Tigers' rotation to get a boost with Rogers' return; Sheffield's status uncertain
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Kenny Rogers is returning to the Tigers' rotation for the September stretch run.
Rogers is scheduled to start Wednesday's home game against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park, which will be the first outing for the left-hander in more than a month. Rogers went on the 15-day disabled list for the second time this season July 26 with inflammation in his left elbow.
"I think any time you get a guy like that back, it's certainly good for morale," manager Jim Leyland said Sunday before the series finale against the Oakland Athletics. "A lot of that depends on if he's healthy and performing."
The 42-year-old Rogers, who threw a bullpen session Sunday, is 3-2 with a 5.23 ERA this season in only 32 2/3 innings because of injuries. He began the season on the DL after having surgery March 30 to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder and repair arteries.
His last start was July 25 against the White Sox and he lasted four innings. Rogers has not gone longer than 6 1/3 innings in six 2007 starts, and Leyland wasn't about to guess the number of pitches Rogers might throw in his first start back.
"That's a great question," Leyland said. "He doesn't seem to think fatigue will be a factor. If he can locate, he doesn't think fatigue and stamina will be a big deal. Who knows?"
Rogers won 17 games in his first season with the Tigers in 2006, helping Detroit reach the World Series. He has 13 or more victories in each of the past five seasons, including an 18-win campaign in 2004 for Texas. He left the Rangers following the 2005 season.
Leyland wasn't ready to look beyond Rogers' first outing back. He spoke with the pitcher before he threw Sunday and Rogers told Leyland he could go as soon as Tuesday, but Jeremy Bonderman is going in the opener against Chicago.
"I don't know how it's going to play out," the skipper said. "It could all blow up like it has all year."
Meanwhile, outfielder Gary Sheffield was continuing to rehab his injured right shoulder that landed him on the DL on Aug. 22. Leyland wasn't sure whether Sheffield would be ready to be activated Thursday when he's eligible.
"No question we need to get Sheffield back and Kenny back pitching," Leyland said. "If we do that, we'll have a shot."
The Tigers' toughest road trips are behind them, too. They begin a 10-game homestand Tuesday that includes a doubleheader with the Rangers on Sept. 11. Detroit still has a six-game trip to Minnesota and Cleveland, then three games to end the year at Chicago.
"It's fine if we play good at home," Leyland said. "We haven't played good at home. We have to play better at home."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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