Notes: Maroth's elbow improving

Notes: Maroth's elbow improving

DETROIT -- As if Sunday wasn't a big enough performance for Mike Maroth, Monday made him feel even better.

Though Sunday's seven scoreless innings suggested Maroth was the picture of health, he knew Monday would be a more important sign whether his recently ailing left elbow was fine. Once he played catch for 10 minutes without pain, he had his answer.

"Surprisingly, pretty good," Maroth said. "I didn't think I'd feel as good as I did. I was hoping for improvement over the day after my [last] start. I could barely throw the ball at that point. I was just hoping to at least play catch, but it actually felt better than that. Huge improvement."

Maroth didn't throw from as long a distance as he normally does the day after a start, but he threw just as long. A slight bit of tenderness was all he felt.

With that, Maroth's mood changed from hoping he'd be able to make his next start on Friday at Seattle, to expecting to make it. Maroth called it "almost a certainty." Though his elbow discomfort has been off and on since Spring Training, it usually has bothered him the day after he pitches if it's going to bother him at all.

That's what happened after his last start on April 8 at Texas, and it didn't go away in subsequent days. Eventually, it prompted manager Jim Leyland to push back Maroth's start from last Thursday to Sunday.

The push back wasn't difficult because the Tigers had a day off last Tuesday. Though three other starters had their outings pushed up a day, the day off meant they were still starting on their normal four days of rest.

That luxury isn't available this week. If Maroth couldn't pitch on Friday, either Nate Robertson would have to pitch on short rest or the Tigers would need someone to make a spot start.

"It's a good sign," he said, "a real good sign. I was a little nervous. I was obviously concerned about it before the game yesterday, but I was also concerned about the day before, because I know the problem has been the recovery. And I know I have to be ready for Friday. There's no extra time, so I have to be ready in five days. So we needed to see some sort of improvement, and we saw more improvement than I thought [we would]."

Pirates GM admits mistake on Shelton: On the same day that Chris Shelton hit his ninth home run, his former general manager admitted it was a bad move to let him go.

Pittsburgh general manager Dave Littlefield, a former assistant under current Tigers president/GM Dave Dombrowski in Florida, told MLB.com's Ed Eagle his reasoning why the Pirates left then-prospect Shelton off their 40-man roster in 2003, thus leaving him exposed in the Rule 5 draft that December.

"As we evaluated Shelton at that point in time we definitely liked his bat," Littlefield said. "But the thing we weren't confident about was his defense and where he was going to be able to play [defensively]."

Shelton's power emerged in the Tigers organization after Detroit snatched him with the first pick in the Rule 5 draft. For that matter, so did his defense.

"In retrospect, it was a mistake," said Littlefield. "If I had it to do overall again we certainly wouldn't have [left Shelton unprotected]. As we are now seeing, the power is obviously there.

"I tip my cap to Chris. He's obviously performing well and I hear he's improved his defense as well."

Coincidentally, the Pirates announced a contract extension for Littlefield on Opening Day, the same day Shelton had the first of his two two-homer games.

Young to stay back: Injured slugger Dmitri Young, currently on the 15-day disabled list, will not make the trip to Oakland. Instead, he'll stay in Detroit to work with assistant athletic trainer Doug Teter to treat his strained right quadriceps. If he improves to the point where he can do baseball activities, he'll then rejoin the team out west.

Situations like this are one reason the Tigers promoted Teter to be their third athletic trainer instead of having two as in the past. It allows the club to keep one at home to work with players on the disabled list in their home facilities. In past years, they'd have to bring injured players on the road with them and work them out in sometimes cramped facilities, or else leave them at home to work out at another facility under outside supervision.

Designated rester: After further consideration for his opening at designated hitter, manager Jim Leyland said he'll probably give right fielder Magglio Ordonez and catcher Ivan Rodriguez a game each at DH during the upcoming West Coast trip. However, he doesn't want to get into a habit of it, because he doesn't think it's that much of a break for a player.

"If a guy can't play for me, he can't play," Leyland said. "Can you play or can't you play?"

Coming up: The Tigers start a nine-game West Coast trip with a 10:05 p.m. ET game against the A's at McAfee Coliseum. Justin Verlander (1-1, 6.52) will make his first West Coast start opposite Esteban Loaiza (0-2, 11.42).

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.