7/19/2013 9:05 P.M. ET
Mariano's All-Star finale highlight for Leyland
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- By the time the Tigers' plane landed in Detroit after Tuesday's All-Star Game in New York, it was after 3 a.m. ET on Wednesday, so it took a while for American League manager Jim Leyland to put the Midsummer Classic behind him.
The Tigers skipper was ready for the second half as his team flew to Kansas City on Thursday evening, but he won't forget his All-Star experience.
"I thought we really put on a good show," Leyland said before Friday's second-half opener against the Royals. "I thought it was terrific. Of course we won [3-0], but I thought it was a terrific All-Star Game, maybe one of the best of all-time because of the Mariano Rivera situation and how it scripted out."
The ovation honoring Rivera before the bottom of the eighth inning, in particular, was one of the better moments in All-Star Game history, he thought.
"I don't know how it could've played out any better," Leyland said.
Some of that script was Leyland's design; he had told Rivera ahead of time that he would try to set him up to pitch the eighth inning. Some of that, including the lead itself, came together by fortune.
There was some confusion about how the plan came together for Rivera to have the field to himself for a tribute before the bottom of the eighth. Leyland said he thought Major League Baseball officials had mentioned something about it ahead of time, but he wasn't clear. His bench coach, Gene Lamont, reminded him between innings that they didn't want the players out there yet.
"I did eventually tell them, 'This guy's good, but he does need some fielders,'" Leyland said.
What amazed Leyland was Rivera's ability to handle the tribute and the pressure of his final All-Star appearance, yet still pitch his usual effective inning.
"He got three outs as fast as you could," Leyland said. "After all that stuff, to get three outs like that, like it was just nothing, that amazed me."
Infante not expected to return for Royals set
KANSAS CITY -- Omar Infante has a locker with his number in the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium, but it's empty. The way his recovery is going, that locker won't be filled for this three-game series against the Royals.
The Tigers were originally hoping they could get Infante back from the 15-day disabled list coming out of the All-Star break. Instead, he remained in Florida on Friday doing rehab work on his sprained left ankle.
"He's not ready," manager Jim Leyland said, "and I have no idea when."
Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand has the steps set for Infante's return, but no timetable. Infante will rejoin the Tigers on Saturday, but only for a re-evaluation on his ankle.
Rand said Infante has been running at half-speed and fielding ground balls side to side, and he began taking full batting practice on Thursday. Infante has been making progress, but will need to run at full speed to be ready for a rehab assignment.
"We have to evaluate him first," Rand said. "Once he's full-go, then he'll go out on a rehab assignment. He's not full-go yet."
Leyland said he "pretty much knew Sunday [Infante] wasn't going to be ready" coming out of the break.
Ramon Santiago started at second base for the Tigers on Friday night. Hernan Perez, called up when Infante went on the DL retroactive to July 4, remains on the big club.
Downs progressing, able to throw off mound
KANSAS CITY -- While lefty reliever Darin Downs was able to spend the All-Star break with his family in Michigan, he also spent the week making progress in his rehab from left rotator cuff tendinitis. He threw off the mound on Wednesday and Friday.
"He's progressing real well," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said.
Downs said his shoulder feels fine, and his next step will likely be some sort of session against hitters. It could be a simulated game with the team before going out on a Minor League rehab assignment.
Downs isn't eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list until Monday, when the Tigers open a four-game series with the White Sox in Chicago.
Leyland becomes fan of White Sox ace Sale
KANSAS CITY -- The Tigers are scheduled to open next week's series against the White Sox by facing Chris Sale, whose pitch up and in to Prince Fielder on July 11 at Comerica Park set off a chain reaction that ended up with benches emptying, Luke Putkonen being ejected for throwing behind Alexei Ramirez, and Jim Leyland tossed for arguing vehemently with umpires.
As far as Leyland is concerned, though, that incident has been smoothed over after Leyland and Sale spoke in New York this week during All-Star festivities.
"He's my new favorite enemy," Leyland said on Friday. "He's a terrific guy. We had a lot of rapport when we were [in New York], him and I. I really enjoyed it. He's really a good kid, terrific pitcher."
Sale told the Detroit News on Wednesday that he talked with Leyland and apologized for any misunderstanding. He has repeatedly said since the incident that he wasn't trying to throw at Fielder.
"I'm not going to get into that," Leyland said when asked about the focus of the conversation. "We had a great talk and, like I said, we're pretty good buddies. It was great."
• Octavio Dotel, on the 60-day disabled list since late April with recurring right elbow inflammation, has been making progress on a throwing program in recent days and could begin throwing bullpen sessions again shortly, according to Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. Dotel was throwing off a mound earlier this year when elbow discomfort stopped the progression.
• What was initially hoped to be a right thumb sprain for reliever Brayan Villarreal at Triple-A Toledo now appears to be worse. Rand said Villarreal will miss two to four weeks before he can resume throwing. With the Mud Hens' season ending on Sept. 2, a worst-case scenario could effectively make this a lost season for Villarreal.
• The Yankees released former Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch on Friday, creating space on New York's 40-man roster to add Brent Lillibridge. Boesch, signed by the Yankees in mid-March after Detroit released him in Spring Training, spent two months in New York before being optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he has been sidelined since June with shoulder problems.
• Victor Martinez's diving stop and no-look toss behind first base last month against the Red Sox was selected as the top play of the first half by MLB Network.