Results tagged ‘ Brandon Lyon ’

What is going on with Benoit?

Before we get into dissecting Joaquin Benoit, let’s make something clear: Anyone who expected Benoit to duplicate his 2010 numbers from Tampa Bay was kidding themselves. When we point out that Benoit already has given up four more earned runs than he did all of last year, it’s almost more for entertainment purposes, because those numbers were ridiculously good. The fact that he’s now more than two-thirds of the way to his 2010 hit total in about a quarter of the innings is more concerning, because it’s more relevant, but that’s a little deceptive, too.

Also worth noting: Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, was a Brandon Lyon fan at this point in 2009. He had allowed 12 earned runs on 16 hits over 15 2/3 innings then, including 11 walks. He gave up just 40 hits over 63 innings with 20 walks and 52 strikeouts after that, and then was paid handsomely on the open market.

Got it? Good. Now, what the heck is going on with Benoit?

“If I would know that, I would give you an answer,” Benoit said. “I’m trying to figure it out.”

To Benoit’s credit, he stood in front of TV cameras and microphones and answered all the questions asked of him, which lasted a little more than three minutes. He didn’t have a whole lot of answers, but he tried.

“I’m probably giving the hitters more credit than what they deserve,” Benoit said later. “I’m probably throwing the pitch that they’re looking for, and in their location. There’s not much I can do when that happens. It’s wrong pitch selection.”

Manager Jim Leyland and pitching coach Rick Knapp have a little different take. To Knapp, pitch selection and pitch execution are pretty good. Pitch location is not.

“I can’t figure out what’s going on,” Leyland said, “because we don’t see anything that indicates something wrong, with the exception that he’s just [not] locating the ball. He’s just not getting the ball where he’s trying to throw it, it looks like to me. The velocity is certainly OK, but it looks to me like he’s not locating the ball where he’s trying to get it for some reason. That means you’re out of sync or something, and he has been for a few times out now.”

Benoit agreed that his health is fine.

“I mean, I’m pitching,” Benoit said. “I have my velocity. Things are not going right.”

He does not have his location, for whatever reason. Or at least, he has it inconsistently. The game-turning double from Aaron Hill came in a five-pitch at-bat that started off with two nasty pitches to put Hill in an 0-2 hole. He pitched to catcher Alex Avila’s mitt on the next two pitches, but Hill didn’t chase.

The last pitch, the 2-2 pitch, was supposed to be low and away. It was up and over the plate.

“He made four pitches to Hill that were good,” pitching coach Rick Knapp said. “The fifth one’s bad. He just missed the spot.”

Knapp has his own ideas why.

“Is it mechanics? I don’t think it’s mechanics,” Knapp said. “I think it’s just confidence. Throw the ball down isn’t really something you can think about. You have to leverage it that way. You have to know that you’re going to throw the ball down and not have to think about it. When you have to think about it, then you have a better chance to make a mistake. And that’s kind of about where he’s at right now. He’s trying to execute pitches maybe too hard and he’s not.”

Both Knapp and Benoit said they felt his previous outing last week at Minnesota was a big step forward. He gave up three hits over 1 1/3 innings and a game-tying run that was unearned thanks to a double-error play, but he also kept the Twins from pulling ahead with help from two eighth-inning strikeouts.

When he’s on, he’s a swing-and-miss pitcher more than a contact pitcher.

“It was really better in Minnesota,” Benoit said.

Knapp believed the Minnesota outing was something to build on.

“I think Minnesota was a good positive stepping point,” Knapp said. “It just didn’t work out for him tonight. He’ll get more opportunities. It’s one of those deals where you have to execute to get confidence. Confidence isn’t something that you’re going to just show up with. It isn’t something that just walks through the door. You have your swagger, but I think right now he’s a little bit in his own head.”

Just about everyone was asked whether the three-year, $16.5 million contract, and the pressure to pitch up to it, could be contributing to that.

“I’ll answer that by saying I don’t know the answer to that,” Leyland said. “Something’s not right. He’s obviously a little frustrated, trying to do too much. That’s a possibility. That’s something we’ll have to look at it. He’s an important piece of the puzzle, but we’re going to have to look at it and figure something out. I’ll have to figure out the strategic part.”

Benoit had that question posed as well.

“There’s always pressure when you’re pitching and you don’t perform to the level that everybody expected,” he said.

Said Knapp: “I don’t know that he’d be out there in those situations if he didn’t perform like he did the year before. He deserves what he got [contractually]. Like I said, we need him to be good — not great, just good.

