Leyland on bullpen decisions: Somebody won’t be happy
Aside from the infamous Ty Cobb photo with the tear in it, one of the fixtures in Jim Leyland’s office in spring training is a list of pitchers and position players. The pitchers’ list includes the side work they do in early workouts before the games begin.
One by one, Leyland looked down the list at potential bullpen candidates. By the time he got to the bottom of the list (alphabetically) with Brayan Villarreal, he had at least eight candidates for three or four open spots.
“If people are healthy, we’re going to have a real good problem on our hands,” Leyland said Wednesday morning, “because we’ve got a lot of guys. … This is not going to be easy, I’m telling you.”
The safe spots are the setup guys: Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke and Octavio Dotel. After that, in no particular order, there’s Bruce Rondon, Al Alburquerque, Brayan Villarreal, Darin Downs, Duane Below, Drew Smyly (if he doesn’t make the rotation), Jose Ortega (who has earned praise from Leyland), Luis Marte (who made the team out of camp last year before getting hurt on the final day of Spring Training) and Kyle Lobstein (Rule 5 pick). That’s nine guys, and that includes just guys on the 40-man roster. If you try to make the case for non-roster lefty Jose Alvarez, who some in the organization consider a dark horse, there’s 10 for maybe four spots.
The questions are almost as numerous. Will the Tigers take both Alburquerque and Villarreal out of camp and go with two high-strikeout situation righties? If they do, would they still take a second lefty, since Leyland has shown a willingness to go to one of those guys against a left-handed hitter? How important is long relief for the Tigers in a year when the rotation is deep but they’re trying to watch the workload on their starters? How many seventh- and eighth-inning guys does Detroit need if there’s a closer by committee out of camp?
Fun stuff, and it took up most of Leyland’s morning media session today.