DETROIT (AP) -The Tigers went into an offseason that started sooner than they wanted with plenty of hope.
They have to make some key decisions and wait for two pitchers to decide whether they want to come back.
The first big choice is whether to exercise a $13 million option on All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez or give him a $3 million buyout.
``Everybody knows it's an important decision for us,'' club president Dave Dombrowski said Monday.
The Tigers have up to 10 days after the World Series to make up their mind, and Dombrowski said the ballclub might use all of that time.
Also in November, Dombrowski hopes to hear that starting pitcher Kenny Rogers and closer Todd Jones want to return instead of leaving as free agents.
``Our first preference is to have Kenny back, and we've told him,'' Dombrowski said.
Rogers has made it clear that he wants to return. But the left-hander said it's not that simple, because he turns 43 on Nov. 10 and his wife and their children still live in Texas.
``Playing for the Tigers again is by far my first preference - if I play next year,'' he said. ``My family and I will not discuss the possibility of me playing next year, though, until I feel the itch.''
Dombrowski said the team told Jones it wanted him back. He would start the season as the closer and perhaps finish as a setup man if Joel Zumaya is ready to replace him.
During the final homestand, Jones said he was looking forward to being a free agent, but also expressed thanks for everything the Tigers did for him during his second stint with the team.
``They gave me two years when no one else would, and they gave me a lot of money,'' he said. ``It's been a great time. Will it continue? I don't know.''
Detroit does know it will be shopping for an everyday shortstop after choosing to shift Carlos Guillen to first base, a move that led to the team telling Sean Casey he will not be back. Dombrowski also wants to add an everyday left fielder, preferably with a left-handed bat.
Manager Jim Leyland hoped to leave a meeting Monday with a one-year extension, keeping him under contract through 2009. But owner Mike Ilitch was out of town attending a funeral, limiting Dombrowski's ability to seal a new deal.
Even if the Tigers don't reach all of their offseason goals, they seem to have a shot at being a playoff contender again in 2008 because of a solid nucleus.
Magglio Ordonez had an MVP-like year, becoming the first Tiger to win a batting title since 1961.
Curtis Granderson joined the likes of Willie Mays in an exclusive club of players with at least 20 stolen bases, 20 homer, 20 triples and 20 doubles in a season.
Justin Verlander, coming off the AL Rookie of the Year award, threw a no-hitter.
Placido Polanco set a record for errorless games as a second baseman while hitting .341, trailing only Ordonez and Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki in the league.
The Tigers did, however, fall short of earning a chance to defend their pennant.
Injuries were a factor, but Detroit also took a step back because some players didn't match the seasons they had in 2006, when the franchise had its first winning season since 1993 and advanced to the World Series for the first time since 1984.
The Tigers overcame injuries well enough to have baseball's best record on July 21. But they hit a slump and didn't bounce back until it was too late to catch Cleveland in the AL Central or the New York Yankees in the wild-card race.
``We didn't do enough, but I sure don't think we did bad,'' Leyland said.
Detroit was seven games under .500 after leading the majors with a 58-37 record. That lackluster record essentially proved to be the difference between returning to the playoffs and watching them.
Right-handed pitchers Jeremy Bonderman and Fernando Rodney along with third baseman Brandon Inge and outfielder Craig Monroe, who was dealt during the season, simply could not put up the same numbers they did in 2006.
``I underperformed - bottom line,'' said Bonderman, who finished 11-9 after a strong start. ``I started good, but I didn't finish good and I'm not going to use my elbow injury as an excuse.''

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