New York (32-22) at Detroit (13-39)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Detroit, MI
Temp: 84° F
  • Game info: 1:05 pm EDT Sat May 31, 2003
Preview | Box Score | Recap

With Jose Contreras lurking on the fringe of the starting rotation, Jeff Weaver is absorbing pressure to flash his true potential.

Weaver hopes to begin solidifying his claim to the final spot in New York’s rotation when the Yankees take on the Detroit Tigers in the middle game of their series at Comerica Park.

Contreras has been the subject of much debate between outspoken owner George Steinbrenner and the Yankees’ coaching staff since he was bumped from the rotation to the bullpen in favor of Weaver during spring training.

After brief stints at the Yankees’ extended spring training camp in Tampa, Fla., and at Triple-A Columbus, Contreras took steps in establishing himself as a venerable starter Friday.

Pitching in place of the injured David Wells, the Cuban right-hander tossed seven masterful innings in the Yankees’ 6-0 win. He yielded just two hits, while striking out six and walking one.

The Yankees have won three straight following a season-high five-game skid and, coupled with Boston’s loss in Toronto, are a half-game ahead of the Red Sox in the AL East.

“Of course I’d like to (be in the rotation), but it’s not my decision,” said Contreras, who signed a $32 million, four-year deal in the offseason. “I’m going to keep preparing for whatever role I’m needed.”

His performance puts stress on Weaver to begin showcasing the talents that brought him to New York in a three-team deal last July.

The former Tigers ace opened the season 2-0 with a 3.25 ERA but is 1-3 with a 6.94 ERA over his last six starts. The 26-year-old right-hander has allowed a combined nine earned runs over his last 10 innings, including four earned runs in five innings in a 5-3 loss to Toronto on Sunday.

“He started trying to be too precise,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Weaver. “He tried to pitch out of trouble—and got into even more trouble.”

Owners of the worst record in the majors, the Tigers were shut out for the 10th time Friday. The next closest teams in the AL are Baltimore and Toronto, who have been shutout four times apiece.

STANDINGS: Yankees - 1st place, AL East. Tigers - 5th place, 17 1/2 GB, AL Central.

YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Weaver (3-3, 5.31 ERA). Weaver, who came to the Yankees from the Tigers in a three-team deal that sent left-hander Ted Lilly to Oakland, makes his first start against his former team.

TIGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Adam Bernero (0-6, 6.03 ERA). The Tigers have lost all 10 of the 26-year-old right-hander’s starts, including an 8-5 setback Sunday to the Chicago White Sox. Bernero did not figure in the decision, allowing five runs and six hits over six innings. Bernero has no record and a 2.70 ERA in two career starts against the Yankees.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Yankees - Alfonso Soriano, .307 avg., 16 HRs, 39 RBIs, 45 runs and 14 SBs. Tigers - Bobby Higginson, .270 avg., 27 runs and 5 SBs; Dmitri Young, 8 HRs and 30 RBIs.

SEASON SERIES: Yankees, 1-0.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - 1B Jason Giambi, who entered Friday with a .214 average, hit two homers for the 21st multihomer game of his career and first since April 8. … Yankees pitchers lead the AL with 391 strikeouts, and have the fewest walks (136). … At 19-7, New York owns the best road record in the majors. The Yankees are off to their best start on the road since the 1976 squad went 19-6. Tigers - RHP Bernero ranks last in the majors with 2.26 runs of support per nine innings. … OF Young is hitting .340 (35-for-103) with five home runs, 13 runs and 23 RBIs in May. … Of the 40 homers hit this season at Comerica Park, 29 have been hit during the 14 day games.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 19-7 on the road; Tigers - 4-20 at home.

INJURIES: Yankees - 1B Nick Johnson (hand), 15-day DL; OF Bernie Williams (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Tigers - INF Dean Palmer (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Danny Patterson (elbow), 60-day DL.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Weaver LAD vs. A. Bernero Pit
7-9 Record 1-14
5.99 ERA 5.87
93 K 80
47 BB 54
1.62 WHIP 1.43