Leyland 'still has the fire' as Tigers manager
In wake of extension, baseball lifer states rejuvenation in Detroit
CLEVELAND -- Jim Leyland was in his office Tuesday afternoon, talking about his contract extension, when Miguel Cabrera popped his head into the doorway and congratulated him.
"Well," Leyland joked afterward, "at least one of them's happy."
The support for another season of Leyland was widespread in the wake of Monday's announcement, which was big for him in more ways than one. If the players didn't want him around, if they didn't get a benefit from his work, he probably wouldn't be in this position. But Leyland also indicated he has been rejuvenated from working with them.
The Tigers have become a younger team since Leyland's first year in 2006, but Leyland -- despite a reputation as a veteran's manager -- seems to enjoy it.
"I'm really loving seeing [Andy] Dirks and [Brennan] Boesch and these new kids break in," Leyland said, "and that's how I know I've still got the fire. I can relate to those guys. I think they can relate to me. I know they know I'm old and I've been around, but I don't think they think of me as an old man. I hope they don't, because I can rap with those guys. I know how to talk them, I think. I'm proud of that."
His players might not use the same terminology, but they echoed the feeling. At age 26, Boesch is 40 years younger but said Leyland bridges the two-generation gap.
"He has a lot of energy," Boesch said. "He brings energy to the club every day. For me, his door's been open every day. I think having a son, too, at a similar age [helps]. I don't think he's that far removed from where we are as young players.
"A manager's job is to do what he needs to do to win the game. But I think what's best is also caring for the person. And I think I can speak for guys here that we're lucky to have that."
Leyland is the only manager that eight of his players have ever known in the big leagues, while others, including Justin Verlander, have come into the prime of their careers with Leyland at the helm.
"I think Jim and Dave [Dombrowski] have gone a great job since I've been here," Verlander said. "They've been together since I've been here, so I've really got nothing to compare it to, except to see the product they put on the field and the way Jim handles everybody in this clubhouse and what I hear other guys say when they come in. So I'm definitely excited."
Leyland still has the fire to manage for a lot of reasons, the chance to win foremost among them. If and when he loses that, he said, he won't be managing anymore, which is why he has no problem going year to year on his contract.
He still remembers what happened in Colorado, when he stepped aside after one season of a lengthy contract because it wasn't fun for him. He doesn't want that to happen again. Leyland doesn't think it will, but at 66, he doesn't want to risk it.
"If I did not have the fire, I would not be back next year, I can promise you that," Leyland said. "But I think this is going to be a good situation next year. We've got a good team. Right now, I've got my health."
After day home, Peralta faces former club
CLEVELAND -- For most of the Tigers, Monday was the calm before the storm of their most recent late-season division clash, an off-day ahead of three games against the Indians. For Jhonny Peralta, it was a day at home.
The place Peralta and his wife purchased in Cleveland while he played there is still home, even if they don't spend much time there anymore. The kitchen is still stocked, and the bed is still a lot more comfortable than what he would find in a hotel on the rest of Detroit's road trips. The faces they see are still family.
So while some took advantage of promixity and spent Monday's off-day back in Michigan, Peralta reconnected. Come Tuesday, he made the same drive to Progressive Field he did for years when he was in the Indians' infield.
From there, he'll try to break Clevelanders' hearts again and deny some old teammates the chance at the postseason. That's his job, and he made his peace with it a long time ago.
"If you win these games, you're more excited," Peralta said.
Peralta is one of two Tigers who were part of the Indians' last playoff team in 2007, which came within a game of the World Series before the Red Sox beat them in three straight games to take the American League Championship Series.
Two struggling seasons later, Victor Martinez was traded to the Red Sox for a package of young talent that included Tuesday's starter, Justin Masterson. Peralta's trade to Detroit last year, by contrast, was a one-for-one swap.
"It's different, because a lot of the fans over there, they don't believe in how I can do it," Peralta said. "And I want to win over there. But it's baseball."
V-Mart back in Tigers' lineup vs. Indians
CLEVELAND -- As expected, Victor Martinez returned to the Tigers' lineup Tuesday, three days after spraining his left knee on a play at the plate in Kansas City. Manager Jim Leyland said his designated hitter/backup catcher checked out all right on Monday's off-day.
Martinez was in his usual spot, batting fifth behind Miguel Cabrera.
The one question remaining for Martinez is when he can catch again, which could become a question for the Tigers on Wednesday. Alex Avila caught every inning of the series in Kansas City, then all 14 innings Tuesday.
Avila had a chance to go home to Michigan on Monday's off-day and rest, which he said did a lot of good. Still, he had a long night Tuesday.
"I'm pretty tired," Avila said, "but I'll be ready to go [Wednesday]."
Leyland wasn't going to commit to any plan in the moments after the game.
"That's one I'll have to think about," Leyland said. "That's a tough one."
Tigers agree with top Draft pick McCann
CLEVELAND -- For the first time in a while, the Tigers won't go to the Draft Signing Deadline with their top pick yet to sign. This was the rare year when the Tigers didn't have a first-round pick. Still, Detroit's deal with second-rounder James McCann takes away some last-minute work.
The Tigers announced Tuesday that they've agreed to terms with McCann, a catcher out of the University of Arkansas who went with the 76th overall selection in the First-Year Player Draft. Terms weren't disclosed, but Baseball America reported the deal included a signing bonus of just under $578,000.
The deal means the Tigers have agreed to terms with 31 of their 50 draft picks, including their top 13 selections. Their highest pick yet to sign is 15th-rounder Tyler Gibson, a Georgia high school outfielder who is weighing a chance to play college ball at Georgia Tech.
Teams have until 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Aug. 16, to come to terms with their draftees, meaning official notification has to be in the Commissioner's Office when the clock strikes midnight. A team that does not sign its first- or second-round pick will receive a compensatory pick in the 2012 Draft. That selection will come at the same slot, plus one. In other words, if a team doesn't sign the No. 9 overall pick, it would receive the No. 10 pick -- technically 9A -- the following year. A team does not receive a 2012 pick if it does not come to terms with a selection made with a compensation pick this year.