DETROIT (AP) -The Detroit Tigers were represented by five players and their manager at the All-Star game in San Francisco, not long after they had somebody in the midsummer classic only because of baseball's rule
It's easy for some to forget that just 1 1/2 years ago nothing was expected from the Tigers. In 2003, they had one All-Star for the ninth straight year and went on to lose an AL-record 119 games.
All-Star shortstop Carlos Guillen said credit for the stunning turnaround doesn't belong in the clubhouse.
``It's all about the front office with Dave Dombrowski and Al Avila,'' Guillen said. ``And, Mr. Ilitch.
``They put this team together.''
Team owner Mike Ilitch, embarrassed about his franchise hitting rock bottom four years ago, decided he was going to spend his way out of trouble by signing All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez in 2004, and All-Star outfielder Magglio Ordonez, pitcher Kenny Rogers and slugger Gary Sheffield in the following offseasons.
Ilitch felt relatively comfortable with his decision to spend tens of millions because of the person distributing the cash: Dombrowski.
Like he did in Florida, Dombrowski has built a winner. Unlike his stay with the Marlins, he didn't have to slash his payroll after reaching the World Series.
``Dombrowski is amazing,'' Guillen said.
The team president and general manager might add to his impressive list of moves later this month, if the bullpen doesn't improve.
Dombrowski said setup men Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, both on the DL with injuries, were scheduled to throw on Thursday in another step toward helping the Tigers.
``The focus will be on our bullpen, which has been better recently,'' Dombrowski said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. ``We've made some minor changes to make us a little better, but the key will be the health of Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya. We need either one of them, or both ideally, to come back to fill the eighth-inning role before Todd Jones.
``When the trading deadline comes at the end of the month, how they're feeling will factor into what we do.''
Despite injuries to Zumaya, Rodney and starters Rogers and Nate Robertson, the Tigers (52-34) came out of the All-Star game just a half-game behind Boston for the best record in the majors and a game ahead of Cleveland in the AL Central.
Manager Jim Leyland said he's proud of his team for competing through injuries, but said things are just revving up.
The Tigers play their first game after the break in Seattle before going to Minnesota. They play just three more home games in July after closing the final two months with a lot of games at Comerica Park, which has been packed for much of the year.
Detroit has scored 41 more runs than any other team in baseball with players like All-Star Placido Polanco, Ordonez and Sheffield having outstanding seasons at the plate.
``Top to bottom, this is a lineup no pitcher wants to see,'' Sheffield said.
Starting pitching has been strong, led by All-Star Justin Verlander - highlighted by his no-hitter last month - and Jeremy Bonderman, who have combined for a 19-4 record.
``We're a solid team, there's no question about that,'' said Dombrowski, who planned to watch prospects at Triple-A Toledo and Double-A Erie over the next week. ``If we stay healthy in the second half, we have a good chance to be competitive.''
If the Tigers don't stay healthy, Dombrowski will likely make moves to keep their championship window open. But on Tuesday night he put business on hold, and watched the All-Star game at his suburban Detroit home with his wife and two kids.
``It was really nice to watch the game with my family,'' he said. ``Our children stayed up as late as they could, then my wife and I watched the rest.
``I used to go to the All-Star game, but there are not many GMs that go anymore and we obviously had plenty of representation in San Francisco.''
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