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News » Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2008-09-29

Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2008-09-29

Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2008-09-29
Fallout from the Tigers' disappointing 2008 season has already begun.

Pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and bullpen coach Jeff Jones have already been told they will not be returning for 2009 even though each has a year to go on his contract. Jones, Detroit's longstanding minor league pitching coach, will be retained in the organization.

Manager Jim Leyland has already been told he's coming back to finish his four-year contract. He also has dropped public hints he'd like to have an extension, but there has been no word on that.

Leyland said before Sunday's game he was not ready to comment on the situation concerning his coaches, prudent in view of the fact the Tigers must go to Chicago on Monday to play a makeup game against the White Sox. Chicago needs to win to tie Minnesota for first in the AL Central and force a one-game playoff on Tuesday in Chicago.

Word leaked out reportedly because Hernandez had told close friends he'd been fired. Club officials have indicated recently changes were imminent, and the Tigers reportedly held a closed-door meeting before Saturday's game at which changes for 2009 were a topic of discussion.

If the reports are accurate, Hernandez, 47, is paying the price for a general collapse and some quirky happenings on the entire Detroit pitching staff that dropped the Tigers out of the race in the first two weeks of the season, never to recover.

Detroit's projected starters entering the season finished with just 29 victories, including none by Dontrelle Willis, whose inability to throw strikes along with a serious knee injury forced a nearly season-long exile to the minors to work on his mechanics.

The Tigers had the third-worst ERA in the league but lost Jeremy Bonderman early when a blood clot in his shoulder led to surgery to remove a rib to prevent the problem from recurring. His return is expected, but he won't be cleared to throw a baseball for another month or so.

Hernandez apparently is also taking the hit for Justin Verlander falling to a 10-17 record after winning 35 games in his first two full years in the majors. Verlander had a solid middle portion of the season but struggled in the beginning and end, and his pitch counts were so high he rarely got beyond the fifth or sixth inning.

LHP Nate Robertson's falloff, caused in part by his inability to regain an effective slider, was another major contributor to Detroit's pitching problems.

Detroit's best starters were Armando Galarraga, who won 13 games after being brought up from the minors to replace Willis in the rotation, and Zach Miner, who also finished above .500 for a team that was more than 10 games under. Miner began the year in the bullpen and also might open 2009 there because of circumstances on the staff.

The bullpen was doomed from the start. Right shoulder surgery to Joel Zumaya in November and spring tendinitis in Fernando Rodney's shoulder robbed the bullpen of two back-end stalwarts. Just as they returned, closer Todd Jones' career ended because of right shoulder problems.

RAYS 8, TIGERS 7: RHP Chris Lambert allowed the fourth home run hit by UT Ben Zobrist in Tampa Bay's final four games of the regular season in the 11th inning Sunday as the Rays closed their regular season with one win in the final four games at Detroit. The Tigers learned before game's end that they had to go to Chicago for a makeup Monday of an in-season rainout that the White Sox need to win to force a one-game playoff for the AL Central title. CF Curtis Granderson hit a three-run home run in the third and RF Magglio Ordonez smacked a two-run shot in the ninth to force extra innings. Granderson and DH Gary Sheffield, who remained homerless to stay at 499 for his career, drew bases-loaded walks in the fourth for Detroit. RHP Zach Miner, bidding for a rotation spot next year, retired the first 12 batters he faced but wound up with another no-decision when the bullpen failed to hold the lead again. Miner allowed three runs on two home runs and and struck out six in six-plus innings of work.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: September 29, 2008

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