Notes: Rabelo in for the long haul
Injury replacement finally feels comfortable in role on team
DETROIT -- Mike Rabelo finally moved his luggage out of his truck. He still won't use his own bats, though.
When he made the Opening Day roster as an injury replacement for Vance Wilson, he figured it wouldn't be a long stay. He didn't want to sign a lease, and staying at a hotel could get expensive, so he ended up renting a room from longtime teammate Joel Zumaya.
Now that Wilson is out for this season and likely part of next, Rabelo looks like he's around for the long haul. And he can finally think about unpacking his bags.
"I'm not looking for any real estate by any means," Rabelo said, "but I moved my bags out of my truck."
That's a big improvement from two months ago, when Rabelo was still hitless and still awestruck. He went 0-for-15 to start the season and 1-for-19 over just five appearances in April, and he was nervous enough that manager Jim Leyland once reminded him that this was baseball, not prison.
"It's always easier said than done," Rabelo said. "People can tell you to relax, but it can only happen over the course of time. I was nervous and wanted to do so well, it was actually hurting me."
Once he had his first base hit, he started to relax. A three-hit game against the Mariners really set him at ease. He had that offensive outburst using a bat that he pulled out of the rack, a bat that actually belonged to Neifi Perez. He hasn't let go of it since, even after he received his own set of bats to the same specifications this week, and he has no plans to change until and unless his hot streak stops.
So far, the streak has gone long enough to push him within reach of .300. Until Thursday's 1-for-4 performance, he had posted multi-hit games in six of his last eight starts, covering a 14-for-33 stretch. Between that and his increasing comfort level working with the pitchers, he's making it easier for Leyland to give Rodriguez a day off now and then.
For the foreseeable future, that's his job. Wilson visited with Dr. David Altchek in New York, where he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Wednesday. Initial test results earlier this season suggested no such ligament damage in the elbow, but another examination showed otherwise. Recovery usually takes 9-12 months, leaving Wilson out for the rest of the season and probably the first month or two of next year as well.
That leaves Rabelo in the Majors for a while, even if he doesn't always feel like a big leaguer quite yet.
"I still get star-struck," he said. "When we were playing St. Louis and [Albert] Pujols was hitting, or in Texas and Sammy Sosa was up, I was like, 'Holy cow.'"
Polanco ailing: Placido Polanco was out of Thursday's starting lineup and could miss Friday's series opener at Philadelphia with a flu-like virus.
The bug has been bothering him for three days. He was available to pinch-hit Thursday, but manager Jim Leyland did not want him playing in the field.
Read on Rodney: Fernando Rodney reiterated on Thursday that he's not sure of the reason for his pitching struggles since coming off the disabled list last week, but he's working with coaches to try to find it out.
In the meantime, Leyland said he'll stick with Rodney as his eighth-inning setup man.
"I would say on the track record, he's the best guy for that job at this time," Leyland said. "That doesn't mean it won't change."
As for his decreased velocity on his fastball in his loss Wednesday night, Rodney said that most of his fastballs were two-seamers rather than the higher-velocity four-seamers he'll normally throw.
Guillen update: As expected, shortstop Carlos Guillen was out of the lineup on Thursday, but he took ground balls and swings in the cage prior to the game and felt encouraged. He's hoping to be back for Friday's series opener at Philadelphia.
Colon suspended: The Tigers have suspended right-hander Roman Colon for seven days for his role in an off-field altercation while on a rehab stint with Triple-A Toledo. Colon, who has scattered four earned runs over 10 innings for the Mud Hens while working his way back following neck surgery last fall, suffered a left shoulder contusion in the incident. The Tigers recalled him from his rehab stint so as not to use up any days while he's suspended or hurt.
Coming up: The Tigers begin a three-city, nine-game Interleague road trip in Philadelphia on Friday with a 7:05 p.m. ET game at Citizens Bank Park. Jeremy Bonderman (6-0, 3.63) will try to remain unbeaten while looking for his first Major League hit. Jon Lieber (3-4, 3.72) is scheduled to start for the Phillies.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.