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Friday, July 11, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 7/3/2005

Ready or not, Ordonez back in bigs

Now that moody Magglio Ordonez has rejoined the Tigers, don't expect him to carry the team.

Although Ordonez homered Friday night in his first game with Detroit since mid-April, keep in mind that he has barely played baseball in the last year because of a plethora of injuries.

During his four-game rehab stint in Toledo last week, Ordonez's swing looked slow and his stamina was low.

He often looked overmatched at the plate.

When he wasn't busy shooing away reporters in the Mud Hens clubhouse, the $75-million slugger looked very sluggish. He was either striking out or hitting a weak grounder to the infield.

Ordonez looked like anything but a four-time All-Star.

The Tigers' Magglio Ordonez, right, homered in his first game back in Detroit after completing a rehab assignment in Toledo. The Tigers' Magglio Ordonez, right, homered in his first game back in Detroit after completing a rehab assignment in Toledo.
DUANE BURLESON / AP Enlarge

He finished 3-for-14 in his first minor league action in eight years.

He produced just one homer and two RBIs for the Mud Hens.

Even so, Ordonez was able to convince Tigers manager Alan Trammell to promote him to the majors on Friday, the day before his rehab assignment was supposed to end in Toledo.

Ready or not, the marquee free agent made his long-awaited return to the Tigers that night, one day ahead of schedule.

The Tigers, desperate for offensive production, also got a new hitting coach on Friday. They replaced Bruce Fields with Kirk Gibson and gave Fields, the former Mud Hens manager, Gibson's old job as bench coach.

Ordonez, hitless in 10 previous at-bats for the Tigers this season, delivered his first homer and first RBI in a Detroit uniform.

In his other three at-bats against the New York Yankees, he grounded out to second, popped out to short, and flied out to center.

Mud Hens' fans were treated to much the same act last week at Fifth Third Field.

Magglio's big bat was silent most of the time.

Even Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish acknowledged that Ordonez was not swinging the bat very well.

Rehab has been rough on the rusty Ordonez, who hasn't been at full strength since having his left knee surgically repaired twice last season.

"It's really been hard,"

Ordonez said.

"When you're an athlete and you get hurt, you want to play. I know the fans are anxious to see me play at my best. I am working hard and doing all I can to try and perform for them."

Barring a setback, Trammell said he expects Ordonez to be Detroit's everyday right fielder.

Trammell must be banking on Ordonez to regain his strength, his health, his hitting stroke, his power and his production.

First, though, Ordonez must prove that he is not damaged goods.

Although he averaged 32 home runs and 118 RBIs and batted .300 or better in the five years prior to his injury-ravaged 2004 season, rehab has been a part of his vocabulary since last summer.

Tigers owner Mike Ilitch took a lot of heat in the offseason for courting and signing Ordonez to the richest contract in franchise history.

Ordonez can make as much as $105 million over seven seasons under the complicated deal or as little as $6 million for one year.

Ilitch can void Ordonez's contract after this season if he spends 25 days or more on the disabled list with an injury to his left knee.

However, no one in the organization figured Ordonez would go on the disabled list due to hernia surgery and an intestinal disorder.

It's gut-check time for the injury-prone Ordonez.

He needs to get healthy and start providing the Tigers with a reasonable return on their investment.



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