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Published: Sunday, 6/22/2008

Life of a manager isn't an easy one

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Jim Leyland said recently a manager never has a good day.

Two events involving the Tigers' organization last week made it easy to see what the Detroit skipper meant.

Allow me to explain.

On Tuesday afternoon, A.J. Sager went stomping through the Mud Hens clubhouse, a scowl was fixed upon his face.

The Toledo pitching coach was in no mood to talk, which I learned when I asked if he had a minute for questions.

He was looking for the Hens starting pitcher that day - the game's winning pitcher - to bring him into manager Larry Parrish's office.

That starting pitcher was being demoted.

Indeed, Parrish and Sager took it hard when they had to tell Anastacio Martinez he was headed for Double-A Erie a couple hours after he allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings against Syracuse.

The Demoted Pitcher Walking was eventually found and told his ticket had been punched for Erie. The Tigers were sending Aquilino Lopez down to Toledo to become a starter, Martinez heard, and a roster spot was needed.

Moments after a Tigers victory last Sunday, Leyland had to tell Lopez he was going to Toledo. Lopez was not only pitching well in relief for Detroit (2-1, 2.67 ERA in 23 appearances), but he'd just returned to the Tigers from the Dominican Republic, where his father died days before.

Can you imagine what THAT conversation must've been like?

Or the talk between Parrish and Martinez, who saved the Hens in consecutive outings by stepping in as a spot starter in games where they had no one else to pitch?

Look, there probably isn't a single one of us as sports fans who wouldn't want to be Leyland or Parrish, Lopez or Martinez - grown-ups playing (and coaching) a kids' game and getting paid to do it.

But there are some ugly parts to this game, folks.

Hardships like being a minor leaguer with a wife and children and having to either cram them into an apartment or risk not seeing them for weeks at a time. You can't buy a home in the town you're playing in because you don't know if you'll still be playing there next week, and you aren't making enough cash to fly the family up to Toledo every weekend.

Difficulties like never knowing for sure where you stand with your employer, wondering if your production will ever be enough for that promotion, for financial security.

Or stomach-churning moments as a manager, when you have to look in the eye of a player who just gave it his all for the team, and tell him his best, while good, wasn't good enough.

They call it a game. Sounds to me a lot more like life.

FEELIN' BETTER?: What do you think of Eddie Bonine now after two major league starts?

After his first, which he won on June 14, it was hard to be too upbeat about Bonine becoming the Tigers' No. 5 starter. Yes, the former Hen won his major league debut, but he gave up six runs on nine hits.

You may remember the standing ovation he received at sold-out Comerica Park when his day was done, but the cheers were likely in appreciation of the fact that he didn't walk anybody.

Bonine was, after all, filling in for Dontrelle Willis, the newly crowned walks master.

But Friday night in San Diego, Bonine pitched seven innings and only allowed two runs. He walked two, but gave up just seven hits and obviously limited the scoreboard damage.

Leyland says he likes Bonine because he throws strikes. Also, he wins - just not Friday night (a no-decision for him, loss for the Tigers).

Now 25-7 in his last two seasons, Bonine has shown he can succeed without overpowering stuff.

He's certainly earned a longer look from Leyland, from you.

TRIBE TALK: Want some good news (for a change) regarding the Indians?

Their slick-fielding, weak-hitting infielder Asdrubal Cabrera is apparently ironing out his swing at Triple-A Buffalo.

Cabrera, who hit .184 with a homer and 14 RBIs in 52 games before the Indians demoted him, was batting .381 in 10 minor league games entering play yesterday. He had at least two hits in seven of those games.

Cabrera opened the season as the Indians' starting second baseman - a spot he held from the middle of August through the playoffs last year - but was sent down earlier this month in favor of Josh Barfield.

Barfield, though, quickly landed on the disabled list, and it's possible Cabrera could be recalled soon.

The Indians don't want to rush Cabrera, though, who should be considered their future shortstop. With injuries putting the Tribe's playoff hopes in serious jeopardy, they want to make sure Cabrera is good and ready before they subject him to major league pitching again.

PACKIN' EM IN: The Hens have drawn 304,820 fans to Fifth Third Field according to International League figures, which is tops in the league.

Toledo has 12 sellouts in 43 games this year and 187 since its ballpark opened in 2002.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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