DETROIT -- The stats haven't been good for Jason Grilli this season, especially over his last three outings before Tuesday's game against the Angels. And the beginning of his inning of relief on Tuesday looked like it was about to translate into another rough one for Grilli, who had given up eight runs in his last three appearances, which brought his ERA up to 7.36. Orlando Cabrera and Vladimir Guerrero started off the eighth with back-to-back singles against Grilli, in a here-we-go-again moment in the eighth inning. Instead, Grilli left both runners stranded on second and third, a bit of a morale booster for the pitcher, even in a 6-3 Tigers loss.
"It was much needed. I would have liked it to be a 1-2-3 inning, but we'll take it in baby steps," Grilli said. "I definitely feel like it was an outing that can get me over the hump." Grilli admitted he has been a bit frustrated lately, and had considered using the unusual tactics of a popular former Tigers pitcher who was a teammate of his father Steve on the 1976 Tigers team. "Hopefully I can start getting some balls hit right at guys instead finding the holes," Grilli said. "Otherwise, I'm gonna start turning into Mark Fidrych, talking to the ball and warming it up, telling it to hit it right toward our fielders." Maybe Grilli doesn't need to go to that extreme, though manager Jim Leyland also said Grilli had been the victim of a bit of bad luck lately, including both hits he gave up last night that barely reached the outfield grass. "He's been snakebitten a little bit," Leyland said. "[Last night] they didn't really put good wood on the ball, and they put two guys on [base] by the time he looks around. "Sometimes when we're going bad, you're going bad, but hopefully that was something last night that can turn it around. His stuff's plenty good enough." After all, Grilli is still the pitcher who was taken with the No. 4 overall pick in the 1997 draft and was effective out of the Tigers bullpen last season with a 4.21 ERA in 51 games. "I know the law of averages will work itself out," Grilli said. "That was step one." Man down for a day: The Tigers optioned Andrew Miller back to Double-A Erie after Tuesday's game, but won't activate Jeremy Bonderman from the 15-day disabled list until Thursday. That meant the Tigers played Wednesday's game with 24 players, less than the usual amount on the 25-man roster. Leyland said it was no big deal, especially considering all members of his bullpen would be available. "It doesn't make much sense to bring someone up for just one day," Leyland said. "We wanted to get Miller down there so he could start tomorrow." Miller will start for the Erie SeaWolves on Thursday against the Harrisburg Senators. Miller impressions: Leyland reiterated on Tuesday that he believed Miller could start for the Tigers on a regular basis, but was in no hurry to put him into the rotation. Miller still needs to work on his offspeed pitches and he can do so more effectively at the Minor League level. If a situation arises where the Tigers need to replace one of their starters because of an injury, Leyland said Miller would likely be called upon again. As of now, there is no consideration to put Miller in the Tigers bullpen. "If he comes back, he'll be starting," Leyland said. The only time Miller would be considered out of the bullpen would be if the Tigers call him up in September, after the Minor League season has concluded. Rogers' timetable: Kenny Rogers has begun to throw while he rehabs from surgery that repaired a blood clot in his left shoulder. He is currently just throwing fastballs and working on strengthening his arm and hasn't even begun to work on his breaking balls. Rogers still appears to be ahead of schedule of his estimated July return, though Leyland said he still isn't sure how long it will take him to get into pitching shape. "It's not like coming into Spring Training, where you're totally healthy and just getting loose, I don't think," Leyland said. No ill effects: Mike Maroth said he felt no after-effects of his internal virus during Tuesday's game, in which he gave up six runs over seven innings. "There were no effects, I just made a few bad pitches," said Maroth, who missed his last start because of the illness. "I just didn't get it done." Leyland on Scioscia: Leyland said he wasn't surprised that Angels manager Mike Scioscia has had success early in his managerial career. Leyland had seen signs of Scioscia's ability when managed against the former catcher while he was still playing in the '80s. "He utilizes the type of team he has," Leyland said. "Last night, he put his power guys in there against Maroth. And [Wednesday], you'll see more of their speed, and you'll see them hit-and-run and things like that." Up next: Jeremy Bonderman (2-0, 4.20) will make his first start since May 8 on Thursday at 1:05 p.m. ET. He had missed his last two starts due to a blister on his right middle finger. Ervin Santana (3-5, 5.06) will oppose Bonderman for the Angels in the last of a three-game series.
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.