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Without opponent, Detroit in limbo



Published: Wed, October 18, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Tigers open the World Series at home on Saturday.

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers are starting to feel like a football team.

After winning the American League pennant on Magglio Ordonez's walk-off homer in Saturday's Game 4 against Oakland, the Tigers get a week off before Game 1 of the World Series.

They even practiced at a football stadium Tuesday at the end of a brief vacation.

"This is getting a little boring," rookie starter Justin Verlander said. "You don't get breaks like this during the regular season, so we aren't used to it. Still, as much of a blur as this season has been, especially being a rookie, it gives me a chance to spend a couple days thinking about everything that has happened."

Back to work

The team got Sunday and Monday off before returning to Comerica Park on Tuesday, and at least one player used the time to recover from Saturday's wild celebration.

"I spent most of the last two days sleeping," reliever Jamie Walker said. "We're all getting some much-needed rest."

Because of rain, the team trekked across Brush Street to work out at Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions and last February's Super Bowl.

"We can run over there and throw, and we'll set up a temporary infield to practice bunts," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, whose team opens the World Series at home Saturday. "That's going to be important, because three of our pitchers will have to be ready to do that when we go to the National League park."

Leyland wouldn't say which of his four starters definitely won't be batting, but Jeremy Bonderman is 0-for-19 with 12 strikeouts in his career, and has never managed a sacrifice.

Most of the players have been watching the NLCS, which is tied 2-2 after four games and two rainouts.

"This way we can do a little early scouting," Brandon Inge said. "I get frustrated watching baseball on TV sometimes, because of the commentators, but this lets us get a step ahead of whoever we play."

Leyland's opinion

Leyland says the week off can help his team, especially injured players like Sean Casey and Joel Zumaya, but he wishes he knew the Tigers' opponent.

"That's the disadvantage -- we have to prepare for both the Mets and Cardinals," said Leyland, who acknowledged that his pitching rotation will change depending on the opponent. "They aren't vastly different, but there are things we will want to change if we are playing one or the other."

Casey (calf) and Zumaya (wrist) insisted after Saturday's victory that they would be ready for the World Series.

"Zumaya's going to be fine, and I think Casey has a very good chance to be fine," Leyland said. "I'm not totally convinced on that one, though. Not as convinced as he is, anyway."

Leyland has an apparent rooting interest in the NLCS -- he spent several seasons as an adviser for the Cardinals and is a close friend of St. Louis manager Tony La Russa -- but he isn't going to discuss it.

"I'm not getting into that," he said. "And if we do end up playing the Cardinals -- and I'm not saying we will -- I'm not going to talk about Tony. I'm just not going to do this. This isn't about me. This is about the players."

His favorite

Placido Polanco, who played for the Cardinals from 1998-02, isn't hiding his feelings, though.

"I'm absolutely cheering for the Cardinals -- I want to play against [Albert] Pujols," he said. "That guy is like a brother to me."

The Tigers are planning to work out again today -- at Comerica Park, if the weather allows it -- before taking off Thursday off. Both teams are expected to practice at Comerica on Friday, the day before the World Series starts.

"We're waiting for a great team either way," Leyland said. "It's only Tuesday, and we don't play until Saturday, but I'm not worried about us losing our edge. This is the World Series."

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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