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Published: Thursday, 7/10/2008

Tigers' Polanco becomes citizen before game

Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco and 99 others are
sworn in as citizens before last night s game in Detroit.
Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco and 99 others are sworn in as citizens before last night s game in Detroit.

DETROIT - Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco has lived in the United States since 1992, but it wasn't until yesterday that he could call himself a U.S. citizen.

Polanco was one of 100 individuals who took part in an on-field naturalization service at Comerica Park before last night's game against the Cleveland Indians. The service was presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Gerald E. Rosen.

Polanco, a native of the

Dominican Republic who lives with his wife and two children in Miami during the offseason, said he took a naturalization test and passed it in 2005, but his citizenship was delayed because of a background check.

While addressing the media before last night's ceremony,

Polanco was asked if he will be able to vote in the 2008 presidential election, which he confirmed.

"It's real. I'm here now," he said.

Polanco, 32, attended Miami Dade Community College after graduating from high school in Santo Domingo in 1991. He said when the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him in 1994, he couldn't play initially because he was in the U.S. on a student visa rather than a working visa.

Polanco is in his 10th major league season and fourth with the Tigers.

"I've lived half of my life here," Polanco said. "I'm 32, been here 16 years, went to college here. My kids were born here, my wife's a citizen.

"It's very important today."

STADIUM NEAR YOU: Dennis Thames is living the life of a big leaguer this week while spending time with his uncle, Tigers outfielder Marcus Thames.

But he could hit the big time on his own in 2009 as a University of Michigan football player.

Thames, 18, a safety and running back from Louisville, Miss., is entering his senior year of high school as the country's No. 218 college football recruit, according to Rivals.com. He said he toured the UM campus in Ann Arbor on Tuesday and met with some Wolverines coaches, notably defensive coordinator Scott Shafer.

The younger Thames said he left his visit impressed.

"They sounded like nice coaches, good coaches to be around," Dennis said while seated in front of his uncle's locker, dressed in Tigers baseball pants and hat before batting practice. "Michigan would be my No. 1 right now. They've come at me the most and recruited me."

PLUGGING HOLES: The Indians promoted reliever Juan Rincon from Triple-A Buffalo yesterday to take CC Sabathia's roster spot.

Rincon, a right-hander, signed with the Tribe and was sent to Buffalo June 24. He was released by the Minnesota Twins June 12 after posting a 6.11 ERA in 24 games this season.

The Indians like Rincon's track record. He owns a career mark of 30-26 with a 3.69 ERA in 386 games with the Twins since 2001.

"Sometimes a change of scenery can be good," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. "We've seen him be so good at times. He was very consistent in Minnesota as a set-up man."

Jeremy Sowers started in Sabathia's place Tuesday night, but Sowers was already in Cleveland's rotation. The Indians will need to call someone up from Buffalo to start Saturday's game against Tampa Bay, but Rincon will not be the one sent back to Triple-A to make room for that yet-to-be-named pitcher.

The leading candidate to start Saturday's game appears to be Matt Ginter, who is 6-6 with a 4.18 ERA with Buffalo.

GETTING CLOSER: Fausto Carmona, a 19-game winner for the Indians last year, will throw a 50-pitch simulated game today at Progressive Field.

Carmona, on the disabled list since May 24 with a left hip strain, could go on rehab assignment if he makes it through today's workout healthy.

He is 4-2 with a 3.10 ERA this year.

BALLS AND STRIKES: The Tigers agreed to terms with first-round pick, University of Arizona pitcher Ryan Perry, and will give him a $1.48 million signing bonus, the Tucson Citizen reported yesterday. Grady Sizemore, Cleveland's all-star center fielder, is trying to become the Indians' second player ever to hit 30 homers and steal 30 bases in a season. Joe Carter did it in 1987. Sizemore leads the American League with 22 homers and has stolen 21 bases.

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