Game 71: When shoring up ninth inning puts eighth into flux

On the day Tigers manager Jim Leyland formally changed closers, he ended up with a very good example why his bullpen concerns go well beyond that.

By the time Jhonny Peralta’s walkoff two-run homer landed in the bullpen beyond the left-field fence, Leyland had a good example why he isn’t the only manager going through bullpen issues.

“You saw what happened to Coke is the same thing actually that happened to them,” Leyland said. “One-run lead and they walked the leadoff guy in the ninth. That was a backbreaker for them.”

It might well lead the Red Sox to the same closer change the Tigers made earlier Thursday. Leyland, meanwhile, will be trying to find the mix to fill his other relief spots after changing closers himself.

He can move Joaquin Benoit from eighth-inning setup work to closer, and he did. In so doing, however, he has to fill the eighth inning where he once had one of the league’s best setup men to hold a game. That led to the dreaded combination of Phil Coke facing right-handed hitters.

As rough as that has been, Leyland was willing to take the chance for the matchups to the other guys.

Leyland had the matchups he wanted. Phil Coke had held Jacoby Ellsbury to 1-for-9 for his career, and David Ortiz to 1-for-15. Once Ellsbury struck out on three pitches to end the seventh, the Ortiz numbers gave him reason to think he could get Coke through the eighth as well. The key was going to be switch-hitting Shane Victorino and right-handed hitter Dustin Pedroia.

“Everybody’s going to say, ‘Well, why didn’t you bring in Smyly first,’” Leyland said. “I’ll tell you exactly why, because the two guys we were concerned about: Ellsbury, who he struck out on three pitches, and Ortiz were a total of 2-for-24 against him. So that’s why we brought in Phil Coke, and he walked two guys. That’s a no-no. He didn’t have a good outing. Pretty simple.

“Those two guys were 2-for-24 off of him. David Ortiz was 1-for-15. So that’s why he faced him. He didn’t do very good, had a tough outing, because he walked guys. If he gets those two guys out, he probably gets Ortiz out. But he walked them, and that’s a no-no.”

By contrast, Ortiz was 2-for-3 off Smyly, a small sample size but enough of a reason that Leyland felt he could get through a game without having to use him. Or at the very least, he could save Smyly for extra innings if it got to that point.

“You have to understand something: If you have two or three, four guys that you guys are asking about all the time, and you don’t want to use them, that’s not good,” Leyland said. “They have to be used. They have to pitch. Phil Coke, he had a bad night. I’m not mad at him. But if Phil Coke and some of these guys aren’t good for us, we’re in trouble. I mean, they have to pitch.

“You can’t pitch two guys every night. That’s as simple as it is. So if you’re not going to pitch him when you’ve got two guys that are 2-for-24 off of him, I don’t know when you’re going to use him.”

Instead, he ended up having to use Smyly for two innings and 39 pitches, which almost surely rules him out of action until Sunday, which brings them back to the same point Leyland had here: Other guys need to get outs.

“Is Drew Smyly going to be available for two days? No, he’s not going to be, most likely,” Leyland said. “So Coke better be able to do something. Downs better be able to do something. That’s as simple as it is. You can’t pitch the same guys every night, particularly when they throw 30 pitches. So the fact of the matter is, other guys are going to have to do something as well. And Smyly’s done a good job. I’m not upset with anybody, but I mean, put these things together a little bit.”

That’s what Leyland now has to do. The dominance of the Tigers rotation has allowed him to put it off for the most part, but the issue of bullpen depth is coming to a breaking point as badly as the closer situation is.

36 Comments

Well, it is a team game. JL knows how to work it out.

As it stands now, it appears to be a six man bullpen. Valverde needs to either figure somewhere into the mix or be replaced. That said, he nailed a shortstop and half of a lady media member with one bucket of ice water. Impressive.

It is easier to trade for a setup .Or a 7 th inning reliever if Smyly, becomes the 8th inning. His career numbers make him rotation deserving over Porcello but since that wont happen in the near future, make him the setup
Crain, Axrod , KRod could be available and none is expected to be costly

Maybe Crain or Axrod at the right price. Francisco will drive you battier than VV.

And you do realize Crain has had 27 career SVOs and has blown 23 of them?

Set up not closer. KRod has been better this year.

“Downs better be able to do something” using him with frequency could help him. He did well when pitching with little rest. Using him every two weeks , he will fail
Coke? get rid of him.
Rondon could help in the 7th

Evan Reed can’t pitch? Grande? If not send them to AAA. Rondon and ALBQ could come north.

