Leyland was a bat boy for a semipro team in his hometown of Perrysburg, Ohio, when the Kansas City Monarchs came to town for an exhibition. The game was held at Swayne Field, the home of the Toledo Mud Hens as far back as 1909 until 1955. It was a big deal in Perrysburg, and a big deal to Leyland, who had been a bat boy for a while.
"I remember as if it was yesterday," said Leyland, who was around 10 years old at that time. "It was a big show. It was pretty interesting."
He'll be in the dugout to watch the Monarchs again this weekend, sort of. The Royals will don Monarchs jerseys as throwbacks Saturday night for the Tigers' 13th annual Negro League Tribute Game. The Tigers will be wearing Detroit Stars jerseys.
Leyland was on hand at Comerica Park on Friday morning when the Tigers dedicated a plaque to Hall of Famer Norman "Turkey" Stearnes.
"It was very impressive," Leyland said. "His daughter was eloquent. It was a tremendous speech. Very touching. I was impressed. It was very, very touching, and very deserving."
Rodney throws: Fernando Rodney could be on a rehab assignment by this time next week after throwing a session off the bullpen mound Friday afternoon.
Rodney, shelved since June 24 while coming back from tendinitis in his forearm and shoulder, threw under the watch of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez during batting practice. He's scheduled to throw on the side again Sunday and Tuesday. If he gets through those still feeling fine, Leyland said he'll be sent out on a rehab assignment. That would put Rodney on a track to return as soon as the beginning of August.
More injury updates: Craig Monroe said his lower back was feeling better Friday, and he expects to be ready to play again Saturday. Leyland said Monroe could be available off the bench Friday, but wanted to keep him out of the lineup as a precaution. Timo Perez made his second consecutive start in left field.
The Tigers' return home was also a chance for Vance Wilson to revisit the team while he begins his rehab from Tommy John surgery. He's limited to range of motion exercises at this point, but he could progress from there in a couple of weeks. He's expected to be out until at least early next season.
Zumaya's brother signs: The Tigers announced three signings from last month's First-Year Player Draft, including 43rd-rounder Richard Zumaya. Joel's younger brother had been debating whether to go pro now or attend college.
"That was his decision," Joel Zumaya said. "I just gave him a little advice."
Also signed was third-round pick Luke Putkonen, who went 1-1 pitching for North Carolina in the College World Series. Rounding out the group was 30th-round pick Jonathan Kibler, a left-handed pitcher from Michigan State. All three reported to the Tigers' Gulf Coast League team in Lakeland.
On the fourth day, Jones rests: Todd Jones told Leyland he could pitch Friday after recording saves the previous three days at Minnesota, but Leyland wanted his closer to take the day without so much as picking up a baseball. Considering it was Jones' first stint this season of pitching three straight days, Leyland had a point.
Jones worked three consecutive days on three occasions last season, including the entire mid-September series against the Orioles. Ironically, his last stretch of saves on three straight days also came against the Twins last year, a three-game sweep in mid-May at Detroit.
As for the one-run victories, Jones last worked three in a row during his previous incarnation as Tigers closer. He pitched in three straight one-run wins May 8-10, 2001, against the Rangers, but he only saved two of them. He entered the series opener with the Tigers down a run in the top of the ninth inning before Detroit scored twice in the bottom half for the victory. Add in an extra-inning win over the Angels on May 11, and Jones actually closed out four straight one-run victories.
Coming up: Justin Verlander (11-3, 3.26) will try for his third win in four outings against the Royals when he takes the mound in the middle game of the series Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. Jorge De La Rosa (7-10, 5.25), who matched Verlander in their season debuts April 6 at Kauffman Stadium, will start for Kansas City, trying for his fourth win in his last five starts.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.