CHICAGO -- When asked about his bullpen's recent performance, Tigers manager Jim Leyland offered an understated description that maybe would not have been apt at other points of the season.
"Pretty good," Leyland said.
Detroit's relief corps has long been thought of as the first-place team's weakness, but it was a strong point in the weekend series against the Royals.
Drew Smyly, Bruce Rondon, Joaquin Benoit, Al Alburquerque and Phil Coke combined to throw 7 2/3 innings of shutout ball. None of them walked a batter.
"That's always a common denominator," Leyland said of his bullpen's strike throwing. "But there's a difference between strikes and quality strikes."
Neither Smyly, whom Leyland said would not be available Monday night, nor Benoit has allowed a run in their last five outings. Rondon struck out four in his last three appearances, spanning 3 2/3 perfect innings.
"He's taken baby steps. He's doing fine," Leyland said of the rookie Rondon, who is in his second Major League stint this year. "He's taken some nice steps, but he's a young guy so you're going to get some positive steps and some negative ones every once in a while. But hopefully the positives outweigh the negatives and eventually we'll get over the hump."
Infante may not return until weekend
CHICAGO -- It appears as if another series will pass before Omar Infante can rejoin the Tigers.
Detroit initially hoped to have the second baseman back for the Royals series out of the All-Star break, but it appears Infante won't be ready for this week's four-game set against the White Sox, either. He lost a day to travel issues this weekend, and manager Jim Leyland said Monday that the Tigers haven't scheduled any further plans for a rehab outing.
Leyland said Infante was evaluated on Sunday and would be checked out again on Monday.
"We're hoping maybe we can get him out and have him ready for the weekend, but that might be wishful thinking," Leyland said.
The Tigers would have liked to have Infante back in the lineup against Chicago lefties Chris Sale (Monday), Hector Santiago (Tuesday) and John Danks (Wednesday). Instead, rookie fill-in Hernan Perez will see extended time in the lineup.
Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said over the weekend that Infante has been running at half-speed and fielding ground balls side to side, and had begun taking batting practice. The second baseman, injured by a hard takeout slide by Toronto's Colby Rasmus early this month, will need to run at full speed to be ready for a rehab assignment.
Jackson to get extra work against lefties
CHICAGO -- The Tigers expect to see a plethora of lefties this week in Chicago -- the first three White Sox starters in the series are southpaws -- which has meant trouble lately for Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson.
Jackson is batting .272 this year after a .300 campaign last season, and just .159 against lefties heading into the four-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.
"We might have him take some extra hitting off [Ed Hodge] because he hasn't done very well against left-handed pitching, so we're going to tell [hitting coach Lloyd McClendon] to set some stuff up for Hodge to throw to him a little bit," manager Jim Leyland said.
The Tigers brought in Hodge this year for the purpose of throwing left-handed batting practice. Jackson is a career. 292 hitter against righties and a .246 hitter against southpaws.
"Overall, he's got to get it going. That's all," Leyland said. "And he'll get it going."
• Left-handed reliever Darin Downs, now eligible to return from the disabled list from his left rotator cuff tendinitis, was scheduled to throw in the batting cages with live hitters standing in on Monday afternoon.
• Leyland has said since the teams' last meeting that he doesn't expect any bad blood between the Tigers and the White Sox (specifically, pitcher Chris Sale, who reached out to Leyland at last week's All-Star Game) following ejections in the first series. In fact, Leyland had great things to say about White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who was on Leyland's All-Star Game staff in New York.
"He's the salt of the earth, he's just a total professional," Leyland said of Ventura. "He doesn't get too excited and just a really great guy. We had a great time. We had a lot of laughs and really enjoyed it."