“After blowing his third save in his last five chances, Andrew Bailey has been removed from the role of Red Sox closer, manager John Ferrell told reporters”( Matt Snyder) So , it is not illegal to change closers after just 4 innings

Coke is a left handed specialist only. DD needs to trade to Coke to take him away from JL. Call-up Rondon and Darns as your left specialist.

out of curiosity, what would you expect for Phil Coke?

Jason, any updates on Dotel? It’s been close to a week since the last update..

Haven’t heard anything new this week. I’ll check around.

thanks!

Andrew Miller as the closer for the BoSox? The issue has been raised by the Boston media.

The Red Sox Nation has its share of haters. Detroit does not stand alone.

Nice to catch a break finally. Jhonny muscled one over that typical Tiger misfortune would have seen caught at the warning track. JP didn’t get a really good swing on that but managed to do something we haven’t done all year in the bottom of the 9th..
Wonder how long 2Eis going to be limited?
Still talk of Papelbon going on. Also of Porcello or Smyly to get him. I’d say no to that. Best bet? Have Alvarez pitch another 2 games as well as he has done and suddenly he gets to be a bigger fish in the basket. I don’t see him gaining a spot in our rotation any time soon anyway.
If Rondon’s name got tosses around in a Papelbon deal, would you bite? I think I would.
Nevertheless, I am pulling for the guy to be called up soon. No way Valverde will be able to stick with the club.
Dirks, Martinez, Avila and Fielder are still causing us problems against RHP. How long can JL go with a couple of guys that are unable to hit.230 in the middle of the lineup?
All hands on deck tonight. 100% effort for Max tonight from his mates please.

I think it is Fister tonight and Max tomorrow. Max goes for 11-0 on National TV.
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If the rotation holds form, I will be seeing Fister and JV on July 2 and July 4 when the Tigers come to Toronto. I was really hoping to see Max. The Jays have been underachieving badly all year and now are getting hot. Just our luck. Hopefully, they will cool off before then.
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Go Tigers.
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– Bob

Max is definitely fun to watch these days.

Papelbon has a huge contract. how much of the $$ Philly is willing to absorb will determine how much they get back in trade.

Thanks Bob.
I hope Dougie can stay away from that one lousy inning he seems to have to deal with. Wouldn’t mind Casey Janssen on our team!

I was hoping for the Janssen possibility, but with the Jays playing better and Reyes coming back, I dont think the Jays will be selling anymore. Janssen is a FA and would have been a nice rental. This is a guy that nobody thought could close and then last year he was forced into because Santos got hurt, he was one of the Jays bright spots.
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– Bob

Jays are on a role and certainly not out of it yet.

Jays are on a role and certainly not out of it yet.
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thinking of going to Toronto for that series or at least driving up for the day. Are tickets hard to get these days or are good seats available relatively easy on game day?

I din not mention Janssen above because the Jays have an option for 2014. I dont find the terms

Hey GK, I answered you question about Jays tickets on the next entry.
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– Bob

Can we just send PaPa to AAA to work on his splitter? Is that an option? Exchange him for Rondon and put coke in a strict LOOGY role….if downs and Reed continue pitching poorly you bring up ALBQ. Then wait for DD to get reinforcements.

make the pen JL proof like this:
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smlyly 7th, dotel 8th, rondon 9th. LOOGY: coke. multi-innings guy: Plutonium. Young Bucks: Downs (L) and Reed (R).

Meteorologist man, Just don’t tell me you traded Benoit to the Yankees to set up Rivera because they offered you Brennan Boesch back!!!!

Sorry but Dotel against LHP is almost as bad as Coke vs RHB

TYPO i meant Benoit for the 8th. oof.

To tell you the truth, if you gave the Skipper your proposed bullpen the only thing he could do would be resign.

Please don’t take this as me sticking up for Valverde, but correct me if I’m wrong in Jose’s first 6 or 7 outings back when he was doing fairly well…something like a .88 era he wasn’t throwing many if any splitters because he said it was too cold or something like that. Well since it has warmed up he started throwing more splitters he has gone to crap. Could it be that he just needs to scrap the splitter ….

During his first games, the ball went far. I wrote here, wait until the weather is warmer and the ball will clear the fences.

u did say that

As usual, the astute El Tigre was bang on with that one. He did say it.
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– Bob

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