Notes: Tigers being careful with Rodney
Early bout of shoulder soreness has reliever taking it easy
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Fernando Rodney's Spring Training soreness in 2007 led to an injury riddled season. The Tigers are trying to make sure this season isn't a repeat.
With Joel Zumaya out until at least midseason following surgery, the Tigers can't afford to lose Rodney. Thus, an early bout of shoulder soreness from him left the team looking to take precautions.
For now, Leyland said, Rodney is on a "little different program," meaning the team will proceed slower with him than normal. He did not throw off a mound on Thursday, but he played catch without pain or soreness. He'll try to do the same from a longer distance on Friday, he said.
Rodney characterized the move as preventative when asked Thursday afternoon.
Given the struggles from last season, there's plenty to try to prevent. He felt stiffness in his neck while throwing last spring but didn't report it to medical officials until his velocity dropped and his control waned in mid-April. Then came biceps tendinitis, which led to a stint on the disabled list from late May into early June. A few weeks later, he was back on the DL with a sore forearm and shoulder.
Once he returned in early August, Rodney was effective, posting a 2.82 ERA with 29 strikeouts, 16 hits, no home runs and a .208 batting average allowed over 22 1/3 innings. It was the process of getting him back to health that was the trouble.
He becomes the first example of how the Tigers want to take care of smaller injuries before they grow worse. Other players who were injured last year are also being watched closely, and Leyland has explained to players why he doesn't want them hiding minor injuries and trying to play hurt.
Speaking of Zumaya: Leyland sounded an optimistic tone that Zumaya will return at full strength following his surgery last November.
"I think Zumaya's going to be a great pitcher," Leyland said. "I think a couple things have happened to him. I think this will be the last, and he'll move on.
"We're going to get Zumaya back, but it's going to take a while."
Zumaya continues to work out mostly on his own while he rehabs his shoulder. He could stay back in Lakeland when the season starts to continue his workouts in a warmer climate for his arm than Detroit.
The Tigers are still selling partial season-ticket packages of 27 and 41 games. Those packages on sale, however, will not include Opening Day tickets, instead offering an additional game against the Red Sox or Yankees.
Single-game tickets will go on sale March 1.
Eighth is enough: Beyond Rodney, Leyland would like to have one more pitcher capable of getting big outs in the eighth inning, since he can't use Rodney every day. He believes the Tigers can find someone from the group they have in camp now.
Two pitchers whom Leyland sees as capable of taking the next step in their careers are Zach Miner and Jason Grilli. Leyland has been impressed so far with Miner's sinker in side sessions.
"You never know if sinkerballers are going to be great pitchers or not," Leyland said, "but one thing about it, they usually find their way to the big leagues [if they're effective]."
On Grilli, Leyland said, "The capability's there," noting his mid-90s velocity at times last season.
The next step Leyland describes for pitchers deals with approach, concentration and how to deal with hitters.
"They don't have to grow by leaps and bounds. Nobody on this team does," Leyland said. "Just maximize your ability and get a little better."
Blistered Magglio: The only other injury at this point is a minor one with Magglio Ordonez. He has a blister on his left hand that is limiting his swinging, but it is not expected to be a lingering issue.
Quotable: "I've never seen so many line drives off the fence today in my life. We must've banged the fence on that one field 15-20 times." -- Leyland, on batting practice Thursday
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.