Players-only visit looks to stem pressure
After losing nine of 11, Tigers focusing on relaxing at the plate
KANSAS CITY -- After all the Tigers' struggles the last couple weeks, the Tigers held a team meeting on Thursday. This one, however, came from the players, not the manager.
Tigers players met on their own in the visiting clubhouse at Kauffman Stadium for a lengthy gathering Thursday morning prior to their series finale against the Royals. The get-together was supposedly called on short notice after back-to-back losses in the first two games of the series, including a 2-0 shutout Wednesday night.
The Tigers entered Thursday having lost nine of their last 11 games. Their 16-24 record put them in the American League Central cellar, five games back of the first-place Twins, and just one game out of the AL's worst record. Seattle entered Thursday with a 16-26 record. Only Colorado and San Diego had fewer wins in the Majors, with 15 each.
"Guys want to sit down and figure it out," closer Todd Jones said after Thursday's 8-4 loss. "A lot of things, when you hear them coming from guys on the team, it holds a lot more importance than when they come from other people.
"It's like rehab. You acknowledge the problem. That's the first step, and you go from there, I guess. We just have to figure it out."
By all appearances, it was not a meeting high on tension. Players were generally in a good mood after the clubhouse was opened back up to the media.
That goes in line with part of the meeting's supposed focus -- to get players and teammates to relax, especially at the plate, and not feel like they have to put the pressure of the team's struggles all on their shoulders. Manager Jim Leyland said earlier this week that he has talked with his hitters to make sure they aren't pressing or trying to do too much.
"We need to relax and play better," said infielder Ramon Santiago, who started at shortstop on Thursday. "We know we're capable of playing better than we've been playing. Don't feel like you have to do everything [yourself] and be a superhero. Everybody's a team. Everybody's got to do his part.
"We just need to be a group, together. We know we're capable of playing better, but we still have a long season to go. We can pick it up and do special things. It's not over yet. It's a long season, and we can turn this year around if we play together."
Hearing the same message from various players, and making sure everybody was on the same page, was the point.
"We've got problems here," Jones said. "We've got to try to figure it out. Guys are wracking their heads."
Asked how long they've been wracking their heads, Jones said, "How long are 7-Elevens open?"
The Tigers are not a team that meets frequently, with or without the manager's involvement. Leyland had a postgame meeting with his players last month after a loss at Chicago, supposedly to focus on better at-bats. Aside from that, however, he has not met to yell or scream at his club. If anything, he has tried to serve as a confidence booster over the last week and a half. One way or the other, he does not organize many meetings over the course of a season.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.