On Kyle Ryan and the improvised bullpen

Here’s what Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones saw in Kyle Ryan as they were looking for an alternative to Blaine Hardy for Monday’s series opener at Minnesota:

“Obviously we saw how he carried himself in his first outing against the White Sox. I knew, when I brought him in, there was going to be questions why Kyle Ryan, but the truth is, part of pitching in a pennant race is being able to control your emotions and relax and still be the same player you are, regardless of what’s happening in the game around you. And he just struck us as someone who could do that. And I can’t give you any hard evidence for it. We didn’t give him any psychological test. We just felt like he fit the mold of being able to do that. I can’t give you anything other than I guess some type of instinct.”

Here’s what Kyle Ryan said he felt as he warmed up during the eighth inning for a potential game-saving opportunity:

“I was shaking like a leaf on the mound in the bullpen, and then out on the mound on the field I was still shaking, just knowing I’m coming into a situation where I need to get two outs.”

It worked out. After so many logical situations that didn’t work out that inning — Joba Chamberlain starting his usual inning, Phil Coke facing a left-handed hitter he has owned for the last few years, Al Alburquerque facing a right-handed hitter he has generally owned — Ryan making his third Major League appearance with one out and the go-ahead run in scoring position in the eighth inning did.

“I needed a double play,” Ryan said, “so I went out there and did what it took.”

Two factors, beyond Max Scherzer’s middle-inning damage, shaped the way that inning came together:

First, Joe Nathan was ruled out. Ausmus did not want to use him for a third day in a row after what he saw Sunday.

“Joe needed a day,” Ausmus said. “I talked to Joe after the game yesterday. I thought he looked a little tired, a little achy. He said he could go, but I just felt like give him a day today and he could go the next couple days.”

With Nathan out, Ausmus told Soria before the game that he’d be closing if the opportunity arose. That meant Soria would not be able for the eighth inning — not simply because of the traditional closer role, but because he has pitched more than three outs in a game only once in a year and a half since coming back from Tommy John surgery.

Second, as mentioned, was Hardy’s struggles.

“We need another lefty to be able to pitch late in games,” Ausmus said. “Blaine’s been scuffling a little bit with his command. Jonesy and I spoke about it before the game, who that lefty would be. In terms of handling the pressure, we thought Kyle Ryan could manage that.”

It was Ryan over Pat McCoy and Robbie Ray, both of whom have more Major League appearances and more relief work.

Had Nathan been available, it likely would’ve been moot. If Nathan had a save situation, Ausmus said, Soria likely would’ve entered in the eighth, probably after Mauer’s game-tying blooper off Phil Coke. He would not have pitched in place of Chamberlain, even though Chamberlain was pitching for a third straight game. Chamberlain’s pitch count in those two games was lower, including a seven-pitch inning on Sunday.

Still, from the first pitch, Chamberlain showed wear and tear.

“You could tell right away that Joba was tired,” Ausmus said. “His velocity wasn’t there. That’s why the short leash with him tonight. We tried to find another way to get through that eighth inning because you could tell he just didn’t have the zip on his fastball. His slider wasn’t sharp. Joba’s going to take the ball anytime you ask him to, but this was a day where you could just tell he wasn’t 100 percent.”

Chamberlain threw 12 pitches, and just four were strikes. That brought up Mauer with two on, including the tying run, and nobody out. That brought out Ausmus to turn to Phil Coke, who had a key strikeout of Mauer during the Tigers’ last visit to Target Field a month ago.

Mauer was 3-for-5 with a home run off Chamberlain, but 4-for-20 against Coke, including 1-for-16 since 2010. He drew a bases-loaded walk early in the season, but was 0-for-4 otherwise against him this season.

Coke and Mauer battled for nine pitches, eight of them fastballs at 95-96 mph. Mauer fouled off three of them with a full count, late on all of them as he fouled off into the third-base seats. The fourth was the trick, allowing him just enough of an opportunity to send a bloop single into short left field.

It was too deep for Tigers infielders to get, yet too shallow for J.D. Martinez to have a chance at nabbing the potential tying run at the plate. And with both baserunners having advanced into scoring position on a double-steal, the damage was potentially devastating.

“I wish I could say I was surprised,” shortstop Andrew Romine, “but he’s a good hitter. He’s a great hitter. He knows how to go to the plate with a plan and execute the plan. He never gives in. He never gives up. He always battles.

“I told him when he got to second, ‘Man you are one of the best hitters that I’ve ever seen.’ Obviously you know Joe, he didn’t really say anything. He’s very modest. And I’m looking him like, ‘That was a battle.’ I know that he was battling with his mind, not just with his bat. Watching him hit, it’s pretty fun to watch. It’s kind of up there with Victor, too, watching them both hit.”

Coke nearly had far worse fortunes, but recovered from a 2-0 count to strike out Kennys Vargas, leading to Alburquerque against Plouffe, leading to a single off a first-pitch fastball and bringing up runners at the corners with one out and Oswaldo Arcia due up.

Ausmus could’ve given more leeway to Alburquerque, looking for a strikeout against Arcia, but Ausmus didn’t want to take a chance. He brought in Ryan.

