DETROIT --- As the Detroit Tigers celebrated a much-needed victory, Brad Penny's thoughts were on the pennant race ahead.
Though Penny recovered nicely from some early struggles on the mound Sunday, he's well aware of what it will take for the Tigers to outlast a trio of other contenders in the AL Central. If Detroit can add another starting pitcher before the trade deadline, Penny is all for it.
"You bring another guy in -- another No. 1, No. 2 starter -- and you get to the playoffs with this team, we can win," the right-hander said after Sunday's 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox. "It would be a different story if we were out there dealing every fifth day, but honestly, our first half, everybody had their fair share of pitching great, and everybody had their fair share of pitching bad -- except for Verlander."
Justin Verlander has been outstanding, going 12-5 with a 2.29 ERA. The rest of the starters have been more erratic. Penny, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have ERAs between 4.47 and 4.78, and the other slot in the rotation is even murkier. Phil Coke was moved to the bullpen late last month, and the team hasn't announced a starter for Wednesday night's game against Oakland.
General manager Dave Dombrowski said Monday that someone from within the organization will start that game, but he confirmed the team is interested in acquiring another starter.
The Tigers had the day off Monday. They trailed first-place Cleveland by a half-game in the AL Central, though the Indians still had to play the second game of a doubleheader against Minnesota. The Chicago White Sox were 41 games out of first, and the Twins were six back.
Dombrowski said the Tigers are "open to making a move," but he doesn't feel any urgency to do it immediately because of the vacancy in the rotation.
Detroit lost two of three to the White Sox coming out of the All-Star break, but there were some silver linings. Scherzer pitched eight innings Saturday, allowing two runs and striking out six. Penny allowed three runs in the second inning Sunday, but that was all Chicago scored. He recovered well enough to pitch into the seventh inning.
Penny signed a one-year contract with Detroit in the off-season. Durability has been a concern for him, but he's made 19 starts in 2011.
The Tigers rank near the bottom of the American League with a 4.29 ERA -- a high number considering how good Verlander has been. That explains the desire to acquire some help, and Penny isn't offended by the talk.
"I would agree, 100 percent," he said. "I mean, our pitching coach got fired because we're inconsistent."
The Tigers fired Rick Knapp on July 3, replacing him with bullpen coach Jeff Jones. Now, the question is whether they can find another pitcher who might be able to make a difference down the stretch. Detroit has several veterans on the roster, and manager Jim Leyland and Dombrowski are in the final year of their contracts.
The Tigers are certainly in a position to be buyers, not sellers, as the trade deadline approaches.
"You'd much rather be in a position where you're trying to add to your ballclub to win," Dombrowski said.