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.

13 Comments

I can’t imagine Alburquerque and Villarreal not going north. There’s the rookie closer (maybe) and Smyly.

regardless of whether smyly is better than Rick – it seems that smyly could at least BENEFIT from starting the season in AAA. Same with Duane so you can keep Lobstein. If Rick and Lobstein don’t perform well in April – and Drew is – then send Lobstein packing and put Rick at the longman position. Duane comes up when someone gets misses time due to injury.

That is not how a contending team operates. I really don’t know why we picked up 2 Rule 5 guys. I don’t expect either to stick, but especially not Lobstein.

while that might be true we still need as much starting help as we can get – if we can get 15 decent innings out of lobstein —- that is probably better then whatever comes after smyly/crosby/Putkonen/Hoffman/Alvarez from AAA

Pretty much agree with you. But Rule 5 guys are low risk with possible high reward. Take Clemente, for example.

Rule 5 was changed 5 or 6 years ago. It is not the same now. George Bell or Johan Santana were rule 5 pick. But they were drafted before the rules change

Prospect Rankings by Baseball America has Castellanos (21), Garcia (74) and Rondon (95) on the Top 100 list. No sign of either Kobernus or Lobstein.

read a report on Lobstein who was described as a crafty lefty whose fastball tops out in the low 80s. not the type of pitcher this organization usually pursues. Kobernus’ best tool is speed. Has scant power. He’s walked 59 times in 1275 minor league plate appearances. I’ll be surprised if either makes opening day 25 man.
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it seems to me the ideal bench position players are guys who won’t hurt the team when they’re in the game. solid defense, multi-position ability, few mental mistakes, and will occasionally “run into one” with the bat to give the team an unexpected lift. Kelly and Santiago are like that. Kobernus could hurt the team with his inexperience.

Dotel takes his name literally “Do Tell”. He would be better advised to worry more about himself than talking about team-mates.

Rondon and Al Al real are lock there. One was appointed closer by DD and the other is the only reliable plan B

We have a long spring training ahead of us. Plenty of time for everyone to show their stuff. Let the games begin. During the regular season, we will need at least ten and maybe a few more relief pitchers. Spreading the workload will be key this season.

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What is infamous about the Ty Cobb photo ?

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