The Tigers bullpen has been getting itself quite a workout lately. So, after tonight’s short outing by Tigers starter Adam Wilk, Wilk was optioned to Toledo to bring up Brayan Villarreal. Villareal is one of the few people pitching in the upper minors of the Tigers organization right now that is earning his way back to the big leagues, giving up just 2 runs in 9 innings with 13 strikeouts in that span as well. The other, Thad Weber, was called up earlier in the week to help out as well, and it isn’t likely that he will last much past when Doug Fistergets healthy.
The writing was on the wall for Wilk, who despite statements of support from Jim Leyland after his last start, was treading on thin ice. In his last start prior to Wednesday night’s game, Wilk gave up 10 hits in just 4 innings, but it was to the daunting lineup of the Rangers, so another start was worth a shot. Wilk didn’t fair much better against a less than formidable Seattle Mariners lineup Wednesday night, giving up 6 runs in 2 innings of work. Thad Weber came in for 3 innings, Collin Balester went 2 innings, and Duane Below finished the game off with 2 scoreless.
Duane Below has been sensational out of the bullpen so far this season, going 12 innings, having yet to allow a run this season. Below hasn’t walked a batter either, and is pitching well enough that he has to be considered for the spot in the rotation the next time Wilk’s turn comes around. Below has been so successful in the relief role, however, the Tigers may see more value to him pitching out of the pen going forward.
Below rescued the Tigers this past Saturday when Thursday’s starting pitcher, Rick Porcello, went only one inning against the Rangers. The Tigers bullpen is now going to need Porcello to rescue them. With most of their middle relief essentially unavailable today, Porcello is going to have to get to the 7th, so the guys at the back end who haven’t been pitching much lately can take over.
So far this season, Porcello has done little to make fans feel comfortable that he has turned the corner with consistency. He has two great starts under his belt, and one terrible one. This is a big season for Porcello, and for the Tigers, and him getting to the point of being consistently good, could go a long way to helping the Tigers be successful.
Whatever 2012 holds for Rick Porcello, today, he just needs to pile up some innings to help out the guys who backed him up the last time out.