Jon Garland possesses the physical attributes and pitching repertoire to be one of the premier right-handers in the American League.
But the enigmatic 24-year-old continues to befuddle White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen with his inconsistency and occasional lack of focus.
"I think [Garland] has to take off," Guillen said. "I talked to him about it. I said, 'Are you going to be a fifth starter or a long reliever? Or are you going to be a Roger Clemens type? You have that opportunity.'
"It's up to him as to how he's going to take it. 'If you're going to be a fifth starter or long reliever, just keep on doing what you're doing. If you want to be somebody to make money and be good in this game, it's up to you.'"
Garland (7-7, 4.52 ERA) did little Sunday to change the opinion of his manager, although he kept the Sox in the game for six innings, trailing 4-2. A grand slam by Marcus Thames off reliever Mike Jackson in the Tigers' five-run seventh inning was the key blow in Detroit's 9-2 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.
The loss snapped the Sox's four-game winning streak and dropped them a half-game behind the Minnesota Twins, who come to town for a three-game series beginning Monday night.
Garland threw 113 pitches over six innings, allowing four runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out three as the Tigers snapped a three-game losing streak.
"I expect a better game from him," Guillen said. "He threw too many pitches early in the game. I want him to be more aggressive in the strike zone."
The Sox took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Paul Konerko launched his 26th home run of the season into the left-field bleachers.
Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman was ejected two batters later when he hit Aaron Rowand with a pitch on his left shoulder.
Tigers manager Alan Trammel vehemently objected and also was ejected by plate umpire Kevin Kelley. Rowand and several Sox teammates said Kelley was wrong to eject Bonderman.
"He hit me with a 2-0 breaking ball," Rowand said. "I knew right away it wasn't intentional."
Wilfredo Ledezma (1-1) was summoned from the bullpen and proceeded to toss 32/3 strong innings to earn the victory.
The Tigers tied the game 1-1 in the third when Omar Infante doubled in Nook Logan. Detroit took a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning, highlighted by Thames' RBI double.
After the Tigers made it 4-1 with a sacrifice fly in the fifth, the Sox pulled within 4-2 in the bottom of the inning when Jamie Burke poked a single to right to score Rowand. Ross Gload had led off the inning with a single to center.
Rowand hit a deep fly ball down the right-field line, and Gload hesitated before advancing. When the ball dropped in fair territory, Gload belatedly picked up his pace and was thrown out at third by right fielder Bobby Higginson.
The Tigers eliminated any suspense with a five-run seventh inning. Reliever Neal Cotts loaded the bases with a single and two walks.
Then he hit Carlos Pena to force in a run to make it 5-2. Jackson came on and allowed Thames' grand slam.
"I knew I had to throw a strike (with a 3-2 count), and the guy hit the ball out of the ballpark," Jackson said. "I tip my hat to him. We have been playing good ball, so I don't let that get me down."