Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tigers Jim Leyland Denies Smoking Seven Packs

As his team weaved and bobbed throughout the early part of the season, an often agitated, surly and defensive Jim Leyland was observed lighting up one cigarette after another, furiously straining hot, toxic smoke through his yellowed teeth and generally disregarding any sort of reasonable outlook for his long-term health.

But six or seven packs a day? No, says the 67-year-old Tigers manager, not even close.

"It's only about a pack and a half, and I don't smoke all of those (completely), so it's only about a pack," Leyland said in an interview with WSER Radio .670 during a recent stopover in Chicago.

Leyland, whose team has been playing well lately, said the Tigers problems -- though mysterious to many -- are common in baseball and have more to do with blocks of personnel going through momentary sluggishness simultaneously than fundamental shortcomings of the whole. It's part of a normal process to rotate individuals -- either through attrition, need for development or injuries -- throughout the year to react to productivity declines, Leyland said.

"It's all just part of the process," Leyland said.

Having just demoted reliever Clay Rapada to Triple-A Toledo, Leyland must now find room for relievers Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, who will considerably brighten the team's outlook as they come back from injuries. Reliever Freddy Dolsi likely will be ticketed to Toledo to make room for the two budding bullpen stars, one of whom will sooner or later replace veteran closer Todd Jones.