“They ended up pinch-hitting for Arcia,” Ausmus said, “but at the time it was more about Arcia’s numbers against lefties.”

Instead of the power-hitting Arcia, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire turned to Eduardo Nunez, hoping for one big hit in a more favorable matchup. Ryan’s heart was racing, but he wasn’t showing it.

“I was born and raised to keep my emotions to myself,” he said. “Whether I went out there and gave up four runs, I’m going to be mad inside, but I’m not going to show it. I mean, most of the time if you show it, the other team gets onto it and they’re just going to feed off that.”

That emotional control impressed Ausmus. So did the concept of an inning-ending double play. It was surprisingly easy, but he got it.

“That was the perfect pitch,” Romine said,. “He hit his spot, and we were playing to that area to hopefully get that ground ball. I mean, all the credit goes to him, because he made his pitch and we ended up being in the right place.”

So, certainly, did Ryan, who now has two Major League wins in three appearances, only one of them a start. When asked how he felt after the Tigers rallied in the ninth, Ryan shrugged.

“Relieved,” he said. “Shocked and relieved. To see him roll over and hit a ground ball perfectly placed to Romine, that’s the ideal play that we needed. … When Torii hit a bomb and then Miggy right behind him, that was huge. I could actually take a deep breath. Brad said I’m staying in unless we get ahead.”

24 Comments

What a crazy game last night! Joba should not have gone in after 2 days in a row, those 2 walks and not the blooper hit by Mauer are the issue. How fantastic for Miggy and Torii to come back and hit em out. Nice job by Ryan last night and nice to have Soria back in action. Great win, put more distance between us and the Tribe but those Royals just won’t back down. by the way, Romine is surely stepping up at the right time!

While there have been managerial decisions I didn’t like this season – this one was a smart move that I wouldn’t have thought to make. kudos to brad.

It was nice to see Ryan step up and close this one out. Thank goodness MLB.com has video highlights..it was great to see Torii and Miguel hit those homers. I turn the games off when Joba or Nathan come in as I can’t stand to see them blow up. If those two are so undependable, give them a week off to get ready for the playoffs. Let the young guns earn their stripes for this year and next year’s bullpen roles down the stretch…. what do they have to lose?

i don’t disagree – to a point – however it seems ausmus has taken the opposite approach and nobody is getting time off. I think less work for AL, Joba, Coke, Nathan would be the answer right now…..as well as lessing pitches for the starters…..and some more time off for torii, miggy.

Brad has alot of work to fix the pen. Joba and Joe Nathan are not going to cut it in playoff games. Tigers have to come up with a plan B.

can you elaborate on possible plan B’s? the pen is full of cut-rate relievers who can do the job against cut rate hitters but usually get burned by good hitters. It is what DD made it to be this offseason.

Coke entered in high leverage situation for the first time in a while: 2 IRS. He is not the answer.
Neither Nathan nor Joba can pitch 2 consecutive days.
JJ? low leverage situations only
Soria is the answer for closer and he is the Plan B and a good one.
But the BP is in shambles again

One thing you must recognize to JL, Scherzer´s 2013 was his making. He was the last to start a game and he kept it until the playoffs

They better give some PT to McCann. What If Avila has problems during the playoffs? I would use that extra spot for him

And they tried to improve:signed the best closer available as FA , traded to for the best available at the deadline and signed the former best closer in the AL

a shame we didn’t sign Rodney. Hindsight.

37 saves in 38 opportunities with the Tigers but Valverde was pretty good as replacement

David Price’s ability to go deep and save the bullpen is a very underrated contribution to the team. I’d love to have one more of him.
The failure of starters to go seven strong puts undue pressure on the pen. It’s been a chronic issue all year. If they move Price to Friday, the odds are there will be a rested pen for Saturday and Sunday.

Max Scherzer, last six starts: 4.46 ERA and averaging about 6.1 innings per start. Team has won 5 of those 6 games.

if anyone is interested in seeing what happened to G. Stanton and how he looked afterwards here it is: http://i.imgur.com/d597PIj.png?1?8101 Warning, pretty gruesome.

Is this true( ie Ausmus is the source) or just speculation:http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/schedule/_/name/det/detroit-tigers ?

good question. i just noticed all three games are nationally televised? TBS? weird, but i’ll take it!

We should have two I dont know if Fox will have the Saturday´s game here due to the change of horary

Last I heard, it was under consideration. “Moving parts”

From a piece by Beck:
“I’m not huge on small ball early in a game. I’d rather play for the big inning,” the Tigers manager said. “If you have a pitching matchup that would lead to a low-scoring affair, I might be a little more open to it for sure.”

Lineup: Kinsler 2b, Hunter rf, Cabrera 1b, VMart dh, JDMart lf, Kelly cf, Castellanos 3b, Holaday c, Romine ss. Porcello p

Why does he keep sitting Rajai? I don’t care what the numbers say.

I agree.

“Sanchez on starting/relieving: “I’ll take the ball whenever the team gives it to me.” Preparing as starter for now.”

“Saves” can be a very misleading stat. In fact, most stats are just statistics. I majored in chemistry! Go Tigers!

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