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Published: Wednesday, 7/30/2008

Tribe, Tigers prepared to deal

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - The non-waiver trade deadline is tomorrow, and both the Indians and Tigers could be players in any last-minute deals made.

"We've had an active month," Tribe general manager Mark Shapiro said. "We've likely done the bulk of our trading, but there's still enough conversation going on that I wouldn't rule it out."

Cleveland has already traded key veterans CC Sabathia and Casey Blake. Though he wouldn't comment about specific players, Shapiro is likely getting calls about Paul Byrd, who shut out the Tigers for 72/3 innings Monday night.

Byrd, like Sabathia and Blake, will be a free agent after this season.

Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski, who is in Cleveland along with several members of his front office, said he's continuing to work the phones.

Having entered last night's contest 6 1/2 games out of first place in the American League Central, the Tigers are considered potential buyers in the trade market. But they had lost three of four coming in and can only be viewed as borderline contenders at this point.

"Every game we play always plays into everything we do, but I don't want to put any added importance on [this week's games]," Dombrowski said.

Detroit is believed to be looking for relief pitching. But if the Tigers suddenly decide they're sellers before tomorrow's deadline, catcher Pudge Rodriguez is an upcoming free agent.

SHOPPACHOLIC: Kelly Shoppach became the Tribe's main catcher when Victor Martinez went on the disabled list June 12.

Since Martinez's departure, Shoppach had hit .284 with six homers, nine doubles and 21 RBIs entering last night's game. Twenty of his last 34 hits went for extra bases.

"He's been a consistent player for us, and I think there's even more consistency in there," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "I think he's been enjoying the game, the process of playing on an every day basis a lot more too."

Shoppach, 28, was acquired in the trade that sent Coco Crisp to Boston in January, 2006. In his first full major league season last year, he batted .261 with seven homers and 30 RBIs, and caught each of Byrd's 31 starts.

He's already appeared in more games (65, including last night's contest) than all of last season, and agreed with Wedge that he's having more fun playing regularly.

"But from a competitive standpoint only," said Shoppach, who is close to Martinez.

Wedge said Shoppach will continue to play even when Martinez returns, though no one knows when that will be. Not only will Wedge want to rest Martinez's elbow and balky hamstring, but Martinez - a two-time all-star and career .301 hitter entering this year - has also shown to be a solid first baseman.

LEYLAND AND LEE: Tigers manager Jim Leyland heaped praised upon Cleveland pitcher Cliff Lee, who will start tonight against Detroit.

Lee, who was the AL's starting pitcher in the All-Star game, is one of two major leaguers with 14 wins and his 2.29 ERA leads the AL. A year ago at this time he was trying to work out some kinks in Triple-A.

"He's a great story for a lot of guys," said Leyland, who was a coach on AL manager Terry Francona's staff. "He went down there [Triple-A] and worked to get it back, and he's been the best pitcher in the American League this year."

CONDOLENCES: Travis Hafner's father, Terry, died of cancer in North Dakota over the weekend. Travis has been with family since Friday.



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