“I know it isn’t because he’s not trying. He’s digging in. He’s looking at tape. He’s trying to feel it, trying to make sure. There’s a fine line between trying to do too much and maybe his stuff dropping off. I don’t think it’s a stuff issue. I think his stuff is fine. I think now we have to get him zeroed in on hitting the glove, staying on the spot, executing the pitch he’s trying to make.

“I think everybody wants him to perform, nobody moreso than him. Like I said, I don’t see the stuff falling off. I see him missing his spots, which means we’re getting closer to where we need to be.”

Tigers still looking at veteran relievers

Unless the Tigers go with an experimental 10-man bullpen, they’ll have more young relievers than they’ll likely have spots in their bullpen once the agreed-upon trade of Curtis Granderson and Edwin Jackson becomes official. But that apparently doesn’t rule out the Tigers dealing for a veteran closer.

Quite the opposite, the Tigers would like one, and they’re expanding their search after Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon turned down Detroit’s arbitration offers late Monday night. They remain interested in bringing one of them back, but they’re preparing as if both of them move on.

Whether it’s Lyon, Rodney or someone else, the Tigers are hoping to have a veteran reliever.

“It doesn’t have to be now,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. “We didn’t sign Brandon Lyon [last winter] until late January, but ideally we’d like to have somebody [experienced] out there, yes.”

By adding potential future closer Daniel Schlereth from Arizona and lefty Phil Coke from the Yankees, Detroit further bolstered a group of young relievers that Dombrowski already praised for its potential depth. Ryan Perry was already expected to compete for a setup role next spring, while similar hard-throwing righties Cody Satterwhite and Robbie Weinhardt could crack the big leagues later in the season after getting more seasoning at Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo.

Add in lefty Fu-Te Ni, still-young Zach Miner and a potentially healthy Joel Zumaya, and Detroit’s bullpen has the chance to be very deep, very soon. That doesn’t, however, mean that they’re going to take over the late innings completely quite yet.

When asked about an established closer on Monday, Dombrowski suggested the Tigers could go a different route. On Tuesday, Dombrowski confirmed they were talking with more veteran arms, as well as maintaining talks on Rodney and Lyon.

“Both of them were looking for multi-year deals,” Dombrowski said. “They made that clear. We continue to have interest in them, but I’m also sure that they want to explore what’s out there, and that’s what they’re doing. We continue to talk to them and are interested in them.”

Whether the Tigers would be willing to offer a multi-year deal just became an interesting question. A trade of Granderson and Jackson will open up payroll space, giving the Tigers some much-needed flexibility to address needs. However, it also gives Detroit yet another closing option for the very near future.

The rest of the market is an interesting mix of candidates, and the Tigers are exploring. A FOXSports.com report listed Detroit among clubs interested in free agent J.J. Putz, a trade market of the Tigers last year before the Mariners traded their former closer to the Mets. Any interest would be relatively new; Detroit hadn’t so much as talked with Putz’s agent as of last week.

Detroit also was reportedly among a handful of teams with early interest in former Cubs closer Kevin Gregg.

“We did talk to a couple people, yes, once we knew that they were not accepting arbitration for sure,” Dombrowski said. “Now, we continue to have interest in [Rodney and Lyon], but we also have to start doing our homework. In case they go to other places, we have to be prepared.”

Polanco could've made a cash grab

Talked with Dave Dombrowski this afternoon about their decisions on arbitration to free agents, and his remarks echoed the sentiments that were out there. While Dombrowski isn’t bidding farewell to Polanco and plans to keep in touch with his agents, the Levinson brothers, he indicated there was a real chance — maybe more than a chance — that Polanco might have accepted an arbitration offer and gone to a hearing.

Good deal, right? The Tigers would get Polanco on a one-year contract.

Actually, it’s not that simple.

The risk, Dombrowski said, was that Polanco would go to a hearing and ask for more money than the Tigers would be comfortable doing. It sounds unlikely in this market until you consider long-term contracts last winter for other All-Star second basemen, such as Brian Roberts ($10 million per year) and Dustin Pedroia (6 years, $40.5 million, including $31 million over the final three seasons). They also could’ve used other free-agent infielders as a reference point.

No fault in doing so; I just wanted to use the term “cash grab” in a headline.

As it is, Polanco instantly becomes a hotter commodity on the market now that teams don’t have to give up a first- or second-round Draft pick for him.

The relievers, Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon, were a different story. Dombrowski essentially confirmed what others such as agent Barry Meister have suggested, that Rodney and Lyon are looking for multi-year deals and stand a decent chance to get them.

