09/12/07 9:10 PM ET
Notes: Tigers rotation set for stretch run
Leyland going with as close to a four-man staff as possible
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
What looked like two firm starters and three TBAs were filled in on Wednesday, and the order sets up the front end of the rotation for next week's three-game series at Cleveland. Nate Robertson will start Friday's series opener at Minnesota, followed by rookies Yorman Bazardo and Jair Jurrjens. Kenny Rogers, Justin Verlander and Robertson will face the Indians at Jacobs Field.
It's not a matter of the Tigers pinning their hopes on one series.
"We have to beat everybody now," Leyland said on Wednesday afternoon.
However, putting their best chances to win on the Cleveland series gives them one final chance to make a race out of their fading hopes in the American League Central, while still trying to make up ground on New York in the AL Wild Card race.
"One thing you have to figure out," Leyland said, "is are you chasing Cleveland, or are you chasing the Yankees? You're chasing both of them, but one of them is a little farther [ahead] than the other."
The series at Cleveland, next Monday through Wednesday, is the Tigers' only set left against a team they're chasing. For that matter, those are their only remaining games against a team with a winning record.
Much of the uncertainty involved was making sure that Rogers and Jurrjens were healthy and OK to make their next turn through the rotation. Both reportedly felt soreness on Wednesday after their respective outings on Monday and Tuesday, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Rogers could've started on Saturday, and Leyland weighed doing that. In pushing him back, Leyland cited two extra days of rest.
"I want to just give him a little extra [time]," Leyland said. "I want to figure out what's best for Kenny."
By pitching Rogers on Monday on six days of rest, Leyland also gave Verlander an extra day between starts by pushing him to Tuesday, something he had talked about doing earlier this week.
For this turn, the fifth spot falls upon Bazardo, who received the nod for what will be his first Major League start over Chad Durbin and fellow rookie Virgil Vasquez. Bazardo has made nine relief appearances for the Tigers this year, but spent most of the season in the rotation at Triple-A Toledo.
Because the Tigers are off on each Thursday for the rest of the month, Detroit will need a fifth starter just one more time -- again versus the Twins on Sept. 25 at Comerica Park. That start hasn't been decided yet, and it could hinge on whether the Tigers are still in the playoff hunt at the time.
The way it's set up now, though, the rotation is stacked one more time for the final weekend of the regular season at Chicago -- Rogers, then Verlander, then Robertson.
Running wild: Though they're still not confused with a fast-running team, the Tigers have stolen 25 bases in their last 27 attempts entering Wednesday, raising their success rate to 76.3 percent. That's the second-best rate they've had since 1920, when records began being kept.
Only the 1962 Tigers were more successful in their attempts, swiping 69 bases in 90 tries for a 76.7 percent clip.
Bonderman visits servicemen: Pitcher Jeremy Bonderman and his family visited Selfridge Air Base in nearby Harrison Township on Wednesday afternoon to visit commanding officers and pose for photos with military personnel. They also donated a military-themed Tiger figure nicknamed "Sarge" that was purchased during the TigerTown auction in June. The auction purchase benefited The Community House.
Coming up: The Tigers have Thursday off before venturing to Minnesota for the start of their six-game road trip. Robertson (7-11, 5.04 ERA) will start Friday night's opener against the Twins and Matt Garza (3-5, 3.71). Game time is 8:10 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.