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Archive for Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Old-timers too much in opener

Leyland leans on veteran left-hander Rogers for first victory since 1999

April 4, 2006

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— Jim Leyland, back with the team that signed him in 1963, won his first game as the Detroit Tigers' manager with the help of another old newcomer.

Forty-one-year-old left-hander Kenny Rogers combined with two relievers on a four-hitter, Chris Shelton homered twice, and the Tigers gave their 61-year-old manager a 3-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Monday.

Leyland, who replaced Alan Trammell after last season, acknowledged more than a few jitters as he managed in the major leagues for the first time since he quit the Colorado Rockies in 1999.

"It's your heart, blowing out of your shirt, that's what it is," Leyland said, putting his hand inside his jersey and flapping it for emphasis. "Nobody's calm in that situation. They may say they are. They may look calm, but their heart's pounding.

Carlos Guillen also homered for the Tigers, and Fernando Rodney got the save in his first game as closer in place of injured Todd Jones.

Rogers left Texas after a stormy season in which he was suspended for 13 games after shoving two television cameramen. He gave up one run and three hits in six innings, struck out five and walked none.

"I really try not to get focused in on all the other outside distractions," Rogers said. "I just try to do what I'm capable of doing, make the pitches I'm capable of making and do it at the right time."

He faced the minimum nine batters through the first three innings, with a double play wiping out Angel Berroa's third-inning infield single. Rogers gave up a tying, two-out RBI single to Reggie Sanders in the fourth.

Kansas City Royals first basemanDoug Mientkiewicz (11) tags out Detroit Tigers' Craig Monroe (27) during the eighth inning of their opening day baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, April 3, 2006. Mientkiewicz made the tag after being pulled off the bag by a high throw.

Kansas City Royals first basemanDoug Mientkiewicz (11) tags out Detroit Tigers' Craig Monroe (27) during the eighth inning of their opening day baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, April 3, 2006. Mientkiewicz made the tag after being pulled off the bag by a high throw.

"We couldn't do a lot of things offensively," Royals manager Buddy Bell said, "and the biggest reason was Kenny Rogers."

Joel Zumaya made his major league debut when he relieved Rogers, whose upper back was getting tight, to start the seventh. Zumaya gave up a leadoff walk and Doug Mientkiewicz's two-out single, but he escaped when he got Berroa to ground into a forceout.

"They said, 'Zumaya, you're in,' and I was like, 'Holy smoke,"' Zumaya said. "I got warmed up as fast as I could, got out there and did what I had to do."

Rodney worked a hitless ninth for his 13th career save. Jones, who returned to Detroit during the offseason, aggravated a hamstring injury last weekend and went on the disabled list.

Shelton hit two go-ahead solo homers off loser Scott Elarton, Shelton's first career multihomer game, and finished 3-for-4. Only a leaping grab by second baseman Mark Grudzielanek on Shelton's eighth-inning liner kept him from going 4-for-4.

Shelton's drive into the left-field stands in the fourth put the Tigers up 1-0, and he lined a pitch from Elarton just above the fence and just inside the right-field foul pole with two outs in the sixth to make it 2-1.

"He's a very good hitter. I've faced him quite a bit in the past," Elarton said. "I just didn't make my pitches. I feel like if I can make my pitches, I can get him out."

Shelton gave Detroit a multihomer game in the opener for the second straight season. Last year at Comerica Park, Dmitri Young had three homers in the Tigers' 11-2 victory over the Royals.

Fans cheer a Kansas City Royals run during the team's baseball home opener against the Detroit Tigers Monday, April 3, 2006, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Detroit won the game 3-1.

Fans cheer a Kansas City Royals run during the team's baseball home opener against the Detroit Tigers Monday, April 3, 2006, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Detroit won the game 3-1.

"Yeah, that was in the back of my mind a little bit," Shelton said.

Guillen's solo homer in the eighth against Andrew Sisco gave Detroit a 3-1 lead.

Elarton, Cleveland's No. 5 starter a year ago, gave up two runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Notes: Royals C John Buck will wear No. 14 this season after wearing No. 2 since joining the team in mid-2004. Buck wore No. 14 through the minors in tribute to his late brother, Paul, who was born on April 14. Tony Graffanino, who wore No. 14 for the Royals until being traded away, has since returned to the club and now wears Buck's old No. 2. ... Detroit's Brandon Inge had two hits but was thrown out twice at second - the second time when he blew an easy steal by sliding too early and coming up short of the bag. ... Kansas City's Elmer Dessens struck out three of his four batters. ... The Tigers are 3-2 against the Royals in openers.

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