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Continued: Twins: A year later, a year better ... Tigers will be tough to catch

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 16, 2007 - 9:55 PM

Bonderman is 10-1. Justin Verlander is 11-3. At age 42, Kenny Rogers (3-1) is back from surgery to remove a blood clot from his left shoulder. And while tonight's starter, Nate Robertson (5-6), has struggled, rookie Andrew Miller's emergence allowed Detroit to trade soft-tossing Mike Maroth to St. Louis.

"We know we've got a good team," Verlander said. "And the best part about it is we like each other, and we just play and have fun. If we can do that, I think we should have a good second half."

As Bush knows, the bullpen has been this team's one question mark. Zumaya has been out since early May because of a ruptured finger tendon, and Fernando Rodney has been on the disabled list twice because of right arm issues. The Tigers hope both can return to the mound by mid-August.

Meantime, Detroit has found ways to patch the holes. Former starters Chad Durbin and Zach Miner have moved to relief roles and been increasingly effective.

The Tigers also miss lefthander Jamie Walker from last year's World Series team, but now they have Bobby Seay and Macay McBride (obtained from Atlanta) pitching well from the left side.

The beleaguered bullpen recently ran off a string of 16 2/3 scoreless innings. On June 28, Tigers relievers ranked third to last in the majors with a 5.25 ERA, but that number has since been trimmed to 4.75.

Remember, the Tigers overcame last year's late-season collapse, defeating the Yankees and A's en route to the World Series.

"I think we learned a lot just going through those situations," Verlander said. "Anything we come across this year -- adversity, and playing under pressure situations -- I think all those experiences helped us."

Now expectations are high. Even from the Oval Office.

Joe Christensen • jchristensen@startribune.com

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Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter 13 FINAL
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San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 9 FINAL
San Francisco - LP: C. Heston 1
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