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Published: Tuesday, 4/8/2008

Tigers GM hopes road trip will right wrongs

The Mud Hens' Timo Perez smacks a double, sending Dane Sardinha home from third base at Fifth Third Field. Toledo had lots of runners in last night's victory. The Mud Hens' Timo Perez smacks a double, sending Dane Sardinha home from third base at Fifth Third Field. Toledo had lots of runners in last night's victory.
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While the Tigers took yesterday to regroup and travel to Boston after losing their first six games in 2008, Detroit general manager Dave Dombrowski said his team s woes are magnified because the season is only a week old.

We re just going through one of those tough streaks that can happen to anyone during the course of the year, Dombrowski said.

The Tigers finished off an 0-6 homestand by getting pounded by the Chicago White Sox 13-2 in front of a national television audience on Sunday night. Entering the season with high hopes and baseball s second-highest payroll of $138.7 million Detroit is off to its worst start since 2003, when it lost its first nine en route to a franchise-worst 119-loss season.

Key acquisitions Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis, Edgar Renteria, and Jacque Jones have not panned out so far, nor have established veterans who were with the Tigers prior to this season.

Cabrera, the centerpiece of an eight-player trade this offseason and a four-time all-star, is batting .111 (2-for-18). Jones is batting .214 (3-for-14) and Renteria .231 (6-for-26).

Willis only allowed one hit in his start on Saturday, but walked seven and was charged with three runs in five innings.

Meanwhile Ivan Rodriguez, a 14-time all-star, is batting .174 (4-for-23). Placido Polanco, a career .305 hitter, is batting .087 (2-for-23).

The Tigers, predicted to score 1,000 runs with so many stars in their lineup, have struck out 35 times and scored an American League-low 15 runs. That s not much run support for a pitching staff that owns a 5.30 ERA worst in the AL heading into yesterday s games.

It s obvious we re not playing well right now, not hitting well or pitching well, Dombrowski said. We re not playing like the club we think we have, we know we have. Hopefully that starts [to change] on this road trip.

The Tigers open a three-game series in Boston today against the defending world champion Red Sox before going to Chicago for a three-game set on Friday.

Detroit s pitching problems aren t as much of a surprise as its struggles at the plate.

The bullpen, missing key set-up men Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney because of trips to the disabled list, was scrutinized before the season began and has justified that scrutiny by giving up 12 runs in 22 innings. And those numbers don t include the inherited runners Tigers relievers have allowed to score.

No. 1 starter Justin Verlander is a victim of the bullpen, but he s also had his own issues and has allowed 13 runs in 112/3 innings. Only Kenny Rogers of Detroit s starting rotation has turned in a quality start thus far which means he pitched at least six innings and allowed three or fewer runs.

Ryan Raburn, who was with the Tigers until being sent to Toledo Saturday, said Detroit s poor start is not a case of too much pressure caused by high expectations.

If anything, maybe some guys thought that right out of the gate they were going to be on fire, Raburn said before the Mud Hens 11-4 win against Charlotte last night. This is one of those streaks every team goes through. Unfortunately for the Tigers, it happened at the beginning of the season.

They ve got too much talent up there not to be good.

Contact Joe Vardon at: jvardon@theblade.com or 419-410-5055.

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