July 20th, 2013

Benoit: I never told Tigers I didn’t want to close

The Tigers continue to scout teams for potential bullpen help, including potential closer options, but they continue to be impressed with the way Joaquin Benoit has handled the job.

Benoit has opened some eyes with the way he has taken over the role, though he says he has never been told he’s the set closer. On the flip side, however, he sought to clarify a report that he told the Tigers in Spring Training that he didn’t want to close.

That tidbit was tucked in a report from CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler that the Tigers have scouts this weekend watching the Marlins, Brewers, Padres, Mariners and Astros.

Benoit said Saturday the Tigers never asked him if he wanted to close. Any discussion, he said, centered on what his focus was in the spring. With the Tigers seemingly set on giving rookie Bruce Rondon the first chance to take the job, Benoit said he wasn’t thinking about winning the job.

“That was his show,” Benoit said of Rondon said. “They got Rondon. They wanted him to be the closer. After that, they never said anything about me or anybody else. …

“That’s the goal of everybody, to be in the position where everybody’s going to recognize you. If you ask anybody in the bullpen if they want to be the closer for the team, most of the answers are going to be yes, that they want to be [closing].”

That includes Benoit.

“Yes,” he said. “My position is that if you have a set role, I’m not going to jump in there and say, ‘Because I can do that, I want to do it.’ I mean, I know I can, but it’s not that I’m going to jump in there and say, ‘Take him out and I’m going to jump in.'”

In other words, Benoit wasn’t going to upset the apple cart and demand to close, and he still isn’t.

The only public remarks Benoit made about the closer’s job in Spring Training was that he felt it was better for the team to have a set closer rather than a bullpen by committee. Whoever the set closer was going to be, he said, was the team’s decision.

“I don’t care who’s going to be closing,” Benoit said. “As long as we have somebody that says this guy’s going to close the games, it’s going to be better for us because of the balance in the bullpen. It’s not going to make anybody anxious thinking, ‘OK, who’s going to close today?’ It makes it easier on everybody. Everybody can prepare for whatever situation you’re going to get into.”

He would like to have the closer’s role, and he thinks he can do it. Other than some minor differences, he doesn’t see much difference from his old role.

“What’s different? It’s probably good, it’s probably bad,” Benoit said. “On the road, I don’t know how many times I’m going to pitch. I don’t know how many times I’m going to warm up. Because in extra innings, I may have to be up in every inning. But [the pitching] is not different. If you can pitch in the eighth, I think you can pitch the ninth.”

One change that has taken place is that Benoit no longer loosens up in the fifth or sixth inning, a ritual he had for the first half of the season. He wants to save his throws and his arm to be ready to pitch four days or more in a row if need be.

If Benoit can show that durability, it would answer a major question about whether he can handle the job full-time down the stretch. Leyland has been hesitant to use Benoit three days in a row, given his injury history that includes career-threatening shoulder surgery in 2009.

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Royals

The last time Justin Verlander faced the Royals, he pitched seven innings of three-hit ball with eight strikeouts here before the bullpen (including Jose Valverde in his last save opportunity) lost the lead in the ninth. He still gave up a single and a walk to Billy Butler, but only allowed three baserunners besides that.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers off Jeremy Guthrie)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (4-for-20, HR, 6 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (10-for-29, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (10-for-29, 3 HR, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (5-for-12, 2 walks)
  5. Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-17, 2 walks, K)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS (7-for-22, 4 walks, K)
  7. Andy Dirks, LF (4-for-13, 2 K’s)
  8. Alex Avila, C (3-for-16, HR, 4 walks, 3 K’s)
  9. Ramon Santiago, 2B (2-for-10, K)

P: Justin Verlander

ROYALS (career numbers off Verlander)

  1. Alex Gordon, LF (11-for-53, 2 HR, 5 walks, 20 K’s)
  2. Eric Hosmer, 1B (4-for-26, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
  3. Billy Butler, DH (24-for-57, 2 HR, 6 walks, 8 K’s)
  4. Salvador Perez, C (4-for-13, K)
  5. Lorenzo Cain, CF (1-for-6, 3 K’s)
  6. Mike Moustakas, 3B (4-for-24, walk, 5 K’s)
  7. David Lough, RF (0-for-3, K)
  8. Alcides Escobar, SS (6-for-28, walk, 4 K’s)
  9. Chris Getz, 2B (6-for-25, walk, 3 K’s)

P: Jeremy Guthrie

Game 95: Tigers, shutouts and one-run games

Bill Chuck does a very good job of looking up relevant statistics based on the previous night’s games. On Friday, he turned out a list of stats that turned out to be particularly relevant by the end of the night:

  • The Tigers headed into the All-Star break having been held to one run or no runs 11 times, 26th out of 30 Major League teams and third-fewest among American League clubs. Friday marked their seventh shutout, but they’ve somehow been held to one run on just five occasions.
  • On the flip side, Detroit entered Friday tied for seventh in the Majors with 19 games having held its opponents to one run or nothing. Friday marked the 20th such game, but the third loss in that category. That ties the Tigers with the Cubs for most 1-0 losses in the big leagues this year.
  • No other team that has held opponent to 0 or 1 runs at least 20 times this season has lost more than one such game so far.

More stats from other research on baseball-reference:

  • Anibal Sanchez is the first Tigers starter to take a 1-0 loss in a game since … himself last August against the Royals in Kansas City.
  • Add together Sanchez’s two 1-0 losses to the Royals with his complete-game shutout last September, and he has allowed just two runs on 14 hits over 22 innings against Kansas City since becoming a Tiger about a year ago.
  • The Tigers have scored six or more runs in each of Sanchez’s seven wins this season. They’ve scored three runs or less in all of his other starts, seven losses and two no-decisions.

More research from Bill Chuck shows Friday was just the ninth game in the Majors this season — and just the second in the American League — in which neither team had an extra-base hit. It’s just the 10th such game the Tigers have had since 2000, and three of the other nine happened in 2003.