DETROIT - Eddie Bonine, banished by the Tigers to Double-A Erie after a rough start Wednesday night, is still the lead candidate to pitch for Detroit when a fifth starter is needed July 21 in Kansas City.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland yesterday rejected the notion that there could be several candidates to fill the team's last rotation spot, and tentatively anointed Bonine.
"I think Bonine will probably be that starter," Leyland said. "I don't know that for sure. Is it 100 percent? No, but it's likely."
Bonine, the former Mud Hen who has allowed 10 runs (seven earned) in his last two starts for Detroit, was sent to Erie so he can pitch Monday on normal rest. Toledo is off Monday.
The Tigers replaced Bonine on the roster with Jeff Larish, who collected three hits in yesterday's 7-6 loss to Minnesota. The logic behind that move is the Tigers can use the extra left-handed bat until they need a fifth starter.
Bonine gave up five runs in 32/3 innings against the Indians Wednesday night, and was told right after the game he was headed for the minors.
"I don't blame them after the position I've put them in these last two starts," Bonine said.
Leyland insinuated again yesterday that the Tigers have a lack of starting pitching depth, which is why he believes Bonine will be back.
He might not have heard about Toledo's Virgil Vasquez of late, who's allowed two runs in his last two starts and eight runs in his last 292/3 innings.
"Maybe you found a pitcher I don't know about," Leyland said.
CONFIDENCE FACTOR: The reason Larish was in the lineup yesterday is the same reason Dane Sardinha is leaning toward rejoining the organization if he's not claimed off waivers or traded. Leyland gives everybody - even rookies - a chance to play.
"Everybody's got to have a chance to be a hero," Leyland said. "You've got your heroes on a daily basis, your Polancos, Magglios, Pudge, but you need the press to be talking to somebody else every once in a while. I think that's good tonic for your ball club. It's nice to see the spotlight on somebody else."
Sardinha was officially designated for assignment yesterday. His last game was Wednesday night, when he singled and scored in four at-bats.
Sardinha, a catcher, went 3-for-18 in five games with the Tigers after he was summoned from Toledo June 25.
"I came up here and Jim Leyland gave me a chance," Sardinha said. "I was up with the Reds for like a month [in 2003] and played in one game. Right now, I'm just appreciative the Tigers gave me a chance."
NOT FOR LONG: Tigers shortstop Edgar Renteria was out of yesterday's lineup after suffering what the club called a mild left hamstring strain running out a double-play ball Wednesday night.
Of Renteria's injury, Leyland said: "He's not too bad. He'll probably be fine [today]."
Renteria snapped an 0-for-23 skid Tuesday night and had an RBI single Wednesday night. His last 21 hits have been singles, and he's only had three extra-base hits in his last 59 games.
BALLS AND STRIKES: Magglio Ordonez (pulled oblique muscle) took part in some pre-game drills with Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon yesterday. Dontrelle Willis was with Detroit yesterday instead of Single-A Lakeland, where he is supposed to be ironing out control problems. Willis returned to Detroit earlier this week to have his sore knee examined, but the club said he was to resume his throwing program in Lakeland this week. Toledo Mud Hens general manager Joe Napoli and other team executives entertained Hens corporate sponsors in a Comerica Park suite yesterday.