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Published: Thursday, 7/20/2006

Leyland: chemistry overrated


DETROIT- The trade talk is flooding through Tiger Town. If any help is added before the July 31 deadline, Tigers manager Jim Leyland won't worry about disrupting any team bonding built in the first half of the season.

"I don't believe in chemistry," Leyland said before Detroit's game against the White Sox at Comerica Park last night. "I'm not a chemistry guy, I never have been. Show me a winning team and I'll show you a pretty good clubhouse."

"If you've got all great guys it makes it nicer, but it doesn't necessarily equate to winning. To me, it's the players' responsibility to make a good clubhouse."

"That's one thing that we've all gotten carried away with in sports in my opinion."

Tigers outfielder Marcus Thames tends to agree with his manager.

"Winning has a lot to do with the chemistry," Thames said. "If we weren't doing well, it probably wouldn't be the same."

He cited as an example the Mud Hens' 2005 season, when like any Triple-A club they endured numerous transactions.

"Last year in Toledo, we had different guys come in all the time, and we kept playing good baseball," Thames said.

NOT JUST MOP-UP: Reliever Jason Grilli gave up a home run to the first batter he faced Tuesday night, but bounced back to record five strikeouts in 21/3 innings of Detroit's loss. The total tied a Tigers season-high for relievers.

He's one of those guys that get unnoticed, like [Jamie] Walker, one of those guys that come in and save you a lot of different times in the course of the season," Leyland said. "Not only do they get big outs for you, but they also protect you from overusing your other pitchers. He's got a lot of big outs this year."

Leyland said he treats his middle relievers just like his starters and closers, because everyone will have big moments.

"I believe at some point in the season, if you're going to be a pennant contender, all your pitchers are going to have to give you a big out at some point. I think they should be made to feel that way, and I think you have to pump them up on stuff like that.

"I don't think that's mop-up, I think that's a [heck] of a job because he saved you for tomorrow. And in our business you can't be afraid to lose one game. If you're afraid to lose one game you might lose 10."

BUNTS: Leyland said he expects all of his regulars will likely play today, a 1 p.m. start, because they got rest on an off-day Monday. Kenny Rogers will take the mound for the Tigers against the White Sox's Jose Contreras, whose 17-game win streak was snapped on Friday against the Yankees. Ivan Rodriguez extended his hitting streak to a season-high 10 games with a first-inning double. The White Sox have homered in seven consecutive games.

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