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Notes: Much-needed rest
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07/12/2003  8:06 PM ET 
Notes: Much-needed rest
All-Star Young gets day off in midst of slump
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Hoping to help put an end to his July slump, manager Alan Trammell gave Dmitri Young the night off. (AP Photo)
DETROIT -- A slump is no great news to most All-Star sluggers. Any slump from Dmitri Young, however, is a grave development for the Tigers.

Manager Alan Trammell gave Young the day off Saturday in the midst of an 0-for-10 slump, a 1-for-14 homestand and an 8-for-39 July. It didn't help Detroit's offense against Pedro Martinez, but Trammell hopes it'll help Young.

"I think it's the right thing to do," Trammell said. "I think physically he's been beaten up and this week he's in a slump. He's been carrying the mail for us and he's human."

Young loves being in the lineup but with the All-Star break coming up, he said, "I'll take [days off] when I can get them."

Much as critics will argue that not every team deserves an All-Star, there's no underestimating how much Young means to Detroit's offense. The Tigers are 4-25 this season when he goes hitless in a game, half of those wins coming early this week in sweeping the White Sox. They're 9-14 when he has multiple hits and 6-10 when he homers.

Even with his recent slump, he has scored or driven in 26.4 percent of the team's offense this year.

In some ways, that's the problem.

"He looks like he's trying to create too much right now," Trammell said. "He's trying to get to the ball a little quicker and swing at pitches that might not be so good."

Hitting coach Bruce Fields thinks he's trying to create too much power.

"I think he's getting too much of his body into the ball," Fields said. "When he gets overanxious he starts to jump a little bit more and his body gets in the way. A lot of balls he's fouling off he was hitting during the months of May and June.

"He's a good hitter. He knows what he's doing. So it's really just a matter of slowing everything down and putting the body in the right place."

As Young goes, so go the Tigers. Kevin Witt entered Saturday 5-for-15 this week but in an 0-for-7 slump. Eric Munson was 2-for-14 for the week and Carlos Peña 2-for-11. Peña took Young's place in the coveted No. 3 spot in the order, partly as a reward for his solo homer Friday.

The hottest hitter on the club is No. 2 man Warren Morris, who has eight of the Tigers' 29 hits all week at home.

"For us to function as a team," Fields said, "I think everybody has to chip in and do their thing. Sanchez will bunt and get on base, Morris will get his line drives, which sets up Dmitri."

Rumors, like Sparks, fly: Steve Sparks knows the trade rumors and his chances of ending the season on a playoff contender. The Tigers have received ample interest in the knuckleballer now that he's in the final year of his contract. The latest rumor has interest from Houston, near Sparks' home.

But in Sparks' three seasons here, Detroit has started to feel like his second home.

"I love it here," Sparks said. "It would be bittersweet. We'll see."

Any Sparks suitor would likely see him as a Tim Wakefield clone. The original version happens to be in town and slated to start Sunday's series finale for the Red Sox.

Game within the game: Strength and conditioning coach Dennie Taft has a new way to keep his pitchers active before games. What began as an easy game of throwing and catching Aerobie flying discs has evolved into 5-for-5 Aerobie soccer in the outfield.

Chris Mears came up with the idea last weekend at Kansas City. Instead of simply throwing and chasing the discs, they're now getting more intensive exercise, trying to block each other's passes and fake out opponents. Many of them came off the field exhausted.

Saturday marked their third exhibition, with the veterans beating the youngsters 2-1. Catcher A.J. Hinch joined in with the day off.

The idea is making Taft's job easier.

"The thing is, they don't even know they're conditioning," he said.

Second-half rotation set: Trammell and pitching coach Bob Cluck will shuffle their pitching rotation after the All-Star break to help limit innings on youngsters Wil Ledezma and Jeremy Bonderman. Mike Maroth will open next week's four-game series at Chicago on Thursday, followed by Matt Roney and Nate Cornejo. Ledezma will pitch next Sunday's finale against the White Sox, with Bonderman going July 20 at Boston on 11 days rest.

"This is one of the ways we thought of to limit innings," Trammell said.

Catch this: Trammell tried to put to rest any speculation that Eric Munson could convert from third base to catcher, denying that he had any talk of a move.

"We feel very strongly that Eric Munson is going to be our third baseman," Trammell said.

Munson was a catcher at USC but was moved to first base in the minor leagues. This is his first season at third base.

More Sborz to come: Second-round draft pick Jay Sborz made his pro debut Friday in the Gulf Coast League with two perfect innings and two strikeouts in the Tigers' 6-4 loss to the Pirates. At Class A Oneonta, third-round pick Anthony Giarratano went 3-for-5 with a double for the second straight night in his second pro game.

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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