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Notes: Shelton recalled as backstop

Notes: Shelton recalled as backstop

DETROIT -- Chris Shelton is back in the Major Leagues because Ivan Rodriguez got hit in the head on Friday night. The Tigers brought Shelton up from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday.

He was originally sent down on July 31 to straighten himself out at the plate. But the reason Shelton rejoined the Tigers is to be available as an emergency catcher. Shelton was originally a catcher before switching to first base.

Manager Jim Leyland realized that the team could find itself in a bind in the third inning of Friday night's 9-0 win over the Angels.

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Rodriguez was hit in the head by the backswing of Orlando Cabrera as the catcher was throwing out Chone Figgins trying to steal third base. Cabrera struck out on the swing, and it was an inning-ending double play.

Rodriguez was dazed for a moment and Leyland thought he might have to take Rodriguez out of the game, but he turned out to he fine.

"Just part of the deal," said Rodriguez, who added that his head was sore. "What can you do?"

Rodriguez and Vance Wilson are the only two true catchers on the roster. Brandon Inge came to the Majors as a catcher a few years ago but is now entrenched at third base.

"I probably [messed] up [by not having an emergency catcher]," Leyland said. "Because Pudge got hit in the head last night, we only had Vance and I don't want to catch Inge."

The Tigers sometimes start Rodriguez and Wilson in the field at the same time, with Rodriguez playing first base.

Leyland was asked whether Shelton has solved all of his hitting problems.

"I don't think so ... he's done OK," Leyland said.

Shelton hit .266 (29-for-109) with three home runs and 14 RBIs, but struck out 37 times at Toledo.

After hitting .299 with 18 home runs and 59 RBIs in 107 games after being brought up from Toledo in 2005, Shelton was one of baseball's biggest stories when this season started with nine home runs in his first 13 games. While Shelton had certainly shown power, he had been a good overall hitter who could drive the ball a long way from power alley to power alley.

But he hit only seven home runs after the hot start, and his compact, right-handed swing got longer and less powerful. Shelton also couldn't lay off high fastballs.

When he was sent down, he was batting .277 with 16 home runs and 45 RBI.

Inge is one of Shelton's best friends and gave a possible explanation for his fall.

"I think he started to believe the hype too much," said Inge. "Nobody, I mean nobody on earth, could have kept up with the pace that he was on ... He tried to live up to that month and just should have done what he could do."

Inge added that Shelton's start was a necessary component to the Tigers' quick start.

Leyland said Shelton is still in the Tigers' future as a first baseman if his performance returns to its previous level.

"It's going to be his shot, but he has to do it," the manager said. "That's our plan ... but if you don't perform, things change."

Change of pace: One of the things opposing batters have had to deal with this season is the balance the Tigers have of finesse and power pitchers.

An example is soft-tossing left-hander Kenny Rogers, who allowed only four hits in seven innings on Friday night, then Saturday night's starter, hard-throwing right-hander Justin Verlander.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said that's a tough adjustment for batters. But he saw his team face an even tougher one during Friday night's game, when Joel Zumaya followed Rogers to the mound in the eighth inning.

Zumaya regularly pitches around 100 mph, and has reached 102 with some pitches this season.

"When you have Zumaya or [Fernando] Rodney following Rogers or [Mike] Maroth, that's kind of scary," said Scioscia. "That's an effective balance that you have. It's a huge contrast."

Despite walking two batters, Zumaya retired the side in the eighth. He got Vladimir Guerrero for the final out on a tapper back to the mound.

Monroe, Rogers honored: Craig Monroe and Rogers are the Tigers Player and Pitcher of the Month for August.

Monroe hit .282 (31-for-110) for the month with eight home runs and 21 RBI. He also had six doubles and a triple.

Rogers was 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA, as he allowed six earned runs in 33 innings in five starts. He had the second-best ERA in the American League during the month.

Up next: The finale of the three-game series with the Angels on Sunday was changed from 1:05 p.m. to 8:05 p.m. ET, because it will be televised as ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball (ESPN 2). Lefty Wilfredo Ledezma (2-1, 2.27) will start for the Tigers against Kelvim Escobar (9-12, 3.79).

Paul Harris is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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