Notes: Gambler close to return

Notes: Gambler close to return

ARLINGTON -- Left-hander Kenny Rogers felt good while pitching a two-inning simulated game on Tuesday, leaving both the pitcher and his manager optimistic he will rejoin the Tigers' rotation before the end of June.

"I think that's very realistic," Rogers said. "I want to get back as soon as possible. I'm champing at the bit right now."

Rogers, who underwent surgery on March 30 to relieve a blood clot and impingement of his axillary and brachial arteries, faced a handful of Detroit hitters during an early afternoon workout in the 90-degree Texas heat. Third baseman Brandon Inge said the four-time All-Star's pitches were sharp and deceptive.

"He threw great," Inge said. "Lots of us were having trouble determining the speed of his pitches. In my honest opinion, he's ready. He can pitch right now."

Rogers was to be examined on Tuesday night by Dr. Greg Pearl, the Dallas-based surgeon who performed the operation in March. If Rogers shows no adverse affects from Tuesday's session, a Minor League rehab assignment could begin within the next 10 days to enable Rogers to build up his pitch count.

"It's always endurance with me," joked Rogers, 42. "Hopefully, I'll be back sooner rather than later. Without a doubt, I felt like I could have pitched in a game. I'm not completely healed up, but I feel like I could go get outs. I'm just not physically in the shape where I want to be."

Rogers likely will need to show he can handle a workload of 80-90 pitches before he is activated. But all signs indicate that shouldn't take much longer.

"I think he'll be pitching [for the Tigers] by the end of the month, unless he has setbacks," manager Jim Leyland said. "Today was typical Kenny, putting everything on the black of the plate. It didn't look like he missed a beat. But I think Mother Nature still is doing some stuff there.

"I don't want to get my hopes up. When it's time, it's time. But I think it will be shortly."

Guillen, Inge, Rodney return: Shortstop Carlos Guillen and Inge were back in the starting lineup after missing last weekend's series in Cleveland with injuries. Guillen had recovered from a strained left groin, while Inge was fitted with a steel-plated insole enabling him to play despite a fractured left big toe.

"They said they're all fine and ready to go," Leyland said. "That's all I can go on."

Inge said, "I can get to balls and move around, but I'm going to have some pain. I'm just excited to be able to get back in there."

Relief pitcher Fernando Rodney, sidelined since May 21 by right biceps tendinitis, also was available. Rodney was activated off the 15-day disabled list, taking the spot of right-hander Jose Mesa, the veteran reliever who was released following Sunday's game in Cleveland.

Farm report: Third baseman Mike Hessman continues to perform at Triple-A Toledo. In his last 24 games, Hessman was batting .303 with eight doubles, nine home runs and 35 RBIs. Hessman leads the International League in home runs (16), RBIs (51) and extra-base hits (30).

At Double-A Erie, former University of North Carolina left-hander Andrew Miller is 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA after four starts. Miller, the sixth overall pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, turned 22 two weeks ago.

And at Class A Lakeland, first baseman Ryan Robertson his batting .326 with 14 doubles, nine home runs and 23 RBIs in his last 37 games. Robertson has tied for the Florida State League home run lead with 12.

He said it: "Gary Sheffield has never, one time, been a problem for me. Never. To me, he's a great guy. He plays hard, he comes to beat the other team every night, he's popular with his teammates. As a manager, what more do you want?" -- Leyland, on the controversial racial comments made by Gary Sheffield in the latest issue of GQ magazine

Briefly: Catcher Vance Wilson, sidelined since March 30 by a sore right elbow, began his Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday night. ... The time of the Tigers' June 24 game in Atlanta has been changed from 1:05 p.m. ET to 8:09 p.m. ET and will now mark Detroit's third appearance this year on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. ... An Oakland scout was in attendance on Tuesday, specifically to evaluate Tigers left-hander Nate Robertson.

Up next: Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander (5-2, 3.44) is scheduled to face struggling Texas right-handed ace Kevin Millwood (2-4, 6.69) in the second game of this three-game series Wednesday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. First pitch is scheduled for 8:35 p.m. ET.

Ken Daley is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.