Notes: Injuries worrying Leyland
Skipper says plenty of work remains before Opening Day
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Just past the midway point of Spring Training, Tigers manager Jim Leyland is a little antsy.
It's not necessarily an alarm bell. Detroit's offense is putting up runs in big numbers, and while his bullpen has had its struggles, it has also seen non-roster relievers like Denny Bautista and Preston Larrison emerge as solid candidates to fill roles.
It's the injuries that had Leyland concerned Friday morning. They weren't major injuries until Wilkin Ramirez partially separated his shoulder Friday afternoon. Still, after watching setup man Fernando Rodney's previous minor injury keep him out of games so far this spring, little injuries can threaten to become big problems, and it has Leyland looking at the calendar.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Leyland said Friday morning before the Tigers took on the Braves at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. "We're not anywhere close to where we want to be, where we need to be, where we hope to be. We have a lot of work to do yet, some tough decisions."
Leyland isn't worried about Gary Sheffield's slow start at the plate so much as he's worried about getting Sheffield at-bats at the plate. Sheffield, who had Friday's game off as planned, will not make Saturday's trip to face the Blue Jays because his leg is hurting. It's unclear whether the injury is related to the sore hamstring that limited Sheffield last week.
Sheffield worked out back at the Tigers' facility Friday morning and was in good spirits.
Miguel Cabrera is dealing with a sore quadriceps, but after working out on Friday, he's expected to make Saturday's trip as scheduled and play at third base. Leyland doesn't want his young slugger risking further injury, but if he's healthy enough, he wants to get him time in the field.
"If he's all right, Cabrera needs to play," Leyland said. "He needs to play and get his timing down and everything else."
Shortstop Edgar Renteria had his own minor issues with a sore shoulder. Considering he was in the lineup and playing Friday, it wasn't serious.
The bullpen picture is starting to look a little better. Rodney threw another session of catch Friday morning as he tries to work his previously sore shoulder into game condition. Left-hander Clay Rapada, meanwhile, is feeling better as he inches closer to pitching in a game.
Still, the uncertainty with Rodney's injury and Francisco Cruceta's visa dilemma has loomed as Leyland tries to sort out who can fill the final role in the bullpen, or whether he just has one role to fill or two.
"I know less about our pitching than I did when I came into camp," Leyland said. "Other than the fact that I'm tickled to death with what I've seen from the starters so far. You have to sound crude, but there's a pile of guys there. You just have to siphon through it. But every team is going through the same thing. We're no different than anybody else."
Actually, it's Aquilino: For all the talk about the bullpen, one name that hadn't come up until Friday is Aquilino Lopez. With his four outs in as many batters faced Thursday, the non-roster invitee has five scoreless innings with six strikeouts and just two hits allowed.
"His name never comes up," Leyland said, "but I like him a lot."
Rogers battles location: Kenny Rogers wasn't happy with his command, and he called his sinker "terrible" after throwing it a little more compared to last time out, but the important part of Rogers' second outing of the spring is that his arm feels fine. He has his velocity, his health and his stamina.
"My goal isn't anything else but to have a healthy year," Rogers said. "I can figure out the rest."
Rogers left with one out in the third inning after back-to-back singles, having hit his pitch count for the day. He finished with 52, 31 of them strikes. The left-hander allowed two earned runs on three hits.
Quotable: "I understand exactly what he was saying. Without a doubt, you can go out there and be successful and compete and have some success, if not as much as you did last year. But people out there don't understand the commitment it takes at his age in football, which is a little different than baseball, to physically commit yourself to go through what you have to go through. It is very difficult to go through that, to play when you don't have to play. You want to play because you want to compete, but there does come a time when, is it really worth it?" -- Kenny Rogers on Brett Favre's reasoning for retirement
Up next: The Tigers visit the Blue Jays on Saturday for a 1:05 p.m. ET game at Knology Park in Dunedin, Fla. Jeremy Bonderman will make his third start of the spring opposite Shaun Marcum. Cabrera, Placido Polanco, Curtis Granderson and Jacque Jones are among those scheduled to make the trip.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.