DETROIT - For the Chicago White Sox, the series this week at Comerica Park is important, but it doesn't compare to any throughout the 2005 playoffs.
The Detroit Tigers haven't played in a series like this in years. That fact escapes no one, including manager Jim Leyland, whose club leads the American League Central Division.
But Leyland has what he wants: young, gifted players. That's enough for now.
"You take experience, I'll take talent, and I'll take my chances," Leyland said. "If I had to have one or the other, I'll take talent."
He might not have much experience, but he does have eight young players who contributed to the Mud Hens' 2005 International League championship. Pitcher Zach Miner, who was called up to the Tigers from the Hens on May 31, said the Hens' dominating season last year helped him learn what it takes to win.
"I think winning breeds winning," Miner said. "Leyland preaches to us, if you don't expect to win you're not going to win. There's maybe a little correlation with that from last year."
Leyland doesn't believe a pennant race begins until Sept. 1, but he doesn't blame his players for eagerly anticipating the series.
"They're going to be fired up, they're going to be anxious, that's only natural," Leyland said. "You can't get experience until you go through the process. That's how you get experience. But I'll take talent."
YOUNG BETTER: Leyland has heard good things about Dmitri Young's progress from Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish.
Young has been on a rehab stint with the Hens since July 13, recovering from an irritation of a right quad strain that landed him on the disabled list May 22.
"Reports were he was swinging the bat outstanding [Monday]," Leyland said.
Young had three hits in the game Monday against Pawtucket and is 9-for-20 with the Hens. It's hard to tell if Triple-A will fully prepare Young for the major leagues, but that doesn't worry Leyland.
"I don't think anybody can [tell], but I have the utmost confidence in Larry Parrish and Bull Durham, if they say he's swinging," Leyland said. "You can tell if a bat's doing the right thing, if the hands are doing the right thing. He's shown a lot of progress and he's swinging the bat better."
BUNTS: Outfielder Alexis Gomez, with the Tigers for the past month and a half, still lives in Toledo, where he started the season. Miner made the commute at first, but couldn't stand the one-hour drive on I-75 any more, so he got an apartment in Detroit. "If the roads were nicer, it wouldn't be as bad, but the roads are terrible," Miner said. Coming into the game, Omar Infante was 12-for-24 off Chicago starter Jon Garland, with four doubles and a triple. He was in the lineup at designated hitter. Infante had a fifth-inning single and scored a run. ... Mike Maroth, who has been on the DL since May 26 because of elbow surgery, said he still hopes to return by mid-August. "I'm throwing in the bullpen, and that's encouraging," he said.