Division Series roster set: Kelly, Worth on; Boesch off
The Tigers set their playoff roster for the American League Division Series on Saturday morning, keeping sinkerballer Rick Porcello in a seven-man bullpen as a long reliever while using an extra spot on the bench to keep versatile utilityman Don Kelly for the second consecutive postseason.
Among those left off were Brennan Boesch, the Tigers’ starting right fielder for much of the season before his struggles landed him on the bench in favor of Quintin Berry.
Brayan Villarreal, the hard-throwing, high-strikeout reliever who helped fill the void in Detroit’s bullpen this summer until Al Alburquerque returned, also was left off. Alburquerque will fill the role by himself.
Manager Jim Leyland announced in the final days of the regular season that his postseason roster would consist of 11 pitchers and 14 position players, but wouldn’t discuss specific names aside from saying that rookie outfielder Avisail Garcia would be in right field against a left-handed starting pitcher.
Leyland did not say anything about what he would do against right-handers, but the Tigers’ late-season ascension to their second straight AL Central title coincided with Berry’s return to the starting lineup. He has been Detroit’s starting left-fielder against righties, with Andy Dirks moving to right.
That mix will presumably hold tonight, when the Tigers open the series against A’s right-hander Jarrod Parker.
Boesch’s absence will leave the Tigers without a power bat on the bench aside from Garcia, but Boesch’s pinch-hitting appearances had been limited anyway. That could a nod to manufacturing offense in late-game situations if and when Berry comes to bat with runners on base.
Kelly was outrighted to Triple-A Toledo in August when the Tigers acquired Jeff Baker, but had his contract purchased from Triple-A Toledo on Sept. 1. The Tigers were able to add him to the postseason roster with Victor Martinez and Ryan Raburn on the disabled list.
The same goes for infielder Worth, who was sent back and forth between Detroit and Toledo five times during the season before he was added as a September call-up. He and Ramon Santiago give the Tigers two infielders on their five-man bench, three if you count Kelly at the corner spots.
On the bullpen side, Porcello’s fate was in question after late-season struggles and Anibal Sanchez’s late resurgence made it clear Porcello wouldn’t crack the four-man postseason rotation. In the end, much like Brad Penny last year, Leyland opted to keep him as a long man in case a rain delay or a rough start left Detroit needing somebody to eat innings.
Porcello’s spot seemed strongly hinted when Leyland did not stretch out rookie left-hander Drew Smyly’s innings in the final week. Smyly, who was a surprisingly effective member of Detroit’s rotation in the first half, becomes the second left-hander in the bullpen over Darin Downs, whose comeback from a fractured skull three years ago made him a heartening story.
Statistically, Villarreal has a decent season, allowing just 38 hits over 54 2/3 with 28 walks and 66 strikeouts. Much of his strength, however, came in the season’s first half. He walked nine batters over 9 1/3 innings in September and struggled in some tight situations down the stretch.
That said, by leaving him off, the Tigers are placing a lot of responsibility in Alburquerque, who returned in September after missing most of the season rehabbing from offseason elbow surgery. His effectiveness is unquestioned, with just six hits allowed over 13 1/3 innings with eight walks and 18 strikeouts. His use, however, has been closely watched. Though he pitched on consecutive days at Triple-A Toledo before rejoining Detroit, he has not done so since. With only one off-day for the entire series, it isn’t difficult to foresee situations where the Tigers could use his strikeout slider on back-to-back days.
Here’s the roster:
Rotation: Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer
Bullpen: Jose Valverde, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel, Rick Porcello, Drew Smyly
Catchers: Alex Avila, Gerald Laird
Infielders: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, Ramon Santiago, Danny Worth
Outfielders: Quintin Berry, Andy Dirks, Avisail Garcia, Austin Jackson, Don Kelly
DH: Delmon Young