To be sure, Morris, Petry and Craig aren't Detroit's only assets. Shortstop Alan Trammell was hitting .400 at week's end; first baseman-DH Darrell Evans had 13 RBIs; the defense had committed only five errors; and relief pitcher Willie Hernandez, who had finished games in all eight of his appearances, could be the Tigers' first reliable lefty reliever since John Hiller in the mid '70s. Ultimately, though, the club's prospects may hinge on the rotation behind Morris and Petry—and what Craig can do with this supporting cast.
If last weekend's series against the White Sox was indicative, those prospects are sweet. Wilcox, Dave Rozema and Juan Berenguer started against the Sox. Wilcox, who has won and lost between nine and 13 games each of the last six seasons, had allowed one earned run in seven innings to win his first '84 start. But given an eight-run cushion in the top half of the first in his second outing, he allowed five runs in the bottom half of the inning and was yanked. "I made an adjustment on Milt's split-fingered fastball," Craig said last week before Wilcox's third start. "He'd been choking the ball too much, and I moved it closer to his fingertips."
On Good Friday, his 34th birthday, Wilcox gave up a two-run homer to Ron Kittle in the second inning, but that was his only serious mistake. Kittle batted again with two men on and the score tied 2-2 in the eighth. Wilcox struck him out with an ankle-level split-fingered fastball. Detroit went on to win 3-2 for reliever Aurelio Lopez when Parrish singled home a run in the ninth. "The new grip helped me a lot," said Wilcox.
Rozema, 27, is the Tigers' most intriguing player. Only 11 American Leaguers with 900 or more innings have lower ERAs than his 3.34 mark over seven seasons. But Rozema has never enjoyed a consistent or consistently healthy year. He's now recovering from what he describes as a drinking problem. "I used to have three or four beers after a game and a few more at the hotel," says Rozema. "Because of it, I'd do crazy things and get in trouble with Sparky. I gave up alcohol during spring training, and now I only drink on special occasions."
In his only previous start of the season, on April 8, Rozema left the game after four innings, when his arm tightened up. "All he needs is more innings, because he won't beat himself," says Craig. Before Saturday's game, Craig told Rozema to have a "purpose" with every pitch. Mixing his slider, sinker, changeup and the inevitable split-fingered fastball, Rozema struck out seven and allowed two hits and no runs in six innings en route to beating Chicago 4-1 with relief help from Doug Bair. "Rozema kept us off-stride," said Sox first baseman Mike Squires. "That's the name of the game."
Berenguer, Craig's prize reclamation project, had lost a starting job in spring training by walking 21 batters in 29? innings. On Sunday, Craig called some pitches for Berenguer and Detroit's able rookie catcher, Dwight Lowry, and Berenguer responded by striking out seven and allowing just two hits and one walk in seven shutout innings. Hernandez finished up as the Tigers won the series finale 8-1.
Earlier in the week Petry had said, "People keep asking me if I'm going to push Morris. That's not the point. We want some other pitchers to push us." Thanks to Craig, Petry and Morris may get their wish.