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Published: Monday, 7/28/2008

Tigers all shook up

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Detroit s Curtis Granderson hits a solo home run off Chicago sJavier Vazquez in the third inning yesterday. Granderson has eight doubles, four triples and three home runs in his last 32 games and batted in 11 runs. The Tigers now go on the road for 10 games. Detroit s Curtis Granderson hits a solo home run off Chicago sJavier Vazquez in the third inning yesterday. Granderson has eight doubles, four triples and three home runs in his last 32 games and batted in 11 runs. The Tigers now go on the road for 10 games.
PAUL SANCYA / AP Enlarge

DETROIT The Tigers clubhouse was rife with frustration, despair, even tears.

And this was after a huge victory.

Detroit held on yesterday to beat the Chicago White Sox 6-4, salvaging a victory in this three-game set and pulling to within 6 games of the first-place Southsiders in the American League Central.

But in doing so, the Tigers lost their flame-throwing set-up man, may have burned their newly named closer, and formally announced the franchise s all-time saves leader had lost his job.

Where to begin?

Fernando Rodney, who was informed before Saturday s game that he was replacing Todd Jones as the Tigers closer, entered the game in the eighth inning with one out and a man on base. The reason Rodney came in then instead of the ninth was Joel Zumaya had to leave the game with tightness in his right triceps.

Rodney retired the first hitter immediately, but walked two consecutive right-handed hitters and gave up a two-run single to Jim Thome. He struck out the side in the ninth, but needed 42 total pitches to finish the game and said he likely wouldn t be able to pitch tonight in Cleveland.

Rodney did a great job, you can quote me, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. He also walked two right-handed hitters the inning before. You can t do that. That s as simple as it is. I can t sit here and tell you it s OK because it s not.

Leyland also said: He can t throw 40 pitches, or he won t close too long.

Jones blew his third save in a month on Friday night and has allowed 12 runs (10 earned) on 18 hits in his last 12 appearances. He is the club s leader with 235 saves and has saved 319 games in his career which ranks 14th on the all-time list.

Leyland first discussed the switch on the Tigers pregame radio show yesterday.

The fact of the matter is, the reason he s not the closer right now is the quality of the pitches and the location of the pitches is not good enough, Leyland said.

Jones, 40, said he was surprised by the move, but said he would pitch when [Leyland] tells me to pitch.

Reflecting on his career and current status with the Tigers, Jones first said he s been through much tougher times, but choked up after the following thought:

I ve been to the depths of everything emotionally. This is just one of those things you have to go through too. You re born into the big leagues and then you re born a closer. And then one day you re no longer trusted with the brunt of the load in the ninth inning. My day came July 26. So, no spilled milk here.

Zumaya, who missed half of the year recovering from shoulder surgery, is listed as day to day.

I m very frustrated right now, Zumaya said. I ve been set back a couple times. I m not saying this is a setback, but I ve been on the shelf. It gets pretty old being on the shelf.

If not for starting pitcher Zach Miner (six innings, two runs), the Tigers bullpen would be in worse shape. With Zumaya hurting, Freddy Dolsi battling a sore shoulder, Rodney tired, and Jones ineffective, Leyland is worried.

I can t have guys sitting around that can t pitch, Leyland said. If Zumaya can t pitch for three or four days we ve got to get another pitcher up here, in my opinion.

We can t be going to war with a pitcher that can t pitch.

Stay tuned. The nonwaiver trade deadline is Thursday.

Contact Joe Vardon at:jvardon@theblade.comor 419-410-5055.


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