally expected to be a symbolic gesture by one player per team has blossomed over the past week. More than 200 players and coaches around the big leagues are scheduled to wear Robinson's old number in his honor Sunday. The number was retired around baseball in 1997. The overwhelming response has made an impression on Granderson, who was among those hoping more than one player could wear the number when the Comissioner's Office acted on Ken Griffey Jr.'s request.
"For me, it's up to the individual," Granderson said. "If you think that if affected you in any way and the team allows you to do it, I think it should be OK to do it. When [president/general manager Dave] Dombrowski asked if I wanted to wear it, I jumped at the chance, because I felt that his legacy -- not only as a baseball player, but as a person -- I want to support it.
"Everyone has their different reasons why they want to do it. I think it's a good talk and debate right now. We've taken a lot of steps towards getting him more recognition. If it's one player, if it's five players, if it's the whole team, just that whole buzz around, I think, is all positive."
Grilli gets it done: Manager Jim Leyland insists that every reliever on his roster is going to have to get big outs at some point in the season. For Jason Grilli, his nine outs Saturday -- and more importantly, the lack of runs or hits allowed among them -- were huge.
"Grilli won the game for us, in my opinion," Leyland said, "because he shut them down. That goes unnoticed. He won't get any credit. They'll talk about Thames' base hit, and they should, but at the same time, to me Jason Grilli won the game for us."
Considering his struggles to start the year, six runs allowed in 2 2/3 innings entering Saturday, it was a much-needed outing for him.
Grilli, working for the first time in a week, started the fifth with a 6-3 Blue Jays lead and the middle of the order coming up after Toronto roughed around Chad Durbin. He could see Tigers hitters having their chances against A.J. Burnett, and he saw enough late wins last year to know it was possible.
"With the lineup we've got, we're always within striking distance, that's for sure," Grilli said. "That was my mindset, and I was hungry to get in there. It's been almost six days in between my last outing and now, and I just wanted to not be fighting myself."
Grilli worked deep into counts in the fifth, but retired Lyle Overbay and Gregg Zaun after his one-out walk to Frank Thomas. A two-out walk to Vernon Wells in the seventh was the only other baserunner against him. The Tigers tied the game in the next half-inning.
"He's been chomping at the bit because his ERA's kind of high and doesn't have many innings," closer Todd Jones said. "Today was so big for him for his confidence to throw three innings scoreless."
It's not an easy role for confidence. Grilli gave up five runs in 1 2/3 innings in the Tigers' 10-9 win against the Blue Jays last week and has been playing statistical catch-up ever since. It hasn't helped his workload that Tigers starting pitchers had allowed just three earned runs in 29 1/3 innings over Detroit's previous four games.
"Could my percentages have been a lot better? Sure, but giving myself a little buffer, I think it's because I haven't faced a hitter in days," Grilli said. "It's always something you have to overcome. You can't think about that. I warmed up several times and tried to get in as much work as possible in between those times just to stay sharp. When you accept your role and you know what it is, you have to contend with that."
Leyland can't easily give him more work if the rotation goes well. He'd like to offer him dinner.
"If I was a teammate and not the manager, I'd take him out to eat tonight," Leyland said.
Omar gets in: Manager Jim Leyland finally cleared the bench on Saturday, when he gave Omar Infante his first start of the year. Infante was the only Tiger left without an appearance this season, which is almost two weeks old.
Though Neifi Perez entered Saturday 6-for-19 lifetime off Jays starter A.J. Burnett, Leyland wanted to get Infante in first.
"It's a two-fold situation," Leyland said. "You're not only getting Infante a game, you're giving [Placido] Polanco a day off. Polanco's a guy you have to be careful with, because he'll never ask for a day off."
Infante went 1-for-3 before Polanco pinch-hit for him in the eighth.
Still raving about Roy: Little more than 12 hours after Roy Halladay's 10-inning gem, the performance was still relatively fresh on the Tigers' minds.
"To me, last night was one of those perfect situations where, rather than being upset at your hitters, you praise the opposing pitcher," Leyland said. "You tip your hat to [Jeremy] Bonderman, and you have to tip your hat to Halladay a little bit more. That's as simple as it is. This guy's a tremendous, tremendous pitcher."
Bonderman's outing was the fourth consecutive quality start for the Tigers, whose seven quality starts on the season led the American League entering Saturday. Detroit's starting rotation had allowed just three earned runs over 29 1/3 innings in those four games before Toronto scored six runs in four innings off of Chad Durbin.
Coming up: The Tigers and Blue Jays will finish up their four-game series Sunday afternoon with a 1:07 p.m. ET game at Rogers Centre. Nate Robertson (2-0, 1.38) will try to become the Tigers' first three-game winner when he makes the start for Detroit. Josh Towers will start for Toronto.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.