Thursday, May 03, 2007

Mesa's "Second Season" Begins Now

When Jose Mesa debuted in the major leagues, the Tigers were a couple weeks away from providing us with one of the most thrilling weeks of baseball ever seen around these parts, a.k.a. the final week of the 1987 season.

Nearly 20 years later, Mesa -- who'll turn 41 later this month -- returns from the disabled list to give the Tigers yet another quality arm in their suddenly shaky bullpen.

It was supposed to be like that from the very beginning of the season, but Mesa hurt his groin and made a very rare trip to the DL in mid-April. So his season, for all intents and purposes, begins now, with the Tigers pen having already experienced more rocky outings than for most of the entire 2006 season.

Mesa gives manager Jim Leyland a wonderful option: the veteran, late-inning guy who's known the grind of starting, the pressure of closing, and everything else in between. There's little that's happened on the mound, if anything, that Mesa hasn't experienced.

Mesa made a token start with Toledo earlier this week, a 25-pitch test to gauge the status of his groin. The bill of health was clean, and so he re-joins the team. Veteran leadership is even more prime now, with starter Kenny Rogers out until July. Rogers is with the team, but veteranship is also needed on the field. Mesa provides that, including a sometimes-menacing 6-foot-3 frame on the hill.

That the Tigers' bullpen has been sometimes leaky should come as no surprise. It's difficult to replicate what the relievers did last season. You almost had to count on some meltdowns. Todd Jones has had a couple. Joel Zumaya, too. Jason Grilli was rocked coming out of the gate. And Fernando Rodney has been a rollercoaster. And it's only May 3rd.

So here comes Jose Mesa to lend a hand, some of his mind, and most importantly, some innings.

Call it Opening Day, Redux, for Mr. Mesa.


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