7/13/2013 7:15 P.M. ET
Leyland won't let Tigers rest on laurels
By Bobby Nightengale / MLB.com
DETROIT -- The Tigers are 10 games above .500 and guaranteed to be in first place through the All-Star break, but after a trip to the World Series, that doesn't cut it for everybody.
"We've done pretty good," manager Jim Leyland said, "though we haven't lived up to the unrealistic expectation of some people. Some people thought we were supposed to run away with the [American League] Central and be in the playoffs and be in the World Series. It doesn't work like that."
The Tigers were 48-44 after 92 games last season, compared with 51-41 this year.
"It's 'grind it out until the end and see who's standing,'" Leyland said. "That's kind of what we did last year, and that's what you do in this business."
Despite Detroit's 15-11 record against the AL East and 12-12 mark against the AL West, some critics say the AL Central is weaker competition than the other divisions.
"I've been hearing that about the division for a while now," Leyland said. "We were in the Central division last year, and we went to the World Series."
Valverde on Triple-A inactive list due to family matter
DETROIT -- Jose Valverde was placed on the temporary inactive list by Triple-A Toledo on Friday due to a family matter.
According to a report by The Blade, there is no timetable for Valverde's return. Toledo will play two more games before a three-day All-Star break and return to action on Thursday.
Since being outrighted on June 27, Valverde has pitched in four games for the Mud Hens, compiling two saves but giving up two earned runs and five hits in four innings.
In his most recent outing, he allowed two earned runs on three hits against Triple-A Columbus.
"[Our goal] wouldn't be to keep him there for an extended time," president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said when the team designated Valverde for assignment. "It would be more of a matter of trying to get him fixed, and see if we can get him back to throwing the ball well and trying to get him back here."
Rondon receiving guidance from Benoit
DETROIT -- Bruce Rondon is still learning to become a Major League pitcher, but he's also shown more success in his second stint with the Tigers this season since being called up from Triple-A Toledo on June 28.
"The difference was the consistency in my pitches -- the slider, breaking ball and everything," Rondon said through translator Aileen Villarreal. "Joaquin Benoit has really guided me through that consistency."
For his part, Benoit says he can't teach Rondon how to be consistent and that he's just a helpful guide.
"I've been telling him little things about pitching," Benoit said. "Everybody knows his arm; he's a hard thrower. He just needs some pointers about what to do with his game."
In his return to the Tigers, Rondon has added a changeup while also throwing his slider with more success. Opposing hitters are hitting .316 against his fastball but are 1-for-7 against his slider, according to Brooks Baseball.
"It takes a while before you're a finished product, and he's not a finished product," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's making a lot of progress, but I don't expect him to be a finished product this year. This is a nice little opportunity for him to get his feet wet, get some experience, get better with every outing and learn how to handle an outing that's not so good."
Rondon pitched a perfect 1 1/3 innings with two strikeouts on Friday. All 10 of his pitches were strikes. Throwing that many strikes, however, can also cause problems.
"He doesn't really need to throw a lot of strikes; 10 strikes in a row is more than you can ask for a hard thrower," Benoit said. "I'm just telling him what to do sometimes against hitters. Most of those guys know he can throw hard, and they will try not to take strikes. They will just start to jump on his fastball. That's what I tell him, to use his fastball more up in the strike zone, and he'll see better results."
• Left-handed reliever Darin Downs played catch for the second time on Saturday after taking six days off when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in his left rotator cuff.
With the Tigers' coaching staff heading to New York on Monday for the All-Star Game, he hasn't set a timetable for when he will begin throwing from a mound.
• Omar Infante says his left ankle is still tender, though he played catch, took some grounders and did some hitting in the batting cage on Saturday.
Infante was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 9, retroactive to July 4.
• The Rangers' All-Star representatives -- Yu Darvish, Joe Nathan and Nelson Cruz -- will be traveling on the Tigers' plane to New York following Sunday's game. Nathan traveled with Leyland in 2008 when he was playing for the Twins. Leyland was on the American League All-Star coaching staff after being selected by former Boston manager Terry Francona.
Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.