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Published: Tuesday, 6/10/2008

Leyland happy with relievers' rehab

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT - Tigers manager Jim Leyland said yesterday he was "very satisfied" by what he saw out of relievers Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney in Toledo Sunday night.

"The reason I'm satisfied is both of them look healthy," Leyland said.

Zumaya and Rodney each worked an inning on rehab assignment at Fifth Third Field, and Leyland and members of his coaching staff were there to see it. Rodney gave up a homer and walked a batter but struck out the side, while Zumaya allowed a hit and benefited from a double play initiated in the outfield.

Leyland said Rodney's command of his fastball was "still not good" but his changeup was "tremendous," while Zumaya "was Zumaya."

"He threw the ball 98 mph," Leyland said.

Leyland said Rodney, who's recovering from right shoulder tendinitis, would work today at Comerica Park with Tigers pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and is scheduled to pitch again for the Hens Friday night. Zumaya, who's coming back from offseason shoulder surgery, is slated to pitch in Toledo tomorrow night.

Leyland said both pitchers would soon join the back end of the Tigers' bullpen for the first time this season, but didn't say how soon.

"There's no rush and we're not going to hold them back," Leyland said.

Gary Sheffield (left oblique strain) and Clete Thomas (right ankle sprain) are also improving from their injuries and are beginning baseball activities again. Leyland said adding some pieces that have been missing will provide "structure" for his team.

"Hopefully we'll get going and Clete will stay going and things will work out," Leyland said.

PASS THE TORCH: Leyland announced yesterday that he will alternate Ivan Rodriguez and Brandon Inge behind the plate every other day - a move that could signal the end for Rodriguez in Detroit.

Rodriguez is in the final year of a five-year, $50 million contract. Leyland said one of the reasons he's splitting time between Rodriguez and Inge is that Inge "needs to catch."

"We need to see if he can do it," Leyland said of Inge, who caught last night.

When asked if Inge's catching was solely for this year or also for the future, Leyland said "I'm not getting into all of that.

"We're getting way carried away here," he said. "I'm catching [Inge] every other day to try to keep him fresh and to keep Pudge fresh."

Leyland also said Rodriguez may be tired, hence his .245 batting average and four hits in his last 35 at-bats entering last night's game. Rodriguez, 36, has started 51 contests as Detroit's catcher this year.

BARFIELD BACK: The Cleveland Indians promoted second baseman Josh Barfield from Triple-A Buffalo yesterday, giving him back the job he lost last year.

Barfield was batting .255 for the season with Buffalo, but was hitting .288 over his last 12 games. He replaced Asdrubal Cabrera, who took Barfield's spot at second base in August, on Cleveland's roster.

Cabrera, who was considered the Indians' best defensive infielder but struggled offensively with a .184 batting average, was optioned to Buffalo.

"We felt it was time for [Cabrera] to go down and get his stroke back," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said.

Barfield opened 2007 as the Indians' starter at second, but batted .193 in the second half and made five starts there from Aug. 15 through the end of the season.



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