CHICAGO -- Jim Leyland found early success managing in Pittsburgh behind a pitching staff fronted by Doug Drabek. He won his World Series title in Florida with help from the gifted right arm of hyper-competitive Kevin Brown and the precise left arm of Al Leiter. But not surprisingly, Justin Verlander has quickly climbed the list of Leyland's pitching greats, turning potential into performance.
"He's got the best stuff of anybody I ever managed," Leyland said without hesitation.
Until recently, Brown was at the top of that list. That doesn't make either one of them the best pitcher, period, at least not yet for Verlander. But it puts him in position for it.
"Drabek was probably the best pitcher," Leyland said, "but Verlander's got the best stuff, without question."
Saturday's game, Leyland argued, was a perfect example of the learning process Verlander has been undertaking. When he took a step back following ball three to Carlos Quentin with runners at the corners and one out in the eighth, composed himself and fired back with a fastball on the other corner for the strikeout, he managed to control his energy.
Jackson may be ready for summer turnaround
DETROIT -- Austin Jackson began Saturday night by taking advantage of an Edwin Jackson slip for a leadoff infield single. He ended it coming within feet of a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning, settling for a leadoff triple. Add in a fourth-inning single and no strikeouts, and it was Jackson's best game at the plate in four weeks.
It raised Jackson's average for the season nine points to .233, his highest since May 19. And it's furthering Leyland's belief that Jackson's slow start is behind him.
"He did OK," Leyland said. "He did all right."
After a blistering pace for strikeouts, Jackson went back-to-back games without one before striking out three times Sunday against Jake Peavy and the White Sox bullpen. He had seven strikeouts in his previous 11 games, still high but a far cry from his previous pace of more than a strikeout per game and a potential 200-strikeout season.
He batted 10-for-36 in that 11-game stretch, along with five walks for a .381 on-base percentage. Jackson finished Sunday's 7-3 victory over Chicago 1-for-5.
Magglio likely to join Tigers on Tuesday
CHICAGO -- Magglio Ordonez went 1-for-4 in his third rehab game for Triple-A Toledo on Sunday. But he's going to take one more day with the Mud Hens before hopefully rejoining the Tigers on Tuesday in Texas.
That's fine with manager Jim Leyland, who wants Ordonez back in form in his lineup but also said Ordonez would determine how much time he needs to get ready.
"Magglio's playing in Triple-A," Leyland said. "He's going to play tomorrow there."
Ordonez, who has been on the disabled list since May 11 with right ankle weakness, went 4-for-12 in three games this weekend at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But two of those hits were long shots off the fence, including a reported drive to the 371-foot sign in left-center field on Sunday. He was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double, but the aggressiveness suggests some confidence in the ankle.
Ordonez's other three at-bats Sunday were flyouts.
Once Ordonez returns, the Tigers could either option catcher Omir Santos or lefty reliever Adam Wilk to Toledo.
Wilk's bags likely to stay packed
CHICAGO -- The suitcases were rolling through the visiting clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field on Sunday, a travel day for the Tigers, who head to Texas for a three-game series. Then there was Adam Wilk.
Loaded down with a huge rolling suitcase, another bag stacked on top, plus a large backpack over his shoulders, Wilk rolled into the park on Sunday morning, fresh off a commuter plane to O'Hare Airport. He shook hands, rolled his suitcase around as he tried to find his locker, then settled in.
Looking at his luggage, it would be nearly impossible to figure his second stint in the big leagues might last only a day or two.
The Tigers called up Wilk from Triple-A Toledo after Saturday night's win as an extra reliever to fill in for David Purcey, who left the team on Saturday to be with his wife for the birth of their twins. Wilk survived one roster move on Sunday when the Tigers optioned Andy Oliver to Toledo to make room for Purcey's return from the paternity leave list on Monday.
It will likely be a temporary reprieve. Phil Coke will be activated from the disabled list on Wednesday to start against the Rangers, and Magglio Ordonez is poised to be activated from the disabled list within the next couple days.
Regardless, Wilk is on borrowed time. He had to fly on Sunday morning because there were no Saturday evening flights to Chicago from Scranton, Pa., where the Mud Hens are playing this weekend. He could fly to Texas with the team, or he could hop another flight to Toledo.
"I just try not to think about that," said Wilk, who was scheduled to start for the Mud Hens on Sunday before the callup. "Like [manager Jim Leyland] told me the last time, this could be short, or things could change and it could be long."
Kelly's utility fills Tigers' void at third
CHICAGO -- Don Kelly brought all his different gloves on the Tigers' road trip, because he usually never knows where he's going to be called on to play in the field. With third baseman Brandon Inge out for the foreseeable future with mononucleosis, he now has a pretty good idea.
There's no place else he can try a throw across the infield from his knees, like he did Sunday following a diving stop down the line to rob Alexei Ramirez of a fifth-inning hit.
"Third is just straight reaction," Kelly said. "Normally at [other spots], it takes a while for the ball to get to you."
Kelly started at third base on Saturday before moving out to right field as a defensive replacement once the Tigers grabbed the lead in the ninth inning. With White Sox right-hander Jake Peavy on the mound for the series finale, the left-handed hitter was back in the lineup on Sunday, as he'll likely be for two of the three games in Texas against Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando.
He came up with the one highlight stop, which manager Jim Leyland argued should be a top 10 play, and nearly had another later had his throw gotten to first a split-second faster.
After an opening inning Sunday that saw three balls hit his way for base hits, one a Carlos Quentin double he barely missed, the plays provided some redemption.
"You definitely want to help the pitcher out, especially on a ball that should be, could be a hit," Kelly said. "To be able to get the one ball and to keep them on first in the ninth is nice."
His new job is much less utility and much more playing time, but he said he'll continue to take ground balls and fly balls around the infield.
"You still go about your business the same way," Kelly said.
Manager Jim Leyland went out of his way to praise Kelly's work after Saturday's win. He did it again on Sunday.
"A lot of people don't see [the work he puts in]," Leyland said. "They turn the game on at 7:05. It pays dividends later on if you work at it."