DETROIT - If all goes well tonight, the Tigers will get a big boost Thursday in the form of Magglio Ordonez.
Ordonez, on the disabled list since June 29 with a pulled oblique muscle, will go on a one-game rehabilitation assignment with Single-A West Michigan tonight.
He's scheduled to be the designated hitter, and if there are no setbacks will rejoin Detroit for its first game after the All-Star break - which is Thursday in Baltimore.
Ordonez, the Tigers' right fielder and reigning American League batting champ, is batting .307 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs this year.
"Magglio is our Pujols," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Whenever you get guys like that back, it's big."
If and when Ordonez returns, the Tigers have a tough decision on their hands.
Detroit called up Matt Joyce from Toledo to fill in for Ordonez, but Joyce hasn't played like a fill-in.
In 13 games since he rejoined the Tigers, Joyce is batting .341 (14 for 41) with six doubles, a triple, and four homers to go with eight RBIs. He hit his fourth homer during this stretch in yesterday's 4-2 win over Minnesota, and all of his long balls since he was called up have come in the last five games.
"It's definitely a good feeling to go into the off days knowing that I've done pretty much everything I can to show them that I can play here," Joyce said.
But if Joyce stays with Detroit when Ordonez returns, that could mean Clete Thomas is headed back to Toledo. And Thomas, who hit his first major league homer and doubled yesterday, is batting .284 in 40 games for the Tigers.
"They've all accounted for themselves very well," Leyland said. "At this time, that [decision] is down the road. We don't know how tomorrow is going to go [for Ordonez]."
BUSY BREAK: Carlos Guillen, Detroit's lone All-Star, and Leyland, a coach on AL manager Terry Francona's bench, flew to New York last night.
Leyland recounted his schedule while in the Big Apple tomorrow for the Midsummer Classic, but also described his special plans for after the All-Star game.
He said he was riding with his family Wednesday in a limo from New York to Baltimore - where the Tigers play Thursday - then getting back in the limo with his wife for a dinner at the White House Wednesday night with President Bush.
"Then I'm getting in the limo and I'm going back to Baltimore, and hopefully I'll still be the manager of the Tigers," Leyland said.
About his date with President Bush, Leyland said: "I guess there are going to be 50 baseball people he wanted to invite, and I can't believe it, but I'm one of them."
Leyland said he's looking forward to the All-Star Game - the last at Yankee Stadium - in part because of the number of hall of famers in attendance.
"Somebody said something like 40 of them," Leyland said. "It might be one of the few times in the history of my life that I ask for an autograph."
BALLS AND STRIKES: Twins first baseman Justin Morneau accepted an invitation to compete in tonight's home run derby. Morneau, who has 14 homers this year, went 8 for 14 with a homer and five walks in this four-game series against the Tigers. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski said Eddie Bonine was "one of the guys in contention" to be the Tigers' fifth starter. Bonine made five starts in that role for Detroit before his demotion to Double-A Erie last week. He starts tonight for the SeaWolves. Tigers closer Todd Jones is 24 appearances away from 1,000 for his career.
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