“I would be very surprised if either of them accepted [arbitration],” Dombrowski said.

That said, interestingly, Dombrowski didn’t write off Detroit’s chances of re-signing them, either. He’ll keep in touch with their agents — Rodney is also a Levinson client — and see where it goes. Even as Meister fully expects to get a multi-year deal for Lyon, he said there’s mutual interest from the two parties in re-signing.

Could the Tigers be open to a multi-year contract to keep a reliever? I don’t think you can write that off quite yet. But they might have to clear some payroll space to do it.

Rodney, Lyon offered arbitration, Rodney not

The Tigers decided to offer arbitration to Type B free agent relievers Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon, but not to Type A free agent Placido Polanco.

The announcement ahead of Tuesday night’s midnight ET deadline sets the stage for the Tigers to receive compensation picks in next year’s First-Year Player Draft if Rodney and/or Lyon sign elsewhere, but nothing in exchange for Polanco.

Though the Tigers had to be tempted by the potential for two compensation picks, there was a logical chance Polanco would have considered arbitration if offered. While a multi-year deal is obviously a huge appeal for the 34-year-old second baseman, arbitration would’ve almost surely hurt his value on the market. Any other team would’ve had to give up a first- or second-round Draft pick to sign him, and that would’ve slowed the market on him. The other pick would’ve been sandwiched between the first and second rounds.

Moreover, the one-year salary Polanco could’ve earned in arbitration could have been very tempting. Polanco earned $4.6 million in each of his four full seasons in Detroit as part of an extension he signed in 2005, but contracts signed last offseason for such All-Star second basemen as Boston’s Dustin Pedroia and Baltimore’s Brian Roberts have come at much larger salaries.

The Tigers are prepared to promote Scott Sizemore, their Minor League Player of the Year, to second base. Sizemore underwent surgery in October after breaking his ankle while playing in the Arizona Fall League, but he’s projected to be ready for the start of Spring Training. The Tigers are still free to negotiate with Polanco’s representatives and try to re-sign him.

The risk is far less on Lyon and Rodney, since any other team that signs them won’t have to give up a draft pick. The compensation picks on them would come at the end of the second round.

Both Rodney and Lyon are looking for multi-year deals and attracting interest along those lines, even in a relief market that can be unpredictable.

Rodney and Lyon have six days to accept or reject arbitration. Given their situations, they’ll likely to reject the offers. That won’t necessarily close off the Tigers’ interest, but it sets the challenge of multi-year offers, something that could require the Tigers to do some of their much-rumored maneuvering to free up payroll.

Lyon’s agent, Barry Meister, indicated he has stayed in touch with the Tigers, though talks won’t likely progress until teams and agents gather in Indianapolis next week for baseball’s Winter Meetings.

“We’ve each expressed mutual interest,” Meister said. “Well have a chance to sit down with them and talk about him at the Winter Meetings.”

Detroit’s last compensation pick was a first-round sandwich selection for reliever Jamie Walker, who signed quickly with the Orioles following the 2006 season before the Tigers had to decide on arbitration.

Detroit’s other three free agents this offseason — Adam Everett, Aubrey Huff and Jarrod Washburn — were not offered arbitration. They didn’t qualify as Type A or B free agents, so they wouldn’t have brought any compensation picks in return

My guesses on arbitration

Everyone else seems to be playing the guessing game on which free agents the Tigers will offer arbitration, so I figure I might as well chip in with my two cents before the news comes out later today. As much of a financial hit as it could be for the Tigers if Placido Polanco accepted arbitration, I’m just not sure that it’s enough to justify passing up on a sandwich pick in next year’s draft and possibly a first-rounder if Polanco signs elsewhere. Polanco is at the point where multi-year security looks better than a one-year deal, and I’m not sure his chances at that become much clearer in six days. If there’s a concerted drive for the Tigers to bring in more young talent, this might be the simplest way they can do it this winter, so long as they believe Polanco wouldn’t accept the offer. But then, that’s the big question, isn’t it? In the end, it might still be too much of a risk.

Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney carry much less risk, since any team that signs them wouldn’t have to give up a pick. It’s just a supplemental pick or two after the second round in this case. And if you believe that multi-year contracts are big for both of them, there’s good reason to believe they wouldn’t want it. Everything Lyon’s agent, Barry Meister, has said indicates his client will get a multi-year contract. Rodney should, too, but in his case, he’s hitting free agency off one big year. If he were to accept arbitration off a 37-save season, the payout could be huge. I like Lyon’s chances of being offered arbitration more than that of Rodney, but I’m not sure the Tigers still wouldn’t offer it to Rodney.

