May 27th, 2011
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
DETROIT — Scott Sizemore was the Tigers’ second baseman of the future a year and half ago, as Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said after the 2009 season. On Friday, he became part of the solution for the Tigers’ relief help of the present.
Detroit’s deal sending Sizemore to Oakland for left-handed reliever David Purcey was very much a here-and-now trade, as Dombrowski indicated when he talked with reporters. They don’t have a clear-cut replacement at second base at the moment, more like a group to platoon that now includes just-recalled Danny Worth. But they felt they needed to do something about a bullpen that has been bleeding runs lately and doesn’t have a clear seventh-inning order to it.
“The problem we have, of course, is that we’re trying to win games,” Dombrowski said. “We’re trying to help our offense. But one way I look at it is right now, [our scouts] all think that he can make our bullpen stronger. And as you know, we need to make our bullpen stronger. So hopefully, if this helps us with another step of that, and we get [Joaquin] Benoit throwing the way he’s capable of throwing, we’re [better].
“We’re in a spot that we do have other alternatives at second base at this time. And unfortunately, if he was out there hitting a bunch, I’m sure we would be having a different conversation. We just haven’t been successful in getting him going.”
They found their bullpen help with an arm Dombrowski said he had been pursuing since last winter. Purcey was a former first-round pick of the Blue Jays who tried and failed as a starter in Toronto before finding a home in relief last year. He posted a 1-1 record with a save and a 3.71 ERA in 33 games, but the secondary stats were more impressive.
Left-handed hitters batted just .163 (7-for-43) against Purcey last year. Right-handed batters didn’t fare terribly better with a .235 average (19-for-81). The ERA became elevated with help from 15 walks over 34 innings.
Purcey opened the season in a Jays bullpen that had an abundance of left-handed talent. After he gave up three runs on two hits and a walk in a third of an inning April 11 at Seattle, however, Toronto designated him for assignment, leading to a deal to the A’s.
Purcey found his better form in Oakland, where he limited opponents to a .191 average while scattering three runs on nine hits over 12 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out seven.
“He has an above-average arm, good breaking ball and a good changeup,” Dombrowski said. “We’re looking at somebody who can probably pitch in middle relief, seventh-inningish I would think, somebody that can fit in leading up to [Benoit and Jose Valverde].”
Purcey is expected to fly to Detroit Saturday morning and should be available for that night’s game. He’ll join another lefty-loaded bullpen, but Dombrowski said they see him as more than a lefty specialist.
Sizemore, meanwhile, is headed to join Triple-A Sacramento. It’s another stint for him in the minor leagues at a level where he showed in April he can hit. But it demonstrates a point Dombrowski made, that a return to Toledo made little sense.
Sizemore arrived from the Mud Hens earlier this month with a .408 average (31-for-76) over 23 games and enough extra-base potential that Detroit called up him to replace Will Rhymes at second. He went 3-for-4 with a double in his first game up, but hit just 11-for-59 (.186) in 16 games since. All of those hits were singles.
“Just couldn’t really find my stride,” Sizemore said. “I felt like I was starting to swing good for a couple days, then had a setback or two. Just couldn’t really get it to click, and that happens over the course of a baseball season. You’re not going to hit good forever. You’re going to have hot streaks. You’re going to be in slumps. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to carry out my hot streak long enough up here. I guess this is the result of it.”
Add it together, and his .222 average is two points lower than his average with Detroit last year, when he was coming back from ankle surgery.
“He had that nice short swing, hitting the ball to the opposite field the first day he was here,” Dombrowski said. “All of a sudden, it’s not the same swing — a little longer, taking some pitches on the outside part of the plate that he [once] drove. We’re not putting any pressure on him to drive the ball or anything like that. It’s just, I don’t really know the answer. We don’t know the answer. It’s just right now, I think if he would just settle in and be comfortable, then eventually it could happen for him. But we don’t have that luxury.”
For now, they’ll mix Worth with utility infielder Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn, both of whom has started at second in Detroit this year.