After the rainout, yesterday’s game between the Royals and Tigers will be made up as part of a series in late September. When the two teams play today, Leyland will skip straight to Rick Porcello’s regularly scheduled start. Duane Below won’t get a chance to make his first (well-deserved) start of the year. Yet. Reports have Doug Fister on pace to rejoin the big-league club in time to make his next start, so neither Below nor any other spot starter looks to be necessary.
What a blow to Below. He may get another spot start shot at some point, but I’m sure he was eagerly awaiting a chance to make an impression. What a blow for the Tigers. Not, of course, a blow to have Below bumped back to the bullpen – where he has been very good this April. The blow came last weekend against the Yankees, when Duane Below was desperately needed on several occasions but unable to pitch since he was scheduled to make that start on Monday. Now it was all in vain.
Maybe I’m going a little overboard – but looking back on Friday’s game in the Bronx wouldn’t it have been nice to see Below instead of Villarreal in the 9th inning? Could have made the difference. At any rate, I have a hard time imagining Below letting the winning run score on a pair of wild pitches and he would have been the ideal guy to go to stick with in an extra inning game. In retrospect, the Tigers weren’t able to add enough offense for the bullpen to be relevant on Sunday – but it sure would have been nice to see Below trot out there in the 5th instead of Luke Putkonen. The Tigers certainly have warm bodies that they can use to fill a bullpen vacancy, but they aren’t necessarily guys you’d love to see in high leverage situations.
The fact is, Below has become a genuinely important member of the Tigers bullpen both as the second lefty and the best long man to go to when somebody like Scherzer isn’t efficient with his pitches. The Tigers management understand that perfectly well, Below was only reluctantly slated to start for lack of any other candidate that looked sharp enough. It was a sacrifice and it just might have cost the Tigers a game in the standings already. I suppose it should be counted as a plus that Below will now be available out of the ‘pen this week and not a minus – since the Yankees series is already water under the bridge – but somehow it doesn’t feel that way at all.