CINCINNATI -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland is a fan of Cincinnati, dating back to his days managing the Pittsburgh Pirates and making the trip as a league rival, including the 1990 National League Championship Series.
Leyland is also a fan of Reds manager Dusty Baker, who, in turn, is a fan of Leyland.
"He's a guy I'm real close to," Baker told reporters. "When I was a coach and he was a manager, he was telling me all the time that I would be managing some day. We have a lot in common. We both managed Barry Bonds for an extended period of time. I used to ask him different things about Barry and we would talk. He went to Florida and beat us down there. Then he went to Colorado.
"I was with him the night he retired in Colorado [in 1999]. He was singing at some piano bar and he wanted me to go with him and sing. I said 'I'd go with him and listen.' He called me up there to sing. He's a guy I like and admire a lot. I haven't managed against him in a while, because we haven't played the Tigers in a while. He and I and Bruce Bochy are slowly but surely becoming the elder statesmen in the game."
Verlander renews quest for first hit on Saturday
CINCINNATI -- Justin Verlander has a more mature outlook on batting this year as he renews his quest for his first Major League hit. Just don't mind the photographic memory he seemingly has for every ball he has put in play.
There's the fly ball to the warning track at Wrigley Field as a rookie in 2006 that drew a standing ovation. There's the well-hit line drive to right field he remembers off San Francisco's Tim Lincecum at AT&T Park in 2008.
He remembers it all. He's just not going to obsess over it, he says.
"I think I'm a little less conscious about it now," Verlander said Friday. "Before, it was, 'Oh boy, hit, hit, hit.' Now, it's just kind of, I work on it, I went out there and got my practice and actually made some adjustments and felt like I've got a better swing than I had before, but I'm not worried about it.
"It's going to be fun. I always love it, but I feel like a fish out of water when I'm up there."
Still, when Verlander planted the idea in manager Jim Leyland's head about starting on his regular rest Thursday at Wrigley Field rather than Friday at home against Colorado, Leyland immediately questioned the motivations.
"I went out there and told him, 'Skip, I really don't need an extra day [of rest in] back-to-back [starts]. If you want to shorten it up and put me on regular rest, I'm ready to go,'" Verlander said. "And he was like, 'All right, I'll think about it.' And about five seconds later, he said, 'You know what, you're slick. You just want to hit.'"
Actually, Leyland isn't ruling it out. If he moves up Verlander, he'll skip rookie left-hander and Illinois native Casey Crosby, whose turn in Detroit's rotation would come up in the middle game of that series Wednesday night.
Even if Verlander really no longer considers hitting a big deal, sometimes he just can't help himself. He saved his best one-liner for last as his interview was wrapping up.
"I've got to be careful," he said. "If I hit one out and I pimp it, I can actually get hit."
Leyland talks love of music in Costas interview
CINCINNATI -- Jim Leyland's reputation as a singer is well known. It's why he was nicknamed in the Minor Leagues after famous crooner Englebert Humperdinck. His love of musicals, on the other hand, was a little better secret.
Once his interview with Bob Costas airs on MLB Network Saturday, the secret's out. Costas asked him what he would've done if he wasn't in baseball.
"I still like to sing," Leyland told Costas. "I'm not as good as I was at one time. I was OK at one time. ... I can't quite hit the high ones like I used to, but I was OK. I sang weddings and I was in a choir and different things like that, and I loved it. But this worked out a little better, I think.
"I love soft rock. I'm not into the rap too much, obviously. I'm a little old for that. ... I love the oldies. I saw "Jersey Boys" four times. ... I love musicals. I saw a lot of the musicals. I like those and participated in those in school, so that's probably what I would've tried to do. I doubt it would have worked out, but who knows? That's a tough business. That's probably tougher than our business to be successful in."
Leyland also talked about his baseball career, including how he never thought he would get a chance to manage the Tigers at his age. When Costas asked him when he'll retire, he had a philosophical answer.
"When the passion's not there, when I start getting up in the morning and not wanting to go to work, I'll go home," Leyland said. "Tony [La Russa] and I are a little bit different in that I had a six-year sabbatical and that really refreshed me. That got the battery going again. I think that really helped me out. I think if I would've tried to do it like 33 straight years like Tony did, I probably would've stepped away too, maybe even before that. But that six-year sabbatical, I spent some time at home and watched the kids grow up a bit. It really refreshed me."
Leyland hints Jackson could return Saturday
CINCINNATI -- Jim Leyland brought the Tigers to Cincinnati for Interleague Play without the full positional roster he wanted for games without the designated hitter in a National League park. He won't have that until Austin Jackson returns from the disabled list.
That's likely to come Saturday. Leyland's hints to that effect have been stronger with each passing day.
"I don't have that [full bench] tonight. Hopefully, I will tomorrow," Leyland said Friday night. "But I can't swear to that."
Jackson was scheduled to play long enough for three plate appearances Thursday night for Triple-A Toledo, but stretched it out to a full game because he felt good. He's scheduled to get a full game for the Mud Hens Friday night as they close out their homestand.
From there, the Mud Hens head to Durham, N.C. on Saturday night. Unless something unexpected happens, Jackson won't be traveling with them.
• Catcher Gerald Laird returned to action Friday night after missing most of the past week with a right hamstring strain. He took early batting practice on the field at Great American Ball Park and felt fine.
• Tigers minor league hitting coordinator Toby Harrah visited the Tigers Friday during early batting practice. Leyland said his visit was not for any specific purpose.
• Omir Santos cleared waivers and was about to be outrighted to Triple-A Toledo again when he refused the assignment Friday and elected for free agency. The catcher is now free to sign with any team.