DETROIT -- Family Day at Comerica has become a tradition for Tigers players and their families. On Sunday, it was a little more special, being Father's Day and all.
Several Tigers brought their families on the field before Sunday's game against the D-backs and even played a little pickup baseball game in the outfield.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland's son, Patrick, wasn't able to make it to the park on Sunday. But he called his father early in the morning to wish him a happy Father's Day.
Patrick is in Lakeland, Fla. preparing for his professional baseball debut. Patrick signed with the Tigers on Friday after being drafted in the eighth round by the club in this year's First-Year Player Draft.
He will play in his first professional game Monday in the Gulf Coast League. While Leyland said he wished his son could have been on hand for Father's Day, he wasn't champing at the bit to see him play in Lakeland. He wants to give Patrick plenty of time and space to settle in.
"I've got mixed emotions," Leyland said when asked if he'd go see his son during the All-Star break. "I don't want to be on top of him critiquing every little thing. He needs to just get acclimated and break in. He's a high school kid and he's never done anything like this. He's going to struggle for a little while. But he's not a donkey. He's got some talent."
Leyland, Tigers visit with ex-mate Willis
DETROIT -- Because former Tigers Dontrelle Willis started in the opening game of the three-game series on Friday, the D-backs' lefty didn't have a chance to catch up with his former teammates. Most starting pitchers go through a pregame routine, and it's a common courtesy to let them go about their business before a start.
But he made sure to mingle with several Tigers on Saturday.
Tigers manger Jim Leyland had a chance to speak with his former player. Although Willis struggled and only gave Detroit two wins in two and a half years, Leyland said there were no hard feelings. Willis left Detroit in a trade earlier this month after posting a 2-8 record with a 6.86 ERA in 24 games with the Tigers.
"I think everybody tried their best," Leyland said. "I felt bad for him because he had to go through a lot of stuff. We went through a lot of stuff. But when it happened it just didn't work. He certainly didn't do anything wrong. He just didn't find it, pitching wise, when he was with us. That was basically the bottom line. But that guy did everything under the sun to try and get it right. Hopefully he will. I've said all along, I think he has a chance to do that.
"He complied with everything we wanted him to do and felt he needed to do. When he was healthy I pitched him. I don't see how there would be any hard feelings. We felt bad that it didn't go better for him. I think he felt bad that he didn't do more for us. It just didn't work."
Jackson enters Sunday's game in ninth
DETROIT -- After missing five consecutive games, Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson entered Sunday's game in the ninth inning. But closer Jose Valverde made Jackson's job easy and didn't allow the D-backs to get a ball out of the infield.
With Jackson entering Sunday's game, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he expects the rookie to start on Tuesday when the team opens a nine-game road trip against the Mets.
"He will be playing Tuesday," Leyland said. "I anticipate he will play on Tuesday. If he doesn't, I'd be shocked."
Jackson took full batting practice on Saturday and said his back was feeling much better after the session. With Monday being a day off for the club, Leyland didn't see the need to start Jackson on Sunday and put extra stress on his back.
Jackson experienced back spasms on June 13 against the Pirates, but was never too concerned with the injury, as he's had similar issues in the past.
Packed Comerica Park pumps Tigers
DETROIT -- On Sunday afternoon, the Tigers sold out Comerica Park for the second consecutive game. The Father's Day attendance was 41,417, the largest crowd since Opening Day.
And the fans who came out to watch the Tigers this homestand got their money's worth, as Detroit went 8-1 to pull within 1 1/2 games of the Twins.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland wasn't at all surprised with the turnout.
"Our fans were very responsive," Leyland said. "I think they enjoyed it. We had a very nice crowd again [Sunday]. They are real loyal here and real good. I thought we put on a pretty good show for them overall in this homestand. It's pretty hard to find something wrong with this one."
Max Scherzer, the Tigers starting pitcher on Sunday, said he could hear the crowd behind him all day. He feeds off that positive energy, too, winning his last three starts at Comerica Park.
"I love pitching here," Scherzer said. "The fans here are unbelievable. They are always into it and always supportive. There's just something I like about pitching at Comerica Park."
Catcher Gerald Laird said prior to the homestand that the club needed to win at least seven games. The Tigers did that, and more. He hopes the fans will continue to turn out in big numbers and support the team as they begin their second-half campaign.
"These are great fans," Laird said. "They know we have a competitive team and a really good team and that's why they are starting to pack the house. It's going to be an exciting time in the middle of the season and down the stretch. I think they know we are going to be in this thing till the end. With their support, it's going to help us down the stretch."
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.