"I'm not gonna take any chances," said Leyland, who has already lost pitchers Joel Zumaya and Kenny Rogers for extended stretches. "Once he gets loose, it doesn't bother him at all. And that's the good sign."There won't be a concrete setup man to take Rodney's usual spot in the eighth in his brief absence, as Leyland said it depends on the game situation. "I'll pick around and choose around," Leyland said. Bridging the gap: Before Thursday's game, Leyland said he didn't have a pitch count in store for Jeremy Bonderman, who was activated off the 15-day disabled list prior to Thursday's game after he missed his last two starts with a blister on his right middle finger. He just wanted Bonderman to eat up innings and get at least into the sixth inning. That sixth inning, which Leyland said is probably the hardest inning to manage, has become tougher this year because starters have struggled to get into the seventh. "It seemed like last year, we got those two or three extra outs by the starters," Leyland said. "When you get those innings, it really changes the complexion of the bullpen." Obviously, the loss of last year's seventh-inning staple Zumaya, who is on the 15-day DL with a torn tendon in his middle finger, and the nagging injuries of Rodney have meant Leyland has had to mix up his bullpen. "When you're picking and choosing, you start saying, 'I wish I would have put so-and-so in.' If it works out, you're happy," Leyland said. "When it's etched in stone, it makes it a lot easier and you never question yourself." Leyland has refused to make excuses though, stating that other teams in the American League Central have had to deal with injuries, namely Joe Mauer for the Twins and Jim Thome for the White Sox. One-liners: Leyland was more talkative than usual during his pregame briefing and caused a couple laughs with his comments. On Magglio Ordonez, who entered the day first in the American League with 21 doubles and was second with 42 RBIs: "When you hit like he is, it's easy to come to the clubhouse and have fun. When you hit like I did, it wasn't too fun to come to the clubhouse," Leyland said of his struggles as a player. On his team in general: "I'm very proud of the way these guys go about things. Every time you brag on your bird dog, he gives you a false point, but I am [proud]," Leyland said. Underappreciated? Leyland felt that Todd Jones has been a little overlooked this season, though that seems to be nothing new for the closer, now in his 15th season.
"I don't know how you can be around as long as him and still be a well-kept secret," Leyland said of Jones, who leads the AL with 15 saves. "He gets the credit inside [our clubhouse], but I don't know that he gets from the outside what he deserves. What [else] do you want?"
Although he has given up at least one run in his last two appearances, in which he got the save in both chances anyway, Leyland said he prefers the aggressiveness of Jones."If he gets beat, it's because they hit the ball somewhere and they beat us, and I can live with that," Leyland said. "But I cannot live with walks, hit-batsmen -- I cannot live with that." Jones has walked eight batters in 21 innings this season. "I've always said, as a closer you're always one pitch away," Jones said. "And I think I'm living proof of that." The kid's still all right: Andrew Miller gave up one run over eight innings for Double-A Erie on Thursday in his first outing since a spot start in place of Bonderman on May 18. He gave up four hits, walked three and struck out five, though he got a no-decision in a 2-1 SeaWolves loss to Harrisburg.
Miller gave up a solo homer with two outs in the second inning, which snapped a personal streak of 17 1/3 scoreless innings. His ERA stands at 0.56 in two outings with the SeaWolves.
Good luck charm: Perhaps the presence of legendary broadcaster Ernie Harwell gave the Tigers a bit of good luck in their 12-0 rout over the Angels.
"I don't know about that, I think they have a lot of ability so I don't know if it was luck," said Harwell, who retired in 2002 after 42 season of broadcasting for the Tigers. "But it's good to have them both."
Harwell served as a guest analyst on the Tigers' television broadcast for regular analyst Rod Allen, who was in Arizona attending his son's high school graduation.
There was no special preparation for Harwell, who broadcast his first full game since 2003, in what was another guest appearance in place of Allen.
"I just sort of cleared my throat. I didn't do most of the heavy lifting, Mario did that," Harwell said of Mario Impemba, the play-by-play voice of the Tigers. "He did all the work and I just sort of sat in and enjoyed being with him. It's a good way to work."
He will broadcast one more game, tomorrow's series opener against the Indians.
"Be back tomorrow," Harwell said. "No matter what they say."
Transactions: The Tigers released Joey Eischen and Craig Dingman on Wednesday. Eischen hadn't played in a game for the Tigers this season while Dingman last appeared for the Tigers in 2005.Both had been in extended Spring Training but hadn't made enough progress to begin pitching for any of the Tigers' Minor League teams. Eischen had rotator cuff surgery last summer and Dingman missed all of last season after he underwent surgery to repair an artery. Up next: Nate Robertson (4-3, 3.62) will start on Friday against the Indians' Paul Byrd (4-1, 3.55) in the first game of the season between the two teams atop of the AL Central. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET at Comerica Park.
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less