Reliever Dave Rozema was pedaling an exercise bike and trading insults with Infielder Enos Cabell one afternoon at the Tigers' Lakeland, Fla. training camp.
"I'm younger than you, stronger, more determined," said Rozema.
"Uglier," said Cabell.
"See how much my teammates like me?" Rozema asked.
April 4, 1983
Oh, but they really do. Forget for the moment that the Tigers have the league's best catcher (Lance Parrish) and double-play combination (Shortstop Alan Trammell and Second Baseman Lou Whitaker); five guys who can play outfield or DH (Chet Lemon, Larry Herndon, Glenn Wilson, Kirk Gibson and John Grubb); a talented young third baseman (Howard Johnson); and a solid rotation (Jack Morris, Dan Petry, Jerry Ujdur, Milt Wilcox and Dave Rucker). What will make or break Detroit is the quality of its bullpen, and the most likely stopper is Rozema.
Asked to rate his 1982 relief corps on a scale from one at the top to 10 at the bottom, Manager Sparky Anderson said, "We were a 10. We lost 26 games in which we were ahead or tied going into the seventh. We're about halfway back now." Anderson thinks two righthanders up from Evansville, Juan Berenguer and Bob James, can supply capable middle relief. Rozema and Aurelio Lopez, who were injured, will provide short relief.
The Tigers didn't expect Rozema back until late May. Consistent with his history of costly hijinks, Rozema ran onto the field during a free-for-all last May 14 with the Twins, tried to kick an opponent and wrecked his own left knee. At the time Rozema had a 3-0 record and a 1.63 ERA, and the Tigers were contending; he missed the rest of the season, and the Tigers were no longer a serious threat. "I snapped three ligaments away from the bone, cracked the kneecap and blew some cartilage," he says.
A six-hour operation not only transformed Rozema's knee but also his approach to baseball. "I used to think I was an outfielder, and I'd dive for balls during batting practice," he says. "No more. I also realized I'd have to work hard. I did a lot of swimming, biking and weight work, and I ran with Gibson. Gibson's got that football competitiveness. It's different from baseball's—sicker."
Pitching in Florida with his knee in a brace, Rozema was strong enough to go an inning or two at a time. That suits him fine. "I had a history of slowing down in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings," says Rozema, who started for the Tigers in 1977-79 and started and relieved in 1980-82. "I'd rather come in when the game's close and people are yelling."
Rozema appreciates action of any sort. "I love to go out jigging for bass in the late afternoon," he says. "The question is how they bite after seven."
Another question is how the Tigers pitch after the seventh inning.
Only the Tigers had as many as three starling pitchers who ranked among the top 15 qualifiers in the league's ERA derby: No. 4 Dan Petry (3.22), No. 11 Milt Wilcox (3.62) and No. 14 Jerry Ujdur (3.69). Those three combined for a meager total of 37 wins (against 29 losses) largely because of shaky support by the relief corps, which tied for 10th in the league with only 27 saves.