Leyland using Alburquerque judiciously

A month ago, it would’ve been difficult to envision Jim Leyland turning to Al Alburquerque to protect a lead with the bases loaded. He can get a strikeout when he needs one, but the risk of backfire with a walk and no base open would just be too big the way he was pitching.

If Leyland had some alternatives, he might not be turning to him either. But with Joaquin Benoit pitching setup and Jose Valverde closing, and four left-handers in the bullpen, Alburquerque is the only right-hander available for the seventh inning or earlier.

“The point is,” Leyland said, “who do you bring in?”

For more reasons than one, Leyland has to watch his situations with Alburquerque. For better or for worse, Thursday was one. Alberquerque’s fly out from Adam Everett for the third out made it for the better.

It isn’t a situation where a strikeout is any better than an out put in play, but under the circumstances, Leyland felt Alburquerque had the best chance at an out there. He could’ve let Scherzer face Everett and put in a lefty against Sizemore, but he didn’t want to wait for that.

Alburquerque needed two sliders to get Everett. The first, he spotted for strike one. The second got a swing and a fly ball. He stayed on to pitch the seventh, albeit with a pair of 3-0 counts, and handed the lead to Benoit for the eighth.

It marked Alburquerque’s first string of pitching back-to-back days since the end of May, and his first string of three outings in four days in nearly a month. It’s a little unusual for an improving young reliever, but Leyland has to protect the arm right now.

“I got a little problem one week ago in my elbow,” Alburquerque said after Thursday’s game.

It was pain, Alburquerque said, when he threw his slider. That’s not necessarily unusual. But for someone whose slider unusually accounts for more than half of his pitches, obviously, that’s not good. But some rehab work with the medical staff, he said, has it feeling better.

It puts a little extra importance on the fastball, potentially to keep him from throwing too many sliders and putting too much more stress on the elbow. If he’s going to throw the fastball, he has to command it.

“Right now, I’m trying to come back with my fastball,” Alburquerque said. “I got sometimes scared to trust my slider. I tried to come back working with my two-seamer, too.”

Alburquerque hasn’t given up a run over his last 10 outings, covering nine innings in which he has struck out 16.

It’s an interesting factor for a bullpen that doesn’t have anyone else who can do quite what he can. At some point, the Tigers are going to add a right-handed reliever. Ideally, it would be Ryan Perry, if he can show he has fixed his early-season issues at Triple-A Toledo. If that doesn’t happen, though, it isn’t hard to envision right-handed middle relief on the Tigers’ priority list before the July 31 trade deadline.

15 Comments

Protect that arm, so far he has been awfully good.

Looks like Victor may have had to do some teaching with the kid after he showboated that catch on the Sizemore popup.

Not sure why anyone would want to go overboard with that kind of stuff. Just makes you a target. Q celebrates in the middle of innings at times much too exuberantly. Doesn’t look right and you make yourself a hard act to follow.
Even Valverde has knows when not to rub it in too much.
I hope he mellows himself out a bit.

I didn’t see any of the game but he does have a swagger, sounds like his good pitching is inflating his ego. Valverde would drive me nuts if I was the opposing team, but somehow he seems to have earned a little bit of his stripes for his antics, Q has not and should go about his business and take a lesson from the other guys that do their job and head to the dugout.

As long as he delivers, he doesn’t need to tone down anything.

Compared to the trash talking in your face celebrations and one-upmanship in basketball, football, and hockey, baseball players are a bunch of stick in the muds. However, that’s the way the game is played and everyone needs to go along with that. I do like Alburquerque’s swagger and confidence, but he’ll need to tone down the demonstrations.

I’m OK with fist pumping and such provided I get the the feeling that the emotions behind it are team-centric as opposed to ego-centric. This is one of the problems I have with Moody Miguel. Miguel is a team player when he is going right but seems to be a little self-centred at times when he is not his usually dominant self.
This is an OBSERVATION and PERSONAL OPINION only!
I don’t know him and I can’t read minds.

As for Q, it was wonderful to see the leadership from VMart in that situation. I would bet they had a post-game conversation as well.

Thanks to Pup ( I think it was you) for the reference to MLB Network where I found the following video. Larry Bowa ( a great baseball player and baseball man) discusses little things that might go unnoticed.
At the end of the video segment he talks about MCab and the Ramon walk-off celebration.
It somewhat supports my OBSERVATION and OPINION hence I post a link:

I clicked on the link regarding Valverde. I had seen that, but they also had a session with Harold Reynolds, I believe that showed Cabby pouting in the dugout while Ramon and friends beat each other up at home plate celebrating. It was not a pretty sight. Henceforth, their criticism with lack of emotion and being a team leader. It was shameful. Maybe he was sick, I don’t know, or just had an ungodly day. Still you don’t ignore celebrating a fantastic walkoff win with your teamates, but he did, and those guys on MLB didn’t mince words.

Yes, it’s unfortunate, but hopefully Miggy will see himself in a new light and strive to improve. Nobody’s perfect.

I looked at the video and came away wondering why the star player didn’t get the borderline call on that strike. It was also a point well taken regarding cameras being everywhere these days. Should Miguel have joined the team on the field? Yes. What more is there to say?

Nothing. Just have to be aware of the personalities on your team and how they might impact the dynamic.

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