Tigers Stick with Four Lefties in Bullpen

The Detroit Tigers announced yesterday that right fielder Magglio Ordonez would be activated in time for tonight’s game after a month-long stay on the disbaled list to rest his ankle. To make room on the roster, right hander Enrique Gonzalez was sent to Triple-A Toledo.

No one (outside of the Gonzalez family) is all that broken up about the transaction. It was curious, as Jason Beck noted, that by outrighting the right hander, the Tigers have maintained a bullpen that features four left handers, with both Daniel Schlereth and Adam Wilk surviving the latest move. Schlereth’s continual Houdini act in avoiding the trip to Toledo is impressive given how frequently he likes to walk left handed batters, something Jim Leyland addressed after the game yesterday “Left-handed relief pitchers cannot walk left-handed hitters.”

You have to figure that something will have to give sooner or later, with another southpaw, Bard Thomas, slated to start a rehab assignment this week. The Tigers can keep Thomas on his rehab assignment for up to 30 days and from where I sit, the longer the better. They’ll see how he performs in the minors, but if he hasn’t shown the command he lacked before getting shelved there’s no reason to do anything but cut ties with him. At his best, Thomas is probably the fourth-best left handed relief option the Tigers have and he was nowhere near his best earlier in the year.

For Wilk, what was to have been a two-day stay on the big club has turned into one that has lasted a week and counting. Wilk survived the return of David Purcey from paternity leave, then the return of Phil Coke, and now the return of Ordonez. Leyland plans to use him in long relief, to get him innings in lower-pressure situations.

How long the Tigers go with four left handers is really anyone’s guess, but in my mind, much of that will be determined by a couple of factors. If the Tigers run into a stretch where they have used their right handers to the point that a few of them need a day off at once, you could see a move made to balance out the bullpen.

Ryan Perry’s performance at Toledo will also be a factor, though, and if he can show the Tigers he’s ready to return to the big stage, he’ll force a move to be made. In eight games since being optioned, Perry has a 1-0 record and 2.08 ERA. In 13 innings pitched, Perry has allowed nine hits, four runs (three earned), and fanned 13 while walking three. From the numbers, it appears as if Perry is getting himself on-track to make his way back up I-75.

Though he’s been working mostly as a starter since being demoted, Brayan Villarreal has put up impressive numbers with the Hens as well, posting a 2.20 ERA over 16.1 innings. In that time, he walked four and struck out 12. His WHIP of 0.92 is identical to what Perry has posted in Toledo.

Sooner or later (and I assume sooner), the Tigers will need a fourth right hander in the bullpen, especially give the inexperience of Wilk and the poor performance of Schlereth from the left side. Those factors will limit the times that Leyland will want to use those pitchers in particular. Perry and Villarreal are both chomping at the bit to get back and it shows in their numbers since being farmed out.

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Tags: Adam Wilk Brad Thomas Brayan Villarreal Daniel Schlereth Detroit Tigers Enrique Gonzalez Magglio Ordonez Ryan Perry

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