In the end, the Tigers might offer Lyon and Rodney, but pass on Polanco. Again, just my opinion. We’ll see what happens.

Yes, there's still free agency for Tigers

While trade rumors build around the Tigers regarding players they control, their interest in their own free agents hasn’t gone away, at least not for most of them.

The Tigers have had contact with the agents for relievers Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon, second baseman Placido Polanco and shortstop Adam Everett, but those discussions were believed to be preliminary ahead of follow-up talks later.

Meanwhile, president/general manager Dave Dombrowski confirmed to Booth Newspapers that they will not be pursuing free agents Jarrod Washburn and Aubrey Huff, both late-season trade acquisitions for the Tigers this past summer who struggled down the stretch.

Neither was expected to be a Tigers target. Washburn had told reporters last week that he hadn’t heard from the Tigers other than to check on his knee after surgery.

“We called both Jarrod and Aubrey this week and told them we will not be pursuing them,” Dombrowski told Booth Newspapers. “We wished them well.”

Dombrowski said the team had not made such calls to its other four free agents.

The Tigers acquired Washburn from Seattle at the nonwaiver trade deadline July 31, but knee problems hampered him in August and September until the Tigers shut him down for the final couple weeks. He posted a 1-3 record and 7.33 ERA in eight Tigers starts, compared with an 8-6 record and 2.64 ERA in 20 starts for the Mariners.

Huff batted .189 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 40 games for the Tigers after coming over from Baltimore in a mid-August trade. Detroit’s plans to rotate players between designated hitter and the outfield, including Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen, essentially sealed Huff’s departure.

The Tigers hold exclusive negotiating rights on their free agents for seven more days. Other teams can talk to them now, and all four have drawn interest, but those teams can’t make contract offers or talk contract terms until next Friday.

By then, the Tigers should have a better idea about any trade talks, where they may lead, and what holes any deals could fill.

All four are expected to seek multi-year contracts, according to industry sources, but that’s no surprise. The Tigers didn’t sign any free agent or arbitration-eligible player to a multi-year contract last year, and aside from possibly Justin Verlander, it remains to be seen whether they would do so now.

Prospect Scott Sizemore has been deemed ready for the big leagues, while relievers Cody Satterwhite and Robbie Weinhardt could conceivably be ready within a year. Shortstop is a different situation, and barring a trade acquisition, there’s expected to be mutual interest for Everett to return.

Five Tigers file for free agency

As the veteran Tigers scribe Jim Hawkins likes to say, no sense waiting (yes, I recycled that line from my Twitter account, @beckjason). Five Tigers — Adam Everett, Aubrey Huff, Placido Polanco, Fernando Rodney and Jarrod Washburn — filed for free agency Thursday, the first day players could do so. The only Tiger eligible for free agency who didn’t file Thursday was Brandon Lyon, and that’s more of a formality. His agent and the Tigers haven’t talked yet. Look for a free-agent roundup on the site tonight.

The Tigers have exclusive negotiating rights with their free agents through Thursday, Nov. 20. While those players can talk with other teams, they technically can’t talk contract terms or exchange offers, though agents seem to get around the contract terms part. Starting Nov. 21, it’s a free-for-all.

Also, the Elias rankings that determine compensation for free agents came out today. Polanco qualified for Type A status, meaning the Tigers would receive at least a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds of next year’s draft, and possibly a first-round pick as well, if they offer him arbitration and he signs somewhere else. That leaves the Tigers with a decision to make whether they offer him arbitration, and I’m not sure the Tigers won’t take a chance and offer it. After all, if he accepts it, the Tigers have him for one year.

Fernando Rodney and Brandon Lyon both qualified for Type B status. If the Tigers offered them arbitration, they’d get a draft pick after the second round if they signed elsewhere.

9/5 pregame happenings: Zimmer, Rodney, Kelly

ST. PETERSBURG — Tigers manager Jim Leyland has spent the last couple of days visiting Rays senior advisor and old friend Don Zimmer in the hospital, as he recovers from four-hour back surgery he had on Wednesday. Leyland said Zimmer is doing better. How does he know this? “He’s still grumpy,” joked Leyland, who shared an assortment of Zimmer stories before Saturday’s game. 

