Tigers owner pushing hard for playoffs

In case there was any question lingering whether the pressure was on Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland to get Detroit its first division title since 1987, team owner Mike Ilitch reiterated his strong desire to win now. He didn’t say he expected a division title, but he wasn’t far off.

“I’d be extremely disappointed if we don’t [win one this year],” Ilitch said in a group interview recorded and posted by WXYT-FM 97.1. “We’ve got a good team.”

Though Ilitch was talking with Detroit media at the press conference for Red Wing Kris Draper’s retirement Tuesday morning at Joe Louis Arena, Ilitch spent a good amount of time talking about the Tigers. Like most Tigers fans, Ilitch is looking and waiting for his club to add a starting pitcher on the trade market before Sunday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline. Payroll, Ilitch indicated, will not be an issue.

So far, by every indication, nothing is close. But judging by the owner’s comments, he’s open to plenty of possibilities, maybe even some that cost them coveted prospects.

“We need that No. 5 guy,” Ilitch said. “We’ve got some [pitching] prospects, but when you’re in a tough race like this, it’s hard to throw some of them in there when you’re a game or two this way or that way.”

Asked if he expects to have a deal by Sunday, Ilitch couldn’t say.

“I don’t know,” Ilitch said. “I haven’t been presented with anything. [Dombrowski] hasn’t been able to bring anything to me that he feels makes sense at this point.”

So far, the Tigers have been reluctant to part with top prospects in any trade since the Miguel Cabrera deal four years ago. Whenever the Tigers have been asked about Futures Game participant and potential 2012 starter Jacob Turner over the past year, they’ve indicated no willingness to deal him.

Part of that reflects Ilitch’s desire to build a strong farm system. But with the Tigers fighting to maintain their division lead, Ilitch hinted that waiting for prospects to emerge might have its limits.

“We’ve done a fairly good job,” Ilitch said. “We’ve been competitive. I put a lot of emphasis on the farm system, and you can’t get carried away with the farm system. That Tommy John [surgery] always seems to surface.

“It looks like when you look at the system, geez, we’ve got six [top prospects] here. For sure, two are going to be stars. It just doesn’t work that way in baseball. It’s much different than some of the other sports.”

– Jason Beck

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