Notes: Monroe feeling better every day

Tigers notes: Monroe better every day

DETROIT -- Craig Monroe said his sprained right ankle will be painful whether he's hitting or playing the field. More hits off Mark Hendrickson might make him feel better.

Much like he did Monday, Tigers manager Jim Leyland started Monroe at DH on Wednesday based on a pitching matchup. Monroe entered the night 5-for-6 for his career off Hendrickson, Tampa Bay's starting pitcher, with a home run and five RBIs. He went hitless in a similar situation against Scott Kazmir on Monday, but that was believed to have more to do with the pitcher than the injury.

As for the ankle, which Monroe sprained crashing into the left-field wall in Chicago last Wednesday, Monroe said it's progressing a little bit each day.

"It's feeling better than it did yesterday," he said Wednesday, which is the same thing he said Tuesday.

The Tigers and Monroe are hoping for something more definitive by Friday, when they begin a three-game series against the Cubs in Chicago. For one thing, Monroe badly wants to play at Wrigley Field because of the atmosphere and the stories he's heard about playing there.

More importantly, the Tigers won't have the DH spot available. So if Monroe is going to start at all that series, or the three-game set at Milwaukee that follows it, he'll have to be somewhere in the field.

"He's going to have to be able to play this weekend," Leyland said. "I'll play him at first base if I need to."

Monroe is well aware of the series looming.

"It makes it frustrating that I'm not playing," Monroe said. "It makes it frustrating as heck because I don't know what's going to happen."

Speaking of first base: Chris Shelton used his day off on Tuesday for a mental cleansing. He was back in the lineup Wednesday trying to regain his comfort zone at the plate.

"Cleared my mind, basically," he said. "I'm just trying to get things back to simplicity. That's the biggest thing. I'm trying to get back to the basics."

Like Leyland, Shelton believes there can be such a thing as working too much, trying to get through a slump. Thinking too much, he said, happens all the time.

Leyland wasn't worried Wednesday about Shelton getting hits. He just hopes for an approach similar to what Shelton has had in the past.

"I just want to see good at-bats," Leyland said. "He's pressing right now. Chris Shelton is an outstanding young hitter. He's going to be an outstanding veteran hitter at some point. He's going through a tough time right now. Is he going to come out of it tonight? I have no clue. Tomorrow? I have no clue."

Chew on this: The Tigers didn't have to worry about rallying on Tuesday night thanks to a six-run inning. Not only did the 7-1 win give the bullpen a rest, it allowed the clubhouse to stock up on more gum.

What began as a way for Nate Robertson to entertain a television audience on a night when he was wearing a microphone in the dugout has become a team obsession. Not only did Robertson have a mouthful of Big League Chew in the late innings of Detroit's comeback victory on Monday, so did Alexis Gomez, Vance Wilson and Jeremy Bonderman. Even Shelton tried it, and he was playing in the game.

"We're having fun with it," said Robertson, who started the trend during the last homestand in a game against the Yankees. "It was something that started off real innocent. And it took off, man."

It's now at the point where he has fans asking him where his gum is, and not just in the late innings. He was working on his yard one day when someone drove by, rolled down his window and asked him that same question. He has autographed dozens of packs of gum, including one for the Tigers Care auction that supposedly went for $90.

Coming up: Just a few days after the Tigers began their homestand, it's ending. They'll close out their four-game set against the Devil Rays on Thursday with a 1:05 p.m. ET matinee at Comerica Park. Zach Miner (1-1, 4.50 ERA) will try for his second Major League win. Lefty Casey Fossum (2-2, 5.08 ERA) will start for Tampa Bay.

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