* Leyland confirmed he’ll give Fernando Rodney a day off after throwing 35 pitches on Friday night. The 32-year-old right-hander has pitched in four of the last six days. Either righty Brandon Lyon or lefty Bobby Seay will likely get the ball if Saturday presents a save situation. Leyland is kicking around probably giving Rodney Sunday off, too. That would give him at least three days without entering a game, with Monday being an off-day.
* Leyland on Rodney chucking the ball into the press box after his latest save: “It doesn’t bother me at all because … obviously, there was no intent to do anything wrong. I’ve seen 30 balls thrown in the stands during batting practice every night, I’ve seen third-base coaches throw them into the stands, over the dugout. I don’t pay any attention to that kind of stuff.”
* The rotation after this series: Rick Porcello on Tuesday, Justin Verlander on Wednesday, Jarrod Washburn on Thursday and Edwin Jackson (Sunday’s starter) on Friday. Porcello would be on normal rest for Sunday, possibly leaving Saturday open for either Armando Galarraga or Nate Robertson. Leyland said Robertson is “on hold.”
* Utility man Don Kelly, recalled from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday, was in the visiting clubhouse at Tropicana Field. He’ll be a welcome addition after the Tigers used all four of their lefty hitters on Friday. The Tigers were originally planning on bringing him up on Tuesday, but after what happened Friday, they hurried him along.  
* The Tigers likely won’t be calling up any more players this month, but Toledo Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish will join the club at some point.
* Dontrelle Willis will make one more start for Triple-A Toledo tonight, as their season comes to an end on Monday. 
– Alden Gonzalez

Closer by committee? Sure sounds like it

It’ll get lost in the news about Rick Porcello and Ryan Perry, but Jim Leyland was asked about his closing situation. If the Tigers have a one-run lead in the ninth inning on Opening Day at Toronto, he said, he’ll turn to Fernando Rodney to close it out.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’ll do the same if the Tigers have a one-run lead on Tuesday, it’ll be Rodney again. It could be Brandon Lyon.

Leyland indicated a week or so ago that he might not name a closer, that he might turn to multiple relievers for the role. As the Tigers close out camp, that still appears to be the case.

“It might be,” Leyland said. “It might not just be one guy. There might be somebody else involved.”

And it might not just be Lyon and Rodney, at least not for the long term.

“We may have a guy that’s two weeks, maybe a month away from joining the team,” Leyland said.

That’ll get Joel Zumaya into the picture.

Bullpen blues

It’s only Spring Training, but it was pretty amazing how quickly Friday’s game fell apart once Justin Verlander left the game. A leadoff error didn’t help Fernando Rodney in the eighth, but the ensuing single and double put him in major trouble. He settled down to retire the next three batters and keep the game tied, but as manager Jim Leyland pointed out, he could’ve used that earlier.

“When the horse got out of the barn, Rodney showed that everything’s fine,” Leyland said. “But in a 2-0 game, you’ve got to come in there [like that] right away. I’m just grateful and thankful that he did have it and show it, and that’s something that can be easily cured. But it was too late. The horse was out of the barn by the time he started throwing the ball.”

That’s four straight outings, including a camp game, in which Rodney has surrendered multiple runs after looking dominant for the first half of Spring Training. Total damage in that stretch: 12 runs, 11 earned, on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings. Rodney had been working on a slider as a third pitch, which the Tigers had been encouraging last year, but expect to see a whole lot of fastballs and changeups from here on out.

Enter Brandon Lyon for the ninth, his first outing since giving up four consecutive homers to the Red Sox on Monday. He didn’t give up an extra base hit, but after a leadoff walk, two singles sufficed to end it. The only batter he retired was on a sacrifice bunt. He has given up multiple baserunners in six of his last seven outings.

Again, it’s Spring Training. But with Joel Zumaya now all but certain to stay back in Florida when the regular season starts, Rodney and Lyon are a little more important than if Zumaya was ready. What this means for Ryan Perry’s chances of making the team remain to be seen, but it could make for an interesting decision. Leyland pointed out Friday that he doesn’t have many decisions to make in the bullpen.

A few other notes before you go watch basketball …

  • Dontrelle Willis threw another side session today, according to Leyland, and had some encouraging results. He’s now set to follow Jeremy Bonderman on Sunday. How many innings or pitches, I don’t know.
  • Joel Zumaya will be pitching in a camp game Saturday afternoon. If you’re in the area and not going to Dunedin to watch the Tigers and Jays, the camp game supposedly starts at 1 p.m. ET.
  • Yes, I did notice Omar Infante at shortstop today.
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