DETROIT -- Bruce Rondon moved one step closer to a return to action Friday with another throwing session on the field at Comerica Park. It was his second session of the week, and it put him within a mound session or two of joining the active ranks of Tigers relievers in time for the postseason.
Rondon hasn't pitched in a game since Sept. 2 while dealing with tenderness in his elbow. His absence has had a ripple effect in Detroit's bullpen, from extra work for setup man Jose Veras to more opportunities for Al Alburquerque, even in non-strikeout situations.
Rondon will have to demonstrate he can comfortably throw his slider, a pitch that typically puts stress on a pitcher's elbow, before he can return.
Tigers set to move past 3 million in attendance
DETROIT -- The Tigers will have to wait to clinch a third consecutive division title, maybe until they hit the road for their final trip of the regular season. They were on the verge of reaching one repeat milestone Friday, though, crossing 3 million in attendance for the second consecutive season and the fourth time in seven years.
Friday's series opener against the White Sox drew a paid attendance of 39,643, pushing the Tigers season attendance at home to 2,999,876 with two home dates left. They'll cross the 3 million mark on Saturday.
The team entered Friday with a home attendance of 2,960,233, trailing only the Yankees among American League clubs. The Tigers were expected to draw enough fans Friday, despite a rainy forecast, to surpass 3 million.
The Tigers had long been expected to hit it coming off an American League title last year. Michigan's cold, miserable April took a toll on early attendance, but a seasonable summer helped more than make up for it.
The Tigers' average attendance of 37,952 ranked third among AL clubs entering Friday, trailing only the Yanks and Rangers.
"I'm amazed at the number of fans, I can't deny that," manager Jim Leyland said. "I can't believe it with the economy and everything, the way it's been here, things of that nature. I mean, it's mind-boggling to see this place packed every single night practically. We're very appreciative of that, and I'm sure at some point in my lifetime, I'll sit back and think about how good it was. But I'm not ready just yet."
Bruised left hand keeps Iglesias out of Tigers lineup
DETROIT -- The Tigers averted a potential disaster when shortstop Jose Iglesias sustained only a bruised left hand instead of a fracture from Tom Wilhelmsen's 95-mph fastball Thursday. That doesn't mean they avoided any loss whatsoever.
As expected, the Tigers' lineup Friday didn't include Iglesias, and there's no certainty that he'll be in it Saturday.
"You'd be safe if you just said [he's] day to day," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Friday. "But he's not playing today, so he's day-tomorrow maybe."
Ramon Santiago started in Iglesias' place, making his 14th start of the season at short.
V-Mart's hot bat pushes him above .300
DETROIT -- Three months ago, when Victor Martinez was batting .226, nobody could've imagined an opposing manager wanting to pitch around him. His old manager, current Mariners skipper Eric Wedge, intentionally walked him three times in two days and had no qualms about it. Then he watched Martinez produce a go-ahead hit the one time he couldn't walk him in the seventh inning Thursday.
That hit didn't just put the Tigers on top for a victory, it put his average over the .300 mark. He ended the day batting .301, the first time all season he has ended a game over the .300 mark. He briefly topped .300 mid-game on Aug. 31, having entered that game batting .299 before hitting a single his first time up, but spent most of September with his average in the .290s.
Martinez's 2-for-2 performance Thursday, and his 5-for-12 series, finally pushed him above the threshold.
"He's a professional hitter," teammate Torii Hunter said after the game. "He waits for his pitch, and if he gets one in the zone where he's looking, he's going to capitalize on it. He's been doing it all second half."
Martinez went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer in Friday's 12-5 victory to up his average to .302.
Martinez has up to eight more games to keep it up. It could come down to Detroit's season-ending three-game Interleague series in Miami, where there will be no designated hitter slot. He'll likely catch at least one of the games, but it would be a surprise if he played in all three.
• The Tigers had just about perfect attendance for their annual team photo taken Friday after a few players missed it last year. The one notable absence was team owner Mike Ilitch, who has been a regular in the shots. His spot was left open in the photo, likely to be added later. A Tigers spokesperson cited scheduling conflicts.
• This weekend marks the final regular-season home series for assistant trainer Steve Carter, who's retiring after 19 seasons in his position and 25 years in the Tigers organization. He's going to stay involved in the profession at the scholastic level.
• Ilitch Charities, a non-profit organization, presented $150,000 in donations to three Michigan charities during a pregame ceremony at Comerica Park on Friday night. Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings and chairman of Ilitch Charities, made the presentation of $50,000 donations to the Detroit Historical Society, Michigan Humane Society and Macomb-Oakland Regional Center from money raised at last month's Ilitch Charities Celebrity Golf Classic.